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Democrats try to counter "scarlet letter" drivers licenses for young immigrants

Democrats have filed a bill to counter state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata’s decision to issue driver licenses to young illegal immigrants that have a bright pink stripe and the words “NO LAWFUL STATUS” in red capital letters.

The bill would prohibit the immigrants’ licenses to be distinguishable in any way from other licenses. It was filed Thursday by Democratic Reps. Paul Leubke of Durham, Rick Glazier of Fayetteville, Rosa Gill of Raleigh and Deb McManus of Siler City.

Tata announced last month that he would issue licenses to thousands of participants in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which blocks deportation and grants a two-year work permit to undocumented youths who came to the United States before they turned 16, are not older than 30, and are high school graduates, attend college or have served in the military.

Some Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would put a moratorium on issuing the licenses. They contend Tata overstepped his authority.

Bill would allow licenses restored

The House passed a bill to allow habitual drunk drivers to get their licenses restored if they had a clean record after 10 years.

State Rep. Ronnie Sutton, a Robeson County Democrat, said he filed House Bill 1185 to help people who "screwed up their life early" if they can show they have reformed.

Currently, North Carolinians convicted of being habitual drunk drivers have their licenses revoked for life.

The bill would allow people to petition to get their licenses restored after a decade if they had not had a drinking- or driving-related offenses since. It would allow the state Division of Motor Vehicles to put conditions on their license.

"This is something to allow a person who has had a real problem to straighten their lives out and hopefully find themselves on the straight and narrow," he said.

Rep. Edgar Starnes, a Caldwell County Republican, said the bill sends the "wrong message."

"Drunk driving is still a serious problem," he said. "This statute was enacted beccause we have to recognize that there are some people in this state who have no business with a license. A driving license is a privilege."

More after the jump.

Bill: Test older drivers more

A bill would set tougher standards for older drivers.

Rep. Ric Killian, a Charlotte Republican, filed a bill to require more frequent drivers license renewals for people 65 and older and mandate road tests for people older than 85.

He cited an academic study that shows the oldest drivers have more crashes per miles traveled than anyone except younger teen drivers.

The bill would require drivers older than 75 renew their licenses every three years instead of every five.

"There's clearly a connection between a person's age and their ability to operate a motor vehicle," he said.

The state office of AARP is ramping up opposition to the bill, asking its 66,000 active state members to call legislators about it. (N&O

Drunk driver fee funds Bowles Center

An alcohol research center has been funded by drunk drivers.

The Bowles Center on Alcohol Studies has received money from a fee paid by people who had their licenses restored after charges of driving under the influence.

For years, $25 of the $75 fee has gone to the University of North Carolina system to for an endowment for the alcohol research center at UNC-Chapel Hill. Next year, the payments would have totaled about $500,000.

The fee was designed to sunset when the endowment reaches $10 million, which is expected on June 30. Gov. Beverly Perdue proposed to use the half-million dollars to help balance next year's budget.

Rob Nelson, a spokesman for the UNC system, said that the center will now rely on interest from the endowment and grants from national health groups.

Already, some in the state Senate are pushing back.

Sen. Richard Stevens, a Cary Republican, has filed a bill that would continue to give the money to the Bowles Center for annual expenses. One of his cosponsors is Democratic Sen. Linda Garrou, a budget writer.

Update: An earlier version of this post was unclear. The $25 fee itself, not just the transfer of money, would expire this summer if no action is taken. 

Should DMV ask about living wills?

Eddie GoodallA bill would look into asking you about end-of-life plans at the DMV.

Sen. Eddie Goodall, a Union County Republican, said he filed the bill to try to prevent situations like the Terri Schiavo case, in which the husband and parents of a Florida woman in a vegetative state fought over whether to keep her on life support.

Goodall wants to study whether the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles should ask drivers whether they have an advance directive or living will when they renew their driver's license.

The state would not advocate for or against having a living will or what it should say, but the response would be noted on licenses.

That would help family members determine if they should keep searching for a living will and might encourage some who don't have one to look into it, Goodall said.

"I've talked to a lot of nurses and people in palliative care," he said. "They say there's a big need for more education about living wills becaues families go through misery trying to make these end-of-life decisions.

"It would make it much easier if their loved one made the decision for them."

What North Carolina thinks: Elon

What does North Carolina think?

The latest Elon University Poll shows significant agreement on a number of issues that are before the legislature.

Below, the percentage who agreed with a sentiment:

77: The state should make commuter rail available in urban areas.

74: The state should not charge a fee based on miles driven each year.

