May 13, 2016 12:26PM

The National ID Social Season Is Underway

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is the umbrella group for DMV bureaucrats across the nation. It's a non-profit group, but it does more than earnestly educate government officials and the public about the nuances of driver licensing. Since the 1930s, it has advocated for increased government spending on licensing bureaucracy---and it has advocated against driver's rights. (It's all discussed in my book Identity Crisis.) That doesn't mean AAMVA can't have fun. Indeed, AAMVA's social season gets underway next week.

You see, AAMVA is a growing business. A decade ago, when the Capitol Hill staffer with lead responsibility for the REAL ID Act came through AAMVA's revolving door, I noted the dollar-per-driver fee it collects in the Commercial Driver Licensing system. That $13 million in revenue has surely grown since then.

AAMVA's revenues will grow far more when it runs the back-end of the REAL ID system, potentially pulling in from three-and-a-quarter cents to five cents per driver in the United States. At 210 million licensed drivers, AAMVA could make upwards of ten million dollars per year.

To help that business flow, every year AAMVA holds not one, but five lavish conferences, each of which has its own awards ceremonies aimed at saluting DMV officials and workers. There, AAMVA leadership, vendors, and officials from government agencies both state and federal gather to toast their successes in advancing their cause, including progress in implementating our national ID law, the REAL ID Act.

The first conference and ceremony, for “Region IV” (roughly, everything west of Texas), starts this coming Monday, May 16, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. Several awards will be distributed. Last year’s Region IV winners included Washington State’s Department of Licensing (“Excellence in Government Partnership” for a “Use Tax Valuation Project”) and California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (“USC Freshman Orientation Project”). Stay tuned to find out who will win prizes at this year's taxpayer subsidized extravaganza!

AAMVA is doing everything right to cultivate friendship with its membership and to advance the aims of the driver licensing industry. Department of motor vehicle officials, after all, are the ones who elected legislators turn to first when they have questions about policy.

It helps AAMVA a lot if DMV officials sing from the industry songbook. Heaven forfend if a DMV official were to tell his or her legislature that implementing REAL ID is unnecessary because the costs are disporportionate to the benefits, that REAL ID allows tracking of race, and that the federal government will always back down if a state declines to implement.

AAMVA regional conferences occur monthly between now and August, when their international conference kicks off in Colonial Williamsburg, "a location that is ideal to bring the entire family"! We will be taking a close look at awardees and top DMV officials who are close to AAMVA. There is a distinct possiblity that they represent the interests of AAMVA to the legislature when called upon, rather than giving dispassionate advice about what's best for taxpayers and the people of their states. That inclination is helped along by AAMVA's busy national ID social calendar.