Temporary agricultural workers are one step closer to holding driver’s licenses and learner’s permits again, thanks to a bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate.
Authored by Sen. Mike Schulz, the bill gives the Department of Public Safety the ability to issue driver’s licenses and learner’s permits to H2A temporary agricultural workers, which was hindered last year by a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule change.
“The H2A visa is a guest worker program used exclusively by agriculture,” Schulz said. “For these people not to be able to obtain a CDL was a great hindrance to their ability to be employed and do what they needed to do for their employer in the United States.”
Many Oklahoma farmers rely on custom harvesters, who need H2A workers to harvest crops. Without a CDL, those workers cannot do their jobs, Schulz said.
The House also passed a similar bill in hopes of fixing the problem in time for the upcoming wheat harvest.
“If we pass the legislation, we feel confident that Federal Motor Carrier will allow the state of Oklahoma to issue these licenses like we always have done with no penalties,” he said. “When the crews are being assembled for spring harvest, (our goal) is to make sure they’re ready to go when the wheat is ready to go.”
All bills must pass out of their original chambers by this week. Both bills now will head to the opposite chamber for approval.
Watch our interview with Sen. Schulz after the bill passed out of committee: