The most recent example of why he should be unseated as chairman of the Public Safety committee is evidenced in the following press release issued yesterday by the Assembly Republican Caucus.
Mark Leno Is At the Wheel of the Public Safety Committee
April 18, 2006
During today’s hearing of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, showed just how out of touch Democrats on the Public Safety Committee are with mainstream Californians with his misguided comments during the debate on two common-sense public safety measures authored by Assembly Republicans.
Assembly Bill 2808, by Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, R-Westlake Village, would have increased penalties on people who commit a second or subsequent violation of driving on a suspended or revoked license within three years. The crime could be charged as an alternate felony or misdemeanor.
After hearing emotional testimony from a victim’s father and niece, Chairman Leno suggested that driver’s licenses must be made available to illegal immigrants living in California before he would consider increasing penalties for driving without a license.
“My one concern is a completely unintended consequence, which would be for the 2 million individuals in California who, because of their immigrant status, are forbidden from getting a driver’s license. I think that everyone on the road should be, by law, required to be trained, tested, and insured, but that’s a part of a much bigger debate that’s going on nationally right now. Until that can be resolved, I would not be able to support making it a greater crime for someone who is forbidden from getting a license, from being penalized for that.” (Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing, 4/18/06)
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Assembly Bill 2558, by Assemblyman John J. Benoit, R-Palm Desert, would have increased penalties for a person caught driving on a license that has been suspended or revoked for driving under the influence four or more times within 10 years. The measure also would add a five-year sentencing enhancement when a person commits vehicular manslaughter or a driving under the influence offense that is charged as a felony while driving on a license that has been suspended or revoked for DUI.
Chairman Leno suggested that Californians should have sympathy for repeat drunken drivers because they are suffering from an illness and should not be held accountable for their actions:
“And I think that the way we should be approaching this is investing not in new prisons, but in the serious attention to the rehabilitation of these alcoholics. It’s not the driving that’s the crime here, it is the illness mixed with the driving.” (Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing, 4/18/06)
Leno concluded by arguing that tax increases for California families should be considered before he will consider new punishments for repeat drunk drivers:
“And again, where is the money going to come from? If you want to talk about some new revenue to pay for all of this, that would be a welcome conversation, but we’re not having that.” (Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing, 4/18/06)
By arguing that unlicensed drivers should be let off the hook because illegal immigrants cannot legally drive in this state, and that drunken drivers should be excused from their crimes because they are suffering from an illness, Chairman Leno shows just how out of touch Democrats really are.
Next week, Assembly Democrats will have yet another opportunity to reverse their abysmal record on public safety when the committee holds its next hearing.
California families will be watching . . .