Why opponents of driver-card legislation went to the ballot: Guest opinion
By David Olen Cross
Senate Bill 833, passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed into law on May 1 by Gov. John Kitzhaber, will undermine Senate Bill 1080, legislation passed in 2008 that requires legal presence in the state to obtain an Oregon driver’s license.
Ever since the passage SB 1080, the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles has been required by Oregon law (House Bill 3624) to provide an annual report on the number persons driving without licenses or insurance.
In a report filed on Jan. 1, DMV Administrator Tom McClellan imparts: “Four years after implementing a legal presence requirement in Oregon, changes in driver licensing requirements have not had a major impact on the rate of unlicensed and uninsured driving.”
Translation, there is no current documentation available since the passage of SB 1080 that more people legally or not legally present in the state are driving unlicensed and uninsured.
Oregonians should realize by now there was no justification for the Legislature and governor to make SB 833 law this year, allowing those without documentation to obtain access to a pseudo-driver’s license — called a driver card.
Looking back to 2012, when opponents to the issuance of driver’s licenses to the undocumented found out about proposed legislation that would change the legal presence requirement to obtain an driver’s license, they asked to participate in what was called the “Governor’s Driver License Task Force.”
After repeated requests to the governor’s office asking to participate or attend Driver License Task Force meetings, opponents were told the task force didn’t exist by state capital employees in the governor’s office.
Not believing the Driver License Task Force didn’t exist, opponents filed two public records requests with the governor’s office requesting the names of task force members and meeting minutes.
The governor’s legal counsel denied both requests. An appeal was filed and that appeal was rejected by the attorney general’s office.
Exclusion of public input continued even after SB 833 was introduced during the regular 2013 legislative session.
To avoid scrutiny or critiques of the legislation, pro-SB 833 legislators
dominated with their own testimony most of the time they made available for public oral testimony on the legislation. Before hearing from citizens who had signed up to speak in opposition, the Senate committee chair invited lengthy oral testimony from an alleged undocumented mother accompanied by her small child, a political tactic known as “baby waving.”
It gets worse yet; to avoid further public scrutiny of SB 833, the senators and representatives controlling the legislative process moved the legislation from Senate directly to the House floor for a debate and vote — side-stepping the normal procedure of hearings in both chambers.
To open up the democratic process to citizens shunned by the pro-SB 833 cabal in the governor’s office and state Legislature, state Reps. Kim Thatcher and Sal Esquivel, along with Richard F. LaMountain, vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, stepped forward and placed their names on Oregon referendum 301.
With guidance from OFIR and Protect Oregon Driver Licenses Committee, Oregonians across the state worked together and gathered 70,973 referendum signatures that were turned into the state elections office by the Oct. 4 deadline.
On Friday, Oct. 18, after the first statistical check by state election officials of 1,000 referendum petition signees, election officials validated the signatures of 58,291 registered Oregon voters, more than the minimum number of signatures the referendum campaign needed to put SB 833 before the state’s voters.
The 70,973 registered Oregon voters who signed the referendum 301 petition did their homework. These Oregonians understand there simply are no data to back up proponents’ claims that making SB 833 a state law will make Oregon’s roads any safer.
David Olen Cross lives in Salem.