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License access bill on Baker's desk after years of advocacy

Protesters outside of the Massachusetts State House advocate for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants (Tibisay Zea/El Planeta)
Protesters outside of the Massachusetts State House advocate for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants (Tibisay Zea/El Planeta)

A bill that would allow immigrants without legal status to acquire Massachusetts driver's licenses landed on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk Thursday after the House and Senate approved a compromise version of the legislation with veto-proof majorities.

Both branches accepted a conference committee report produced last week, which resolved what one lawmaker described as "technical" differences in the underlying House and Senate proposals, and then voted to send the updated bill to Baker.

The margins indicate Democrats have the votes to muscle the measure into state law if Baker, who opposes the idea, vetoes it.

The House accepted the conference report 118-36 and later enacted it 117-36, while the Senate accepted the report with a 32-8 vote before enacting it on a voice vote, all well above the two-thirds majority legislative leaders need to override a veto.

If approved, the bill would allow Massachusetts residents regardless of legal status to acquire a standard driver's license starting July 1, 2023, striking a section of state law that renders undocumented immigrants ineligible to get licensed.

Applicants would still need to provide proof of their identity, date of birth and residency in Massachusetts.

The legislation requires any Bay Stater without legal status in the United States seeking a driver's license to provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles with either a valid, unexpired foreign passport or a valid, unexpired consular identification document, plus one of five other documents: a valid, unexpired driver's license from another U.S. state or territory; an original or certified copy of a birth certificate; a valid, unexpired foreign national identification card; a valid, unexpired foreign driver's license; or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state or territory.

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