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Watts is protesting fellow clerks’ plan to make residents drive for licenses

Watts urges citizens to protest license bill

The Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force Letcher County residents to drive to Prestonsburg to get their driver’s licenses or state IDs.

The Senate will now consider the bill.

Letcher Circuit Clerk Mike Watts canceled his membership to the Kentucky Circuit Clerk’s Association after the group endorsed the bill, which will create 12 regional driver’s licensing offices, and later expand that to 35 regional offices. Letcher County residents will have to use the office in Floyd County.

“I sent my letter in and told them to stop cutting the dues out of my paycheck, because I don’t want anything to do with them if they’re going to support that,” Watts said.

Circuit clerks currently supply office space and personnel for driver’s licensing, but the Cabinet of Transportation is in charge of the program, and Kentucky State Police is in charge of testing. Watts said he doesn’t mind the service being taken out of his office, but he does mind it being moved an hour and a half to two hours away.

“They said, ‘It’s just every eight years, it won’t be that bad,’” Watts said. “That’s ridiculous.”

The bipartisan bill passed the House on a vote of 81-14, with Rep. Angie Hatton of Whitesburg and Rep. Charles Booker of Louisville speaking against the measure, Watts said.

Watts said he was shocked by the number of clerks who want to get rid of the driver’s licensing in their offices. Many, he said, were from urban areas where they were virtually assured of having a regional office. Some counties may do only 50 or 60 licenses and IDs a month, Watts said, and said he understands consolidating those. But, he said, statistics from two weeks ago show Letcher County has enough work to justify an office here.

“We’ve had over 1,000 driver’s licenses and picture IDs for 2020,” he said.

Watts is urging residents to call the Senate and leave a message for their senator and others. The number for the Kentucky Legislative Message Line is: 1-800- 372-7181. The bill number is House Bill 453, sponsored by Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Florence.

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