Lawmakers hash out plan for NM drivers licenses

Posted at: 01/04/2013 5:04 PM
Updated at: 01/04/2013 6:55 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

With ten days to go before the start of this year's legislative session, there is a compromise in the works that could solve New Mexico's controversial policy of giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.

It's a compromise, so that means nobody really likes it very much, but it just might get the state out of hot water with the federal government and still let illegal immigrants drive legally.

"Hopefully, to my way of thinking, it's gonna fix the problem," said Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle, who cooked up the idea with Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

The idea is to basically follow Utah. That state issues "driving privelege" cards for illegal immigrants. They are not to be used for identification purposes. They are simply driving permits.

"Hopefully, we can get this done," said Ingle. "We need to do something on our drivers license situation. Hopefully we can get the job done to where we won't be talking about this again."

Gov. Susana Martinez has been fighting unsuccessfully for two solid years to stop New Mexico's practice of issuing licenses to those here illegally.

The federal government has threatened to eventually quit accepting New Mexico licenses as identification for passengers boarding planes and people entering federal buildings. That would leave passports as the only ID option for New Mexico travelers.

Legislative leaders say they're happy with the bipartisan effort to craft a solution.

"We're listening to what the people say," said Rep. Ken Martinez, the current Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives. He is on track to be elected Speaker of the House when the legislature convenes Jan. 15. "People are saying we want to end the gridlock and the partisanship and just get things done."

Lawmakers in both parties tell KOB Eyewitness News 4 the compromise is likely to pass in the upcoming 60-day session - if Martinez gives a sign that she'll consider signing it into law.