Bill to create Utah electronic driver licenses heads to Senate

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Utah Gov. Gary Herbert receives his temporary driver license at the Fairpark Driver License office in Salt Lake City on July 11, 2017.

Smartphones now may contain electronic credit cards, airline boarding passes, sports tickets and insurance cards. Some Utah lawmakers want to add electronic driver licenses to the list.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance SB110 to the full Senate for consideration. It would order the state to develop a pilot program for those licenses, and then implement a permanent program.

“So many fewer people are carrying wallets and purses these days because all the data we need — our calendar and credit cards, everything — is on the phone except our driver license,” said Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, sponsor of the bill.

He said the Legislature last year passed a bill ordering the state to develop and implement an electronic driver license program. But after interviewing potential contractors as partners, the Utah Driver License Division ran into a question that the new bill is designed to help answer.

“The question is: ‘How should the funding model for this work?’” Fillmore said.

There are a lot of options.

The state could charge an extra fee to all drivers, or just those who opt to receive a digital version. Or the state could hire a contractor and allow interested drivers to download its app and pay fees directly to that third party for a secure digital copy.

Or the state could choose to fund the program by charging a fee anytime that a bar, store or other business scans the bar code on the driver license to verify identity

Fillmore said making the first year a pilot project will allow testing such options “to see what model works the best. Then we have an extra year to fully implement it,” he said.

The senator adds that the digital licenses are far more than a picture of a regular license and would be difficult to counterfeit. For example, he said police or others would scan bar codes on licenses to ensure that it matches state databases.

Digital driver licenses are not a new idea. About a dozen states are in different stages of testing or issuing them, including neighboring Idaho and Wyoming.

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