Driver’s License Debate Gets to FL House Floor

An amendment introduced by Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez prompted a debate in the House floor between pro-road safety and anti-immigrant legislators

Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez
Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez

Today, Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) introduced an amendment to House Bill 27 to allow all potential drivers in Florida to apply for a license, regardless of their immigration status, as a way to increase the  number of insured drivers and road safety. The amendment failed with 37 votes in favor and 79 votes against. (See vote count)

HB27 attempts to accept military identification card to apply for a driver’s license, and Rep. Rodriguez’ amendment proposed to expand the reach of the bill by allowing other Florida residents to apply for a license. Currently, thousands of Florida drivers cannot apply for a license due to their immigration status. The amendment would provide the means for undocumented Floridians to get trained and tested in order to obtain a driver’s license and car insurance.

As stated by Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) in his press release, “this is a highway safety effort following the lead of ten other states that have used it to reduce the numbers of unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road. Issuing licenses regardless of immigration status would reduce the number of unlicensed and uninsured motorists in Florida as it has in other states.” According to data mentioned by Rep. Rodriguez, in 2012, 17% of Florida’s fatalities in motor vehicle crashes involved drivers with invalid licenses.

The amendment followed Senate Bill SB 300, introduced by Senator Rene Garcia, which is still waiting for a chance to be heard in its first Committee in the Senate. 10 other states have passed similar legislation, and it has proven to increase road safety. After the passage of the bill in 2003, New Mexico’s uninsured motorist rate dropped from 33% to 9.1% between 2002 and 2008.

The Drive Safe Sunshine State Campaign commends the work of Rep. Rodriguez for bringing this issue for the first time to be debated on the House floor. This issue has been ignored this legislative cycle, despite all the efforts of advocacy groups and the support of nearly 10,000 Floridians who signed a petition. We thank the 37 Representatives who voted in favor of the amendment, especially Representatives Rogers, Torres and Slosberg who spoke in favor on the floor. We invite the rest of the Florida’s House members to reconsider their anti-immigrant stance, especially when our road safety is being discussed.

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