The Legislature opted to send a message to Congress Thursday to act on immigration reform and took another step toward tightening restrictions on undocumented immigrants' driving privilege cards.

The House of Representatives approved a Senate resolution calling for federal balanced immigration reform which would take into account Utah's employers. The largely symbolic measure allows a formal message to be sent to members of Congress as a reflection of the Legislature's position.

"We want action," said Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, before the 63-0 vote to approve SCR5.

The vote came after Jon Huntsman Jr. said to the Deseret Morning News that he expects the federal government to act soon after the November election on immigration reform.

"Our state does need to do something and recognize that, I think, the federal response is right around the corner," the governor said, suggesting there needs to be time for the federal government "to catch up and do what they're going to do."

Earlier this week the Senate passed a comprehensive bill, to take effect in July 2009, that would clamp down on undocumented immigrants' prospects for jobs and public benefits.

When the House hears SB81, there may be efforts to move up the effective date to this July. Huntsman said that wouldn't be a "deal breaker" but did express concerns about the state doing too much too soon.

"We need to evaluate where the gaps are for our state specifically, after the federal overlay has been created," he said. "It's easier to do it that way."

Earlier Thursday, the Senate had given its preliminary approval to HB171, a House bill that would clarify that driving privilege cards can't be used as age verification for purposes such as buying beer. It would also suspend the cards of uninsured drivers.

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A Senate panel recently approved HB171, while voting down an alternative bill that would have revoked the cards. Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, is Senate sponsor of both measures, and sponsored the legislation creating the cards in 2005.

"You have to pass a driving test to get the card," Bramble said. "It provides a mechanism for insurance ... It does maintain some semblance of a database of individuals in our community who don't have Social Security numbers."

Bramble said the measure may be amended before final Senate approval to add another restriction that would prohibit temporary cards for qualifying drivers. Instead, they would have to wait for the cards to arrive in the mail.


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