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Assemblyman Jay Obernolte. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Veterans Driver’s License Designation Would Be Free Under New Law

AB 2613 is the third bill since 2018 to attempt waiving fees for a ‘veteran’ license designation

By Evan Symon, February 21, 2020 1:58 pm

A bill that would waive the fee for all military veterans to have a “veterans” designation added to their driver’s license or state identification was introduced to the Assembly on Thursday.

A third time around for Obernolte’s veterans bill

Assembly Bill 2613 would require discharge papers presented at the DMV or other state office where identification cards are issued. The $5 to $15 fee would also have to be waived by state offices by July of 2021.

Former Governor Jerry Brown (Photo: ca.gov)

For many lawmakers in Sacramento, AB 2613, authored by Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake), is a bit of deja vu. This is the third time since 2018 that Obernolte has attempted to pass such a bill. In 2018 it was known as AB 1873, and despite some minor amendment changes, it was passed unanimously in the Assembly and the Senate. However then-Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill that September, citing that AB 1873 and other DMV bills would increase wait times and would slow down system modernizations.

“While these bills may have merit, it would be prudent for the Legislature to pause on additional mandates while the department works to complete programming for prior legislative mandates and system upgrades designed to reduce transaction times and improve customer service,” stated Brown in his veto.

Obernolte’s 2019 version, AB 21, failed in the Assembly even sooner. Despite unanimous support from both parties again, the bill fizzled out by May partially due to unresolved amendment issues.

This time around Obernolte hopes that the third time will be the charm. And it may be his last chance, as he is currently the favorite to win a Congressional seat this November.

“Veterans are a distinguished group of men and women who have made many sacrifices to serve our country and protect our freedom. Waiving this fee is just a small way to show our gratitude for all they have done,” said Assemblyman Obernolte in a statement about AB 21 last year. “It’s outrageous that we should ask any veteran to pay a fee for the recognition that they have already earned through their sweat and blood. This bill will ensure that they receive the recognition they deserve.”

A huge matter of $5

Obernolte and supporters have also been largely for the bill because of the ease it would give veterans. Many veterans are homeless or not in good financial shape, and some haven’t been able to afford the additional $5 needed for a ‘veteran’ stamp on an ID. Since the stamp allows the owner to receive veteran discounts and other benefits without carrying around their discharge papers, it would prove to be beneficial to all veterans, but especially those veterans in greatest need.

“We’ve had vets come in with lost papers or otherwise struggling to prove they were in the military,” said Rachel Masterson, a homeless shelter volunteer leader in Los Angeles. “We had one Desert Storm vet be denied a free weekly veterans coffee at this cafe because he misplaced his discharge papers and it was taking forever to work with Veteran’s Affairs. He actually cried about it before the VA finally got back to him.

That little card with ‘veterans’ on it makes all the difference in the world to them, and it being free stops a huge barrier. $5 may sound trivial, but to some that can be a decision on whether or not to eat that day. Giving them that for free is the least we could do.”

Like previous versions of the bill, no opposition has come out against the bill. AB 2613 is expected to be assigned committees soon.

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Evan Symon
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