On Monday, the New York State Senate passed the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the “Green Light Bill,” sponsored by Democrat Sen. Luis Sepúlveda. A press release said this move “will restore the right to obtain a license, regardless of immigration status, that existed prior to 2001.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “Today, we passed legislation restoring the right for all qualified drivers to obtain drivers' licenses regardless of immigration status. By passing this needed legislation, we are growing our economy while at the same time making our roads safer. This is the right step forward for New York state as we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level.”
Sepúlveda, said “This legislation will not only provide undocumented immigrants with a legal solution to obtain a driver's license, but its positive impacts will include significant economic growth, improved road safety, and keeping hardworking families together. Millions of dollars will be raised in revenue, auto insurance premiums will decrease, and local economies will see a boom as earnings and spending increase.
“In a time when immigrants are being scapegoated for every ill in our country, this is our opportunity for New York state to show our courage and strength, and stand up for the marginalized communities. For economic, safety and moral reasons, our communities deserve the Green Light Bill.”
The Driver's License Access and Privacy Act (Green Light NY), S.1747B, will allow noncommercial driver license or learner's permit applicants to be able to submit additional proofs of identity to be eligible for a non-federal license. It also waives the Social Security number requirement if the applicant signs an affidavit that they have not been issued a Social Security number, and provides the DMV with discretion to approve additional proofs of identity and age. Further, this legislation is designed to protect the data of the applicants from unwarranted release.
The press release said, “This legislation provides additional government revenue, supports New York businesses and increases road safety. Statewide, the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that this legislation will result in $83.9 million in government revenues over the first three years and $6.4 million in recurring revenue thereafter.”
In a statement of support, the Business Council of New York State said this legislation is “an opportunity to increase these New Yorkers’ ability to support local employers and businesses.” In Connecticut, where a similar policy was implemented four years ago, there have been almost 4,000 fewer unlicensed driving convictions, and hit-and-run crashes have dropped 9% between 2016-18.
Heather Briccetti, president/CEO of The Business Council of New York State, said, “We are pleased to see that state and private companies stand to benefit from increased economic activity as those who want to obtain a license and drive can do so by paying the same fees and insurance costs as all other New Yorkers. We still believe comprehensive immigration reform is a crucial federal issue that lawmakers in Washington must address.”
Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said, “The New York Immigration Coalition applauds Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Deputy Leader Gianaris, bill sponsor Sen. Sepulveda and the members of the Senate Democratic conference for showing what true courage and leadership looks like today by passing the Green Light NY bill. This landmark legislation will protect a quarter-million immigrant New Yorkers by restoring their ability to obtain driver's licenses, while also making our roads safer, our economies stronger, and our communities healthier for all New Yorkers. Now it's up to Gov. Cuomo to truly be the champion of New York's immigrants that he claims to be by signing the Green Light bill into law immediately.”
Conversely, Republican New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs said, “This is a sad day in the state of New York and it is a sad day for the rule of law. In a primarily party-line vote, the New York State Senate’s Democrat majority passed the Green Light Bill, opening the door to granting driver’s licenses to undocumented persons who have entered our country illegally.
“In doing so, the Democrat majority has also opened the door to the following serious consequences:
“•This legislation makes our communities less safe by tying the hands of law enforcement and denying them access to DMV databases and information critical to day to day police work.
“•With no proof of identification required on Election Day, and no way for DMV employees to validate the authenticity of foreign documents, the Democrat Senate majority has opened a Pandora’s Box for voter fraud that will further disenfranchise upstate voter’s and their concerns and needs while reinforcing New York City’s progressive agenda.
“•A double standard has been created that rewards illegal behavior while law-abiding citizens will be subject to more stringent requirements and greater burdens of proof.
“Passage of this bill is an affront to every New York resident who follows the rules and obeys the laws, and it is a slight to every immigrant who came to this great country, because of their respect for the rule of law and the safety and security that comes with it.
“The only hope now is that the governor will recognize the many flaws and constitutional questions created by this bill and do the right thing by vetoing it.”
Fellow GOP Sen. Rob Ortt said, “While middle-class New Yorkers struggle to pay their bills, put food on the table for their families, and send their kids to college, Albany Democrats have once again chosen to prioritize illegal aliens and those who have broken our laws by passing the most radical, pro-illegal legislation in the nation. Against the overwhelming objections of our police, our county clerks, and our taxpayers, Senate Democrats have once again illustrated that they do not serve the people of New York. A majority of New Yorkers don’t want this legislation, because it raises serious safety and voting fraud concerns, but mostly because it – at its basic core – undermines federal law and the sanctity of our borders.”
On June 12, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Transportation Committee Chairman William Magnarelli and Labor Committee Chairman Marcos Crespo announced the Assembly passed the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act “to create safer roads for all New Yorkers, boost the state's economy and protect hardworking New Yorkers and their families (A.3675-B). Until 2001, this fundamental privilege was extended to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.”
"While opponents continue to spread misinformation and stoke fears about the bill's intent and consequences, the Assembly Majority will continue to put the needs of New Yorkers first," Heastie said. "The legislation passed today will promote public safety, protect our state's economy and ensure every New Yorker can integrate into their community and care for their family. Making sure that every driver is trained, tested and insured will make New York's roads safer for everyone and ensure that our industries have the labor they need to keep our economy moving."
"What many people do not realize is that undocumented immigrants are already on the road, but they are doing so without a license or insurance. Safe roads mean every driver is properly licensed, informed of traffic laws, passes a driver's test, and is operating a registered, inspected and insured vehicle," Magnarelli said. "Today's legislation will also allow police to verify motorist identity and review their traffic record. It is truly in the best interest of traffic safety for all New Yorkers."
The Assembly noted 12 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's license, and “many of which have reported fewer accidents and traffic fatalities.”
A 2017 Stanford University study found California's law expanding access to drivers' licenses led to a drop in hit-and-run accidents between 7% and 10%, or approximately 4,000 fewer hit-and-run accidents, and saving not-at-fault drivers $3.5 million in out-of-pocket expenses for car repairs.
The Assembly also noted “legislation would make everyday tasks such as getting to work, shopping for groceries or picking up kids from school vastly easier for an estimated 265,000 people in New York, including 64,000 north of New York City. The policy change would generate an estimated $57 million in combined government revenues that would recur annually, as well as a $26 million one-time boost in revenues as more people get licenses."