Rep. Julie Coulombe, R-Anchorage, speaks in the House Finance Committee on March 28. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Ukrainian refugees and others newly arrived in Alaska would have an easier way to get a commercial driver’s license under a bill passed by the Legislature.
In a 40-0 vote on Friday, the Alaska House approved Senate Bill 123, which would repeal the requirement that someone hold an Alaska driver’s license for one year before getting a commercial driver’s license.
CDL recipients still have to go through the normal application process, which includes a written test, road test and physical exam.
The bill passed the state Senate 20-0 on May 3 and now goes to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk for approval.
Rep. Julie Coulombe, R-Anchorage, said only a handful of other states have a one-year waiting period before they issue a CDL, which makes Alaska uncompetitive.
“It’s personal to me because we have a lot of Ukrainian refugees in Anchorage, and many of them have been truck drivers in Europe,” she said.
While she would like to see them stay in the state, some have already left Alaska because they can immediately begin driving elsewhere.
The bill does not change the minimum age for obtaining a CDL, which is 18 if used only within Alaska, or 21 for drivers traveling between states.
The bill is supported by the Alaska Teamsters, the Alaska Trucking Association and other groups.
Karl Kowalski, director of the Alaska Technical Center, a workforce training school in Kotzebue, testified that the bill will also benefit Alaskans who don’t get a driver’s license until after they turn 18.
In rural parts of the state, many young Alaskans wait to get a driver’s license, and the one-year waiting period can put them at a disadvantage if they don’t get a normal driver’s license until they’re older, then want to get a CDL.
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