PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE CREATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE FEE WAIVERS FOR LOW INCOME PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENTS SEEKING NON-DRIVERS PHOTO IDENTIFICATION CARDS AND BIRTH CERTIFICATES PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE CREATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE FEE WAIVERS FOR LOW INCOME PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENTS SEEKING NON-DRIVERS PHOTO IDENTIFICATION CARDS AND BIRTH CERTIFICATES


WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association, the oldest metropolitan bar association in the United States, has a long and distinguished tradition of promoting equal justice, and has supported policies and procedures that protect the rights and privileges of all persons, including low-income and vulnerable persons;

WHEREAS, forms of identification, including drivers and non-drivers photo identification, have become indispensable in accessing an array of societal and government benefits, from job training and employment, to Social Security and veterans benefits, to accessing many kinds of housing and to obtaining medical care and prescriptions;

WHEREAS, lack of usable identification is a national problem, with approximately 18% of all Americans 65 and older lacking current government-issued photo ID – more than 6 million U.S. senior citizens; 25% of adult African American citizens without current government-issued photo ID; and 12% of citizens earning less than $25,000 per year without a readily available U.S. passport, naturalization document or birth certificate;

WHEREAS, a large percentage of those in Pennsylvania who seek to obtain non-drivers photo identification cards are low income persons, including many who are elderly or disabled, as well as young adults who neither drive nor own automobiles;

WHEREAS, in April 2014 the General Assembly increased the fee for non-drivers photo identification cards by more than 100%, from $13.50 to $27.50, as part of its enactment of Act 89, a transportation bill to fund infrastructure and road repairs;

WHEREAS, the fee for Pennsylvania state issued photo identification is now the sixth highest rate in the nation;

WHEREAS, fees for driver's licenses increased by just $1.00, or 4%, beginning July 2015, with incremental increases thereafter;

WHEREAS, applicants for state issued photo identification are required to present a certified copy of their birth certificate and their Social Security card when applying;

WHEREAS, in July 2014 the Advisory Health Board of the Department of Health raised the fee for birth certificates from $10.00 to $20.00, with the additional $10.00 to be used by the Department of Human Services to help fund and provide for children's advocacy centers as well as child abuse prevention training;

WHEREAS, birth certificates are essential documents not only for obtaining state issued photo identification, but for a wide variety of programs involving housing, utilities, and when applying for employment;

WHEREAS, the cost to obtain a state issued photo identification card for many Philadelphia residents now exceeds $50 when applicants also need to obtain copies of their birth certificates and travel to Center City to obtain their Social Security cards;

WHEREAS, the cost of obtaining state issued photo identification was already prohibitively expensive for many before the recent increases, and is now out of reach for many low income individuals, who have been forced to forego such identification with devastating consequences to their health and well-being;

WHEREAS, according to expert testimony at the 2013 Voter ID trial Applewhite v. Commonwealth, 2014 WL 184988 (Pa.Cmwlth.2014) perhaps as many as five hundred thousand Pennsylvania voters lacked state issued photo identification, making it reasonable to conclude that the number of Pennsylvanians overall who lack such identification under the new fee increases is greater still;

WHEREAS, there is an adverse impact on the economy when residents do not have these essential documents which results in lost tax revenue from wages, lack of access to higher education, increased cost in services for the homeless, and diminished health, all which perpetuate the cycle of poverty;

WHEREAS, the potential loss of revenue from waiving the fees for photo identification and birth certificates for low income residents is negligible because thousands of individuals do not seek, and therefore are not paying for, these documents. In fact, it is more plausible that the state would increase its overall tax revenue over time when low income individuals are able to obtain the necessary documentation and then gain access to job training, employment and other revenue generating activities;

WHEREAS, justice and fundamental fairness require that critical documents, such as state issued photo identification and birth certificates be available to all Pennsylvanians, and that the fees for such documents should be waived for those who cannot afford them;

WHEREAS, the Mayor's Office of Community Opportunity and Empowerment has determined that thirty-three states have hardship waivers of some kind for obtaining state issued photo identification cards (see attached);

WHEREAS, there is precedent for a hardship fee waiver in Pennsylvania, as in the course of the litigation of the Voter ID litigation in Applewhite v. Commonwealth, and before the litigation was resolved, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation created a hardship provision for obtaining free state issued photo identification for purposes of voting;

WHEREAS, the Department of Health also had a fee waiver for birth certificates at the time of the Voter ID law and has an existing fee waiver for veterans, their spouses, and dependents, without regard to their ability to pay for the records;

WHEREAS, the proposed fee waivers are intended to be available to those who are indigent, and who attest by signing an affidavit that they are unable to afford the fees charged for non-drivers photo identification and for birth certificates, a method that has been used in the past by both the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Department of Health and which is neither burdensome to those agencies nor to the applicants;

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Department of Health have the authority to provide low income fee waivers, and no new legislation is required to grant waivers in appropriate circumstances as a matter of justice and fundamental fairness.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association calls upon the Governor, the General Counsel and the Secretary of Transportation to implement the establishment of low income fee waivers for the procurement of state issued photo identification and birth certificates through action by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Advisory Health Board of the Department of Health.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or the Chancellor's designee to communicate the content of this resolution to members of the General Assembly, the Governor, state and local public officials, other bar associations, and the public at large, and to take such other action as may be appropriate.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: May 28, 2015