A package of bills passed today by the Senate would reduce identity theft and fraud, increase revenue for transportation projects, and enable local districts to raise fees to pay for local road projects.
“Every day, the increasing crime of identity theft is stealing money from more Washingtonians’ pockets and siphoning more tax dollars out of legitimate programs in the form of fraudulent benefits,” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and the sponsor of the bills. “This is a proven, nonintrusive program that will dramatically reduce the ability of people to acquire multiple and false identification cards.”
Senate Bill 6150 would direct the state Department of Licensing to use a facial recognition matching system for all driver’s licenses, permits and identicards. The system enables DOL to identify an applicant who is registered under one or more other identities, block the issuance of the new card, and refer the case to law enforcement for investigation. A pilot project of this program enabled DOL to catch eight-to-12 applicants with multiple identities a day, preventing the issuance of IDs that could have led to identity theft and fraudulent applications for state services and benefits. The bill passed 29-19.
The biometrics system tracks a person’s features mathematically by precisely measuring the distances between reference points such as eyes, nose, mouth and other facial features. When a new applicant is photographed, that photo is matched against a database of existing ID photos across the state. DOL staff then inspect the potential matches to confirm whether an applicant is registered another identity. Facial recognition programs are currently used by 31 other states. In addition to preventing the issuance of IDs to fraudulent applicants, it helps deter the abuse of tax dollars by people who use false identities to fraudulently file for benefits from state agencies such as the state Department of Health and Social Services and the state Department of Labor & Industries.
The Senate also passed a pair of transportation fee bills.
SB 6455 would increase a number of transportation fees that have not kept up with the rate of inflation, providing revenue to fund the Washington State Patrol and general highway operations and maintenance. The fees pertain to motorists’ certificates of title, license plates and auto dealer documents. The bill passed 31-18.
SB 6582 would enable local transportation benefit districts to impose a vehicle fee of up to $40 with a majority vote of the district's governing board, or a motor vehicle excise tax fee of up to 1 percent of the value of the vehicle with a vote of the people. This gives local governments more flexibility to address local transportation projects at a time when the state’s declining transportation revenues leave little money to pass on to local governments. The bill passed 25-24.
The bills now go to the House for further consideration.