Md. Gov. Finalizes Driver’s License Bill for Undocumented Drivers

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill into law last week that gives undocumented immigrants in the state the right get a driver’s license.

In order to qualify, applicants for a driver’s license must be able to prove they filed an income tax return in Maryland or been a Maryland resident and claimed as a dependent on tax returns for each of the preceding two years.

The law includes a prohibition barring license and ID card holders from using them to buy a firearm.

A legislative analysis estimated that revenues for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund would “increase significantly” by $3.9 million in the fiscal year 2014 from applicant fees for driver’s licenses. That increase would be offset by an estimated $2.4 million that year from operational and implementation costs.

Gov. O’Malley’s approval accompanies another in Oregon from Gov. John Kitzhaber issued that same week, making both states the latest to join a handful of others granting driving rights to residents without legal status.

Insurance Forms One Argument in Support of Programs

Utah, New Mexico, Illinois and Washington all have similar programs opening driving privileges to undocumented drivers through licenses or identification cards.

Other states are considering proposals, including Colorado, where SB 13-251 this week passed one of its final legislative votes in the state Legislature before heading to Gov. John Hickenlooper for further consideration.

Supporters of such programs often cite public safety, arguing that newly licensed motorists would be subject to general driving requirements such as aptitude tests and insurance coverage that they would otherwise bypass while they drove on roads illegally.

When the Illinois program was approved, supporters said that more drivers with proper insurance coverage would mean safer roads.

Supporters of Oregon’s plan, SB 833, echoed that sentiment.

Commenting on SB 833, spokesmen for state industry groups said that applicants’ lack of driving background would likely mean they didn’t have sufficient history to qualify for cheaper premiums.

Maryland senators approved SB 715 with a 29-18 vote in late March while representatives in the state House approved it with an 82-55 vote in early April. Gov. O’Malley finalized the bill on May 2.

Provisions under SB 715 go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, the same day that Oregon’s law goes into effect.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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