JUNEAU -

[UPDATE Feb. 28 11:00 a.m.] HB1 passed the Senate 13 to 4 on Friday morning. The bill will become law upon the governor's signature

[STORY Feb. 27 6:50 p.m.] Representative Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage) calls it a common-sense law, but critics say it's an immigration bill.

House Bill 1 would permit the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver's licenses that last for less than five years.

"Today, you could walk into the DMV, with a visa that expires in two weeks, and get a driver's license for two years," Lynn said. "That makes common sense."

Lynn said 36 other states already have a similar law in place, and nothing in the bill would cause drivers to pay additional fees.

The bill passed 29-7 in the House last April, with six Democrats voting for the bill, including Rep. Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage).

Gruenberg amended one word in the legislation ensuring that people who legally received a license under the new law could get it renewed.

"So that they couldn't just do it once and put the person in a horrible position of not being able to get another driver's license when they would be fully entitled to it," Gruenberg said.

But even with the amendment, there's still opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union. The group says it's concerned it could turn the DMV into an immigration enforcement agency.

Anchorage immigration lawyer Margaret Stock said in a letter to the legislature that a visa is a travel document that doesn't necessarily determine how long a person can stay in the United States.

The bill needs at least 11 yes votes in the Senate to pass out of the legislature.