Foreign drivers no longer need special permit

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the Florida legislature Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Tampa Bay Times, Scott Keeler)

Photo by Scott Keeler

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the Florida legislature Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Tampa Bay Times, Scott Keeler)

Gov. Rick Scott signs first 2013 bill

Repeals law requiring international driving permit.

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Tuesday to repeal a new law that required foreigners to have a special international driver’s permit to drive in Florida.

The original bill requiring the permit was passed with almost nobody noticing last year. Law enforcement had said they needed it because they sometimes can’t determine whether foreign drivers have a valid license if it’s in another language.

But as the January effective date of the bill approached, alarm arose among a few Canadians — who flood Florida every year — who never heard about the new requirement and so didn’t have a permit. Some were afraid to leave their winter homes for fear of being caught without the new license.

Canadian visits are a huge economic engine for some communities in Florida — more than 3 million visit from Canada each year, or nearly 1 in 10 Canadians. The possibility that they may perceive that they’re not welcome drove a rushed effort to repeal the requirement. The bill is the first to be signed this year by Scott.

It passed both legislative chambers unanimously, with the Senate giving it final approval just last week.

“We want everybody to come to our state, both from the other 49 states, and from around the world,” Scott said during a brief bill signing ceremony. “We love international visitors.”

In addition to fears that Canadians would look elsewhere to spend the money, state officials also said they were concerned that the permit requirement could have violated an international agreement, the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. Because of that concern, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles had said the Highway Patrol wouldn’t enforce the requirement anyway, though local authorities still could have required the permits.

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