67: The state should ban smoking in public places, such as restaurants and bars.

— Support a $2 billion bond referendum for bridges and roads.

66: Offshore drilling should be allowed off the coast of North Carolina.

— Except in emergencies, it should be illegal to use a cell phone while driving.

The live phone poll of 758 residents was conducted Feb. 22-26. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

After the jump, the rest of the results.

More Senate bills

A few of the more interesting Senate bills:

S.B. 172: Allow Charter Schools in 100 Counties, Sen. Eddie Goodall

S.B. 178: Repeal Ban G.S. 95-98, Sen. Larry Shaw

S.B. 179: Sterilization Compensation, Sen. Shaw

S.B. 181: Drivers License Change Expir./8 yrs to 65, Sen. Shaw

S.B. 182: Honor Bob Scott, Sen. Tony Foriest

A few more Senate bills

Senate bill filings are picking up. Here are some interesting ones:

S.B. 31: Bioptic Lenses / Drivers License Tests, Sen. John Snow

S.B. 32: Employers Must Use Federal E-Verify Program, Sen. Snow

S.B. 36: Expand Chem. Analysis Sites / Contr. Substance, Sen. James Forrester

S.B. 37: Motorsports Vehicle Combination Lengths, Sen. Jerry Tillman

S.B. 43: Require Boating Safety Education, Sen. Ed Jones

S.B. 47: Unauthorized Wireless Phone Use / $50 Limit, Sen. Steve Goss

House bills filed on second day

More bills were filed this morning in the House:

H.B. 7: Victory Junction Gang Camp License Plate, Reps. Harold Brubaker, Pat Hurley

H.B. 8: Prohibit Cell Phones in Prison, Rep. Garland Pierce

H.B. 9: No Texting While Driving, Pierce

H.B. 10: Garnish Wages to Satisfy a Judgement, Reps. Tim Moore, Laura Wiley

H.B. 11: Regulation of Golf Carts in Grover, Moore

H.B. 12: Bioptic Lenses/Drivers License Tests

H.B. 13: Horn in the West Funds, Rep. Cullie Tarleton

H.B. 14: Chiropractic Services/Insurance, Tarleton

H.B. 15: Military Family Assistance Centers/Funds, Tarleton

Claims Dept: Hagan's 'Crackdown' ad

In a new ad, Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan criticizes negative ads from Sen. Elizabeth Dole and notes her record on illegal immigration.

What the ad says: The ad shows images of Dole's ads and Hagan talking with law enforcement officers and voters. Narrator: "Now she's crossed the line. Newspapers are condemning Elizabeth Dole's shameful attacks. A lie born of Dole's desperation. Worse than dishonest. And now new lies about Kay Hagan's immigration record. The facts: Hagan voted to ban driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Kay's been endorsed by 53 sheriffs, who know she's cracked down on a crisis Washington created. It's time for the truth. And a change." Hagan: "I'm Kay Hagan and I approve this message."

The background: The ad makes several claims about the Senate race.

EDITORIALS: Three major North Carolina newspapers wrote editorials chastizing Dole over a recent ad about Hagan's ties to a member of the Godless Americans PAC.

The Wilmington Star-News wrote that it was "shameful even by today's threshold for slime" and "smacks of desperation." The Charlotte Observer wrote that it was "a lie born of Dole's desperation in a race in which she has trailed for weeks."

And the Greensboro News-Record said it was "worse than dishonest" in depicting Hagan as "godless."

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Starting in 2000, state Republicans pushed legislation to make it impossible for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses.

The state Senate's Democratic leadership sent all of the bills to die in committee, but a provision in the 2001 budget made it slightly more difficult for illegal immigrants to get a license.

Other Republican bills died in committee over the next several years. In 2006, the House amended a Senate bill to make it impossible for illegal immigrants to get licenses.

Hagan voted for both bills, but she played only a supporting role in the process and did not intervene when earlier Republican measures were pushed aside.

She also cosponsored a 2008 bill requiring employers verify information on new employees and helped pass the 2007 budget, which included $750,000 to help promote a deportation program.

SHERIFFS: In late August, 53 of North Carolina's 100 sheriffs endorsed Hagan, according to the Associated Press. About two-thirds of the sheriffs are Democrats, and none of the Republican sheriffs endorsed her.

Is it accurate? It's overstated. It's true that Hagan voted to ban driver's licenses and supported other measures, but she hardly led a crackdown on illegal immigration. The claims about newspaper editorials and sheriff's endorsements are accurate.

— Ryan Teague Beckwith

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