Raleigh, N.C. — The House Judiciary II Committee approved a bill Tuesday along a party-line vote that would increase penalties for driving without a license.
Under House Bill 471, if someone is caught driving without a license for a third time, that person could have his or her car impounded by the state. Rep. Chris Millis, R-Pender, the primary sponsor on the bill, said the current law that addresses those driving without licenses is weak.
"This is about lives ... and those on our roadways," Millis said.
The committee meeting ended with disagreements about the bill’s implications for immigrants and happened just hours after another heated debate about immigration in which a Democratic senator walked away from the committee table.
Democratic Reps. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, and Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, voiced concerns about how House Bill 471 would impact immigrants, who do not formally qualify for driver's licenses.
Harrison said she planned to work with other Democrats to file a bill that would provide a way for undocumented immigrants to get access to licenses.
"It seems like we have plenty of sticks out there, in terms of what is allowed in the immigrant community, and not very many carrots," Fisher said. "I look forward to working with colleagues to make a path easier for folks to do the right thing instead of constantly catching them doing the wrong thing."
Millis told committee members to not be distracted by Harrison’s comments.
"The issue Rep. Harrison brought up is truly not the subject of this legislation," he said.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, voted to pass the legislation but voiced concerns about the bill’s intent.
"I get the argument that it appears to be directed at solving a different problem related to undocumented folks in the state," McGrady said. "[But] I have a hard time not being supportive of the bill that tries to stop repeat offenders."
The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee.