Fox 55 TV
December 4, 2012
By Jayette Bolinski
SPRINGFIELD – Despite a show of Republican support Tuesday morning, half of the GOP lawmakers in the Illinois Senate voted against a measure that enables undocumented immigrants to obtain temporary drivers’ licenses and insurance.
The measure passed, though, with a final vote of 41-14. It now goes to the House for consideration.
Voting against the measure were Republican senators Tim Bivins, Larry Bomke, Shane Cultra, Dan Duffy, Christine Johnson, John O. Jones, Darin LaHood, Chris Lauzen, David Luechtefeld, Sam McCann, Kyle McCarter and Dave Syverson. Also voting against it were Democratic senators William Haine and Edward Maloney. Democratic Sen. Gary Forby voted “present.”
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, a Democrat, said the proposal is an important public-safety measure and applauded senators for approving it.
“Regardless of legal status, we need to make sure every eligible driver in our state has received the proper training and carries insurance – before they get behind the wheel,” Simon said in an emailed statement.
Some of the state’s top Republican leaders came out in support of the measure Tuesday morning.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno announced their support at a news conference. Joining them were fellow Republicans state Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka and former Gov. Jim Edgar.
Senate Bill 957 would enable about 250,000 illegal immigrants who already drive in Illinois to have a chance to go through drivers testing, receive a special license good for three years and purchase insurance. That means safer roads Illinoisans, backers of the bill say.
Officials say uninsured immigrants behind the wheel cause $64 million in damage claims every year.
Law enforcement officials are split on the issue. Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran testified in favor of the bill at last week’s Senate Executive Committee, saying undocumented and unlicensed immigrants drive all the time – to schools, stores and church.
“Ultimately, law enforcement would much rather go after the bad guys and not just people that are trying to get to work and school,” he said.
However, Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson told The State Journal-Register he is opposed to the idea.
“They are illegally in this country and we are giving them permission to drive on our highways?” Williamson said.