DMV Delay Pure Politics

August 28, 2014

There is no lack of controversial issues coming out of the State Capitol. The latest issue to take center stage is the granting of valid driver’s licenses to residents who are not in this country legally.

When the legislature debated this policy in 2013, the Transportation Committee did not support the program. However, the majority party leaders pushed for the idea and it was debated on the house and senate floor as part of a massive bill known as “The Implementer” (think everything thrown in but the kitchen sink) bill.

Mysteriously, just days before the legislature was to vote on the bill, a staffer with a very keen eye picked up a tiny but crucial change in the bill’s language. Rather than start the program in 2015, the roll out date was changed to July 2013!

When asked to comment on the mystery, House Republican leader Larry Cafero at the time told reporters, “The governor’s office said they don’t know anything about it. The speaker’s office doesn’t know anything about it. So this little budget-implementer fairy came down last night …and drafted this very specific language, and then the fairy disappeared because nobody knows nothing.”

The minority party and some from the other side of the aisle worked very hard to get this language taken out. Eventually the effective date of the law was changed to January 1, 2015. The legislation was approved by a slim margin in the senate and eventually passed the house. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. But the drama was far from over.

Fast forward: to this past week:

  • The Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner made the decision to delay implementing the program.
  • The delay pushes the program roll out from September to December of this year, well after the November election.

Once again a mysterious change was flagged and I joined my fellow Republican lawmakers and wrote to DMV Commissioner Melody Currey: “We are sure you can understand why, in an election year, a delay of such a highly debated program initially championed by the governor can be interpreted as a political action. Therefore, we ask that you explain completely the decision to delay the program and disclose any and all communication between your office and the governor’s administration including the Office of Policy and Management concerning this issue.”

The Deputy Minority Leader, Sen. Len Fasano said, “On the surface, it looks like the governor is trying to hide a controversial program that could cost him voters. In 2013, Governor Malloy championed the undocumented immigrant driver’s license program, despite significant public criticism. Now, with just weeks until the election, the program is pushed back.”

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Connecticut is home to 120,000 undocumented immigrants, roughly 54,000 could qualify for a driver’s license under the bill. One can only suspect the long lines at the DMV would have been stretched even longer had the program rolled out on time – a public relations nightmare for a governor looking to be re-elected.

The bottom line? We need to support our immigrant population by strengthening our federal laws, not by playing political games at the state level. As someone who emigrated from Italy to Connecticut as a young child, I feel strongly about this issue. Please send me your thoughts at [email protected]

Senator Boucher is Ranking Member of the legislature’s Transportation Committee.