Utah Legislature OKs digital driver license program

Legislators gave final approval Thursday to a bill designed to overcome some final obstacles that have prevented Utah from offering digital driver licenses or identification cards on smartphones.

The Senate voted 24-0 to concur with House amendments to SB110, which now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his 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, in an earlier hearing.

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 about how to fund digital licenses, which the new bill is designed to help answer.

Many options exist.

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.

Another option: 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.

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