Milford legislators joined with their colleagues in the state House and Senate in rejecting a proposal this week that would remove a requirement for people to show a valid driver's license or proof of legal residence to register a car.
Under existing practice, people who do not have driver's licenses can register a vehicle in Massachusetts under the 'X Registration' option, which allows them to register a vehicle by providing their name, birth date, proof of insurance and residence. The proof of residence could include showing a current utility bill.
Legislators — including state Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) and state Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford) — voted to change that this year, instead requiring proof of legal residence.
The legislators added the documentation requirement in an add-on to the budget bill, which largely was approved by Gov. Deval Patrick last Sunday — with the exception of the motor vehicle registration issue. Patrick added an amendment that would remove the reference to proof of legal residence.
On Thursday, the state Senate rejected his amendment, sending it back to him. The House did the same earlier in the week, by a vote of 144-11. Patrick must now decide whether to sign or veto the new requirement, or let it become law without his signature, said Moore and Fernandes.
has been followed closely in Milford, where three people have been killed in motor vehice crashes involving unlicensed drivers, and several hundred people a year are charged by police with driving without a license.
was killed following a collision with a man who police say was driving a vehicle without a license. The vehicle, a Ford F-150 pickup,
In 2009, after a woman collided with his vehicle at Fruit and South Main Streets. The woman — Maria Tavares Leite — was deported to Portugal by federal immigration officials in 2010, before she was tried on a charge of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, according to records.
was driving an SUV that crossed Cedar Street, sideswiping a vehicle in which Andrea Agosto, 47, of Ashland, was a passenger. She suffered fatal injuries. Zaruma, then 22, was charged with vehicular homicide and several other offenses.
In interviews this week, Fernandes and Moore both said the issue is about public safety, and assuring that people who do not have licenses are not authorized to get on the roads using a loophole for auto registrations.
"There is a problem," Fernandes said, and the margin of the votes in both House and Senate demonstrates that legislators understand that. Should the governor veto the provision, both Moore and Fernandes said they hope and believe the legislators would override it.
"The importance of this is public safety," Moore said. In addition to requiring that people have a valid license to drive, the change would match registration records to a particular driver's license, and address.
For the families of Grossi and Denice, who live in the Milford area and have watched legislators grapple with the issue, the intervention by Gov. Patrick has been a frustration.
In a statement, Denice's parents, Maureen and Michael Maloney, said the ability of people to register vehicles without a driver's license is "a huge public safety issue."
"A vehicle is a deadly weapon when used by untrained, inexperienced or impaired drivers. We are greatly disappointed that Governor Patrick pledged to be on the side of illegal immigration by continuing to allow people to register a vehicle without proof of legal residency and a valid Massachusetts driver’s license," the Maloneys wrote, in an emailed statement. "Per Governor Patrick 'It is hard to understand how a non-resident simply owning a vehicle in Massachusetts jeopardizes the public’s safety,' we the parents of Matthew Denice know all too well the impact of an illegal immigrant not having proper driver experience nor a valid Massachusetts state drivers license."
Maureen Grossi Laquerre, whose brother was killed in 2009, said the governor is not fulfilling the requirements of his job. "He took an oath to serve and protect the citizens of the Commonwealth and by doing this he is not living up to his promises or doing his job," she wrote, in an email.
"The automobile is a dangerous weapon and people who get behind the wheel with no knowledge of how to operate it or read any street or warning signs are just asking for trouble," she wrote. "There are laws in place that need to be obeyed and respected by us as citizens so why do these ILLEGALS continue to have no regard for our laws?"