Driver's license bill requires SSN or visa

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A bill moving through the Tennessee General Assembly requires anyone applying for a driver's license to present a social security card or legal immigration papers before receiving their license.
   "Under the current law you can go to any driver's license center and apply for a license," said Rep. Jerome Cochran, R-Johnson City, who consponsored the bill. "If you pass the test and get a license, you have a license that can be presented as a legitimate identification without necessarily presenting a social security number."
   The bill would require all driver's license applicants to have either a social security number or documentation issued by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) authorizing the applicant to be in the country. For foreign residents, a work visa, student visa or any document that demonstrates an applicant is legally in the country applies.
   Despite statements on the Tennessee Department of Safety Web site that a social security number or INS documentation is required, Cochran said a change in state law approximately two years ago had changed the legal requirement for applicants.
   Cochran said the bill addresses a potential problem of applicants obtaining a license with less than noble intentions of using one.
   "Once someone gets a license in Tennessee, they can use it to board an airplane or use it as an identification to demonstrate that they are legitimate," said Cochran. "I think it makes sense practically, but also from a security standpoint. We are in a security world now and we have to be more visual in security."
   Presently, an applicant can submit an affidavit affirming that no social security number was ever issued to him or her. The bill would remove that provision.
   The bill would also remove the above-described requirement that applicants under 18 years of age submit proof of school attendance, as well as the provision exempting applicants from the reinstatement fee.
   The bill was passed out of the House Tranportation Committee to the Finance, Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday. Cochran said the bill was moved to the Finance Committee after it was argued the bill's implementation would cost the state $150,000. The revenue loss was attributed to a supposed drop in license fees collected from applicants who failed to present identification ordered in the bill.