SPRING HILL — The new state rules for people seeking a driver's license have Hernando officials making a special request of their own: for bulletproof glass.
"We've had some problems with people getting very upset and very angry," said Sally Daniel, director of administration for the Hernando County Tax Collector's office. "It's for everyone's protection."
After only one week of state-mandated changes requiring more documentation to get a new driver's license or an ID card, local officials are reporting that people have responded with confusion, frustration and anger.
There have been several ugly confrontations in the tax collector's office in Spring Hill. Tina Faulkingham, manager of the office, said her staff is on the front line of the frustration.
"People throw documents, beat on the counter, curse, take it out on the clerk … they just aren't very nice at all," she said. "We just want people to realize the clerks are employees here. They did not make the law."
During a strategic planning meeting Friday with the County Commission and constitutional officers, Daniel emphatically pressed the county to make sure her employees had adequate protection.
"I worry that something bad is going to happen," she said.
The problems started Monday when the state began requiring drivers to prove their identification with documents such as an original birth certificate or valid passport; their Social Security number, with the card itself or a pay stub or W-2 form; and their residency, with two forms of identification. Also, drivers with names different from their birth names need supporting documents.
The changes are part of a nationwide program to strengthen requirements for driver's licenses, stemming from concerns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that state-issued ID was too easy to obtain. Florida, where several of the 9/11 terrorists got drivers' licenses to establish U.S. identities, is the first state to adopt such requirements.
Reacting to the angry customers, county officials said they took out a restraining order on one customer this week, and Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Donna Black said deputies have been called in to break up outbursts.
"We were prepared for the possibility of people getting mad due to the changes," said Black, noting the agency's Spring Hill substation is adjacent to the tax collector's office. "It's difficult right now. But we're sure it's going to level out once people get used to the system."
Ann Nucatola, spokeswoman for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said she had heard of no other problems at driver's license offices around the state.
At the department's office north of Brooksville on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, several drivers on Friday said they were forced to make multiple trips to the office — and the offices of other state agencies — to procure all of their documents.
"We've had to come back a couple of times," said Mike Mobley, who brought his father to get a driver's license Friday afternoon. "It's been a hassle. We weren't aware of the changes."
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120. Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.