Driver's license bill in works

Posted at: 02/12/2013 7:09 PM
Updated at: 02/12/2013 7:11 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The long-awaited driver’s license compromise bill is in the works at the State Capitol, where lawmakers will get their first look at it Wednesday after it was introduced in a technical maneuver without a reading Tuesday night.

The legislation is an attempt to break through the gridlock over licenses for illegal immigrants.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 broke the first story on the compromise even before the legislative session started back in January. Two veteran Senate leaders, one Democrat, one Republican, were working on a compromise to clean up the license mess - a compromise than might even bring Gov. Susana Martinez on board.

The bill is loosely based on the system Utah has in place - special driving permits for illegal immigrants that are for driving only, not for any other I.D. purposes, including getting a license in another state.

The federal government is so fed up with New Mexico's current license law that it has threatened to quit accepting our licenses for air travel, leaving passports the only other option. Gov. Martinez has fought incessantly to repeal the state law that allows the licenses.

Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming cooked up the compromise, along with Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales, leader of the Senate Republicans.

"It's a start, and the thing of it is we've got plenty of time." Ingle said. "We've got another month to go before we get out of here. We've got time to pass this bill and we need to do it. We need to get the passport situation taken care of, so I think this bill can do that."

"Senator Ingle and myself can work across party lines trying to come up with a legitimate compromise on the driver’s license bill that will accomplish closing up the loopholes that the Governor would like to see closed," Smith said.

The bill will be read into the record Wednesday and is expected to get its committee assignments at that time.