Massachusetts voters uphold new immigrant driver’s license law

BOSTON (AP) — Voters in Massachusetts voted against repealing a new law allowing immigrants who are illegally in the country to obtain state driver’s licenses.

The measure became law after the Democratic-controlled Massachusetts House and Senate overruled a veto by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in June. Republicans pushed the ballot issue to repeal the law. Voters instead chose to keep it by approving question #4 on the ballot.

Under the new law, people who are illegally in the country will be able to apply for a driver’s license if they can provide the Motor Vehicle Registry with a foreign passport or consular identification document.

They will also need to provide one of five additional documents: a driver’s license from another US state or territory; a birth certificate; a foreign national identity card; a foreign driving licence; or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any US state or territory.

The law was a victory for immigrant rights groups who had long called for the measure, portraying it in part as a public safety measure. They said that under the law, those who apply for licenses will have to prove that they can drive a car properly and obtain insurance for their car in the event of an accident.

Critics including Republican incumbent Governor Charlie Baker and GOP gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl have said the law could make it easier for people living in the country to vote. Diehl and the state’s Republican Party helped lead efforts to repeal the law. Supporters say the law takes steps to guard against illegal voting.

The new law is expected to go into effect July 1, 2023. Massachusetts will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia that have similar laws.

Another hotly contested voting issue in Massachusetts — one that would create a tax aimed at millionaires — remained too early to call early Wednesday.

Ballot question #1 would add an amendment to the state constitution imposing a 4% surtax on the portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million.

Those earning up to $1 million, but not exceeding that amount, would pay no new taxes.

Proponents – including labor unions, community organizations and religious groups – argued that the new tax would generate around $2 billion in annual revenue that could be used for education and transportation.

Opponents, including business groups, have warned the measure could end up costing jobs and driving out some of the state’s wealthiest citizens.

The state constitution currently requires that all income be taxed at flat rates. The $1 million threshold would be adjusted annually to take into account increases in the cost of living.

Voters were divided on two other issues on the ballot.

Issue No. 2, which was approved on Tuesday, would regulate dental insurance rates, including requiring companies to spend at least 83% of premiums on members’ dental expenses and quality improvements instead of expenses administrative, and other regulatory changes to dental insurance.

Voters rejected Question 3, which would have increased the number of licenses a retailer could have for the sale of liquor for off-premises consumption, limited the number of “all liquor” licenses a retailer could acquire , restrict the use of self-checkout and require retailers to accept identification from out-of-state customers.

Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press

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