The Nevada Senate overwhelming approved a bill Monday authorizing driver privilege cards for state residents living in the country illegally, a move backers said will allow immigrants to legally drive on state highways and obtain insurance, reducing costs for other motorists.
Monday’s vote was 20-1. SB303 now goes to the Assembly where passage is expected. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval also backs the proposal.
Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said the bill will make Nevada roads safer because it will allow people otherwise ineligible to get a license to take a driving test, acquire insurance and legally drive.
Four states – Utah, New Mexico, Illinois and Washington – currently have some sort of driving authorization laws for non-citizens.
Nevada’s bill is modeled after a similar law in Utah, which last year issued 36,000 driving privilege cards, according to earlier testimony.
“This is a bill we’ve worked hard on,” Denis said.
Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, estimated there are 100,000 or more non-citizen drivers in Nevada.
While helping those people to be able to legally drive, he said it will also help the economy and the state’s highway fund.
“People will pay for a permit, be able to buy a car … take road trips,” he said.
It will cost the state about $700,000 to design and implement the new cards, but backers said the state will get back those costs and then some through fees charged to take driving tests and renew the cards. Denis said if the bill becomes law it could bring in $2 million in 2015.
Under the bill, applicants must provide proof of their identity, such as a passport or birth certificate, as well as Nevada residency.
Driver privilege cards would have to be renewed annually and could not be used as official identification to board a commercial aircraft or enter a U.S. federal building.
Sen. Don Gustavson was the lone vote against the bill in the Senate. A conservative Republican from Sparks, Gustavson said he opposed it because most of his constituents were against it.
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