Federal agency probing Alabama license office reductions; Gov. Bentley issues statement

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – The U.S. Department of Transportation will investigate whether Alabama violated civil rights law with closures and service reductions at rural driver’s license offices.

The federal agency made the announcement Wednesday morning.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in programs that receive federal funds. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that it is critical that license services be free from discrimination.

The department said it has not reached any conclusions.

Alabama, citing budgetary concerns, in October shuttered 31 part-time offices where examiners gave driving tests once per week. The decision left more than a third of Alabama counties without a license office, including eight of the state’s 11 counties with a majority African-American population

After a backlash, Alabama agreed to reopen the offices once per month.

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a statement Wednesday morning regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation investigation into the closure of rural driver’s license offices.

In an ongoing attempt to politicize a resolved issue, the United States Department of Justice informed my office Tuesday of an impending investigation by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) that is in its early stages and no findings have been made. Due to legislative budget cuts, in September 2015, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) reallocated driver license examination personnel back to the district drivers license offices on a full time basis. Prior to this budget decision, these examiners, who are state employees, were traveling to each county level probate office or courthouse once or twice a week to provide the service of examination.  I made the decision in October 2015 to ensure that an examiner report to each county level office at least once a month to continue providing this service.

Despite what the Obama Administration claims, there were no driver license offices closed in Alabama.  Despite facts to the contrary, opportunistic politicians such as Hillary Clinton have politicized an Alabama budgeting issue to serve their own agenda, going so far as to travel to our state for the sole purpose of political pandering. This USDOT investigation is nothing more than a weak attempt to embarrass the people of Alabama and exploit our state in the name of a political agenda. I am confident that the USDOT investigation will find no basis for the claims of discrimination.  It is time for the Obama Administration and aspiring national politicians to listen to facts, stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars and put the political agendas away.

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