Moving quickly to reinforce the state’s tourism-friendly image, lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to repealing a law that has caused confusion about whether international visitors need special permits to drive in Florida.
The Senate voted 38-0 to approve the measure (HB 7059), which also passed the House last week. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said his coastal northwest Florida district draws many Canadian “snowbirds” each year. And while the Florida Highway Patrol and other law enforcement have not been enforcing the international-driver law, he said it was important that lawmakers erase the perception that foreign visitors could face problems.
“We wanted to make sure foreign visitors knew the welcome mat was out” and that they wouldn’t be confused about the driving issue, Gaetz said.
The law called for foreign visitors to get what are known as international driving permits before leaving their home countries. Those permits would be in addition to regular driver’s licenses, and the requirement was designed to help Florida law-enforcement officers sort out traffic incidents, especially involving international visitors who don’t speak English.
But the law, which took effect Jan. 1, created confusion as foreign tourists drove into the state or rented cars. Also, state officials said it might violate an international treaty called the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic.
Concerned about the potential treaty violation, the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles last month said the Florida Highway Patrol would not enforce the international driving permit requirement.
Nevertheless, lawmakers in both chambers pushed the repeal through committees before taking it to the House and Senate floors. Scott has already made clear he will approve the repeal.
“It made no sense,” Scott said earlier this month about the requirement. “Hopefully, more Canadians will come here next year.”