By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of February 14-18. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.
DRIVER’S LICENSES FOR UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS (H 4461)
House 120-36, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow people who are unable to prove lawful presence in the United States to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license by providing two documents. The first document is a valid unexpired foreign passport or valid unexpired consular ID. The second is a valid non-Massachusetts U.S. driver’s license, birth certificate, valid foreign national ID card, valid foreign driver’s license or a marriage certificate or divorce decree. The measure also provides that when processing an application for a Massachusetts license, the registry is prohibited from inquiring about or creating a record of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status.
“In line with the 16 other states that have passed laws offering standard licenses to those providing secure identification documents, this carefully crafted public safety legislation will mean that all drivers using our roads are identifiable, competent and insured,” said Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett), House Chair of the Committee on Transportation.
“I oppose this legislation as it creates an incentive and encourages more illegal immigration to Massachusetts by allowing those who are undocumented and here illegally to get a driver’s license,” said Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn). “The federal government must address the matter of those who are here illegally and tackle the flow of illegal immigration into the country before we start giving out government issued IDs to undocumented individuals here illegally in Massachusetts. It sends a wrong message to those who are going through the intended process of legally immigrating to the country.”
“The [bill] will make Massachusetts roads safer and more accessible for all, ensuring all drivers have the same safety training, standardized identification and insurance,” said Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), sponsor of the original version of the measure.
“I could not support the bill because I have serious concerns about the message it sends, how it will be enforced and whether it will truly improve road safety as its proponents have claimed,” said GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “Making driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants is unfair to those individuals who have followed the law to secure lawful presence status or citizenship. I’m also concerned that many individuals who will now be eligible for a license will instead continue to drive without a license and without insurance, either because they distrust the government and won’t come forward to apply or because they don’t want to pay the added costs of carrying insurance.”
“I filed this bill to enable all residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for a driver’s license so they can get to work, take their children to school and doctor appointments and buy groceries,” said Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville), another sponsor of the original bill.
“The idea that individuals can cut in line and illegally enter the United States of America, then be rewarded with the privilege of obtaining a Massachusetts driver’s license, shows yet again just how far left the state Legislature has become,” said Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons. “This new law will only serve to encourage more illegal immigration and make the problem much worse.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagle Yes
REQUIRE REGISTRY OF MOTOR VEHICLES TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO CITIES AND TOWNS (H 4441)
House 31-125, rejected an amendment to a section of the bill that prohibits the Registry of Motor Vehicles from disclosing personally identifying information and communications regarding any applicant for a Massachusetts driver’s license or learner’s permit, “including failure to provide proof of lawful presence in the United States,” unless specifically authorized to do so under regulations that are to be drafted by the attorney general’s office.
The amendment would make this information automatically available to municipal clerks attempting to verify the identity and eligibility of someone using a Massachusetts license to vote or to register to vote.
“I think it’s perfectly reasonable for these regulations to include, at a minimum, language that will ensure the sharing of information with municipal clerks seeking to verify a voter’s identity and eligibility, and with law enforcement officials conducting an investigation,” said amendment sponsor Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading.)
Rep. Patricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) said she opposed the amendment due to the violation of privacy that would occur had it been adopted not just for immigrants without legal status who would newly be applying for standard driver’s licenses, but also for all license applicants. “[The bill] was carefully drafted to protect the privacy of all who are applying for licenses in Massachusetts and ensure immigrants without status would trust that their legal status would not be disclosed beyond the standards for all current license holders i.e. for law enforcement investigations or insurance purposes,” said Bouvier.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagle No
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late-night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.
During the week of February 14-18, the House met for a total of six hours and 33 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 50 minutes.
Mon. Feb. 14 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:10 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Tues. Feb. 15 House 11:20 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.
No Senate session
Wed. Feb. 16 House 11:02 a.m. to 4:57 p.m.
No Senate session
Thurs. Feb. 17 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Senate 11:13 a.m. to 11:54 a.m.
Fri. Feb. 18 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.