Raimondo Vetoes Reasonable Compromise with Wartime Rationale

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Early on in this session, asked for an opinion on a bill that would allow the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (i.e., the executive branch, i.e., the governor) to enter reciprocity agreements with other countries with respect to driver’s licenses, I suggested that it contained a loophole for executive granting of licenses to illegal immigrants so big that a truck could drive through it, with room for a toll gantry.  The final version of the legislation, which passed the General Assembly, answered that concern to a high degree.

Well, surprise, surprise, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo vetoed it, with a strange rationale:

In a veto letter signed late Wednesday night, Raimondo said she supports the reciprocity aspects of the bill that would have potentially allowed someone with a foreign driver’s license and an active visa or green card to get a Rhode Island license without taking a test. But she took issue with a section that would have narrowed existing standards — requiring those drivers to submit additional documents before their foreign licenses could be recognized in Rhode Island. …

“The additional application and certification requirements of this bill are at odds with the [Geneva Convention’s] purpose of simplifying and unifying driving regulations on an international level. As such, these restrictions limit rights granted by the Convention and thereby violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution,” Raimondo wrote.

I’m no expert on the Geneva Conventions, and the governor’s veto message doesn’t appear to be online, so I don’t know if she provided some additional legal explanation.  However, the Geneva Conventions are mainly addressed to war-time matters.  A 2009 booklet for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators gives the impression that what’s really at issue is a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, to which the United States agreed in Geneva in 1949.  There, one finds the “establishing uniform rules” language, but also that the convention doesn’t have any mandates for foreigners in a country for more than a year, and it also refers to international driver permits (IDPs), which could easily be interpreted to be the foreign nation’s way of validating the person’s driver’s license as required in the bill.

Who would have thought that this issue would be so complicated, both politically and legally?  If the legislation comes up again next year, it’ll be worth a deeper dive, but at the moment it seems to me that either the governor’s goal is to secure the loophole mentioned above or the legislation isn’t needed in the first place, because anybody with a license and an IDP can drive here for up to a year, anyway.



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