COLUMBUS -- The Ohio House approved legislation Wednesday that would enable Ohioans to obtain enhanced driver's licenses, allowing passage into Canada and Mexico in place of a passport.
HB 60 moved on an unofficial vote of 83-4 and heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
Enhanced licenses are already issued in other states, including New York, Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota and Washington, to provide proof of U.S. citizenship for drivers. Holders can travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean through land or sea ports (though not via air travel) using the licenses instead of passports.
According to the state's Legislative Service Commission, the enhanced IDs include "vicinity radio frequency identification" chips that allow border officials to quickly access holders' biographic and other information.
Rep. Stephen Hambley (R-Brunswick), a primary co-sponsor of the legislation, said an estimated 630,000 Ohioans would take advantage of the optional enhanced licenses.
Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-On-The-Lake), an avid boater who lives near Lake Erie, said he has a passport card that allows similar access to Canada and Mexico. Such cards cost about $150; an enhanced Ohio license would cost those who choose to get one an additional $25.
"Much simpler, much easier," said Rogers, the other primary co-sponsor of HB 60.
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.