“Modern” may not be the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Agency officials want that to change, though — and they’re planning a slate of new measures they say will bring it into the 21st century.
This year’s miscellaneous motor vehicle bill, S.99, includes a measure — part of the DMV’s ongoing, multimillion-dollar “modernization project” — that would allow Vermonters to put their driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and nondriver identification cards on their phones.
The electronic credentials would be accessed through an app and could be used in many of the same cases as a physical ID, according to Wanda Minoli, the DMV commissioner. Of note: People would still have to produce a physical ID if asked.
Fourteen states already allow the use of mobile driver’s licenses or are in the process of doing the same, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
Michael Smith, Vermont’s deputy DMV commissioner, said the app would allow people to share details from their IDs more selectively: For instance, you could go to a bar and display only your name, photo and birthday (this reporter, for one, still tends to get carded).
S.99 also would nix the validation stickers the state currently requires be affixed to rear license plates. State officials said the tags, intended to provide information to law enforcement, are becoming obsolete in the era of automatic license plate recognition systems. But they still cost the agency about $15,000 a year to produce, according to a Joint Fiscal Office estimate.
Moreover, Minoli said on a snowy Wednesday morning, “if you went outside right now and looked at the back of vehicles driving down the road, I think you would also see that you can't see the sticker.” Without needing to wait for the state to mail them a sticker, Smith added, drivers would be able to print out a copy of their full registration at home.
S.99 also would explicitly allow drivers to operate a vehicle with an electronic copy of their registration; allow electronic certificates of title to be issued; and allow truckers to carry electronic permits for their work — a long-needed change, according to Smith.
In addition, the bill includes a host of other provisions that don’t stem from the DMV modernization effort. Among them is language first proposed by Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, that would lower the statutory speed limit from 50 mph to 35 mph on unpaved town highways that don’t otherwise have a posted speed limit.
S.99 has passed both the Senate Transportation and Finance committees, and was referred on Tuesday to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
— Shaun Robinson
IN THE KNOW
A Connecticut woman who sued Vermont in August to allow her access to the state’s aid-in-dying procedure will be able to pursue it without fear of prosecution, thanks to a settlement agreed to by all parties last week.
As a result of the settlement agreement with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, which was filed in federal district court yesterday, Lynda Bluestein of Bridgeport, Connecticut, may receive aid-in-dying care from her Middlebury-based physician Diana Barnard, both of whom were parties in the lawsuit.
As written, the settlement applies only to Bluestein. However, it also commits the state Department of Health, a named defendant, to support the removal of the residency requirement through legislation currently being considered by lawmakers.
The Vermont House overwhelmingly approved removing the residency restriction from the aid-in-dying law last month. The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare is expected to move the bill, H.190, on to the full chamber in the coming weeks.
— Kristen Fountain
ON THE MOVE
The Senate’s omnibus housing bill hasn’t hit the floor yet, but it is already on rocky footing.
A fragile coalition backing S.100 is beginning to fracture following new amendments made Wednesday in the chamber’s Committee on Natural Resources and Energy that would reduce the scope of proposed exemptions to Act 250, Vermont’s 50-year-old land use law.
The legislation aims to make headway on the state’s housing crisis by easing regulatory barriers to development at the state and local levels. And, as initially crafted, it attempted to strike a grand bargain between municipalities and the state, who frequently point the finger at each other’s rules and regulations in debates about why residential construction has slowed to a crawl in recent decades.
— Lola Duffort
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Government Operations voted 8-4 to advance H.270, which would make changes to Vermont’s cannabis regulations.
The bill would create a new license for cannabis nurseries, a measure intended to ensure only pesticide-free plants find their way to the market.
It also provides $850,000 for a state-run lab to test cannabis. James Pepper, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, had argued that the lab could help regulators detect pathogens and pesticides more quickly than backed-up private labs, which is important when cannabis is found to be contaminated. The budget adjustment bill, H.145, also provides for the $850,000, but the money is being included in H.270 in case Gov. Phil Scott vetoes the budget adjustment.
The bill also would allow caregivers in the medical cannabis program to have two patients instead of one, and would exempt patients with chronic conditions from having to get their doctors to attest every year that they still have the condition.
— Fred Thys
WHAT WE’RE READING
Suspect in prison assault case showed concerning behavior days earlier (VTDigger)
In North Country Supervisory Union, officials fear that federal money will subsidize discrimination (VTDigger)
For victims of home improvement fraud, there’s no clear path to restitution (Seven Days)
The EPA has proposed new drinking water standards for ‘forever chemicals.’ What does that mean for Vermont? (VTDigger)
Conviction overturned in 2022 case prosecuted by Judge Jennifer Barrett (VTDigger)
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