The Nevada Assembly gave final legislative approval late Monday to a bill establishing driver privilege cards for people in the country illegally.
SB303 was approved on a 30-9 vote and now heads to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is expected to sign it.
Sponsors of the bill hailed it as a way to allow immigrants to legally drive on state highways and obtain insurance, reducing costs for other motorists.
Those people otherwise ineligible to get a driver’s license will have to take a driving test and acquire insurance to drive legally.
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.
Republican Utah Sen. Curt Bramble testified in support of the Nevada bill. Bramble sponsored the Utah law in 2005. He said people in the United States without documentation will drive regardless of their immigration status and that giving them the ability to legally drive will save other motorists higher insurance costs.
Applicants must provide proof of their identity, such as a passport or birth certificate, as well as Nevada residency.
Cards 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.
“This is not an identification card. This is about public safety,” Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante told colleagues before the Assembly vote was taken Monday night.
Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, also stressed that the cards cannot be used for identification to register to vote.
The bill also prohibits the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles from releasing information on privilege cards for enforcement of immigration laws.
In supporting the bill in the Senate, Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, said the move would help the state’s economy and highway fund. He estimated there are about 100,000 people driving illegally in the state.
“People will pay for a permit, be able to buy a car … take road trips,” he said.
It will cost the state about $1.6 million to design and implement the new cards, Bobzien said. Supporters said the state will get back those costs and then some through fees charged to take driving tests and renew the cards.
Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, estimated that the privilege cards would bring in about $2 million by 2015.
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