In August of 2014, I organized a Hispanic Town Hall Meeting in Hybla Valley. I spent the first hour going over issues with constituents.
Then, I asked attendees for feedback — what was their #1 issue? Lack of government identification. Attendees said that they and their friends and family were weary of obtaining ID's from Maryland or not having them at all.
At the beginning of last session, I was approached by Virginia New Majority and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACALAO) about working together to bring this issue forward. I introduced Senate Bill 390 that would have allowed the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a temporary driver's visitor's driver's license to anyone who (1) resided in Virginia for one year, (2) had filed a Virginia tax return or been claimed as a dependent another Virginia tax return and (3) paid a $53 fee. These licenses would be conspicuously marked with language stating "Not for federal use” so it is clear that they are not compliant with the Real ID Act.
Similar legislation has now been passed in over 12 states: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, District of Columbia, New Mexico, and Washington. Other states are considering it. Why is this legislation a good idea?
Reason No. 1 - Reducing Accidents
New residents do not know the rules of the road. According to the DMV, in other states where this has been implemented, over 80 percent of applicants fail the driving test and need to retake the test. Having informed drivers is good for everyone. Data from California showed that people without driver's licenses were three times more likely to cause a fatal accident. The states with the longest record of providing licenses to all residents have experienced nearly a 100 percent larger drop in traffic fatalities than the nationwide average. This legislation will save lives.
Reason No. 2 - Reducing Hit and Runs
States adopting these measures have seen significant reductions in hit and run accidents. Analyses by AAA have found that 41 percent of hit and run drivers lack a driver's license and that unlicensed drivers are 66.36 times more likely to be hit and run drivers. When people do not fear prosecution they stop and collisions are dealt with appropriately through our system.
Reason No. 3 - Lower Virginia Insurance Premiums
More insured drivers means risk spread among more people, fewer accidents with uninsured drivers, and lower premiums for everyone.
Reason No. 4 - Increase Interaction With Law Enforcement
Residents with government ID are much more likely to interact with law enforcement whether it's for car accidents, domestic violence or to come forward as witnesses for other crimes. Government ID means greater civic participation.
Reason No. 5 - More Tax Revenue
There are an estimated 400,000 people who would benefit from this. If 80 percent of estimated eligible Virginians sign up, Virginia will collect $1.7 million in new licensing fees per year. If each new licensed driver claims $35,000 per year in taxable Virginia income, they would pay an additional $1,755 of state income taxes per person or a total of $561 million per year of new tax revenue. If 200,000 new auto insurance policies are purchased for $1,000 per year, it will result in $225 million per year of new auto insurance premium tax revenue.
Reason No. 6 - Provide All Virginians a High Quality of Life
Licenses allow people to enjoy a healthy quality of life. Licenses mean being able to take children to soccer games, drive to work, get a bank account, or get to the doctor.
The Way Forward
The legislation was supported by the McAuliffe Administration and the DMV has assembled a working group including representatives from law enforcement, the immigrant community, faith groups, driving safety groups, criminal defense, courts, chambers of commerce, taxation, human trafficking, and local governments to come up with consensus legislation.
Hopefully, next year, this legislation will pass so that everyone living in Virginia can enjoy a healthy quality of life. If you have any feedback, please send me a note at email@example.com.