TAMPA — It’s getting a little easier to work through the task of renewing a Florida driver’s license.
Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill passed by the state Legislature that will save typical Florida motorists about $25 a year when they renew their registrations. The law doesn’t take effect until Sept. 1, meaning drivers scheduled to renew before that date lose out on the fee reduction.
But tax collectors in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties are encouraging those drivers to renew their registrations for one year instead of two. That way, they won’t have to wait until 2016 to get the fee reduction.
“Unfortunately sometimes they do things in Tallahassee only to realize they didn’t use common sense,” said Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano. “Nobody answered the simple question: What about the people who are about to renew for two years?”
Another drawback of the legislation, Fasano said, is that owners of pickups and other trucks that weigh over 5,000 pounds will only get $13.80 of the proposed reduction. Drivers of lighter vehicles will get the $13.80 in fee reductions plus an additional $10-$12 reduction of the base charge.
Fasano said about 750,000 truck owners in the state will not get the full reduction.
Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden said the fee reduction will save county drivers about $2 million. Belden’s office is pushing people with birthdays before Sept. 1 to renew for one year only. The renewal cards the office sends out as a reminder to those drivers will offer only the one-year option.
“It just doesn’t make financial sense to pay for something where you’re not getting the refund,” Belden said.
Pinellas County has also removed the two-year option from renewal notices, and all customer service representatives are suggesting that customers only renew for one year, said spokeswoman Brenna Haggar.
Of course, drivers whose birthdays come before Sept. 1 but who want to get the reduction starting next year can wait until after Labor Day to renew. However, they risk getting a ticket for an expired tag. The Hillsborough Tax Collector’s office expects many people to do that starting on Sept. 2 when the office reopens after the Labor Day weekend.
“We expect it to be a very busy Tuesday because Sept. 1 is Labor Day,” said Dale Hoffman, director of branch operations for Belden’s office. “We expect people are going to wait for that $25, especially someone with a birthday the last week in August.”
Belden, Fasano and Diane Nelson in Pinellas County are among the handful of Florida tax collectors who are offering Florida natives the opportunity to buy their birth certificates when they purchase a driver’s license. The federal Real I.D. Act requires people applying for a driver’s license or renewing one to produce proof of their identity with a birth certificate or passport.
Other official papers required for a driver’s license are proof of a Social Security number, two documents showing the applicant’s address, and marriage certificates or divorce decrees for women whose names are different from their birth certificate.
The Real I.D. Act, passed by Congress in 2005, was a reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was lambasted by liberals and conservatives as an invasion of privacy, amounting to a national identification card.
Belden was one of those critics, saying the number of documents required for a driver’s license had become burdensome to drivers and costly to tax collectors who issue licenses in this state.
The Florida Tax Collectors Association began working with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, part of the Florida Department of Health, to allow the purchase of birth certificates at tax collector offices.
“The whole association, we’re always thinking proactively about ways we can help people avoid multiple trips to get things done,” Belden said.
The birth certificates can only be purchased by residents who were born in Florida. Natives of other states can go to www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm to get information on obtaining their birth certificate. The birth certificates cost $20.25 in Hillsborough County, $18.25 in Pasco and $19.25 in Pinellas.
Hillsborough County residents can buy birth certificates at the tax collector’s office at 30th Street and East Bougainvillea Avenue. By the end of the summer, the service will be available at seven of the eight tax collector offices, Belden said. The only office that won’t offer the service is on West- shore Boulevard.
All four Pasco County Tax Collector offices now sell the certificates. In Pinellas, the certificates are available at two offices: 1800 66th St. N., St. Petersburg, and 29399 U.S. 19 North, Suite 100, Clearwater.
“Many Floridians may not have their birth certificate or may have misplaced it,” Fasano said. “We’re offering birth certificates whether for driver license renewal or for any other purpose.”