California bill to allow licenses for illegal immigrants sent to governor

| 9/7/2006

The latest attempt to allow illegal immigrants in California to obtain a license that could be used only for driving received legislative approval last week. It now heads to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk where it is expected to be vetoed.

This is the seventh time Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, has offered the bill for consideration. He said allowing illegal immigrants to receive proper driver’s training, testing and insurance would make roadways safer.

Cedillo said there are an estimated 2 million people in the state who could qualify for licenses under the bill, The Orange County Register reported.

The bill has been sent to Schwarzenegger, who vetoed an identical bill in October 2005.

“The governor will not sign any legislation that in any way threatens public safety,” Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, Margita Thompson, told The Associated Press.

Cedillo’s bill would create special driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants that look different than licenses for U.S. citizens and legal aliens. The version for illegal immigrants would not be valid for identification or purposes other than driving.

Since 1999, Cedillo has made six attempts to let illegal immigrants obtain licenses. Then-Gov. Gray Davis vetoed two efforts. One was signed only to be repealed, another was denied a key hearing and two more were rejected by Schwarzenegger.

The Republican governor said he will wait until Real ID regulations are published before revisiting the issue. Such regulations aren’t expected to be formulated until later this year.

Cedillo fought hard to get his latest effort before the governor.

The bill, once known as SB1160, was assumed dead a couple of weeks ago when the Assembly Appropriations Committee refused to move the bill. To counter the panel, Cedillo employed a “gut and amend,” which entailed stripping the content of one of his own bills – SB1162 – that passed the Senate and replacing it with a new version of the license bill.

The procedure, typically employed at the end of a legislative session, allows bills to be presented without having to spend time in committees.

Meanwhile, a related bill to reduce the length of time vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers can be impounded has died.

Sponsored by Sen. Nell Soto, D-Pomona, the bill would have allowed affected vehicles to be impounded for 24 hours. California law now allows for vehicles to be taken away for 30 days.

Assembly lawmakers voted 39-33 to kill the bill – SB626. The Senate previously approved it.