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Senate amend ‘Wyoming digital driver’s license’ bill

A sample Wyoming driver's license. (WYDOT)

CASPER, Wyo. — House Bill 05 aims to allow the implementation of optional digital driver’s licenses in Wyoming.

After the Wyoming House of Representatives passed the bill on a vote of 49-11 on third reading, the Senate began to debate the bill during their floor session on Thursday, Feb. 27.

Senate District 28 Senator Jim Anderson explained the proposal to his fellow senators.

“What [the state is] trying to do is get ahead of the federal government on the digital driver’s licenses,” he said, noting that the technology is not ready to be deployed immediately.

Senate District 11 Senator Larry Hicks asked about security concerns with the technology.

“You can currently purchase on the black market artificial licenses now, so where would we get the artificial digital licenses?” Hicks joked. “Obviously [security] is going to be a big concern going forward.”

Senate District 24 Senator Michael Von Flatern said the technology is at least 2-5 years away from being ready for deployment in the general public.

“They had to change the statutes today to be able to experiment with stuff and work their way towards it,” he said.

He said work is being conducted to ensure that the digital licenses cannot be duplicated.

“They are trying to figure out the problems that they have on the privacy issues,” Von Flatern added.

Senate District 07 Senator Stephan Pappas noted that while the digital licenses could possibly one day be used when moving through security at airports, he noted that “TSA does not recognize digital right now.”

Anderson explained an amendment which the Senate Tranportation Committee recommended.

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to require a person to accept a digital identification card or otherwise require the purchase of equipment to verify the accuracy of a digital identification card,” that amendment states.

Anderson said that the purpose of the amendment was to ensure “people don’t have to buy the equipment to verify the accuracy of their licenses.”

“The problem is that the industry is not buying the equipment yet to read these licenses,” he added.

The amendment also includes a provision which refers to the digital licenses as “supplemental” to traditional licenses, meaning that people will still need to have traditional licenses if the digital licences begin to roll out.

The Senate adopted this amendment before passing the bill on first reading.

If passed into law, the creation of the digital licenses is expected to generate an additional $640,000 per year beginning in fiscal year 2021 for the state’s highway fund.

That is assuming that an average of 160,000 cards are created per year and that 20-30% of the Wyoming population participates in the program.

The licenses would be stored on devices such as cellphones.

“‘Digital driver’s license’ means a secure electronic representation of a physical driver’s license that is stored on the driver’s portable electronic device and may be viewed or verified by a person to whom access is allowed,” the proposed legislation reads.

The cost of the digital driver’s license would be $20 in addition to the cost of a physical license.

A digital identification card would cost $10 in addition to $10 for a physical identification card.

“No digital driver’s license shall be issued unless the applicant holds the corresponding physical driver’s license or unless the corresponding physical driver’s license is issued simultaneously,” the proposed bill adds. “The department may digitally cancel, suspend or revalidate a digital driver’s license on the occasions that a physical driver’s license would be taken possession of, cancelled, suspended, returned or reinstated, as appropriate.”

In cases where a law enforcement officer requires a citizen to show their identification, the bill attempts to protect people’s privacy if they are showing a digital license.

“For purposes of this section ‘display’ of a digital driver’s license means that a licensee may provide access to the digital driver’s license on the licensee’s portable electronic device,” the proposed bill states. “No law enforcement or judicial officer demanding display of a licensee’s digital driver’s license for any licensing or identification verification purpose shall take custody of the licensee’s portable electronic device.”

“Display of a digital driver’s license shall not serve as consent to search the driver’s portable electronic device.”

If someone’s license were to be revoked, that would mean surrendering the physical driver’s license and cancelling the digital license.

The bill is sponsored by the Joint Transportation, Highways & Military Affairs Interim Committee.

If the Senate pass the bill on two further readings, since they adopted amendments different from the version the House sent, the differences would need to be resolved.

A concurrence request sent to the House allows the House to vote on whether they agree with the amendments.

If the concurrence vote fails, a conference committee including members from both the Senate and the House will be formed to resolve the differences. Once such a committee resolves those differences, the bill would return to the chamber of origin for approval or rejection, then move to the second chamber for approval or rejection.

If both chambers approve, the bill then moves to the governor’s desk for consideration.

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