ALBANY — A top state Senate Republican said Wednesday his Democratic colleagues on Long Island would be making a “colossal political mistake” if the state moved to allow people who are in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.
Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and other Republicans are making a major push to try to block the legislation as the adjournment of the 2019 legislative session, set for June 19, looms.
The GOP campaign comes as supporters of the driver’s license legislation have been racking up endorsements from major special interests in Albany, including leading health care unions, insurance companies and the largest business lobby.
Flanagan said the six Democratic senators from Nassau and Suffolk counties will play a pivotal role in determining whether the Senate votes on the license bill.
Democrats won a majority of Long Island Senate seats last year and are seen as key to the party maintaining control of the chamber.
Advancing a bill through committees and to a vote of the full Senate is tantamount to its approval, since bills almost always pass once they reach the Senate floor.
“Anyone who’d vote on this is really making a colossal political mistake,” Flanagan said after a State Capitol news conference where the background banner read, “No Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants.”
The state Assembly plans to approve the bill next week and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo supports the legislation. So the issue rests with the Senate.
Asked whether he sees the outcome hinging on Long Island Democrats, Flanagan said: “They will play a pivotal role and the smartest thing they can do is make sure it doesn’t come to the [Senate] floor.”
Senate Democrats didn’t immediately respond to Flanagan’s remarks regarding the Long Island delegation.
But Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) told Spectrum News: “There are certainly some safety concerns that have been raised by law enforcement agencies about how an ID can be used and that’s something we’re looking at very closely. It’s our job to do our due diligence and check every fact and something that impacts safety has to be looked at very closely.”
Republicans said giving the green light to driver’s licenses would open a “backdoor” to citizenship and voter fraud.
Sen. Luis Sepulveda (D-Bronx), the lead Democrat on the issue in the Senate, called the Republicans’ warnings about voter fraud and citizenship claims a “humongous smoke screen.” Such things haven’t occurred in the other dozen states that have implemented similar laws, Sepulveda said.
“The reality is this is an argument they use because they have no real argument,” Sepulveda said. “They can’t come in here and say, ‘We’re against undocumented immigrants … They have this unproven argument and it’s complete nonsense.”
Sepulveda said, “not being able to get a license, not being able to get insurance makes our roads unsafe.”