American Renaissance

Driver’s Licenses Proposal Rejected

Ray Long and Christi Parsons, Chic. Tribune, Apr. 1

SPRINGFIELD — The Senate voted Wednesday to override restrictive new federal rules reducing overtime pay for workers, while the House soundly rejected a controversial plan to let undocumented immigrants get driver’s licenses.

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With the House gallery packed with onlookers, representatives decisively defeated a hotly debated plan to let the secretary of state issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who are not legal residents of the U.S.

Some lawmakers argued that the measure would improve safety on Illinois roadways because applicants must be tested before getting licenses and later must have proof of insurance. Many of the 300,000 undocumented residents in Illinois drive without licenses, sponsors argued.

“This will encourage them to learn the rules of the road,” said Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), the sponsor.

The discussion grew testy as two veteran black lawmakers squared off against the measure, complaining it offered special privileges to residents who violate immigration law.

“I think we’re sending a bad message that it’s OK to break the law,” said Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago).

Ultimately, most black lawmakers voted for Acevedo’s bill, which failed 68-43.

But Rep. Susana Mendoza (D-Chicago) complained about opposition from Flowers and Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago).

“It’s a rainbow coalition, but sometimes it seems like there’s only one color in that rainbow,” Mendoza said. “When they talk about supporting minority issues, they should be inclusive. It works both ways. They ask us for our support. We’re happy to do so. But we also need their support in return.”

In the upper chamber, Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) championed Daley’s property-tax relief proposal, sending the measure to the House. Provisions would let a senior citizen with a household income of up to $45,000, now $40,000, take advantage of the senior tax freeze.

The bill would allow a general homestead exemption if an assessed valuation increases by more than 20 percent over the previous assessed value. The bill also would encourage homeowners to fix up their homes by raising the homestead-improvement exemption to $75,000 from $45,000.

The fire-safety legislation, pushed by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), would require owners of a public building over four stories high to either make sure no stairwell door is locked or to install an electronic-release system. It reflects action taken in Chicago after the deaths in October’s Loop high-rise fire.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly for a scaled-down version of a proposal that prompted the governor to charge last fall that legislators were spending like a “bunch of drunken sailors.” Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) put a $25 million cap on the cost of the legislation aimed at sending financial aid to communities squeezed by property-tax limits.

Elsewhere, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill targeting murderers who also rape their victims. Currently they cannot be charged with rape if three years have passed since the murder. A person can be charged with rape if the victim reports the rape within two years of the incident and a DNA profile of the defendant has been entered into a sex-offender database.

The bill would expand the law to let prosecutors bring rape charges anytime after the incident in cases when the rape victims also were murdered and when DNA from the crime scene also is available.

Tribune staff reporter Molly Parker contributed to this report.