SPRINGFIELD-A push to license undocumented immigrants so they can drive in Illinois advanced in the Illinois Senate Thursday as Republicans -- still smarting from Latino voters siding largely with Democrats in November's elections -- cast aside their hesitancy and got behind the measure.
The plan passed the Senate Executive Committee by a 12-2 vote and now is positioned for floor action when lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) and Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) were among those on the panel supporting the initiative, which is sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).
House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) also signaled his backing for the measure Thursday.
Both he and Radogno were noticeably absent from a press conference last week where Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and two well-known Republicans -- former Gov. Jim Edgar and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka -- were among supporters for the plan.
"He's always struggled with it. But he saw the election results, and we can't just give lip service" to Latino voters, one member of Cross' inner circle told the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday.
In Senate committee, the only two "no" votes came from Sen. Dale Righter (R-Charleston) and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville).
The plan would equip as many as 250,000 undocumented immigrants with three-year temporary drivers licenses after they had undergone rules-of-the-road training and offered proof they had obtained auto insurance.