A widely passed bill requiring driver’s license offices across the state to be open a minimum of two days a week was pocket vetoed by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Monday, after the time during which he had to either veto or sign the bill expired.
Because the pocket veto occurred after the Alabama Legislature had already concluded the session during which the bill was passed, the effort is dead for the year.
The bill passed on the last day of the 2016 Regular Session, earning a vote of 24-3 in the Senate, and 99-1 in the House.
The legislation was introduced during the budget fights of 2015’s multiple sessions after the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency decided to close down 31 of the state’s lowest-utilized driver’s license offices, including 10 in the already under-served agricultural “Black Belt” region.
After a significant public outcry over the closures, many of the offices were reopened on a part-time basis, for as little as one day a month. Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson even came to Alabama in October of last year to protest the bill, and have a conversation with the governor and other elected leaders in the state.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, says he is disappointed by the pocket veto, but plans on introducing the bill again in either a Special Session later this year or during 2017’s Regular Session.
Supporters of the bill say they’d even be amenable to having the driver’s license offices open only one day a week, as was almost included in an amendment that was tabled due to timing concerns.
“I’m not going to quit trying,” Sanders said. “I want every county to have a place where people can go on a weekly basis to get a driver’s license.”
As of publishing time, the governor’s office had given no indication of why Bentley chose not to sign the bill into law.