Safe Driving Bill Deadline Extended Until July 3

Advocates vow to continue raising support for bill to get all MA drivers tested, licensed, and insured

May 16, 2014 BOSTON — Late yesterday the Joint Committee on Transportation extended its consideration of the Safe Driving Bill, a measure that would allow all otherwise qualified Massachusetts residents to earn a driver's license, regardless of their immigration status. Originally, yesterday had been set as a deadline to either report on the bill favorably, in which case it could have continued through the legislative process, or to end its hopes this legislative session by either reporting unfavorably or sending the bill "to study." The May 15 deadline itself was an extension from an original March 19 deadline, when all state legislative committees made decisions on the bills that had come before them that session.

News of the Committee's second extension was greeted by advocates with measured optimism.

"On the whole, this second extension is a victory," said Gabriel Camacho, Regional Organizer with the American Friends Service Committee. "It shows that all our calls and advocacy have been making a difference with undecided committee members. Our task now is to keep our message loud and clear, and demonstrate how this bill would increase the safety of all residents of the Commonwealth."

By removing immigration status as barrier to becoming a tested, licensed and insured Massachusetts driver, the Safe Driving Bill would save lives, save police and court time and resources, and save money as more drivers would hold mandatory insurance. New Mexico, which instituted a Safe Driving law in 2003, "has seen a 24 percent decrease in uninsured drivers and a similar drop in motor vehicle fatalities," according to a Boston Globe editorial. Noting that "[p]lainly, Massachusetts roads would be safer if all drivers met minimum standards of training and road testing," the editorial concluded that "the Safe Driving bill is a public safety measure that all Massachusetts residents should support."

Legislatures in other states are increasingly passing their own Safe Driving laws, including neighboring states Vermont and Connecticut as well as six others and Washington the past 18 months. Locally, separate online polls conducted by Fox News and by Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham found that their voters favored the bill by at least 70%, and at the Safe Driving Bill hearing before the Joint Committee on Transportation on March 5, testimonies in favor of the bill were delivered by diverse voices ranging from the Patrick Administration, to doctors, to domestic violence survivor advocates, to numerous other longtime Massachusetts residents, who together outnumbered by the hundreds the smattering of opponents.

"The extensions on this bill are a testament to the force of our communities’ collective voice," said Heloisa Galvao, Executive Director of the Brazilian Women's Group. “We will continue to rally our communities— as well as public officials, first responders, businesses, and other constituents — to call their Representatives and Senators on the Transportation Committee. Whatever the Committee's final decision, we have common sense, public opinion, and every humane consideration on our side, and this extra time will help us solidify our coalition for the work ahead of us after July 3."