New Mass. License Law Could Mean a Flood of New Drivers, Fees

The Registry of Motor Vehicles is preparing for an influx of applicants

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If all 200,000 newly-eligible undocumented immigrants apply for a driver's license next fiscal year, their applications would far exceed the number of first-time license applications the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles issues every year.

On average, about 120,000 people in Massachusetts get a driver's license for the first time each year, according to the Department of Transportation.



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Under the new law the state passed last year, which upheld by voters who shot down a repeal effort at the ballot box, Massachusetts residents without legal status will be eligible to apply for a license for the first time on July 1.

With a few months until this new group of people will become eligible all at once, the RMV is preparing for an influx of applicants.

The Registry anticipates hiring approximately 140 new workers and has already started that hiring process and planning for July, according to the RMV.

For some agencies, such as the MBTA, that are facing worker shortages and hiring struggles, the state is offering sign-on bonuses for new workers. But the RMV said it is currently not considering this tactic to fill the extra 140 positions.

The fiscal year 2023 state budget included about $9 million for initial start-up costs for the Registry and Gov. Maura Healey is recommending that $28 million be spent in fiscal year 2024 to implement the law.

The Healey administration has repeatedly said that standard RMV fees will offset the investment to bolster the Registry's capacity.

"And just one really important point, the fees that are collected, the vast majority of the resources that we're asking to be allocated, we will be recouping when folks are coming in to obtain their licenses, like everybody else who goes to the RMV and pays a fee," Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said recently during an appearance on WCVB's "On The Record" program.

If all 200,000 newly-eligible residents apply for a license in fiscal year 2024, fees could more than counterbalance the governor's recommended $28 million in funding, according to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

The Registry would receive about $30.5 million in total revenue from the permit application fee, the road test fee and the license issuance fee from the new applicants, according to A&F.

If perhaps 70,000 of the 200,000 individuals also have a vehicle and plan to execute RMV transactions in connection with that vehicle, including paying the plate registration fee and the title fee, A&F said, the Registry would receive an additional $9.4 million.

As of January 2022, a typical five-year car license costs $75, driver's education certificates cost $15, registration fees can cost up to $100 and title certificates $75, according to the RMV.

The $28 million Healey recommends, if approved by the Legislature, would be used to train staff to verify new ID documents from other countries, hire more customer service representatives and road test examiners, invest in new technology to expand service operations, and develop procedures to ensure data privacy, Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca said at a department of transportation board meeting last week.

"Our registry leaders have been preparing for this both in personnel, you also have individuals who help with the driver's tests themselves, language acuity, so we are gearing up to make sure we're ready and have those adequate assets," Driscoll said. "These dollars are important to make sure we can do that, and again a lot of these resources are going to be recouped as members of the undocumented community come in to take those licenses, or take their driving tests."

The Legislature overrode former Gov. Charlie Baker's veto of the licensing bill to make it law. Baker said last year that the Registry of Motor Vehicles lacks the expertise to verify the many types of documents that other countries issue and which will be relied upon as proof of identity.

Copyright State House News Service
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