To overcome a veto from Gov. Charlie Baker, supporters of legislation that would make it possible for undocumented immigrants to receive standard driver’s licenses would need to amass two thirds majority support for their bill in both branches.
Last week, supporters cleared that threshold at the committee level in the first test of the bill’s strength.
After Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Joseph Boncore’s staff declined to release how his committee’s members voted on the bill, or even the total vote, the House chairman, Rep. William Straus, released both the total and the breakdown to the News Service, following a request for the information.
The committee approved the bill on a 14-4 vote, with Sen. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen, among those in favor. All four votes against the bill came from Republican lawmakers—Sen. Dean Tran of Fitchburg, and Reps. Steven Howitt of Seekonk, Norman Orrall of Lakeville and David DeCoste of Norwell.
Reps. Adrian Madaro of East Boston, Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton, Joseph McGonagle of Everett, Jonathan Hecht of Watertown, Natalie Blais of Sunderland, Daniel Donahue of Worcester, Peter Capano of Lynn, and Dan Ryan of Charlestown voted for the bill.
Besides DiZoglio, senators who voted for the bill were Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, Will Brownsberger of Belmont, Harriette Chandler of Worcester, Cynthia Friedman of Arlington and the committee’s co-chairman Sen. Boncore of Winthrop, where House Speaker Robert DeLeo also lives.
Two members opted against casting a vote for or against the bill—Straus of Mattapoisett and Rep. Paul Tucker, the retired police chief of Salem.
The bill strikes a portion of state law that says “no license of any type may be issued to any person who does not have a lawful presence in the United States” and states that people who are unable to prove lawful presence, or who are ineligible for a social security number, may apply for a license if they meet all other licensure qualifications and provide satisfactory proof of their identity, date of birth and Massachusetts residency.
Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville), who co-sponsored the House bill with Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, said the bill’s supporters worked with police chiefs on its language governing documentation requirements, an area of concern for Baker, who opposes the bill. “I’ve said for many years that I think it’s really hard to build the kind of safeguards into that kind of process that would create the kind of security that would be hard to live up to some of the federal and state standards with respect to security and identification,” Baker said last week. “And for those reasons, I don’t support that legislation.”
Barber said, “Undocumented people actually have a lot of documents…They’re just not legal permanent residents of the United States, but to be in this country they actually have typically a lot of documents so there are things they can provide.”
The bill was reported to the Senate, where Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn is its lead sponsor and Senate President Karen Spilka has outlined her support.