HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut state Senate has approved a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, surmounting Republican opposition.
The bill, which cleared the state House last week, passed 19-16 in the Senate early Thursday.
Under the plan, immigrants would be able to obtain driver’s licenses beginning in January 2015. Applicants would need documentation proving their identities and showing they have lived in the state for at least 90 days. They also would have to pass driving tests and background checks verifying they have no felony convictions in the state.
The licenses would be marked “for driving purposes only” and would need to be renewed every three years, rather than the standard six years.
Democrats said the measure say it would improve highway safety.
“This bill is first and foremost about public safety,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. “It’s about knowing who is driving on our roads, and doing everything we can to make sure those drivers are safe and that they’re operating registered, insured vehicles. “
Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) said reliable transportation is a necessity. “The need to earn a living does not vanish just because a person does not have the appropriate immigration credentials,” he said. “Most undocumented immigrants would like to operate vehicles within the law.”
Several Republicans voiced opposition, saying people who are in the country illegally should not get legal documents.
“If we look at a suggestion that a state government agency is going to issue a legal ID to an individual who is undocumented, what is the Catch-22 there?” said Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury. “What is the irony?”
The legislation was approved as California takes up a similar measure in its legislature. The bill would allow those without a Social Security number to apply for a license. They would also have to pass a driving test like other applicants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.