Driver’s license for all has been proposed before. The House has passed it before. After a lengthy debate Monday, the House did it again.
HF4, a bill that would eliminate the need to show lawful presence in the country to get a driver’s license or state identification card, got green-lighted on a 69-60 vote. The bill now travels to the Senate.
It would bar special markings on the license related to a driver’s immigration status. And it includes data protection while ensuring law enforcement and other agencies have access to the information they need to do their job – notably the secretary of state’s office, which administers elections.
The bill would appropriate $2.9 million from the vehicle services account in the next biennium for implementation.
Until 2003, residents of Minnesota did not have to provide proof of legal residence to get a driver’s license. Eighteen states have in law what is being proposed.
There are public safety and economic benefits to passing the legislation, which would return the state to pre-2003 regulations, said Rep. Aisha Gomez (DFL-Mpls), the bill sponsor. People would have to demonstrate they know the rules of the road, they would be able to get insurance and have access to jobs where public transportation is sparse. The bill has received support from representatives of law enforcement, labor, business and religious groups.
“This is the right thing to do, and now is the time to do it,” Gomez said. “I want to acknowledge that the decades of pain our inaction has caused to communities around this state.”
Staying with the status quo sends the message to immigrant communities we’re happy to use their labor to feed us, care for our elders, happy to collect taxes and fees but we will not make an allowance to get them go to work or take their children to school, she said.
Opponents have concerns the bill would open the state to fraud, especially voter fraud. Several unsuccessfully offered amendments that would require marking licenses as “not for voting.”
“I just want to make sure voting integrity is intact,” said Rep. Patricia Mueller (R-Austin), who indicated she would support the bill if such a provision were included.
Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) believes the bill would put an unmanageable burden on an already overwhelmed driver’s license system.
“I believe this is rushed and the system cannot handle this,” she said.