Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano says the state of Florida isn’t doing enough to warn hundreds of thousands of drivers that renewing their licenses by mail or online means they’ll likely need to pay to update their licenses again next year if they want to board a plane.
Fasano, a Republican former state lawmaker, says the state’s tax collectors have been working on getting every Florida adult compliant with the federal REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005.
The law requires individuals who want a compliant license to present, in-person: A certified birth certificate, a social security card, and two bills showing proof of residence.
Individuals who have taken a spouse’s last name also need to present their marriage certificates. REAL ID-compliant licenses in Florida are denoted with a star in the upper right corner.
“It’s going to be a mess next year when people start realizing they have to start get that gold star,” Fasano warned. “The tax collectors will take the brunt of it when people start realizing this.”
Renewing online or by mail also comes with the incentive of a reduced $48 price, compared to $54.25 in-person.
However, Fasano says there’s virtually no warning on the state’s license renewal website that the quick renewal option for drivers will essentially render their licenses invalid at airports next year.
And he says the written notice from the state can be easily missed.
Typically, a Florida license does not need to be renewed for eight years. Adding a new credential to an already-valid license comes with an additional $31.25 replacement fee, according to the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s Office.
Fasano says the state and its contractors stand to make a windfall from drivers who have to pay the additional fee next year to get the REAL ID-compliant license.
The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and has been phased in slowly across the country since 2008. Florida was one of the first states to develop an enhanced, compliant ID, but getting them in the hands of the 18.6 million Florida ID-holders has taken much longer.
According to a recent state report, 89 percent of Florida residents now have REAL ID-compliant licenses, but the 11 percent who do not translates to 2 million individuals. The lowest compliance rate in the state is in Franklin County (87.0 percent), while the highest compliance rate is in Hardee County (94.3 percent).
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles pushed back again Fasano’s critique Wednesday, indicating the department has gone to great lengths to educate consumers and bring as many as possible into compliance as quickly as possible.
“Since the inception of the federal REAL ID Act,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes in a statement, “the department has worked extensively with its tax collector partners to educate customers on the requirements of the law.
“The state of Florida remains fully compliant with the REAL ID Act and I am confident that, as a result of FLHSMV’s shared efforts with tax collectors and other stakeholders, Florida is a leader in our nation.”
A department spokesperson also pointed out that the entire second page of the driver’s license renewal notice, crafted in partnership with the Tax Collectors’ Association, is dedicated to REAL ID. FLHSMV has also dedicated online, television, and social media resources to REAL ID education.