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VOL. 123 | NO. 22 | Friday, February 1, 2008

Abortion Resolution Passes Senate Again, Temporary ID Bill for Immigrants Passes Committee

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II and ROSE FRENCH | Associated Press Writers

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A resolution that would change the state's constitution to allow more limits on abortion has again passed the Senate but still may face challenges in the lower chamber.

Also, a bill that would allow more legal immigrants to obtain temporary state identification and driver licenses was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday and will be considered next week by the full Senate and a House committee.

The abortion measure sponsored by Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, passed 23-9 on Wednesday. It has passed the Senate before, but repeatedly failed in a subcommittee of the Democrat-controlled House.

The measure seeks to nullify a state Supreme Court ruling that the Tennessee Constitution offers greater protection for abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.

The proposal would say that "nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."

However, an amendment added to the resolution would allow lawmakers to change statutes regarding abortion in cases of rape, incest or the mother's safety.

Before the vote, lawmakers debated over several proposed amendments to the resolution, all of which failed or were withdrawn. One proposal by Sen. Beverly Marrero said in part that "the government shall not punish a woman for ending a pregnancy" when she is the victim of incest or rape, or to save her life.

"The majority of people in this state are not in favor of a woman carrying a baby to term that's been raped," the Memphis Democrat said before the vote on her amendment. "The majority of the people in this state are in favor of the language of this amendment."

Meanwhile, the proposed immigration change would remove the one-year minimum period of issuance for temporary documentation. Currently the law states the license can't be issued for less than one year or more than five years.

At a committee meeting Wednesday, senators said they've heard numerous complaints from college professors and other immigrants in Tennessee legally for less than a year, who say they have not been able to get licenses or IDs because of the law.

"This really is just a clarification to the law," said committee chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.

The bill is now scheduled to go to the Senate floor next week. The companion House bill is expected to go before its Transportation Committee next week.

Elizabeth Merkel, legislative liaison for the Tennessee Department of Safety, told committee members the state has a number of people with one-year work permits, such as employees of Nissan and other foreign companies, doctors, au pairs, students and migrant workers.

"The way the law was written, we couldn't issue a driver's license to those folks unless they came the actual day their work permit was issued. This is really just a cleanup piece (of legislation)."

Merkel did not know specifically how many immigrants had been affected by the law that went into effect Oct. 1, but estimated that it's probably several hundred.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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