Gov. Ted Kulongoski is looking at making it tougher for someone to prove they are in the country legally before they can get an Oregon driver's license, a politically touchy move that raises issues of security and illegal immigration.
Kulongoski spokeswoman Patty Wentz said Tuesday the governor might use his executive authority to enact tougher requirements &
a possibility applauded by fellow Democrats in the Oregon House who don't want to leave the issue hanging until February's legislative session.
"We urge him to take immediate action to strengthen our driver's license documentation standards," said Rep. Terry Beyer, a Springfield Democrat who is chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee.
Kulongoski first raised the issue last week, saying Oregon's loose rules for proof of legal residence have made the state a target for noncitizens who seek to obtain identification cards for illegal purposes.
Oregon is one of eight states that don't require proof of "lawful presence," such as birth certificates or passports, to get a driver's license. Oregon instead has a long list of documents that qualify as evidence that the person is a state resident.
Wentz said the governor's lawyers are researching whether he could by executive rule impose more stringent requirements to obtain a driver's license.
"We are looking at all of our options to see what we can do administratively before the February legislative session," she said.
At the same time, she said, Kulongoski still supports creation of a secondary license for those who can't provide proof of legal residence &
which includes many undocumented residents who work in Oregon's agricultural, construction and service industries.
The license would be for driving privileges only, not identification. But the idea has drawn fire from House Republicans who say it's wrong to extend driving privileges to undocumented residents.
"It sends a message that driving is a privilege for Oregonians, but a right for illegal aliens," said House Republican Leader Bruce Hanna of Roseburg.
This is the latest political skirmish over driver's licenses. In the 2007 session that ended in June, lawmakers took no action on a federal mandate to bring Oregon's drivers licenses under a national standard.
The House and Senate couldn't agree on a bill to carry out the federal mandate, in large part because of critics' worries about cost and privacy issues raised by the Real ID act's requirements to link Oregon license records to a national database.
Kulongoski continues to warn that Oregon driver licenses might no longer be good for boarding commercial airliners or visiting federal office buildings if Oregon doesn't comply with Real ID soon.
Kulongoski eyes tougher driver's license requirements