January 7, 2016

Guv changes tone on DL debate, will push ‘right to work’ this session

Gov. Susana Martinez pledged Thursday to put at least two non-budget items on the call this coming legislative session.

Susana MartinezSpeaking on a panel with members of the local business community, Martinez said she will allow legislators to introduce bills on changing driver’s licenses and barring mandatory union agency fees as a condition of work, sometimes called right to work.

Martinez has made ending New Mexico’s practice of allowing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants one of her top priorities for five years. But she took a notable shift in her rhetoric about the issue in her comments at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, saying for the first time that she’d support a two-tiered system that still allows driver’s permits for undocumented immigrants.

“An illegal immigrant should not receive a driver’s license that looks like mine or yours,” Martinez said.

She said a bill by state Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, that would allow a two-tier system and meet federal REAL ID requirements “would solve the problem.” Martinez compared Pacheco’s proposal to Utah’s driver’s license system.

“We’ve have even compromised on permit vs. a real driver’s license for those who are undocumented,” Martinez said. “So it’s important for us that we be able to identify, not for any other purpose, but to know that you have a permit, you come back and you have that renewed, but you will not have an ID that is going to be identical to mine.”

The federal Department of Homeland Security recently refused to grant New Mexico a waiver on REAL ID. Starting Jan. 19, New Mexico driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted to some federal facilities, though employees at federal laboratories already have badges to get in and others will be able to use other forms of ID like birth certificates or passports.

Homeland Security also warned that it would no longer accept New Mexico driver’s licenses to board airplanes because of the lack of REAL ID requirements, though the department hasn’t announced a deadline for when that date would be. The federal agency made previous threats to REAL ID non-compliant states for the past eight years but has never enforced them to-date.

Some organizations are pushing New Mexico to stand up to the federal government on REAL ID, since no state has been previously punished for not doing so.

Despite the Republican leadership’s change on the issue, Democrats and immigrant rights advocates are still criticizing the approach as too harsh, which includes providing proof of two-year residency and the filing of a tax return.

Democrats are proposing a two-tier driver’s license bill without the above requirements.

“A driver’s permit would stigmatize people based on their ethnicity and national origin,” Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said in a recent press release. “It is unnecessary, xenophobic, and anti-Latino.”

Martinez also called right to work “a no-brainer.” Unions can only spend the agency fees, known as “fair share,” toward the cost of representing the bargaining unit during negotiations.

“Absolutely I will be messaging right to work because we need to be competitive and every person should have the right to make a decision on whether or not they want to belong to a union,” she said. “And it should not be conditioned on whether they’re going to get a job or not.”

Roughly 5.7 percent of New Mexico employees are dues-paying union members, and less than two percent of the state’s workforce don’t pay dues but are covered by a union. Not all unions make “fair share” payments mandatory and it’s unclear how many non-dues paying union workers are required to pay them as part of their job.