Senate passes driver’s license compromise (updated)

The state Senate voted to institute a two-tier driver’s license system in the state that they hope would stop the sometimes heated debate on allowing those in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses. The legislation passed easily after a relatively small amount of debate for an issue that has had such a large amount […]

Senate passes driver’s license compromise (updated)

The state Senate voted to institute a two-tier driver’s license system in the state that they hope would stop the sometimes heated debate on allowing those in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.

New Mexico State Senate.  Wikicommons
New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons
The legislation passed easily after a relatively small amount of debate for an issue that has had such a large amount of attention from both the media and the public in the past five years. The legislation passed 35-5 with five Republican Senators voting against.

The bill now heads to the state House with about 24 hours left in the session, raising questions on if the bill has enough time to pass and if the House Republican caucus will support something that still allows those in the country illegally to drive legally in the state. Update: The bill was assigned to the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee; with less than 24 hours left in the session, this is likely a death knell for the legislation. The story continues as originally written below.

The compromise is similar to an unsuccessful floor substitute by House Democrats on the outright repeal that passed the House earlier this session according to a House Democratic caucus spokeswoman.

Even if the House passes the legislation, there are serious questions on whether or not Gov. Susana Martinez would sign such legislation; she has voiced opposition to similar efforts in past years.

The bill was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and would allow for one tier of driver’s licenses that would comply the the federal REAL ID Act and another that would allow the holder to drive a motor vehicle in the state. The first tier would only be available to those in the country legally.

The first tier would allow the holder to use the identification for federal purposes, including getting on a plane or entering federal facilities. The REAL ID Act became law in 2005, but the implementation debate has been pushed back time and time again.

Smith, the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, said, “We’ve got to get this issue behind us.”

Ingle agreed.

“We need to go forward,” Ingle said. He noted that it the bill ins’t perfect, but it is a bill that can pass.

Some Republicans opted to vote against the bill, saying that giving any government document to those in the country illegally is wrong.

“I’m puzzled by the fact that the system we’re talking about would perpetuate and condone people entering the country illegally,” Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, said. He said that the state of New Mexico “will condone that behavior by issuing official documents.”

“That’s your spin on it,” Smith answered.

Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, also was critical of the legislation, though he voted for the bill. He said it could be “simply changed” to make it more palatable but noted that there wasn’t much time left in the session.

Other Republicans also reluctantly supported the legislation. Sen. Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque, said that the bill needed to be judged on its own merits and not against other legislation that is out there, a reference to the House legislation that stalled in Senate committees.

“Right now, this is the bill we got,” Payne said.

Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, also said that this was not a perfect bill but that it was likely the best bill possible at the time. He said it would make sure “That the person driving towards you” has taken driving tests and eye tests, making the roads saf20er.

That was the argument in passing the legislation over a decade ago, when then-Governor Bill Richardson signed the legislation into law. Governor Martinez opposed the legislation during her first election bid and throughout her term as governor.

The protests and debate over the bill has at times dominated the New Mexico political scene.

In addition to Rue, Senators Mark Moores of Albuquerque, Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho, Lee Cotter of Las Cruces and Cliff Pirtle of Roswell voted against the bill. All are Republicans and all but Rue are in thier first term.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…
Governor to call special session for public safety legislation this summer

Governor to call special session for public safety legislation this summer

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she will call the Legislature into a special session this summer to address public safety legislation that did…
Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List, a nonprofit that supports women candidates and reproductive rights, endorsed seven incumbents facing general election opponents in New Mexico legislative elections. All…
Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule Friday to designate two types of PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances. Those two chemicals are perfluorooctanoic…
BLM finalizes controversial public lands rule

BLM finalizes controversial public lands rule

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management finalized its controversial public lands rule on Thursday. This rule is controversial because it allows for conservation leasing…
Haaland signs order protecting sacred lands near Placitas

Haaland signs order protecting sacred lands near Placitas

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed an order on Thursday to withdraw more than 4,200 acres of land in Sandoval County near Placitas from mineral…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee discussed a potential constitutional amendment that seeks to limit the governor’s executive powers. The committee approved…
Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

An abortion fund provider unveiled a rebrand and offered an open house in Las Cruces to celebrate the organization’s new name, mission and values. …
Stansbury introduces judicial ethics bill on U.S. Supreme Court steps

Stansbury introduces judicial ethics bill on U.S. Supreme Court steps

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury announced a bill on Thursday that would, if enacted, establish judicial ethics to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Judicial Ethics…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

An abortion fund provider unveiled a rebrand and offered an open house in Las Cruces to celebrate the organization’s new name, mission and values. …
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…
Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy

Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy

U.S. Rep. Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez, a Democrat who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District along the U.S.-Mexico border, cosponsored a resolution on Monday calling…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule Friday to designate two types of PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances. Those two chemicals are perfluorooctanoic…
New Mexico Voices for Children has new leadership

New Mexico Voices for Children has new leadership

New Mexico Voices for Children, an organization that focuses on tax policy and how it impacts children in poverty, has new leadership. Gabrielle Uballez…
Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

An abortion fund provider unveiled a rebrand and offered an open house in Las Cruces to celebrate the organization’s new name, mission and values. …

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report