Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Non-citizen driver’s licenses: One more step, but not a baby step, before passage

There’s just one barrier remaining before Gov. Pat Quinn can give his approval to a new law permitting non-citizens to get valid driver’s licenses in Illinois – yet it could be a big barrier.

The same bill that managed to make it through the full Illinois Senate during the fall veto session came before an Illinois House committee – where it got the desired recommendation.

SEEING THAT QUINN has said in the past that he wants to be able to put his signature on this bill. He wants to be able to treat the immigrant population with a certain amount of respect – and probably figures that the kind of people who view this issue as somehow subversive are the kinds who were never going to vote for him anyway.

So what is stopping him?

This measure still needs the backing of the full Illinois House of Representatives. And that might not be a sure thing – particularly on account of the time factors at work here.

For Tuesday is the final day of the current General Assembly. All the officials who managed to win election in November will be sworn-in on Wednesday.

IF ANYTHING IS to happen, it will have to come about Tuesday. There’s no time for any political do-overs. It would have to come now.

And even state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, went so far as to admit to the Chicago newspapers that any vote on this issue will be close. This isn’t a shoo-in to pass.

Because there is so little time, the reality is that if it does not pass on Tuesday, the session ends with no action on this issue.

Which means that someone would have to reintroduce the issue as a brand-new bill that would have to go through the entire legislative process all over again.

PERHAPS IT COULD be said that the previous legislative activity is building momentum and that it might be all the easier to just start over and get the bill worked through the process during the spring of 2013.

And maybe in the long run it doesn’t matter much if the bill is signed into law some time in January or some time in July.

But it would be incredibly frustrating for those people with a personal interest in this issue to have to wait a little longer – after coming so close to working their way through the legislative process this time around.

So we’re going to have to wait and see what happens on Tuesday with regards to driver’s licenses – even though I suspect many people are going to be more attuned to whether or not the Legislature makes a last-ditch effort to try to pass something impacting the shortfall we now have when it comes to funding pension programs.

IN FACT, I’M curious to see if some of the biggest ideological critics of driver’s licenses for the non-citizens are going to suddenly become proponents of pension funding reform – just so that attention will be diverted from the other issue.

For the record, I’m restating my support for this issue – because I like the idea that it would encourage people now living in the shadows of our society to come out into the open.

That would provide so many benefits for all of us that I have a hard time accepting the fact that anybody can’t comprehend that fact. But some do.

Although most of those who oppose this issue do so because they see that allowing these people to get a driver’s license is a form of recognition and respect that they’d rather not have to give out.

EVEN THOUGH THIS particular bill would create a special class of driver’s licenses for these people that could not be used as identification in the way that the bulk of us rely on a driver’s license or state ID card.

These critics want for our state government to issue a level of disrespect that goes along with their own ideological hang-ups.

Which is why I’d like to think that a slim majority of our Illinois House of Representatives will have the sense to disregard such nonsense. Although counting on lawmakers to do the “proper” thing is always a long-shot – in and of itself.

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