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Michigan Senate: Extend Lapsed Licenses, Plates; Keep Walk-In Option

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — On Thursday, June 10, the Michigan Senate voted  to give drivers more time to renew an expired license and vehicle registration during the coronavirus pandemic and to pressure Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to restore people's ability to visit branches without an appointment.

The bills won approval from all 19 Republicans in the majority and six of 16 Democrats. The voting came days after Benson, who opposes a return to a "broken" take-a-number system but is facing legislative criticism, said greeters have been stationed outside busier offices to help motorists book an appointment if they did not make one online or by phone.

The legislation headed to the House would extend the expiration date of plates, driver's licenses, and state ID cards that expired after March 1, 2020, to Sept. 30. A 13-month grace period ended March 31, leading to a backlog as residents seek to conduct transactions.

Benson, a Democrat, is adding 350,000 appointment slots. But lawmakers, particularly Republicans, say there should again be a walk-in option for people with no appointment.

The bills would require Benson to submit a report detailing a plan to reopen all branches for in-person services without an appointment. The Department of State could not charge late renewal fees for driver's licenses and ID cards until walk-in business is offered at least eight hours each day an office is open.

"The decision to end same-day services and go to an appointment-only system does not work when people still can't get an appointment for months in many areas," said Sen. Ruth Johnson, a Holly Republican and sponsor of one bill.

Benson has said reinstating the walk-in option would not work because staff would be diverted, reducing appointment slots and leaving people "standing in line, waiting for hours."

© 2021 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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