Massachusetts Governor Vetoes Drivers Licenses for Illegal Aliens
FAIR Take | June 2022
On May 27, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. An override of his veto appears likely.
The so-called “Work and Family Mobility Act” was introduced by Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) in the beginning of 2021. The Joint Committee on Transportation held a hearing on the bill on June 23, 2021. FAIR staff submitted written testimony opposing it and many others spoke against it.
After the hearing, the bill languished in committee until February 10 when House Speaker Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) suddenly announced it would be brought to the House floor for a vote the following week. This was unexpected since Speaker Mariano was perceived as a moderate who was likely to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, longtime Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop). Speaker DeLeo prevented the House from considering bills to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens from 2009-2020, his entire time as Speaker.
The bill passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives on February 16 by a vote of 120-36. The Senate amended it and passed it by a 32-8 vote on May 5. Since the bills passed were not identical and the House did not concur with the Senate language, a conference committee was appointed on May 19. The conference committee reconciled the bills and produced a final version of the bill the same day. Both chambers passed the conference report on May 26.
The conference report as it passed both chambers:
- Repeals the prohibition in state law that forbids the state from issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens;
- Authorizes the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens if they produce the required documents;
- Makes the information to apply for the driver’s license provided to the RMV by an illegal alien confidential; and
- Directs the RMV to ensure illegal aliens who apply for driver’s licenses don’t get automatically registered to vote.
Although he had up to ten days to act, the governor vetoed the bill the day after he received it. In his veto message returning the bill to the legislature, Governor Baker stated that he could not “sign this legislation because it requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the ability to verify their identity. The Registry does not have the expertise or ability to verify the validity of many types of documents from other countries. … Consequently, a standard Massachusetts driver’s license will no longer confirm that a person is who they say they are.” He added that he was also vetoing it because “it restricts the Registry’s ability to share citizenship information with those entities responsible for ensuring that only citizens register for and vote in our elections. This bill significantly increases the risk that noncitizens will be registered to vote.”
Since legislation passed both chambers by significantly more than the two-thirds needed to override the veto, the veto is expected to be overridden. The House has already scheduled a vote to override Governor Baker’s for June 8. In order for the veto override to fail, 18 members would need to flip their vote and oppose the bill. This is possible, though not likely.
A recent poll by Suffolk University for the Boston Globe indicated that Massachusetts voters are split almost evenly on the issue of granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Providing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens is supported by 46.1 percent of those polled and opposed by 46.6 percent. Seven percent are undecided.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, the most recent was Virginia in 2020.