The state Department of Motor Vehicles will roll out a new, more secure South Carolina driver's license and state identification card beginning this fall, the agency said Tuesday.
Both credentials will have a new appearance to users, but more importantly, will come armed with three new levels of security built in, the DMV said, marking the first upgrades since the early 1990s.
"They will be much more secure," said Marcia Adams, the DMV director, anticipating the rollout in a late September or early October pilot program.
The new credentials are meant to protect against fraud, counterfeiting and duplication, according to the agency, and guard against tampering, such as efforts to change the photographs or birth dates.
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As with most good security documents, Adams said some of the security features in the new credential will not be detectable by the naked eye.
The credentials won't cost users additional money, though, Adams said, with a state identification card remaining $5, and a new driver's license costing $25.
The cost of the new cards is being covered by a $2 million grant from the federal Homeland Security agency, which includes the cost of the Secure Card Program, equipment expenses and security upgrades for DMV offices.
The agency has 68 offices around the state, and plans a public campaign to make South Carolinians aware of the new credentials later this summer.
Adams made the announcement Tuesday during Gov. Mark Sanford's monthly Cabinet meeting.
Sanford had made the argument that the new state-issued cards would be more secure than those being pushed under a federal Real ID law, with which Sanford has refused to fully comply, citing increased costs.
In other reports from the Cabinet, state Revenue director Ray Stevens told Sanford the South Carolina economy is showing early signs of stability after nearly two years of a severe downturn.
"We have not seen four straight months of increasing revenues in a while," Stevens said "We are probably no longer dropping, and we are beginning to have increases. The real issue is whether those increases are gonna continue into the future, but we're real pleased with what we've got right now."
Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor said four straight months of increases in withholding taxes - and increases over last year's - is good news because it means "either more people are working, or people are making more money, or both."
"That's a nice, positive trend," Taylor said, where figures increase, rather than fall, from month to month and year to year.
Coastal tourism up
For other early signs the Palmetto State's economy may be expanding, officials said to look to the South Carolina coast, starting with Myrtle Beach, where Parks, Recreation and Tourism director Chad Prosser said June hotel occupancy rates are up about 8 percent over a year ago.
PRT said occupancy rates for the South Atlantic are up by 5.7 percent for that period, while the national hotel occupancy rate for the period is up 6.9 percent.
Prosser said the remainder of the summer looks good in the Palmetto State, but he also issued a caution.
"The fall will really tell what people are doing in terms of discretionary spending," Prosser said. "Summer vacation is a rite, but the fall will tell whether there is a recovery in spending."