Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District), who has been a leader in the fight to overturn Governor Spitzer's driver's license policy, today sought further answers for this major shift in policy at a joint Senate hearing in Albany. The hearing was held by the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs and the Transportation Committee to examine the governor's Department of Motor Vehicle policy change that will allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal driver's licenses.
Senator Flanagan, who serves as a member on both committees, took part in the public hearing to collect evidence from a variety of experts and to facilitate the public discourse that the governor avoided when he single-handedly implemented the policy.
"Since Governor Spitzer implemented this shortsighted change without the benefit of public input, this hearing will allow for the full discussion that an issue of this importance needs," stated Senator Flanagan. "For a policy that has such significant security concerns, the fact that this hearing is taking place after its implementation is astonishing. We need to get public input, we need a thorough examination of this policy and we must make sure that we are enhancing our collective security and not weakening it."
Witnesses at the hearing included David Swarts, Commissioner, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles; Raymond Martinez, former Commissioner, Department of Motor Vehicles; Michael Cutler of the Center for Immigration Studies; Neil Berro of the Coalition for Secure Drivers Licenses; Anthony Shaffer of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies; Peter Gadiel, founder of 911 - Families for a Secure America and County Clerks from Monroe, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Dutchess and Oneida counties.
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.
Now, as a result of the new 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 strengthened 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 will 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.
"Before New York State changes its licensing policies, we need to make sure that we remain vigilant in our security measures. The administration's policy change is too far reaching to allow it to go through without the needed discussion. The burden is on the administration to prove how their alteration would improve our security and until that time, we must put the safety of our residents first," concluded Senator Flanagan.
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