Wednesday May 23, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts senators are preparing to tackle hundreds of amendments to a $32.3 billion state budget, including a Republican proposal that would check the immigration status of applicants for driver's licenses and a measure aimed at closing a loophole in a state law that cracks down on repeat drunken drivers.

Many of the 694 amendments offered to the spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 seek to restore funding for programs that have been trimmed during the economic downturn, but Senate leaders have cautioned that despite an improving fiscal picture, it is too soon to return to pre-recession spending levels.

Senate leaders hope to complete work on the budget before the Memorial Day weekend. A six-member House-Senate conference committee will then be formed to iron out differences between the branches.

Senate Republican leader Bruce Tarr filed several immigration-related amendments, including one that would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to check for proof of "lawful immigration status" before issuing a driver's license.

Tarr and Democratic state Sen. Katherine Clark have filed amendments seeking to close a recently exposed loophole in a 2005 law designed to increase penalties for repeat drunken drivers and motorists who refuse alcohol breath tests after being pulled over by police.

Among the amendments that seek additional state spending is one calling for $11.


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3 million for cities and towns to pay for the cost of transporting homeless school children.