Legislative Digest

LEGISLATIVE DIGEST

March 28, 2009

GOP cancels support for driver's permit bill

Republican lawmakers rescinded their support Friday of a proposal that would require Marylanders to show proof of U.S. residency when obtaining a new driver's license. They objected to a provision added late Thursday that would permit people already licensed to renew without documenting their legal status. Those licenses would be marked "not federally compliant" and would not be accepted at airports. Del. Ron George, an Anne Arundel County Republican who has sponsored "lawful presence" bills for years, said the amendment would create a confusing "two-tier" system. He said employers in other states could be misled because illegal immigrants could still show Maryland drivers' licenses, creating the impression they are in the U.S. legally. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill - with the "grandfather clause" and other amendments by Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat - on Thursday by a vote of 19-2. Republican delegates on the committee initially said they were happy with the plan. But Del. J.B. Jennings, who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, said he and other Republicans "didn't have a chance to digest" the 24 pages of amendments before voting. Democrats on the committee dismissed that notion. The House launched into a full debate of the measure late Friday, with many lawmakers using the opportunity to wage a broader discussion of immigration. Republicans offered several amendments to remove what they said was amnesty for illegal immigrants who now hold licenses. They were defeated. The Senate is also scheduled to take up "lawful presence" Monday, but that chamber's proposal makes no exception for illegal immigrants who already have a Maryland license. The issue, pushed for years by Republicans, came to the forefront this year because Maryland has less than a year left to comply with a federal security law known as Real ID, which requires that driver's license applicants prove their legal status. Maryland is one of just four states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a license.

Julie Bykowicz

House OKs trial delay for lawmakers on job

Maryland lawmakers would be entitled to a postponement of a civil or criminal trial in which they are a party - even as a defendant - under legislation moving through the General Assembly. The House of Delegates voted, 135-3, for the bill so that lawmakers wouldn't be hauled into court when the legislature is in session, usually for 90 days, beginning in January. Also, if a committee is holding a hearing, a court proceeding must be postponed. Del. Doyle L. Niemann, a Prince George's County Democrat and assistant state's attorney, objected to the bill as giving lawmakers "preferential treatment." Other lawmakers argued the bill would protect the public's interest by allowing lawmakers to represent their constituents. A similar bill has not been filed in the Senate.

Laura Smitherman

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