Report from Don Rosenberg:
After the Republican filibuster of the gun background check bill President Obama called the Republicans shameless for refusing to even debate the bill. Well, the Republicans are not alone in what was not only shameless behavior but also disgraceful behavior on the part of California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal at a Transportation Committee hearing on AB 60, a driver’s license bill for people who have entered the country illegally and are therefore forbidden by law to apply for a driver’s license.
On Monday April 22, 2013 I went to Sacramento to testify in opposition to AB 60. The bill introduced by Assemblyman Luis Alejo would allow illegal immigrants who cannot get a social security number to use other forms of “approved” identification. My opposition was not due to the fact that these people were here illegally but because extensive research that I had done proved conclusively that many in this group who are illegally driving are reckless and irresponsible and that passing the licensing process would not make them safer drivers. There were also some serious structural issues in the bill that I had issues with assuming that the bill would pass. (My testimony at the hearing, and my report)
I urge you to watch the testimony and come to your own conclusion instead of reading the rest of my report. It is available at:
The testimony starts at the 21:12 mark
21:12 Bill author Assemblyman Luis Alejo
25:05 Dave Pulia Testimony Western Growers
25:57 Michael Gunning Testimony Personal Insurance Federation
26:33 John Lovell Testimony California Police Chiefs Association
27:03 Louie Brown Testimony California Citrus Mutual
27:15 Guadalupe Sandaval Testimony California Farm Labor Contractor Association
27:50 Supporters of AB 60 (Watch the first 4-5 and you’ll get the idea)
41:00 Don Rosenberg Testimony Unlicensed To Kill
56:00 Testimony from Assemblyman Luis Alejo; questions from the committee and the vote.
Each committee has a group of consultants whose job is to produce a report for the committee members. The report consists of a summary of the bill, existing law, fiscal impact, an analysis and people or groups who are supporting or opposing the (Copy of the Committee’s Analysis). Weeks before the hearing date I called the consultants to find the deadline for submitting my opposition paper to make sure it would be included in the analysis and then distributed with the report to the committee members. The report isn’t distributed until late in the day before the hearing. In this case that was around 3:00 on Friday April 19 for a hearing that will be on Monday. Of course if there is a mistake there is no opportunity for it to be corrected. In this case the mistake was although all of my evidence was sourced there was not one mention of anything I stated in the analysis. On Monday morning I met with the transportation aide of one of the committee members to discuss the bill. She told me that my opposition report wasn’t in the binder distributed the prior Friday. I’m not sure if that is true or not but to date I have not been able to get a conformation that my report was included.
The hearing began around 2:00. There are many other items on the agenda but my guess is that 75% of the 300 or so people in attendance were there for AB 60. The author of the bill along with his supporters gets to testify first. Assemblyman Alejo explained to the committee the purpose of the bill. He cited the 2012 DMV report that unlicensed drivers are 3 times more likely to cause a fatality than licensed drivers. Other than that he made no claims that licensing these drivers would make them safer drivers. He cited no reports, no studies, no actual statistics.
The 3 other people in support of the bill were two representatives of produce growers and one representative from an insurance trade association. The produce growers testified how hard these people worked and how important they were to their businesses and the insurance industry representative just said he supported the bill. Again, no mention of how licensing would make these people safer drivers. A fourth person was the head of the California Police Chiefs Association. He said they were not ready to support the bill but were working with the Assemblyman on amendments.
When they concluded approximately 40 people were lined up at a microphone to speak. The first speaker said how she had been stopped for driving without a license, had her car impounded and that she and her daughter were handcuffed. Of course I have no idea if that is true but I do know that just for driving without a license the police do not handcuff anyone. I know the police aren’t perfect but when I hear these stories and can check them out they are always significantly different than what was told. Yes they had their car impounded (they were driving without a license) and yes they were arrested but there is usually a reason like the person was a fugitive. I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case but every time I’m at a hearing there is always at least one true but not complete story.
