- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

RICHMOND Lawmakers braved what some forecasters are calling the worst snowstorm ever to hit the region to return to work as the final week of the 2003 session began yesterday.
Several legislators from Northern Virginia, including Delegates Robert G. Marshall, Prince William County Republican; Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat; and L. Karen Darner, Arlington County Democrat, however, could not return yesterday. They were snowed in after the storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow in the Washington area.
The Richmond area received about 2 inches of snow, with mostly ice and slush covering the roads.
With no debate, the House of Delegates passed legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jay O'Brien, Fairfax County Republican, mandating that the Department of Motor Vehicles require foreign nationals seeking a driver's license to prove they are legally allowed to be here. His bill has been amended since it was introduced at the beginning of the session last month.
"This bill should have been passed three years ago. Nothing has changed at the DMV since 9/11," said Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican.
Mr. Albo has sponsored companion legislation that has passed the House. His bill is scheduled to go before the Senate tomorrow. The most significant difference between his bill and Mr. O'Brien's is the implementation clause.
Both bills are in response to September 11, when, weeks before, several hijackers obtained Virginia driver's licenses using false information. The licenses were used as identification when the men bought airline tickets and boarded airplanes.
Under the O'Brien measure, the law would not take effect until later because of the budget crisis. Mr. Albo's measure would take effect immediately.
"The Senate seems to think it will cost a lot of money, however, we in the House think the governor is making up numbers," Mr. Albo said, referring to the different budget proposals under consideration. The House version of the budget allocates $400,000 to the program.
Mr. O'Brien, who is opposed to the amendments that have been added to his bill delaying implementation, said it is necessary to pass the legislation now because the war on terrorism is ongoing.
"This is one cog in the wheel," Mr. O'Brien said. "Airport security will not do, and these licenses alone will not do it. They all fit together in the matrix of homeland security … and these changes need to be done immediately."
Once both bills have passed both houses, which is likely to be today or tomorrow, they will be sent to a conference committee to iron out the differences. Any changes to the bills would need to be made by Saturday, the last day of the session.
Opponents of the legislation say the DMV is bureaucratic enough and that requiring it to check for documentation will make the department an arm of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Mr. Albo disputes this. "This gets the DMV out of the business of deciding who can be here and who can't. If a person does not have the documents, the DMV just sends them to INS in order to get the proper forms," he said.
Several bills of note scheduled for debate yesterday were postponed until today including parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion, as well as a law requiring clerks of the court to remove sensitive information from court documents before posting them on the Internet as required under Virginia law.

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