Jim Guthrie 01

Years ago, I served as a member of the Bannock County commission and one of our duties was to appoint citizens to various boards like planning and zoning, fair board, and many others.

I remember one appointment where we had asked an individual who had seen a birthday or two if he’d like to serve on the hospital board. This was a tough assignment, but we felt his years of knowledge would be an asset and bring some additional diversity to the board mix. I can’t tell you how many times over subsequent years he thanked me for that experience. He said, “You are never too old to learn something new and I learn something new every day.” What a great attitude and example his perspective has been for me.

By now, most have heard about my proposal to introduce legislation to allow undocumented immigrants and others to apply for Driving Privilege Cards (DPC). Any time immigration issues come up in a sentence, passion comes with it, but I believe this discussion is way past due. This is not just an opportunity for those who find them outside the parameters of traditional licenses, but an opportunity to address road safety issues that will benefit all Idaho citizens.

Fourteen other states, including most around us, have some form of DPC. While we don’t yet have a final draft, I brought this concept up early in the session to give those with constructive feedback ample opportunity to be heard. I am sure the draft will continue to change, but the current bullet points are as follows.

  • Even though an applicant would have to pass road competency testing consistent with a standard class “D” license, a DPC is not a typical license. A DPC would have a large discernable water mark across the front. Issuance would be limited to those 18 and older, would be valid for only one year, and the applicant must be domiciled in Idaho to qualify.
  • It could not be used for voting purposes, nor for alcohol or firearm purchases.
  • A governmental entity may not accept a DPC as proof of legal presence in Idaho nor the United States nor as proof of legal age.

Data from those states that have DPC shows a safer road environment….

  • In Utah they began issuing DPC in 2005. They have roughly 50,000 people who have DPC and of those 42,000 have insurance. This insured percentage is nearly equivalent to traditional license holders. In Utah and New Mexico overall uninsured rates dropped more than 20% after the program started.
  • New Mexico saw alcohol-related crashes decline by 32% and traffic fatalities drop by 23%. There is also less probability of a hit and run situation when drivers are on the road legally.
  • Overall insurance premiums in states without DPC are on average 2% higher, which simply reflects the economy of scale.

Like many others I am frustrated with the U.S. immigration policy and have waited decades for change that never seems to come. In the meantime, we have a road safety issue that I believe we have a chance to help mitigate. As a legislator I try to look at a problem and help craft sensible solutions. Many others agree. This proposal has broad bipartisan support in the political, agricultural, commercial, and industrial arenas. That said, I am not oblivious to the feedback I have received which ranges across the opinion spectrum. Of the many hurdles any proposal must clear to become law, the voice of our citizens is at the top.

With that, after meeting with the working group the past few days, we are modifying our path forward. We will not be printing legislation this year. Instead we will form a working group to further study this issue and seek additional public and stakeholder input, with a goal to introduce legislation early in the 2021 session.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” I hope we can have the courage to discuss this and other issues as we seek to solve problems and promote sensible policy. Our willingness to discuss the difficult is a prerequisite if we are to solve the difficult. Perhaps this type of legislation becomes law on some future date or maybe we choose the status quo. If we do choose to ignore it, we will at least do so having discussed it. And, who knows, maybe we can all learn something new along the way.