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Ron Kaye: Facing the state's day of reckoning

September 20, 2013

Gov. Pete Wilson suffered a power outage over his Prop. 187 assault on illegal immigrants. Gov. Gray Davis self-destructed over runaway spending policies that hurt just about everybody. And the politically ambivalent Arnold Schwarzenegger's big ideas went up in the cigar smoke emitted from the tent where he schmoozed with cronies from both sides of the aisle.

Gov. Jerry Brown is in a different position. Having been there before, and now with super-majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, he can do just about anything he wants. So what happened in the recently concluded legislative session offers some guidance about where California is headed.

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FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this story misstated the proposition regarding people not in this country legally. 

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Take for instance the multitude of issues affecting the quarter of the California population who are legal or illegal immigrants from other countries — about twice the national average. From what went down in the state Legislature, you might think they mattered more than the 75 percent who are actually U.S. citizens.

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The most significant legislation on the subject was a bill that was revived and passed at the last minute with the approval of the seemingly all-powerful governor and even a few Republicans.

It would allow those here illegally to get driver's licenses that would be marked in some way to identify their status so that, theoretically, they couldn't be used to get work, public benefits or vote.

Despite the complaints from some that this is a reward for illegal behavior, it is long overdue. It will prompt a lot of the 1.4 million eligible immigrants without proper documentation to provide photos and fingerprints to get licenses, buy real insurance and register their vehicles — and leave those without licenses facing legal consequences including fines and 30-day impounds, laws that have been shelved in Los Angeles and other sanctuary cities.

In a lot of places in California, unlicensed drivers account for up to 25 percent of all drivers and a lot of them are responsible for giving the state the highest rate of hit-and-run accidents in the nation.

Other legislation, like allowing legal immigrants to serve as jurors, poll workers and lawyers, seem more like a slap in the face to those who take citizenship seriously.

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