Immigrant advocates are launching an all-out push in the final weeks of the New York legislative session for a bill that would let undocumented immigrants apply for driver’s licenses, a lightning rod in state politics since former Gov. Eliot Spitzer first proposed it more than a decade ago.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, said last week that members of his party would bring a measure to the floor before lawmakers take the summer break next month.
But it faces an uncertain path in the state Senate, where the proposal has long been blocked by Republicans. Democrats are now in control of the chamber for the first time in 10 years, but Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins hasn’t committed to bringing the bill to a floor vote. She has spoken in favor of the measure, though.
That led the New York Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group, to hold a rally at Ms. Stewart-Cousins’ Yonkers office last week. NYIC Executive Director Steve Choi said all eyes were on the Senate.
“We’re going to put the pedal to the metal. We’re talking TV ads, grass-roots actions all over the state from Brentwood to Buffalo,” Mr. Choi said in an interview. “At a time when Donald Trump is attacking New York’s immigrants every day, actions are more important than words.”
A spokesman for Ms. Stewart-Cousins said that the chamber’s 39 Democrats would talk about how to proceed soon and that protecting immigrants remains a focus.
Mr. Choi said the recalcitrance is among legislators upstate and on Long Island. Republicans in those areas have long accused Democrats of focusing on extending benefits for undocumented immigrants rather than for native-born New Yorkers.
In March, state Sen. Daphne Jordan, a Republican from Saratoga County, started a petition against issuing driver’s licenses. She argued the bill would open the door to fraud and identity theft. State Sen. Phil Boyle, a Republican from Suffolk County, said in an interview that the bill would incentivize more people to immigrate illegally to the U.S.
That is nonsense, Mr. Choi said. A dozen other states issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, and the current legislation would still require applicants to provide proof of age and identity, potentially with passports or government identification issued in other countries. He said issuing licenses to immigrants would reduce hit-and-run-vehicle crashes, lower insurance costs and make it easier for immigrant laborers—including those working on farms—to get to work.
Ms. Stewart-Cousins is weighing these arguments as well as the strong support from members of her conference in the five boroughs. Democrats won their majority, though, in suburbs of New York City, where a Siena College Research Institute poll last month showed voters opposed allowing immigrants to apply for licenses 58%-38%.
PREVAILING WAGE PUSH: A coalition of unions is launching a digital ad campaign as part of its effort to expand the definition of public works that would require a prevailing wage.
The Blue Collar Coalition, which represents building trades, will spend more than $100,000 on social-media ads and organizing as part of their push, a spokesman said Friday.
The New York State Constitution requires public-work projects to pay a prevailing wage, a condition that has generally applied to construction or rehabilitation projects undertaken by state and municipal agencies, school districts and public authorities. The state Labor Department sets wage rates based on union contracts.
The unions say construction projects that receive any public benefits, including cash grants or tax-free financing, should be required to pay prevailing wages to ensure taxpayers are supporting a good living for workers. Developers and business groups say this will increase costs and result in less construction. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he hopes to find a compromise on the issue.
THE QUESTION: The PGA Championship is coming up this month at Bethpage State Park in Long Island, on the famous Bethpage Black course. While most of the course is in Nassau County, parts of it cross the county line. How many holes are located in Suffolk County? (And will Tiger Woods do better in Nassau or Suffolk?)
LAST WEEK’S ANSWER: The first chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was William Ronan, a political-science professor who served from its creation in 1968 to 1974. Some jokingly referred to the new agency as the “Wholly Ronan Empire.”
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Write to Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com
Appeared in the May 6, 2019, print edition as ‘Advocates Press to Let Illegal Immigrants Get Driver’s Licenses.’