California bill would require draft registration for driver's licenses

2/13/2024 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Draft Resistance News - A bill to require applicants for California driver’s licenses ages 16 through 25 to consent to registration with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft, SB 1081, has been introduced again in the California legislature.

The sole initial sponsor of SB 1081 is state Senator Bob Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera), who represents Senate District 30 in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

With no legislation on Selective Service under active consideration in Congress, this California bill is the most significant legislative proposal related to Selective Service currently under consideration anywhere in the U.S. It will be the highest lobbying priority this year for the Selective Service System nationally and for its state director John A. Arbogast, local and state draft board members, and military reservists assigned to Selective Service support duty in California.

California is overwhelmingly the most populous state that doesn’t already require (or provide as a default) Selective Service registration for driver’s licenses for draft-age men. (Other such states include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Oregon, and several other less populous states.) Since the repeal in 2020 of the former Federal requirement to register for the draft to receive Federal aid for higher education, the Selective Service System has relied almost entirely on state driver’s license laws to drive (pun intended) any limited compliance it is able to obtain with draft registration.

"California does not share driver’s license [information with the Selective service System] — so, hey, move to California and you’re basically exempted from being drafted."

[Testimony of Dr. Bernard Rostker, Director of the Selective Service System 1979-1981, to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, 24 April 2019.]

Like similar laws in some (but by no means all) other states, SB 1081 would allow applicants for driver’s licenses to “opt out” of being registered with the Selective Service System. But opting out would be incriminating official written evidence of knowledge of the registration requirement, which would otherwise be the hardest element for the government to prove in a criminal prosecution for “knowing and willful” failure or refusal to register for the draft. That makes the putative “opt out” option largely meaningless.

At least six previous attempts over the last twenty years to require California residents to register for the draft in order to get state driver’s licenses have been defeated in the state legislature or vetoed by the Governor. But that doesn’t mean that SB 1081 won’t pass this year.

In the past, similar bills have run up against provisions of the California state Constitution and case law from the California Supreme Court protecting data privacy and restricting use of motor vehicle and driver’s license funds and fees for unrelated purposes. Some of those issues were raised in the written testimony and the in-person testimony I gave on behalf of the Identity Project at a hearing in Sacramento in 2011. More recently, I’ve testified against similar legislation in other states. Some of these talking points I outlined in opposition to the proposal considered and defeated last year in Massachusetts are specific to Massachusetts law and history, but most apply equally in California.

This time around, SB 1081 would require the California Department of Motor vehicles to “solicit” Federal funding for Selective Service connectivity, and provides that, “Implementation of this section shall be contingent upon the department’s receipt of federal funds to pay $________ of the initial startup costs to implement this section.”

Congress has never appropriated any money specifically to reimburse states for their costs of connecting driver’s license databases with the Selective Service System. But SB 1081 would require only a one-time infusion of Federal funding, in an as-yet-undetermined but possible small amount, for startup costs. That could potentially come from a portion of a general-purpose Federal block grant to the state. So opponents of the draft should take the threat of SB 1081 seriously. We can’t count on lack of Federal funding to prevent implementation of this bill, if it is enacted.

Most state legislators, like most members of Congress, have little if any familiarity with the status of contingency planning for a draft; the role of that contingency planning in enabling planning for larger, longer, less popular wars; the failure of draft registration; or the reasons why the Federal government is turning to “state motor vehicle licensing agencies”::/draft/advice/state.html in an inevitably futile effort to salvage this failed Federal program.

California residents should urge their state Senators and Assembly members to oppose SB 1081 or any similar bill in the state Senate or Assembly. If you don’t live in California, spread the word to any friends in California. This is likely to be a “sleeper” bill considered with little public awareness or debate.



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 Revised: 02/25/2024 GDG


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