August 30, 2013 – Senate Bill 397 – legislation that would have allowed California to become the 5th State with WHTI-compliant, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses to cross the border, failed to pass out of committee… a missed opportunity for increasing crossborder tourism.
This hot Friday afternoon, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee faced a mountain of over 150 bills – including S.B. 397 (Hueso) that would have authorized California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to enter into an MOU with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop a border-crossing compatible State driver’s license. With the rush to complete the 2013 Legislative Session, and with today’s deadline to vote-out legislation that had fiscal impacts, this particular bill did not make it out of committee – leaving it to languish as a two-year bill in 2014, and missing a great opportunity.
S.B. 397 (text here) may be reconsidered in the coming legislative year – although a previous attempt to pass such legislation (S.B. 60 by Senator Cedillo in 2009) failed to authorize this important, border-friendly policy. As noted in a background briefing prepared by Crossborder Group in January 2012 (and shared with some individuals involved with promoting crossborder tourism at the time): “While there appears to be some potential for moving the issue forward, [we] believe it will not do so organically (i.e.: without some effort made by California-residing interests).”
2014 presents yet another opportunity to plan and organize a strong advocacy effort for a California Enhanced Driver’s License program. That said, given that Californian’s can already apply for and secure a WHTI-compliant U.S. Passport Card, authorizing such a program is only one step. We also have to think through how to promote wider use of any future EDL, as well as existing RFID cards that can encourage crossborder tourism.
That’s our Two Pesos. Let us know what you think.