SB 845 would have expanded access to driver licenses to all Oregonians, regardless of whether or not an individual can prove lawful presence.

In 2008, the Oregon legislature limited access to driver licenses to only individuals who can prove their lawful presence in this country. The ACLU opposed that law along with the preceding Executive Order issued by then-Governor Ted Kulongoski because the purpose of driver licenses is to ensure that only qualified drivers get behind the wheel.

Applicants trying to obtain a driver license in Oregon must take a written test on traffic laws and practical test on the basic operation of a motor vehicle. That ensures that those behind the wheel understand the rules of the road. Vehicle owners are also required to obtain liability insurance. Already Oregonians face rising costs to their automobile insurance because of uninsured drivers. Individuals who do not have a driver’s license cannot obtain automobile insurance thereby expanding the pool of uninsured drivers. We believe that the complicated issues surrounding immigration need to be addressed at a federal level and not through restricting access to driver licenses. Our concerns were shared by retired Hillsboro Chief of Police Ron Louie who testified in 2008 that restricting access to driver licenses makes all of us less safe on the roads.

This session, those joining us in opposing the 2008 law introduced SB 845, which would have authorized individuals to obtain a license for the limited purpose of providing identification related to driving and not for any other use. SB 845 was assigned to the Senate Business, Transportation & Economic Development Committee, which despite the Democratic majority in the Senate was evenly divided. SB 845 received a “courtesy” hearing and there was never any intention of moving the bill forward for a vote. Along with ACLU's written testimony in support of SB 845, Ron Louie also testified in support. We were not surprised but we were disappointed that there was no meaningful interest in the House or Senate to make this change in the law. SB 845 died in Committee.