By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Supervisors in about 35 rural counties across the state can now request the Mississippi Department of Public Safety to place a driver’s license examiner or a kiosk where people can renew their license in their county seat.
The legislation requiring the Department of Public Safety to make it easier for rural residents to get their license was signed into law recently by Gov. Phil Bryant.
Until about two years ago, DPS had an examiner in both Okolona and Houston in Chickasaw County, said Chancery Clerk Wanda Carlisle.
“We hear some complaints in our office” about not having an examiner in Chickasaw County. “The supervisors might hear some when they are out in the county,” Carlisle said.
Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, the supervisors have the option of requesting an examiner at the county seat at least once per month or a kiosk where the license can be renewed, but people cannot be tested for a new license.
The county is responsible for providing a location, utilities and Internet service for DPS.
Carlisle said she believes supervisors in Chickasaw County will take advantage of the new law.
A group of Northeast Mississippi legislators, including Rep. Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona, and Sens. J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont; Bill Stone, D-Ashland; and Russell Jolly, D-Houston; have been working in recent years to pass the proposal. They said they hear numerous complaints from their constituents about having to drive up to 100 miles to get their license renewed.
“There are people in my district having to drive as far as 95 miles roundtrip to renew their license,” said Wilemon. “That is not the way it should be.”
According to information provided by the Department of Public Safety, there are examiners – at least on a day or two per month – in 45 counties across the state.
In Northeast Mississippi, there is currently no examiner in Chickasaw, Itawamba, Benton, Marshall, Itawamba and Calhoun counties.
Warren Strain, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said DPS stations have not been located in all 82 counties at any time in recent memory.
He pointed out that people can get a license renewed online and for additional money can opt for an eight-year instead of four-year renewal.
Plus, there are 29 kiosks located across the state where licenses can be renewed, according to the Department of Public Safety web site at www.dps.state.ms.us/driver-services.