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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Federalization of Oregon State Government

By Francisco Lopez

It's ironic that some State Legislators are promoting the concept that state government should take on the role of the federal government. Thelma Guerrero's article published on the Salem Statesman Journal on 1/24/08 "Real ID Act's future in state still uncertain: Legislature might address the standards to gain an extension" demonstrates the tension that this dysfunctional law is creating in the halls of the Oregon State Capitol.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was mandated by the 2008 "experimental" Legislative Session to provide a report to evaluate the impact of the new drivers' license requirements. The DMV staff has developed a draft outline of this report. The outline lists the customer impact of the tightened identity requirements such as the need for documents proving legal presence and difficulties obtaining legal name change documents. In the future, it is anticipated that the DMV will use electronic verification of immigration documents, and will issue "limited-term" licenses, permits and ID cards to temporary residents effective January 1, 2010.

Future legislative reports by DMV will record the impacts of state law on the number of unlicensed drivers, uninsured drivers, accidents involving injuries or fatalities to unlicensed or uninsured drivers, and multiple passenger accidents related to the transportation of laborers. The new system is expensive. The DMV s is requesting more than $10 million in the state budget to continue the implementation of their Federal duties.

Our state budget shortfall will probably reach $2 billion dollars, which has resulted in a governor's budget that would cut basic services to the elderly and the disabled. With the state unemployment rate at 9% it is outrageous that DMV is forced to ask for new state revenue for a dysfunctional program created by the Bush-Cheney administration. Hopefully President Obama will fix or eliminate all together the Real ID Act. In the meantime, state legislators should consider holding back on full state implementation of the federal act.

How we will pay for this new system? Very simple: through the Governor's proposed increase of DMV fees for titling and registering vehicles. If signed into law, according to the DMV, the proposal would raise title fees from $55.00 for a passenger vehicle to $110.00. Registration fees for passenger vehicles would increase from $27.00 a year to $81.00, mopeds from $15.00 a year to $45.00, and motorcycles from $15.00 a year to $45.00. There is also a one-time title fee that would be assessed based on the combined estimated miles per gallon of the vehicle being titled. One-time title fees would be either $50 or $100, depending on the mileage rating of the vehicle. The custom (vanity) plate fee would also increase from $25.00 to $50.00 per year.

The traditional opponents of less government intervention and red-tape, more local control, and downsizing government are doing the opposite these days by asking the State to increase their bureaucratic system by agreeing to have the state take on the role of federal agencies. If we want to fix the problem with undocumented migration we should improve our immigration system and fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy to increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.

Comprehensive immigration reform will bring people out of the shadows and support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. It would allow us to work with Mexico to promote economic development and to decrease undocumented immigration to the US.

Francisco Lopez is the Director of CAUSA, Oregon's Immigrant Rights Coalition.



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