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Bill Designed to Force Draft Registration
Senate: The proposal would deny driver's licenses to California's 18-year-old men who do not consent to Selective Service sign-up.
SACRAMENTO -- California's draft-age men, among the nation's worst at registering with the Selective Service, could be denied driver's licenses for failing to sign up under a bill moving through the Senate.
Despite objections that it would quash dissent to the draft and might be used to "flush out" illegal immigrants, the bill passed the Senate Governmental Organization Committee on Tuesday.
The little-noticed bill would have the effect of automatically registering California men ages 18 to 26 with the Selective Service System when they are issued their first driver's license or state identification card. Their names, addresses and Social Security numbers would be forwarded electronically to a federal databank, where they would be presumed to have registered. Those who fail to give their consent would be denied driver's licenses. Driver's license applicants ages 15 to 17, too young to register, would be presumed to have given their consent when they turn 18.
At Tuesday's sometimes emotional hearing, Sen. Mike Machado (D-Linden), who served in the Vietnam War, denounced the bill as an assault on the constitutional right of young men to dissent.
Another lawmaker, Sen. Nell Soto (D-Pomona), suggested that the bill actually was intended to "flush out" illegal immigrants.
But a third member, Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana), endorsed the plan as a sensible and cost-efficient way to induce young men to register for the Selective Service. The draft was abolished in 1973, but since 1980, federal law has required men ages 18 to 26 to register in case the draft is reinstated.
If they do not sign up, they can be prosecuted as felons, an unlikely possibility these days. More likely sanctions include loss of federal student loans, denial of federal job-training benefits and loss of ability to work for the federal government or in some state government jobs.
At No. 46 nationally, California is among the worst states for compliance, proponents of the bill said. Selective Service records showed that at least 16,000 California men who had turned 27 had failed to register with the draft during the last three years.
The bill (SB1276) by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), a sleeper that has stirred virtually no attention from defenders of civil liberties, was narrowly approved by the 13-member committee on a bipartisan 7-2 vote.
It was sent to the Transportation Committee for another hearing. If successful, it would be heard by the Appropriations Committee and the full Senate. Its fate in the Senate is uncertain, but similar legislation has perished in the Assembly.
"Registration is the law. I think it should be made simple and seamless for our young men and not be punitive," Speier told the committee.
Sponsored by the Selective Service System and supported by veterans organizations, the bill was based on laws already in effect in 15 other states with poor Selective Service compliance records.
Virtually all have improved significantly by linking registration to approval of a driver's license, testified Justo Gonzalez Jr. of Denver, western regional director of Selective Service.
Speier and Selective Service officials testified that many draft-age men fail to register because they are unaware of the requirement and may, unknowingly, be subjecting themselves to severe consequences, such as being rejected for a U.S. government job or loss of student aid.
They said the message isn't getting through to young men in California through high school counseling and "reminders" that are mailed to nonregistrants, whose names and addresses currently are provided to the Selective Service System twice a year by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Ronald Markarian, California director of the Selective Service System, said he believes many young men ignore such warnings because they are of a generation that does not want to accept "personal responsibility."
At the end of 2000, he said, only 83% of eligible registrants born in 1981 had signed up.
But Machado, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, charged that linking issuance of a driver's license to registration poured ice water on a young man's right to choose to refuse to sign and face the consequences.
"Young people have the right to make a choice," Machado said. He asserted that "our Constitution allows for dissent and protest.... This bill fundamentally attacks the premise upon which this nation was founded."
Further, said Machado, who voted against it, the bill sought to make the state instead of the U.S. government the enforcer of the Selective Service law. "You are coming to the state when the federal government doesn't enforce its own law," Machado told Markarian and Gonzalez.
Speier rejected the notion that the bill was anti-immigrant. She said it would apply to draft-age legal immigrants who had been in this country for more than a year.
The bill also was opposed by the Friends Committee on Legislation, which represents conscientious objectors and various faiths, including Quakers, Mennonites and Jehovah's Witnesses.
But Dunn defended the bill as a "simple, pragmatic way at the least cost to the taxpayer to get young men registered for the draft." Two other Democrats and four Republicans agreed and voted for the bill.
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There is similar legislation pending in KANSAS, refer to this article:
Bill Designed to Force Draft Registration
By Carl Ingram, Times Staff Writer
Posted on the Independent Newswire on 19 March 2002
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