Licenses could soon be black-and-white

Mark Grisanti

November 14, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) - New York drivers' license used to be made by a company based in England. But a new company from Canada may soon take over at an extra cost to taxpayers - and the pictures will be in black-and-white.

The State DMV notified bidders the next company to print driver's licenses will have to tighten its belt. But the DMV then awarded the contract to an Ottawa-based company whose bid was about $38 million higher than the lowest bid, which was offered by the company that has been printing the licenses for the last 16 years.

State lawmakers, including Senator Mark Grisanti, are outraged.

"If it is an overbid, unacceptable considering the problems we have with Hurricane Sandy, the devastation we see on the Eastern Seaboard. We need every penny we can get to help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy," Senator Grisanti said.

He also questions the DMV's choice for other reasons.

Drivers' pictures on the new licenses would be in black-and-white, which some say would make the images easier for forgers to duplicate. With New York one of only four border states whose Enhanced Drivers Licenses can be used in place of a passport, Homeland Security might have a problem with the black-and-white pictures.

With the contract going to a Canadian firm, Senator Grisanti told News 4 he is sponsoring legislation that would slow down this kind of outsourcing.

Senator Grisanti said, "You look at a local hire first; you look at local companies first. If it is not local, somewhere else in the state. But at least this way you give companies in the state an opportunity to do this."

And the Senator wonders why a homegrown company like Kodak, with more than 100 years in the imaging business, couldn't re-tool to turn out driver's licenses.

"That has the workforce, that has the imaging, that has the ability to probably duplicate a driver's license just as easily as a company in Canada that is overbidding, or a company right now that is doing it that has its principal office in England," Senator Grisanti argued.

The British-based company that put up the lowest bid and a third bidder, based in Massachusetts, are suing the DMV, accusing the state agency of following arbitrary guidelines in the awarding of the contract.

News 4 also confirmed State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office is reviewing the bids and the $90 million contract.