Senate OKs bills to address COVID-19 backlogs at Secretary of State branches

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Ruth Johnson’s legislation to double the number of times Michigan residents can renew their driver’s licenses online or by mail.

“We can improve safety and convenience for Michigan residents by allowing them to renew their driver’s licenses and state ID cards twice before having to come into a Secretary of State branch,” said Johnson, who served as secretary of state from 2011 to 2019. “This proactive reform would also help struggling branch office staff, who are doing their best to keep up with the backlog of transactions caused by temporary branch closures and new safety protocols put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Senate Bill 1111 would allow Michigan residents to renew their driver’s licenses online or by mail for two four-year periods. SB 1112, sponsored by Sen. Betty Jean Alexander, would apply the same extension to state personal identification cards.

Currently, residents can renew their driver’s license or state ID card online or by mail once for a four-year term but must renew them in person every eight years at a Secretary of State branch office to get a new photograph. This would be pushed to 12 years under the proposed bills, the maximum allowed under new federal REAL ID requirements.

“People are often waiting months for appointments for important services, like transferring a vehicle title or taking the exam for a commercial driver’s license,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “By reducing the number of people who need to come into the office simply for a license renewal, we can free up appointments for other types of transactions.”

“These are bipartisan, commonsense reforms,” said Alexander, D-Detroit. “This legislation would help ensure Michigan residents can get their needs met in a timely manner.”

SBs 1111 and 1112 now head to the House of Representative for consideration.