TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in
relation to authorizing the department of motor vehicles to issue
limited purpose drivers' licenses
PURPOSE: To improve public safety and expand economic opportunity by
allowing individuals who cannot provide the documentation necessary to
obtain a standard or enhanced driver's license the chance to earn a
limited purpose driver's license.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 adds section 503-A to the vehicle and traffic law, providing
for the creation and implementation of Limited Purpose Drivers'
Licenses in New York.
Paragraph 1 directs the department to provide limited purpose drivers'
licenses to qualified individuals.
Paragraph 2 sets forth the necessary proofs of identity and residency
an applicant must show in order to obtain a limited purpose driver's
Paragraph 3 sets forth the duration for which limited purpose drivers'
licenses shall be valid.
Paragraph 4 provides for the creation of a differentiated license
designed to comply with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 and Department
of Homeland Security Regulations. This differentiated license shall
clearly state that the license is "Not Acceptable for Federal
Paragraph 5 makes provisions for altering the limited purpose drivers'
license if the Department of Homeland Security determines that a
license issued pursuant to this section does not comply with federal
Paragraph 6 makes clear that a license issued pursuant to this section
may not be used as evidence of a license holder's immigration status,
nor as the basis for investigating, arresting, or detaining a limited
purpose license holder under circumstances where an individual who
held a license issued pursuant to another section of law would not
have been investigated, arrested or detained.
Paragraph 7 makes it a violation of law, including New York Human
Rights Law (Executive Law Article 15) to discriminate against an
individual because he or she applies for, holds or presents a license
issued under this section.
Paragraph 8 provides that information collected under this section is
not public record and may not be disclosed by the department unless
required by law.
Paragraph 9 provides that such license may be used for identification
purposes, except where prohibited by law.
Section 2 establishes the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: By passing this legislation, New York will join the
eleven states, as well as the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico,
that have already taken the sensible step of passing legislation that
allows immigrant motorists the opportunity to obtain legal driving
privileges. These states include our neighbors in Connecticut, big
states with major cities like Illinois and California, even Utah, a
deep red state, not to mention the one jurisdiction whose homeland
security concerns rival New York City's - Washington, D.C.
Ten of these limited purpose drivers' license laws were passed in
2013, and similar bills are under consideration in state houses all
across the country. The reasons for this flurry of legislative
activity are simple. First, limited purpose drivers' licenses are a
commonsense way states can improve public safety while giving
hardworking immigrants the chance to legally do basic things the rest
of us take for granted, like commuting to work, driving to church, or
taking their kids to school. Second, although comprehensive reform has
stalled in Washington, recent federal guidance has allowed states to
develop distinguishable, limited purpose licenses that comply with the
REAL ID Act and Department of Homeland Security requirements.
Allowing all individuals the opportunity to earn a driver's license,
regardless of immigration status, will improve public safety by
ensuring that everyone driving on our roads is properly credentialed,
informed of our traffic laws, and is operating a registered, inspected
and insured vehicle. In New Mexico and Utah, where these laws have
been in place for a decade or more, there has been a demonstrable
impact on road safety: New Mexico saw a 23% decrease in traffic deaths
between 2002 and 2010 and Utah experienced a 15% decrease during that
time period. Moreover, possessing a legal license will facilitate
increased cooperation between immigrants and law enforcement, making
it more likely that drivers will remain at the scene of a car accident
or cooperate as a witness to a crime. Our current system, which
prevents these individuals from obeying the law, places everyone
needlessly at risk.
Passing this law will also reduce the percentage of uninsured drivers
on our roads, leading to lower insurance rates for all New Yorkers.
For example, when Utah changed its policy in 1999, the state's
uninsurance rate dropped from 10 percent in 1998 to 5.1 percent in
2007. Since New Mexico made this change in 2003, its rate of uninsured
motorists fell from 33% to under 9%. As additional drivers obtain
insurance, the number of accidents involving uninsured motorists will
naturally decline. The costs of such accidents - and the premiums that
cover them - will drop, and insurance rates will go down for everyone.
For example, in Illinois, where the law is just starting to go into
effect, it is estimated that if only half of the state's 250,000
unlicensed immigrant residents become licensed and insured, Illinois
policyholders will save $46 million per year in premium payments. With
an immigrant population more than twice the size of Illinois's, New
York drivers could see even greater savings. Additionally, the state
would receive an influx of millions of dollars in fees from these
newly licensed drivers, providing potential funding for any number of
Beyond road safety, lower insurance rates, and revenue for state
coffers, passing this legislation will also allow hundreds of
thousands of immigrants to move out of the shadows and into the
economic mainstream. This will benefit not only the license holders
themselves, who will enjoy greater employment flexibility, but also
the many businesses that employ these individuals. This is
particularly true in New York's agriculture industry, where the
workforce is largely comprised of immigrants who must routinely drive
significant distances between fields and operate motor vehicles as
part of their work. Moreover, immigrants are disproportionately
victims of exploitation and fraud, and the ability to obtain a
driver's license would make them less isolated and vulnerable to such
Providing drivers' licenses to all New Yorkers is not a novel and
untested plan. In fact, it was the status quo for ninety years, until
2002 when Governor Pataki changed the law to require license holders
to have social security numbers, invalidating the licenses of 152,000
New Yorkers. In 2007, when Governor Spitzer attempted to restore
immigrant drivers' licenses, New York was clearly not ready for such a
step, and the political firestorm remains fresh in the minds of many.
However, times have changed, and other states have demonstrated that
this can be done, and done right. We cannot afford to wait on federal
action to restore sanity to our broken immigration system. We must
take what steps we can to till these gaps, and a proven, commonsense
measure like this one is an obvious choice to be part of this effort.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: This is a new bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: To be determined.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect twelve months after the
date on which it shall have become law; provided, however, that the
commissioner of motor vehicles shall promulgate any rules or
regulations necessary for the timely implementation of this act on or
before such date.