by Ted Tripp
Just when you thought our state government couldn’t any get worse … it gets worse.
Readers of the Boston Broadside know we have kept you up to date on House Bill H.2985, which would allow illegal aliens driver’s licenses and learner’s permits. We last reported that it was supposed to be voted up or down in the Joint Committee on Transportation on May 16th, but nothing happened. Now we know why.
But first let’s review some background information. The state has been under a federal mandate for years to enhance the security of its driver’s licenses to make them more difficult to obtain fraudulently or counterfeit. This is because Congress passed legislation in 2005, called the REAL ID Act, as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attack and the fact that the hijackers who commandeered the planes had over 20 phony ID’s in their possession. All states are required to meet the new standard. Massachusetts has been granted an extension until this October and is unlikely to be granted another extension without showing some progress.
After October, if you do not have a REAL ID compliant license, you will not be able to use it as ID to get on an airplane or enter a federal building. This will be a huge inconvenience for the flying public.
So Mass. is under the gun to do something to make its licenses more secure while trying to satisfy a vocal minority (even in the Legislature) who want to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens – which, of course, makes them much LESS secure as identification.
Enter Governor Charlie Baker. Last fall he proposed H.3814, which would offer a two-tier license system. One would be the enhanced security or REAL ID license and the other would be the same license you now have. No provision was made to give licenses to illegal aliens. Citizens could choose which one they want on their next trip to the registry.
Some states have gone this two-tier route while others have decided to make all their licenses REAL ID compliant. I suspect Baker chose the two-tier route to help satisfy, somewhat, those who want to eventually give some sort of driver’s licenses down the road to illegal aliens. This would be impossible with REAL ID licenses, but possible with legislative changes on the current licenses.
Even with the two-tier sop to the liberals, Baker’s bill went nowhere, and so he met with the Legislature’s Republicans this spring to discuss some sort of plan.
The next we heard of driver’s licenses was in the House FY2017 budget debate in May. Rep. Brad Jones (R-N. Reading) and other Republicans offered Amendment #409 (http://tinyurl.com/zu278t5), which mirrored Baker’s two-tier bill, and it was adopted by the House. Weeks later, Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and other Senate Republicans offered a similar amendment, TRP 1129 (http://tinyurl.com/hm5o2o5), to the Senate version of the budget. Unfortunately, Senator McGee (D-Lynn) offered an amendment (TRP 1129.1; http://tinyurl.com/znt6dcu) to Tarr’s amendment which replaced Tarr’s language with new language that allowed Illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses under the two-tier system. McGee’s amendment prevailed.
So now we have two budgets with two different amendments on driver’s licenses: one not giving licenses to illegals and one that does.
Both budgets are presently in a six-member conference committee which will hammer out the differences between the two versions of the budget and its thousands of amendments. The conferees could adopt the House version of the driver’s licenses, the Senate version, or throw them both out. I doubt if the latter would happen since time is of the essence in getting some sort of new system in place before October and the summer recess is fast approaching.
The six members of the conference committee include four Democrats and two Republicans:
Rep. Brian Dempsey – House Ways & Means Chairman 617-722-2990 Brian.Dempsey@mahouse.gov
Rep. Stephen Kulik – House Ways & Means Vice Chairman 617-722-2380 Stephen.Kulik@mahouse.gov
Rep. Todd Smola – House Ways & Means Ranking Republican 617-722-2100 Todd.Smola@mahouse.gov
Sen. Karen Spilka – Senate Ways & Means Chairman 617-722-1640 Karen.Spilka@masenate.gov
Sen. Sal DiDomenico – Senate Ways & Means Vice Chairman 617-722-1650 Sal.DiDomenico@masenate.gov
Sen. Vinny deMacedo – Senate Ways & Means Ranking Republican 617-722-1330 Vinny.deMacedo@masenate.gov
These six people will decide, in effect, by choosing either the House or Senate amendment whether driver’s licenses will be given to illegal aliens.
Note there is no input from hearings or citizens.
As we go to press, when this committee will make its decision (if it already hasn’t done so) is up in the air. The budget process is supposed to be completed by the end of June, so normally all committee work must be completed near the end of the month. However, Governor Baker has just filed a 30-day interim budget because of the current and predicted shortfall in revenue; this may mean a finished FY2017 budget will not be released until sometime in July.
If the conference committee chooses to adopt the Senate amendment on driver’s licenses, Governor Baker still has the option to give it a line-item veto. But then everything would be back at ground zero to try to get a new system in place for October.
If you would like to urge Governor Baker to veto anything in the budget which would give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, you may contact his office at 617-725-4005. ♦
by Ted Tripp