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    Digital ID cost may be pushed onto fees

    A House committee leaves unchanged license fees for most drivers, but hikes other costs.

    By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 15, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- The no-new-taxes Florida House is endorsing nearly $8-million a year in new fees for certain driver's licenses and repeat driving tests.

    The money would help pay for digital equipment to make licenses less susceptible to fraud or identity theft.

    The House Finance and Tax Committee, usually a killing ground for new taxes, approved the bill Monday. The vote was 19-3, with some of the House's most outspoken opponents of taxes voting yes.

    Among them were the panel's chairman, Randy Johnson, R-Celebration; Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala; Fred Brummer, R-Apopka; and Don Brown, R-De Funiak Springs.

    Brown said he voted for the bill after the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles assured him the higher fees would cover the costs of the services provided.

    The cost of an ID card, issued to nondrivers, would rise from $3 to $10; the cost of having a suspended license reinstated would rise from $25 to $35; and the cost of having a revoked license reinstated would rise from $50 to $60.

    The cost of taking a written driving exam a second time, now free, would be $5, and the cost of retaking a driving skills test, also free, would be $10. Those tests would continue to be free the first time.

    Left unchanged is the $15 cost of a license for most drivers, good for six years, which the state says is one of the lowest of any state.

    Florida last year hired Digimarc ID Systems, a Massachusetts company, to develop the new digital driver's license, and the higher fees will help pay for the equipment.

    The agency also is eliminating a $10 fee for motorists who apply for a new license when they change their address, as a way of increasing compliance.

    The bill (HB 1415) is sponsored by Rep. Mike Hogan, R-Jacksonville. He was not present to explain his bill because he is leaving the House to run for Duval County tax collector. The election is today.

    Rep. Gaston Cantens, R-Miami, the House majority whip, presented the bill.

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