Texas Legislature 2013 - Reduce Unlicensed & Uninsured Drivers on Texas Roads
The 2011 Texas Legislature passed a new law to prohibit the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) from issuing a Texas Driver's License to anyone who could not prove they were a citizen or legal U.S. resident. There were many good reasons for that I will address later, but there was one HUGE unintended consequence. The passage of this law created more lawlessness on Texas highways and less financial responsibility by making certain that every undocumented person was driving uninsured, unlicensed and unidentified. It is time to fix that while maintaining the good things created by the previous law.
UPDATE: The State Affairs Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Byron Cook, passed this bill out of committee. Now, on to Calendars and Chairman Todd Hunter.
Next week, Chairman Byron Cook's committee on State Affairs will hear testimony about HB 3206, the "Safe Driver Bill". This bill, if it becomes law, will allow the DPS to issue a driving permit (not a Driver's License) to people who cannot document their legal status in the U.S. This bill does many things, the first of which will be a sharp reduction in the numbers of unlawful and uninsured drivers on our roadways.
The bill would:
- Require a person to pass a driving test
- Provide proof that they are a Texas resident
- Provide a 10 digit (finger) electronic fingerprint and full criminal history background check
- Require an application with a fee of about $150 (covering the cost of processing)
- Appear substantially different from a Texas Driver's License
- Not be a Federally recognized form of identification
- Allow permit holders to obtain motor vehicle insurance and proper vehicle registration
This permit would not be in any way voter registration as it would be clearly and distinctly different from a Driver's License. It could not be used at airports for travel by air around the United States, nor could it be used for border crossing identification. It would simply take someone who is today driving illegally and uninsured and enable them to follow the law and be financially responsible. It also will provide permanent identification of that person in our legal system as law enforcement will have access to ten finger prints and a photo of the person.
My contacts tell me this is the "most watched" bill in the Texas Legislature this session by the Hispanic television media. Hispanics are looking to see if Republicans will put perceived prejudice and malice towards Hispanics aside and do something that will be good for all drivers on Texas roadways. While this should not be passed as some kind of pandering for votes (it should be passed because it is good for Texas and Texans), it could go a long way towards helping keep Texas from trending blue.
Business and community leaders are strongly supporting this bill. In a letter to Chairman Cook, Dr. Steve Hotze said, "During our last [Texas] Republican Convention in Fort Worth, 10,000 delegates overwhelmingly supported a guest worker program..."
"The future of our state hinges on changing demographics," Hotze continued. "I, along with many other business owners believe in HB 3206. We must allow drivers to be protected against uninsured motorists."
Greater Houston Partnership President, Bob Harvey, told Chairman Cook in a letter this week there are over 132,000 undocumented workers in Houston. "They drive to work, take their children to school and to shop and buy groceries. It is in the best interest of all Texas residents that drivers be tested about both their knowledge of the rules of the road and their eyesight."
"The Partnership has had a Public Safety Task Force since 2011 and the organization's Immigration Task Force has a long history of supporting public safety in the Houston region and across the state in years prior," Harvey concluded.
In order to pass this bill out of committee, we need to show legislators that Texans demand a legal process for all people who are going to drive on our roadways and a way for them to be insured. Following is a list of Republican Legislators who serve on the State Affairs Committee. Please contact them and urge them to make Texas roadways safer by asking for a record vote and the passing of HB 3206.
State Affairs Committee