Richland lawmaker proposes new rules for licenses

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 19, 2013 

State Rep. Larry Haler has heard testimony in Olympia a few times that's left him scratching his head about the state's policies for issuing drivers' licenses.

"I have sat in committee hearings where people have come in and testified, 'Don't cut my welfare off' but they live in another state," Haler, R-Richland, told the Herald.

He told a group of Republicans this week that he's heard people say that because of Washington's loose policies for issuing driver's licenses, they've been able to get a Washington license and collect social service benefits here while living as far away as New Jersey.

"I have had a couple of those testimonies in committees, and I looked at them, and I didn't see anybody flinch," Haler said.

A bill he introduced into the Legislature this week offers what Haler says he believes is a simple fix -- require first-time applicants for Washington drivers' licenses to show a utility bill or some other proof that they live in Washington.

The bill is one of several introduced this week by Tri-City lawmakers during the first days of the 2013 legislative session.

Haler's bill is aimed at people abusing the state's social service system or using a Washington license to register to vote when they don't live in the state.

"A driver's license is an open access to vote, so that means if you live in another state ... you're influencing our elections," he said.

The bill doesn't address Washington's policy of issuing driver's licenses to people who reside in Washington after entering the country illegally.

"The intent overall is not aimed at any populations or ethnic groups," Haler said.

What he said he hopes it will do is eliminate some of the fraud the state's social services system may be experiencing.

Haler's bill is House Bill 1041. It has been referred to the House Transportation Committee but not yet scheduled for a hearing.

Other bills introduced by Mid-Columbia lawmakers since Monday include:

w House Bill 1019, requiring that people who request public records be identified to the agency filling the request. Haler said the bill was requested by the Port of Kennewick, which is grappling with an estimated 38,000-page response to a request by Kennewick attorney John Ziobro, who has not named his client who is seeking the documents.

w House Bill 1020, introduced by Haler, prohibiting Level III sex offenders from living in "community protection zones," including near schools. Level III offenders are those considered to be a high risk to re-offend.

w House Bill 1021, introduced by Haler, requiring parents in custody disputes to be given a pamphlet about the harmful effects children suffer when they are abducted by a parent.

w House Bill 1127, introduced by Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, requiring the state fire marshal to oversee establishment of a statewide plan to reduce the risks of large wildfires such as the 23,000-acre Taylor Bridge Fire that destroyed dozens of homes near Ellensburg and Cle Elum last summer. The bill calls for development of communitywide fire protection plans and creation of a wildfire prevention account managed by the state treasurer to be dedicated to expenses associated with reducing wildfire risks.

w Senate Bill 5071, introduced by Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, extending the time period allowed to put water rights to beneficial use before they're lost.

w Senate Bill 5072, introduced by Delvin, allowing a sales and use tax exemption for disabled military personnel and veterans for equipment and services that help them drive.

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