- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers said they want to hear from the Department of Homeland Security before voting on a bill that would bar illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses.

The department “is being asked to state on the record whether it supports state legislation of this nature as a necessary safeguard against domestic terrorism,” Delegate Herbert H. McMillan, an Anne Arundel Republican and the bill sponsor, said yesterday.

The bill is among the last to survive in series of bills proposed by delegates who want to get tough on illegal immigration.

Last week, lawmakers defeated bills by Republican Delegates Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County, and Richard K. Impallaria, Harford County, that would have permitted the incarceration of illegal aliens as soon as they are identified. A bill that would have punished U.S. residents who allow illegal aliens to use their cars during the commission of a crime was also defeated.

Mr. McDonough and Mr. Impallaria still have legislation pending to crack down on embassies issuing identification cards to illegal aliens. Two other bills calling for a study on the effect that illegal aliens have on the state economy are also pending.

Mr. McMillan’s bill, being debated in the House Judiciary Committee, would require an applicant to be a Iegal U.S. resident to obtain a driver’s license. It has gained support from at least three Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Virginia passed a similar law, which took effect in January, after learning some of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks had obtained driver’s licenses and other identification in the state.

California lawmakers repealed a law in December that allowed illegal aliens to get driver’s licenses. The state joined Alabama, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, which all have restrictions on licenses to illegal aliens, according to Federation for American Immigration Reform’s Web site www.fairus.org.

Mr. McMillan said he drafted Maryland’s bill in response to a legal opinion by State Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

In October, Mr. Curran stated in a letter to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration that it must issue driver’s licenses to immigrants even if they cannot “prove [their] lawful presence” in the United States. He also said the agency may use immigration documents to verify identity “when other satisfactory identification is unavailable.”

• • •

Dorchester County was eliminated yesterday as a potential location for an off-track slot machine facility while a proposed Allegany County track was guaranteed a slots license as the Senate began debate on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s bill to fund education through expanded gambling.

Both decisions were approved on a voice vote on the recommendation of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Dorchester County, which had been added to the bill by the committee just two days earlier, was eliminated at the insistence of Sen. Richard F. Colburn, Eastern Shore Republican, who said he would vote against the bill unless his county was removed.

The Senate began debate at a morning session on the bill authorizing 15,500 slot machines at six locations. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, said he hopes to get the bill through the Senate and to the House by tonight.

The bill would authorize up to 9,000 slot machines at three of four racetracks — Laurel, Pimlico, Rosecroft and the track proposed for the rural community of Little Orleans in Allegany County by William Rickman, whose family owns Ocean Downs racetrack in Worcester County.

• • •

County officials joined House leaders yesterday to push for passage of a bill that would require corporations that sell multimillion-dollar office buildings and shopping malls to pay the same property tax paid by homeowners when they sell their property.

The change would bring in more than $50 million a year, which would be used to help build and renovate public schools.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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