Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts House and Senate are continuing
to push for issuance of driver's licenses for the large undocumented population
in the state and are expressing confidence it can advance this session.
Four bills in the Transportation Committee that offered this opportunity were not acted on before its deadline last month.
Proponents however attribute that at least in part to an internal dispute in the committee over unrelated issues that left the driver's license bill behind as collateral damage.
Mayors from seven cities are backing the proposed changes and a press conference with them and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and representatives from Congregations for a New Connecticut will be held today at 11:30 p.m. at the Capitol.
CONECT represents 28 churches, synagogues and mosques in New Haven and Fairfield counties and has focused on such things as in-state tuition rates for undocumented students, as well as health insurance and job training issues.
State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, is cautiously optimistic that they can find another vehicle for the licensing bill and get the necessary votes. Sharkey said there has been support for it in the past and he wasn't aware of any stong opposition.
The bill would apply to the estimated 54,000 undocumented drivers. It requires that they be living here for at least a year and have a clean police record. They would be required to take a driver's test and get insurance.
State Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, and co-chair of the Transportation Committee, said it looks good in the House and there is a "pretty good start in the Senate."
A hearing held in March attracted more than 2,000 mainly undocumented immigrants who came to support it. Proponents offer public safety and economic arguments in favor of licenses.
A study done by an immigration clinic at the Yale Law School found that insurance premiums would decrease by $20 million if these drivers are insured, a burden that is now picked up by other drivers. A California study found that drivers without a valid license are nearly three times more likely to cause a deadly crash.
The law clinic estimates that if all the undocumented drivers got insurance, it could bring in $46 million to insurance companies and $2 million in registration and license fees to the state.
Angel Fernandez-Chavero of CONECT said they would like to see the issue gain bipartisan support as their members represent a cross-section of the state.
The mayors of Waterbury, Meriden, Willimantic, New Britain, Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven are backing the changes.
Several states already issue licenses for the undocumented including Illinois, Maryland, Utah, Washington and New Mexico.
(c)2013 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)
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