Bill to create driver-privilege cards gets favor in testimony

CARSON CITY — Sen. Ruben Kihuen stated quite simply Wednesday why Nevada should adopt driving privilege cards for undocumented residents:Every state that has adopted them has shown a drop in accidents and a drop in insurance premium costs.

More than 150 people, many of them Hispanic, showed up in Carson City and by teleconference in Las Vegas to testify for Senate Bill 303.

Kihuen said the turnout at the meeting was the largest by the Latino population at any legislative hearing this year. The hearing was scheduled on Latino Lobby Day.

This bill would create driver-privilege cards that could be used by undocumented residents or by college students, senior citizens and others who don’t think they need a full-fledged license.

The licenses could not be used for federal or state identification purposes, such as boarding planes, and law enforcement authorities could not use them for immigration purposes.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, expects 60,000 to 62,000 people will acquire the cards initially. There are thought to be more than 100,000 undocumented residents living in Nevada.

Not one person expressed opposition to the bill during the Senate Transportation Committee hearing.

Denis, who spoke briefly in Spanish, said he will work quickly on proposed amendments sought by the Department of Motor Vehicles and others.

Troy Dillard, the interim DMV director, said the drivers privilege card program could start Jan. 1.

The bill has support of both Republican and Democratic leaders.

“This is about public safety,” said Denis, the bill’s primary sponsor. “People drive even when they don’t have valid driver’s licenses. That is not only illegal but dangerous.”

Testimony also was given by Utah state Sens. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, and Curt Bramble, R-Provo. Utah was the first state in 2005 to approve a driving privilege law. New Mexico and Washington have similar laws.

“It allows for all our citizens to be safe,” Robles said.

Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, contended that having driver-privilege cards would help the economy and bring tax dollars to state government.

“People will pay for the licenses, they will purchase auto insurance, they will buy cars, they will drive to stores, they will take trips,” he said. ”Unlicensed drivers made our roads more dangerous.”

He added 14 percent of accidents are caused by unlicensed drivers. The total cost of those accidents is $4.1 billion a year.

The Nevada bill — like the Utah law — calls for one-year driving privilege cards, at $22 apiece.

Bramble said Utah now has an unlicensed driver rate of just 2.7 percent.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.