After a few people made a statement committee chair Lowenthal asked these people to just give their name and statement of support unless they had something new to add. Then one after another each speaker came to the microphone and said their name followed by, “I support AB 60”. Many could only say it in Spanish so then an interpreter repeated the comment in English. When the line was shorter the next row from the audience would get up in unison and proceed to the microphone. I didn’t count the people but my guess is there were about 100 or so I didn’t note how long this took but it went on for quite some time with each person saying the same thing. They gave their name and then, “I support AB 60”. Sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish followed by an English translation. To the best of my memory, at no time did Chairwoman Lowenthal ever ask them to speed it up. Although I defend their right to speak not one speaker added anything that supported why licensing would make these people safer drivers.
When they finally finished she asked if there was anyone in opposition. I was the only person in opposition. I was also in the last row so when I got up everyone turned around to look at me. Everyone was polite but I can only imagine what they were thinking as I struggled to get out of the row and then made the long walk to the testimony table. I had my prepared text but after thanking the chair and committee I said, “There were a lot of people speaking in support of AB 60 but there was not one shred of evidence presented that showed that licensing these people would make them better drivers.” I then began my testimony.
My testimony was 6 pages long which would have taken about 12 minutes to present. I mentioned what had happened to my son briefly and how that had gotten me into researching this issue. I mentioned how I was originally in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to get licenses but after researching the issue I changed my position because the evidence showed it would make the roads less safe. I was not through the first page when the chair told me to get to the point. I will be getting an audio (hopefully a video) of the hearing because you don’t always remember exactly what is said even if it is something I said but I told her I was getting to the research.
I started discussing the results of what has happened in New Mexico since they allowed licensing for all quoting New Mexico DMV statistics. I stated how I had contacted the author (actually his boss) of the DMV report that Alejo had referenced and asked him point blank if the study in any way said that licensing these drivers would make them safer. His answer was absolutely not.
At some point all of a sudden there was a word or two said in unison from a large group of people. I couldn’t make out what they said but I can assure you they were not cheering me on. I don’t believe that Lowenthal said a word to the crowd.
Lowenthal then began to harass me that they had a big agenda and I had to finish up. We had a heated exchange, I said a few more things maybe getting through page two and that was it. I was done.
So while the 100 or so people kept repeating, “I support AB 60” in English and Spanish and then translated again to English, time was not an issue. But as soon as I started to present documented, sourced, specific information as to why issuing licenses to drivers who had proven their recklessness over a period starting in 1987 to the present, no more time.
The final phase of the hearing is the committee asking Alejo questions. No one was concerned that after issuing licenses to illegal immigrants in New Mexico fatalities and collisions exploded. No one was interested in the DMV report that specifically stated that when everyone could get a driver’s license these drivers were as bad as unlicensed drivers. Their main concern was would this bill conflict with the Federal Real ID law. Alejo assured the committee that he was working with the feds to make sure it would be okay.
Alejo then made a statement that not only were cars being impounded but people were being prosecuted with misdemeanor charges and then being deported for driving without a license. Despite the fact that all of that is untrue I don’t get to say a word. I don’t believe that Alejo was lying. What I have learned is that at least as it pertains to unlicensed driving these people and their supposed “transportation experts” don’t have a clue as to what is really going on.
They decide what they want to do based on getting votes and then they don’t want to know the facts. They want the ability to claim plausible deniability when the facts and what will be in this case the bodies start to get in the way. After an hour or so of nothing substantive being said and most of those testifying because they had a financial interest I started to testify and she could tell that I actually researched the issue. Despite my abbreviated testimony it was clear that I had the evidence that not only was this a bad idea but it would jeopardize the lives of law abiding people. No way did she want that information to be part of the public record.
The bill passed 12-1 although now on the legislative web site it says it passed 11-4. Update on 5/30: It has passed the appropriations committee. On May 29 it passed the assembly. It now goes to the Senate.
The more I think about this experience the angrier I get. I am a citizen of the state of California. I am a taxpayer (highest bracket always). I was polite and patient while most of the people who repeated, “I support AB 60” are probably in this country illegally and this is the way I am treated. This is the way this committee deals with an issue that has life and death consequences.
Not that they will probably care but we need to flood the legislature with letters not only in opposition to this bill but in opposition to the way they conduct the people’s business.