Senator Flanagan Appears On CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight To Discuss Spitzer’s Licensing Policy

John J. Flanagan

October 29, 2007

Senator John J. Flanagan appeared onLou Dobbs Tonight (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE SEGMENT - please allow time to load on your computer) on CNN to discuss Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to allow those in the country illegally to obtain driver's licenses. Senator Flanagan joined with host Lou Dobbs to discuss how the policy was shortsighted and dangerous to our nation's security.

"This plan was put in place without public debate, without a public vote and without the internal dialogue that is necessary to implement good public policy," stated Senator Flanagan. "There should have been a number of public hearings to discuss this important change and to get the public input that it deserves. As I said on the show, this has been forced on the residents of New York State and that is the wrong way to govern."

Governor Eliot Spitzer's policy change rescinds a New York State Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) driver’s license policy that was implemented in 2001 to increase the documentation required to obtain a driver's license. This Pataki administration policy required applicants to supply a social security card as proof of identification, and those without one to supply documentation from the United States Department of Homeland Security.

As a result of the new Spitzer administration's change, the state will relax the once-stringent documentation requirements and allow a variety of documentation, including foreign-based identification. In addition, applicants will not be required to provide certification of their immigration status.

In June, Senator Flanagan sponsored and gained Senate passage of legislation that would have strenghtened the identification requirements for obtaining driver's licenses and permanently established this important regulation in state law. The legislation was delivered to the Assembly but no action was taken.

Continuing those efforts to ensure our state's security, Senator Flanagan will partner with Senator Frank Padavan (11th Senate District) to pass legislation this month that will strengthen DMV policy through law and make immigration status an element of obtaining a license. This will require an applicant to either submit a social security card or proof of ineligibility, plus proof that they are in the country legally.

The legislation, which the Senate is scheduled to vote on at its October 22nd session, would also tie the expiration date of a license to the expiration date of an applicant's legal status.

Senator Flanagan has been a leader in the fight to overturn Governor Spitzer's driver's license policy and recently joined his Senate colleagues at a joint hearing in Albany to examine the issue.


LOU DOBBS: Turning now to increasing opposition to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's outrageous proposal to give away driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

New York State senators meeting in special session Monday to block his plan.

Republican Senator John Flanagan fighting the proposal.

And he joins us here tonight.

Senator, good to have you with us.

JOHN FLANAGAN (R), NEW YORK STATE SENATE: Lou, thank you very much.

DOBBS: Let me ask you what I've been asking Democrats and Republicans, assemblymen and county clerks and senators -- what in the world is this governor thinking about? FLANAGAN: I'm not sure he's thinking at all. I mean when we -- this policy came out in September. We had already acted in the Senate in June. I followed the court of appeals case that came out and we introduced in past legislation to actually put into law what the regulations were.

I honestly don't know if he was thinking at all -- it would be very difficult for me to fathom what the governor is thinking because I've been in office 21 years. I've gotten more e-mails, phone calls and letters in violent and vehement opposition to policy.

DOBBS: Yes. Well, you mentioned in June the Senate passing legislation to strengthen -- to strengthen requirements in order to obtain a driver's license in the State of New York. The state assembly has taken no action on that legislation.

What's going on there?

FLANAGAN: The assembly is loathe to move on issues like this. We -- I think one of the things that they lose sight of -- and a lot people are losing sight of -- is that driving is still a privilege. It's not a right. We have a very set standard set of rules and regulations and laws guiding how people can drive. And we make sure that you have to meet stringent requirements.

The governor is trying to throw that out the window. And I certainly can't understand it. And I know my constituents can't, either.

DOBBS: I talked with two Democratic assemblywomen here earlier this week -- both absolutely opposed, talking with democratically -- Democratic county clerks, elected, who are in absolute opposition. I can't find a very large group of people in elected office and the governor's party who is supporting it.

FLANAGAN: You know, I think this speaks volumes about how the governor actually governs. It's his idea, so he believes it's good simply because it's his idea. He has said -- and he went back in July and said I don't need the legislature. I'm going to govern the way I want. I'm going to use my agencies.

He's rammed this down the throats of the public or is, at least, trying to. There has been no hearings. We're the first one to have a hearing on the subject -- no transparency and no involvement of the public.

DOBBS: Well, you're going to have a special session Monday, correct?


DOBBS: In the state capital.

What's going to happen as a result?

FLANAGAN: Well, we have a couple of different pieces of legislation. I'm sure there's going to be a very extensive debate on this. We had a seven hour hearing on Monday -- four-and-a-half hours of question and answers with the commissioner of Motor Vehicles. And it's going to -- it's going to get a lot of coverage. And, frankly, it should, because, again, this is -- what is happening now should have happened months ago. We're, you know, it's sort of like the horse is out of the gate and you're trying to catch it and bring it back in.

DOBBS: Right.

FLANAGAN: The governor threw this out there -- and let's not forget the fact that for the first nine months of his administration -- we shouldn't fool anybody -- they were planning this. This is all secretively done and then all of a sudden thrown out to the public in September. They never came to the legislature. They never came to the senate. They never came to the chair of the transportation committee. They never sought the input of anybody.

DOBBS: You know, this governor referred to those who are opposed to this an anti-immigrant. The governor could have said a lot of things in response to the criticism. But when he says it's anti- immigrant to oppose this kind of this idiocy, this kind of outrageous, arrogant nonsense that's in direct opposition to the interests of New York State citizens, you know, I think the man is scurrilous. I find him to be lower than a toad's belly. And I had respect for this man as attorney general.

FLANAGAN: Well, he operated quite differently when he was attorney general because he actually had to enforce the law. I think not only has he violated a New York State statute in doing this, I think he's violating federal law. And, in many respects, I just don't think he cares. You know, again, there was no input sought from anybody who might be affected by this.

DOBBS: Is there anyone in the state capital -- is there a -- does the governor have a cousin, an old friend who can say, you know, you're being a damned fool here, it's time to get -- to get smart and start thinking about the people you're supposed to represent?

FLANAGAN: He's got a staff around him. But all you have to do -- look at -- look at the reaction from the public. Look at the reaction from people like you. And you're hearing it from people like me and the folks that we represent.

DOBBS: You know, and talking -- I mentioned the assemblywomen who were here, Democrats. The fact of the matter is they're -- they tell me their constituents -- and I'm hearing this from everyone in the assembly, everyone in the senate I've talked with -- their constituents already -- they're outraged.

FLANAGAN: I think people are outraged for a number of reasons, one of which is why can't people legally go through the process?

Why do we have to confer a benefit on people?

And then you and I and everyone else, we are actually held to a higher standard. They're held to a lower standard. That's not the way it should be.

DOBBS: Well, Jenny Fields, Assemblywoman Eddington have come in here -- it's going to be interesting, I have to say this, to see the depth and dimensions of his arrogance and to see what can be done.

Thank you very much for being here.

FLANAGAN: Appreciate it.

DOBBS: And we will be talking, I'm sure, along the way.

FLANAGAN: Yes, we will. And we're going to keep fighting.

DOBBS: Good for you.