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Controversy Continues to Swirl Around Spitzer's Plan for Drivers Licenses

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – The back-and-forth continues over Governor Spitzer's controversial proposal to provide drivers licenses to illegal aliens. State Assembly Republicans held a hearing in downtown Buffalo Tuesday where they were harshly critical of the Governor's plan. Top officials of his administration, meantime, made themselves available to local media outlets, offering their support.

The Governor's Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services, Denise O'Donnell, defended the three-tiered license plan Spitzer unveiled last Saturday. The most secure form of license would be like a passport, enabling travelers to cross the U.S.-Canadian border. A second version would meet the standards of the federal Real I-D Act for use as identification for air travel. The third type of license would only prove that a person is legally able to drive in New York.

It's the latter one that would be made available to illegal immigrants. And it's that provision that continues to spark much controversy. Still, O'Donnell says she expects the vocal outrage over the proposal to eventually die down.

But Assemblyman Jack Quinn, III, of Hamburg is among the Republicans who oppose Spitzer's plan. He says the argument that it would allow illegal immigrants to purchase automobile insurance should be considered as a separate issue.

Even some Democrats are criticizing Spitzer. Niagara County Legislator Andrea McNulty of North Tonawanda testified at yesterday's Assembly hearing. She says she supported Spitzer's election last year. But McNulty says she's concerned about the confusion a three-tiered licensing plan would create.

Also Tuesday, Spitzer reversed his previous decision to remove the temporary visitors designation on drivers licenses. State officials now say licenses given to foreign visitors to this country will once again be labeled with the expiration date of their visas.

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