The truth about Restricted Driver’s License bill
March 8, 2023
By Bryan Searle
President, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
There are a lot of misconceptions about Senate Bill 1081, also known as the Restricted Driver’s License bill. One of the biggest misconceptions about the bill, which would allow undocumented Idahoans to obtain a restricted driver’s license, is that it is a move to legalize non-citizens in the state. It is not. If the bill passes, these restricted driver’s licenses could only be used to authorize legal driving on Idaho roads. They could not be used to vote or exercise any other rights reserved for U.S. citizens.
In the legislation’s statement of purpose, it clearly states that the licenses “would be limited to driving purposes only, it would have a distinguishable appearance, and conspicuous words of limitation to ensure the card is not used for voting, to purchase firearms, or to exercise any other rights or privileges reserved to citizens.”
One very important thing the bill would do is make Idaho roads safer. In order to apply for an RDL, individuals would be required to pass all the same safety and competency testing requirements that apply to a regular driver’s license.
The legislation is designed to address the current issue of having drivers on Idaho roads who are unlicensed and uninsured. It’s important to understand that these individuals are already driving on Idaho roads, without a license and without insurance. This legislation would create safer roads for all Idahoans because there would be fewer unlicensed and uninsured drivers.
Again, this legislation is not a move to legalize non-citizens in the state and it does not create any new privileges for undocumented individuals, as they are already driving on our roads to get to work, take their kids to school and go grocery shopping.
This bill is not some type of statement on immigration policy. Immigration reform and border security must come from the federal government and thus far, the federal government has done a woeful job on that front. To put it bluntly, the federal government refuses to do anything to fix our nation’s immigration policy. It gets an “F” on that issue. In lieu of real immigration reform at the federal level, the bill is an attempt to address an existing reality.
Idaho is not by any means the only state to propose this type of legislation. Before the start of this year, 18 states had passed some type of RDL bill, and a couple more are currently debating the issue.
The legislation is not a way, as some opponents of the bill have publicly claimed, to create “cheap labor” for agriculture and other industries. In order to apply for an RDL, an individual must show proof of identify and Idaho residency. That means these individuals are already living and working in Idaho and contributing to the state’s economy, some of them for many years.
It’s also important for people to understand that federal law requires that when an employer is hiring, they must accept any documentation provided by the applicant, whether that documentation is believed to be legitimate or not. Industry is not purposefully seeking to hire illegals.
Not all agricultural operations qualify for the federal H-2A foreign agricultural guest worker program, which is in such desperate need of reform that even many of those who do use it still struggle to obtain the workers they need.
The simple reality is that thousands of undocumented individuals work in Idaho, in multiple industries, and they make up a decent portion of the state’s workforce. Requiring them to have an Idaho driver’s license and understand the rules of the road seems to me to be a good idea.
According to SB 1081’s statement of purpose, “This bill will improve Idaho’s road safety, ensure more drivers on Idaho roads are covered by insurance (and) enhance driver education and training for all Idahoans…”
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation policy, which has been created by IFBF members at the grassroots level, supports this legislation. The bill is also backed by a large list of other supporters spread out across different industries, as well as a lot of individual Idaho voters.
Farm Bureau encourages all Idahoans, and their elected officials, to carefully think through the realities of this hot-button issue and support Senate Bill 1081.
Bryan Searle, a farmer from Shelley, is president of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest general farm organization.
Questions or Comments? Send us an email!
Mike Weland, Publisher
6931 Main St.
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
A 9B Media LLC publication
Sign up for breaking