Legislators like longer licensing (for driving and guns)

Tennesseans will soon be renewing their driver’s licenses every eight years instead of every five years under one bill given final approval by the Legislature last week while handgun permit holders will be able to a lifetime license without renewal under another.

The driver’s license bill (HB198) is projected to save the state $6.4 million annually and the Republican sponsors, Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and Rep. Tilman Goins of Morristown, say it will substantially reduce waiting times at Department of Safety driver’s license station — easing longstanding complaints from residents.

“This may be the best bill this year,” Niceley declared in a brief Senate floor debate. The bill passed the Senate 33-0 and was approved in the House 96-0.

Currently, driver’s licenses are renewed every five years, typically on the license holder’s birthday, at a cost of $19.50 — or $3.90 per year — for the standard “type D” license. The new bill the cost for a “D” license will be $28 for eight years, or $3.50 per year, according the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee staff.

Though not initiated by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, Department of Safety officials have endorsed it and the governor is expected to sign the bill.

The same can be said for the bill authorizing lifetime handgun carry permits (SB700), though it stirred more debate — mostly from Democrats questioning how criminal background checks of permit holders, now conducted at each renewal, will be handled under the lifetime permit system. As amended, the bill calls for the department to run a background check every five years for lifetime permit holders.

More than 500,000 Tennesseans now hold handgun carry permits. The initial license costs $115 and is good for five years with renewal for another five years costing $50. The bill allows a permit holder to opt for a lifetime permit at $500 on renewal. Whether that results in a savings to the permit holder, of course, depends on how long he or she lives. As far as the state revenue picture goes, the Fiscal Review Committee staff calculates it is basically a break-even situation.

At age 67, Senate sponsor Niceley said he would be losing money with a lifetime license, but “it’s a good deal for younger people.”

The bill passed the Senate 30-2. It cleared the House, where Republican Rep. John Holsclaw of Elizabethton was sponsor, 90-3.