Licenses may last longer

Louisiana driver’s licenses could soon last a couple years longer and cost more.

The state Legislature is mulling two bills in near identical forms as the 2014 session winds down that would extend driver’s licenses from four years to six and raise the basic fee by $14.25.

Senate Bill 582 is heading back to the state Senate, after the House voted 81-19 in favor of the plan in an amended bill Wednesday.

Meanwhile, House Bill 1252 also is awaiting Senate approval, having passed out of committee there with the same language.

The original version of SB582 sought only to change the duration of licenses, not the cost, but the Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs and Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works have agreed to the fee increases as they appeared in HB1252.

Supporters are banking that one will make it through by session’s end. Both chambers must agree on a final version of the legislation before either provision can be enacted.

In their current forms, each of the two bills would increase the basic license fee from $28.50 to $42.75, with $11.15 of that going to the Louisiana State Police Pension and Retirement Fund and $1.50 to anti-litter efforts. The most expensive of the state’s driver’s licenses — commercial driver’s licenses for residents of New Orleans — would go from $51 to $76.50, with $15 of that going to the city’s police pension fund, $15 to the State Police Pension and Retirement Fund, and $1.50 to anti-litter efforts.

“It’s a six-year fee, so over time it will be the same,” state Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, said during a recent Senate committee discussion on the change.

The proposal to lengthen Louisiana licenses come in light of a recent report from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office that found that wait times at local motor vehicle offices had swelled to as long as 1½ hours in some places following staffing and state budget cuts.

Supporters claim that the extension would help relieve those long waits.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .