January 6, 2016

Driver’s license battle heads to pre-session deadline

Late in December, legislators and the governor received an early Christmas present: Democratic members of the congressional delegation said that there was still time for New Mexico to receive a REAL ID waiver.

All they would have to do is make an agreement with the governor by January 10.

New-Mexico-drivers-License-PolicyAfter radio silence during the holidays, Democratic leadership in both chambers released a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez and Speaker of the House Don Tripp asking them to come to an agreement on the driver’s license issue.

“Despite our past differences, we are confident that we can reach an agreement on REAL ID,” the letter said. “If we are successful, New Mexico will receive an extension of the waiver of the REAL ID requirements for one more year, more than enough time for us to resolve this policy once and for all.”

The letter was was signed by Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and House Minority Leader Brian Egolf.

“We know that bipartisan cooperation is possible, because Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came together around a sufficient bill once before in the last session of the Legislature,” the letter said. “It passed by a vote of 35-5.”

NM Political Report reached out to two spokesmen for the governor on Monday afternoon and again on Tuesday morning. Neither responded to requests to comment, as has been their typical response to questions from NM Political Report.

The House leadership, however, released their own letter outlining a proposal to comply with REAL ID.

The Senate proposal seems to be a nonstarter. The House letter noted that the House had already rejected a similar proposal to the Senate compromise that passed with bipartisan support.

“The amendment failed on the floor. Rather than press forward with a bill or form of bill that has already failed to advance through the House, I believe it would be wise to agree on a compromise bill that has not already been considered and rejected by either House.”

Instead, Don Tripp proposed a two-tier system with a “driving privilege card” for those who cannot prove they are in the country legally. It would require that the person reside in New Mexico for two years and have filed personal income taxes with the state for the previous year.

A follow-up letter sent on Wednesday afternoon from Tripp again asked the Senate to negotiate on their version of compromise legislation.

Update: Added information about the followup letter from Tripp, which was sent at nearly the same time as this was originally published.