July 8, 2012

 

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives:

 

          Pursuant to Article LVI, as amended by Article XC, Section 3 of the Amendments to the Constitution, I am returning to you for amendment Sections 92 and 217 of House Bill No. 4200, “An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2013 for the Maintenance of the Departments, Boards, Commissions, Institutions and Certain Activities of the Commonwealth, for Interest, Sinking Fund and Serial Bond Requirements and for Certain Permanent Improvements.”

 

It is clear from the legislative and public debate that section 92, along with sections 94 and 95, are motivated by efforts to regulate the activities of undocumented people in Massachusetts.  I have been just as clear that I will not accept efforts to compel state authorities to enforce federal immigration rules.  The recent ruling of the United States Supreme Court, striking down most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, underscores the importance of states treading lightly in this federal space.  In addition, a long line of authority makes legislation that is racially or ethnically conscious constitutionally suspect.

 

Sections 94 and 95 seem to be reasonably related to an important state interest.  Here, the Legislature has proposed to increase penalties for three existing criminal prohibitions that clearly serve the public safety interests of the Commonwealth:  (1) unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, (2) knowingly permitting an unlicensed individual to operate one’s vehicle, and (3) knowingly employing for hire as a motor vehicle operator any unlicensed individual.  In addition, section 101 establishes a new crime for anyone who falsely makes, steals, forges or counterfeits licenses and identification cards with the intent to distribute them, with graduated penalties depending on the size of the operation.  Because there are clear public safety benefits from these changes and the provisions are race and ethnic neutral, I am signing these sections of the bill.

 

Section 92 is less availing.  It relates solely to registration of ownership of a vehicle by non-residents.  It is hard to understand how a non-resident simply owning a vehicle in Massachusetts jeopardizes the public’s safety.  Indeed, it serves the public’s safety interests to know, through registration, the name and whereabouts of the owner of every vehicle on the Commonwealth’s roads.  Foreign students with an international license or seasonal residents who wish to register a vehicle in Massachusetts could be swept up in section 92, as written.  In this sense, the provision is overbroad.

 

To the extent section 92 is expressly intended to target undocumented people, it strays into inappropriate territory.  Not only is the enforcement of federal immigration laws the duty and responsibility of the federal government, see Arizona v. United States, No. 11-182, 567 U.S. __ (2012), but the RMV is also ill-equipped and under-staffed for such an assignment.

 

I remain committed to commonsense and balanced registration rules that serve the public safety interests of the Commonwealth.  In that spirit, I recommend that section 92 be amended by striking out its text and inserting in place thereof the following text:-

 

SECTION 92.  Section 2 of chapter 90 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the first and second paragraphs and inserting in place thereof the following 2 paragraphs:-

 

Applications for the registration of motor vehicles and trailers may be made by the owner thereof.  If the owner is a corporation, sole proprietorship or business entity, or natural person, the application shall contain, in addition to such other particulars as may be required by the registrar, the name of the corporation, sole proprietorship or business entity, or natural person, and the full business or residential address, including the street, city or town, state and zip code.  If the owner is a sole proprietorship, the application shall also contain a social security number and an employer identification number or federal tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service, if any such number has been issued.  If the applicant is a natural person, the application shall also contain the date of birth and license number or identification card number issued by the registrar, if such license or card has been issued.  The application of a natural person shall also contain the apartment or unit number if the applicant’s address is in an apartment house, family hotel, condominium or a residential flat or is in a combined business and residential property.  Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no registration shall be issued to a natural person for a motor vehicle or trailer unless such person holds a license, identification card issued under section 8E, social security number issued by the Social Security Administration or other proof of residence in the Commonwealth; provided, however, that the registrar shall provide by regulation or written policy for exemptions for out-of-state residents, military personnel, senior citizens, disabled persons, and such other categories of persons the registration of whose vehicle, in the judgment of the registrar after consultation with the executive office of public safety and security, serves the public safety interests of the Commonwealth, and additional exemptions which shall be consistent with this section.  The application shall also contain a brief description of the motor vehicle or trailer to be registered, including the name of the maker, any number or numbers as may be required by the registrar to properly identify the vehicle, the character of the motor power and the type of transmission and a statement signed by the applicant under the penalties of perjury that no excise liabilities on the motor vehicle are outstanding and incurred by the applicant, a member of the applicant’s immediate family who is a member of the applicant’s household or any business partner of the applicant. The registration fee, as required under section 33, shall accompany the application. Applicants for registration shall also comply with chapter 90D.

 

The registrar or the registrar’s duly authorized agents shall keep a record of motor vehicles and trailers that satisfy application requirements, and shall assign to each motor vehicle and trailer a distinguishing mark or number to be known as the register number for that vehicle or trailer, and shall thereupon issue to the applicant a certificate of registration. If the owner is a corporation, sole proprietorship or business entity, the certificate shall contain the name and address of the corporation, sole proprietorship or business entity and the register number or mark and shall be in such form and contain such further information as the registrar may determine. If the owner is a natural person, the certificate shall contain the name, place of residence and address of the applicant and the register number or mark and shall be in such form and contain such further information as the registrar may determine.

 

To ensure consistency with this language, I further recommend that Section 217 be amended by striking out its text and inserting in place thereof the following text:-

 

          SECTION 217.  The registrar of motor vehicles shall promulgate regulations or written policies pursuant to the first paragraph of section 2 of chapter 90 of the General Laws no later than June 30, 2013. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Deval Patrick