Mar 29, 2007
State Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton Township, is taking another shot at a bill that drew attention to his attitude that so soured relations between the two parties and killed bipartisanship in the House last session.
On March 21, Ward introduced House Bill 4505 that would identify Michigan drivers as U.S. citizens, or noncitizens, on their driver's licenses. It makes you wonder why Ward would introduce this bill now as a member of the minority party when he could not get the same bill passed in the last session when he was the Floor Leader for the majority party.
You may recall that as the chair of the House Oversight, Elections and Ethics Committee that was taking testimony on the bill, Ward threatened to forcibly remove a priest from the hearing room because he wanted to voice his opposition to the bill.
Rev. Cecilio Reyna, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Westphalla, was attending his first public hearing at the Capitol, and he came to Lansing from Westphalia to stand up and explain why he was against the proposed state law. He never got a chance and, in fact, was told that if he persisted in his attempts to voice his opinion at that particular time and place, he would be forcibly removed from the hearing room. Reyna was accused of interrupting the meeting. "Why I was not allowed to speak baffles me," Reyna told the Lansing State Journal in May of last year.
Reyna wanted to tell Ward and the Committee about his mother. He was never able to tell the Committee about his mother, but he was able to tell the public that his mother, a Mexican national, married an American GI in 1957, then lived in the U.S. as a noncitizen LEGAL resident for 40 years. She eventually became a citizen in 1997, but long before that she became a tax-paying resident with a job and a Social Security number.
In an e-mail, Reyna wrote: "My poor mother would have been quite distressed by some public official assuming she was not here legally because of her identification as a noncitizen. "I wanted to ask (the committee members) to show compassion by rejecting a bill that might cause similar distress to people who are not citizens, but are here legally."
That, Reyna concluded, was all he wanted to say.
The full House approved House Bill 6085 in May of last year by a vote of 76-27 where it went to where most bills go to die, the state Senate, and it died in the Senate Government Operations Committee. It was re-introduced this month by Ward and referred to the House Oversight and Investigations Committee, chaired by this session’s Majority Floor Leader Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit.
Tobocman voted against the bill last year, and he was very critical of the bill, saying it sent the wrong message as the state seeks global business ties. Hopefully, the committee will not take it up, but you can rest assured that debate, just like it is now allowed again on the House floor by the Democrats, will he heard on this bill from everyone who has an opinion.