Illegal immigrants would be able to get Illinois driver's licenses under a bill passed Tuesday by the state Senate.
The bill, SB 957, now goes to the House. The vote was 41-14, with one senator voting "present."
Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, who is the Senate majority leader, was the only metro-east senator to vote in favor of the bill. Metro-east senators voting in opposition were Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton; Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon; and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville.
The measure saw support from Democrats as well as Republicans, some of whom have been courting Latino voters.
Opponents argued that immigrants who are in the country illegally shouldn't be allowed to get a driver's license.
Supporters of the measure argued that issuing licenses to the illegal immigrants will make the roads safer because those drivers will be tested. Supporters also argue that issuing licenses will allow the illegal immigrants to get insurance, which is required in Illinois, and therefore will reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the roadways.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, spoke in favor of the bill, calling it "a reasonable compromise." She said the bill "separates out the driving function" from the issue of illegal immigration.
The Senate's vote followed a news conference held earlier Tuesday by top Illinois Republicans to announce their support for the plan.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross, of Oswego, and Radogno joined former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar at the news conference at the state Capitol.
The measure would allow the 250,000 illegal immigrants who are already driving the chance to be tested, licensed, and buy insurance, according to supporters.
Uninsured immigrant motorists cause $64 million in damage claims each year.
Edgar joined Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, two weeks ago in announcing support for the legislation, which was sponsored by Cullerton. Following the Nov. 6 election, some Republicans have said the party needs to more aggressively seek support from Latinos, a growing voter bloc.
But not all Republican senators were on board with the plan. During debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, said it's difficult to believe that people who violate immigration laws -- and who have been driving without licenses up to this point -- "are now going to follow the insurance law."
McCarter tweeted during the floor debate that he would vote against the bill because it's "an insult to those immigrants who are legally following the pathway to citizenship."
Some Democratic senators also spoke in opposition. Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, said it would "flout the law."
Supporters included Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, who said the goal is to "make sure all drivers know and understand the rules of the roads." Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago, said the bill will help "law-abiding people" who have families, pay taxes, hold jobs and need the right to drive.
Under the bill, a driver's license issued to an illegal immigrant would be a "temporary" license. It could not be used as a form of ID for buying guns, traveling by plane or voting.
A person who gets one of the licenses would not face deportation. The licenses would be similar in appearance to ones issued to legal immigrants, to prevent the targeting of illegal immigrants.
A group of lawmakers is offering a new proposal to fix the state's longstanding pension crisis.
Democratic state Rep. Mike Zalewski, of Summit, said Tuesday that the proposal calls for employees to contribute 2 percent more to their own retirement funds. It also would require younger employees to work longer before they can retire, and would shift some of the cost of teachers' retirement contributions to school districts.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook and other state representatives are expected to introduce the legislation Wednesday. Among the group of about a dozen lawmakers are at least two Republicans.
Republicans have opposed the cost shift to local school districts, saying it would lead to a tax increase.
Illinois has unfunded pension liabilities of $95 billion.
Neither chamber of the Illinois General Assembly will be in session Thursday.
Chicago Democratic state Rep. Joseph Lyons was presiding over the House on Tuesday when he announced there would be no session Thursday.
That means Wednesday will be the last day of the Legislature's fall veto session. The Senate already canceled plans to convene Thursday.
It's also another indication there is no consensus on major legislative issues, such as an agreement to expand legalized gambling.
Those will likely be settled during a lame-duck session in the first week of January before a new General Assembly is sworn in.
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2511.