Ohio lawmakers hit the brakes on 8-year drivers’ licenses

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW)-- The check engine light may be on for a piece of legislation that seemed simple enough not too long ago.

State Rep. Derek Merrin (Moncolva Township-R) wants to give Ohioans the option of renewing their driver's license every eight years.

Ohio would not be the first state to do this. Nineteen others already allow for this length of time between renewals.

As it was introduced, Merrin's bill opens this option up for motor vehicle, motorcycle and commercial licenses, as well as motorcycle operators endorsements and motorized bicycle licenses, as long as the person is under the age of 65. People would still have the option for maintaining their license every four years instead.

The bill was scheduled for a vote in the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee Tuesday, but that vote was put on hold.

"There were questions expressed that were concerns and for that simple reason we decided to hold off on the vote," said State Rep. Doug Green (Mt. Orab-R), chairman of the committee.

The concerns were regarding how the bill interacts with a number of things, one of which is CDL requirements. Clarification was needed on this issues and the solutions to any lingering problems appear to be easily applied, according to Green.

Another concern that was expressed, and may not be as easily resolved, deals with how the bill interacts with another piece of legislation being strongly supported by the Ohio Secretary of State. That bill uses the four-year driver's license renewal cycle as a linchpin to keeping voters registrations up to date.

Because of the way Ohio maintains its voter roles, if a person does not update their registration or vote at least once in four years, they are in jeopardy of being added to the voter purge list. The state assumes they have died or moved out of state.

A two-year process follows where the state tries to reach that voter by mail to get them to update their registration or vote, or risk being removed from the roles. The automatic registration would catch people that may have moved, but not changed their address on their voter registration.

"People need to vote," Green said. "But I do get the concern. I don't want to imply that I don't. Obviously, voter registration is very important to the citizens of Ohio. We want everybody who is eligible to vote to vote, we don't want to create an opportunity for people unknowingly to become ineligible."

Green and Rep. Michael Sheehy expect discussions about the bill to be held and it could be back on the road to a vote as early as next week if concerns can be assuaged.

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