State senators approve bill for driver authorization cards

CARSON CITY— On a 20-1 vote, state senators on Monday passed a bill that would allow people who are not in the country legally to acquire driver authorization cards.

Under the bill, they would have to pass a driving test before they could acquire the card, which cannot be used for identification purposes. The annual fee for renewing the driver’s card is $18.50. Four states, including Utah and New Mexico, already allow people who are not in the U.S. legally to drive.

“It will bring safer roads and additional funding for the highway fund,” said Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, the author of Senate Bill 303.

Denis said about 60,000 of the state’s 100,000 people who live here illegally, are expected to get the card. The cost of cards would bring in about $3.4 million over the next two years, compared with Department of Motor Vehicles’ costs of $1.6 million. The cards will be available starting Jan. 1.

While the bill still must receive Assembly approval before adjournment June 3, that deadline is not expected to be a problem. The leaders of the Assembly back the bill and Gov. Brian Sandoval has pledged to sign it into law.

The only no vote Monday was cast by Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks. He said he saw merit to licensing unauthorized residents, but his constituents view the bill as a special benefit that should not be given to people here illegally.

But Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, said the bill does not change immigration status at all.

“It makes a lot of sense from a public safety standpoint,” he added.

Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, noted the authorized drivers must acquire insurance and that will help others since there were be fewer accidents with uninsured drivers.

“People will begin to purchase cars and insurance and go to the store and take road trips,” he added.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3900.