With Republicans favoring it, the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday passed the measure on a party-line vote, 6-to-3. HB239 now goes to the full House.
If the law establishing the card is repealed, Utah will lose almost $1 million a year in revenue from the driving card.
Bill sponsor Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, told the committee that the law is a national security concern because anyone can get a U.S. Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which is a way to get a driving privilege card. He said murderers, terrorists, gang members and sex offenders can get the card and use it for illegal activity. But, when asked by another lawmaker about his accusations, Donnelson said he didn't have any data to support his concern.
The existing law also attracts undocumented immigrants to move to Utah because the state provides such benefits as the driving card, Donnelson said. Only a handful of states provide undocumented immigrants with the opportunity to legally drive with some type of license.
Bill supporters said they don't want undocumented workers having a a U.S. citizen's right, such as getting a permit to drive.
HB239 opponents said the driving card is good public-safety policy. Dee Rowland, the Utah Catholic Diocese government-liaison director, said repealing the law would put more uninsured drivers on the street.
"This [bill] will not solve our immigration problem," she said.
Last year, Utah issued about 41,000 driving privilege cards statewide. There are an estimated 100,000 undocumented immigrants in Utah.
With almost 76 percent of cardholders insuring their vehicles, a study by the Legislative Auditor General released last week concluded the law appears to be working. Eighty-two percent of people with drivers licenses have insurance.
HB239 supporters, including committee vice chairman Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, argued that cardholders only carry insurance for a month before canceling it. But no one could provide data to support that claim.
Would repeal driving privilege card for undocumented immigrants. Passed by committee.
Next step: Goes to full House.