By Ashley Hupfl
ALBANY County clerks from the Finger Lakes region are calling on the state Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend the fee charged when veterans apply for new veteran-status DMV identification cards and driver's licenses.
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced honorably discharged veterans would have the option of displaying their veteran status on their state DMV identification cards, including state driver's licenses and permits.
Veterans do not have to pay extra fees for new cards, but must pay the standard fees to apply, renew or replace a DMV identification card to receive the new veteran-status cards. The charge is $12.50.
Clerks said the charge should be waived.
"Asking our veterans to pay to have their veteran status placed on their license is an unnecessary fee," Monroe County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo said in a statement Wednesday.
She said the county has programs that let veterans receive some county services in the clerk's office free of charge.
"The State DMV should do the same thing rather than making veterans pay for the designation and honor that they have earned," DiNolfo said.
Steuben County Clerk Judy Hunter said in the statement that "veterans have served their country honorably and should not be required to pay this fee. It should be a courtesy out of respect for them and their service."
The state DMV said it sounds good, but there's one major problem: It's not up to them.
The fee structure for licenses are set by state law. So it would require an act by the state Legislature to waive the fee.
"The legislation calling for the veterans designation on a license, which includes the $12.50 statutory amendment fee, was proposed and passed in both the state Senate and in the Assembly one year ago," said DMV spokeswoman Jackie McGinnis. "Any changes to that legislation would again have to be proposed and passed by both the state Senate and Assembly."
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, who heads the Senate Veterans Committee, said he would push for the charge to be repealed when the Legislature returns to session in January. Ball sponsored the current law.
"I passed this bill for many reasons, but the best reason is so we can now locate and provide services to veterans who earned benefits from their service yet are not currently taking advantage of those services," Ball said in a statement.
Yet he added that he would seek to get the measure passed in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans and a group of Democrats, as well as the Democratic-run Assembly.
"Veterans have paid for this special drivers license through blood, sweat and tears and it should be free for all honorably discharged veterans," Ball said. "That said, getting the Assembly to agree to waive the fee will require a Herculean effort, but one worth the fight."