March 19, 2015

Compromise driver’s license bill heads to the Senate floor

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A bill that would create a two-tiered driver’s license system was approved by a Senate committee on Thursday.

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The bill sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee by an 8 to 1 vote.

Senate Bill 653, often referred to as a compromise bill, was presented by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming. Smith told the committee that the proposed legislation would create a license that meets the federal Real ID Act and another that would serve solely as a statewide license.

Supporters of the bill have said it would be less discriminatory than other proposals.  Opponents of the bill have said SB 653 would not go far enough towards federal compliance.

Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, said he was worried that many foreign nationals come into the country without legal documents and “are looking for some legitimacy” in order to conduct criminal activity without the risk of being deported. He also voiced his concern about complying with federal law when issuing licenses.

“I’m not sure this [bill] gets us there exactly, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Ryan said.

Ryan was the only member of the panel to vote against the legislation.

Democrats praised the bill for not singling out those in the United States who are not in the country legally. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said he would support the bill because it doesn’t give a “scarlet letter” to certain individuals.

Committee Chair Richard Martinez, D-Española, said when he was a magistrate judge he saw first hand the importance of using driver’s licenses for tracking purposes and that Ingle’s bill was an example of compromise.

“This is probably one of the closest mechanisms to get to Real ID compliance,” Martinez said.

The challenge for this bill is not only passing through the House, but also obtaining a signature from Governor Susana Martinez, something Senator Martinez noted in the committee meeting.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to satisfy this administration,” the senator from Española said.

During a floor session on Wednesday night, the Senate agreed to remove one of the bill’s committee assignments.

Now instead of heading to Senate Finance, the bill will go the the floor for a vote. If passed, the bill would need to move through more committee assignments and pass the House floor before the end of the session on Saturday at noon.

 

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