By STEPHEN KALIN, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A proposal in Connecticut to expand access to driver’s licenses to immigrants regardless of their legal status has received the support of the governor, legislative leaders and mayors from across the state.
Eight mayors were joined by House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney and other legislators at a Monday news conference at the state Capitol to endorse the initiative.
“When we place artificial restrictions on the access of any member of our community to the full fruits of what we have to offer here in Connecticut, we are holding ourselves back,” said Sharkey.
He said he expected the proposal to pass in coming weeks as an amendment to other legislation after three bills proposed earlier in the year failed to make it out of committee.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy, speaking at a separate news conference at the Capitol, endorsed the goals of the initiative.
“Why do we even ask where somebody is coming from? I don’t feel obligated to do that,” he said. “What I feel obligated to do, is to make sure that our highways and byways are being driven by people who have a skills set necessary to drive on our roads.”
Proponents of the initiative say allowing people to receive driver’s licenses regardless of their citizenship status would increase public safety, lower insurance costs and generate additional revenue for municipalities by broadening the property tax base.
Looney called the proposal “entirely a commonsense issue,” and said the only opposition to it is “based upon a sort of unrealistic, ideological approach.”
Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, met late Monday with House Minority Leader Larry Cafero to discuss the initiative.
Cafero said he was open to the proposal but would push for background checks and more frequent renewal periods to prevent abuse of what he called the “privilege” of having a driver’s license.
He said that he wouldn’t want convicted felons to be eligible and insisted on having a way to prevent licenses from being used to vote.
The mayors of Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury, Meriden, Willimantic, New London and New Britain have endorsed the proposal.
The initiative has also won support from Democratic Sens. Andrew Maynard of Stonington and Joseph Crisco of Woodbridge as well as Democratic Reps. Ronald Lemar of New Haven, James Albis of East Haven, Hilda Santiago of Meriden, Angel Arce of Hartford, Victor Cuevas of Waterbury, and Susan Johnson of Windham.
The news conference was organized by Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, a faith-based community organization.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report.
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