Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California begins issuing immigrant driver’s licenses

Advocates attending a public workshop on immigrant driver’s licenses on Jan. 28, 2014, in Sacramento wore this sticker.
Advocates attending a public workshop on immigrant driver’s licenses on Jan. 28, 2014, in Sacramento wore this sticker. rpench@sacbee.com

Happy New Year! The switch to a fresh calendar brings many gifts, including a sense of boundless opportunity, the return of your humble AM Alert, and hundreds of new California laws. Jeremy B. White previewed many of the most prominent policies yesterday.

But there is perhaps no bigger, or more hard-fought, change coming to the state in 2015 than immigrant driver’s licenses, which the California Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing today. Under AB 60, applicants will need only to prove their identity and California residency, rather than their legal presence in the state, which could allow approximately 1.4 million undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses in the next three years.

It’s been a long road to this point. Immigrant advocates have pushed for the driver’s licenses for more than 15 years, with former lawmaker Gil Cedillo introducing numerous versions of the bill during his time in the state Senate and Assembly. The effort hit a major speed bump in 2003, when one of them was signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis, only to be repealed after his recall. Gov. Jerry Brown finally gave the green light in 2013, reversing his opposition and signing the legislation because of “foot-dragging on the part of Congress and not creating immigration reform.”

During the subsequent year, which included some debate with federal authorities over the design of the licenses, the DMV said it conducted nearly 200 community workshops, opened four more license processing centers, and hired 900 employees to prepare for the expected influx of applications.

VIDEO: Which new law will have the greatest impact on California in 2015? Dan Walters weighs in.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, who turns 53 tomorrow, and to Sunday celebrants Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Manteca, who will be 51, and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who will be 53.

READ MORE: California immigrants soon can seek driver’s licenses

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

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