REAL ID bill heads to committee

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By Jim Monteleone and Deborah Baker Albuquerque Journal February 16, 2014  SANTA FE – A proposal to bring New Mexico into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act by creating a new form of identification advanced through a House committee on Saturday over objections from Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.

The bill was among those considered on the final weekend of the 30-day legislative session, which ends Thursday.

The REAL ID compliance bill, House Bill 359, passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee with a 3-2, party-line vote. It now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.

House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, introduced the legislation in response to Republican efforts to repeal New Mexico’s controversial 2003 law allowing issuance of state driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. The governor has pointed to REAL ID compliance as a reason the state should repeal the immigrant driver’s license law.

“I think we’ve gotten muddled up in the undocumented driver’s licences and REAL ID compliance because they’re two separate thoughts,” the House speaker said. “You can be REAL ID compliant and allow the undocumented to have licenses.”

The proposal on Saturday drew opposition from Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla, who said the proposed new identification cards would put a burden on 1.4 million licensed drivers and legal immigrants in New Mexico who may be required to get a second form of identification to comply with the REAL ID law. She said results of the proposal could also overwhelm her department’s Motor Vehicle Division offices.

“This particular bill does not solve the problem we currently have. It does not solve the policy issues we have regarding the (license) fraud,” Padilla said. “In addition to that … this REAL ID card is not a license.”

Speaker Martinez said he intends for the bill to create a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. Although that language isn’t in the current version of the bill, Martinez said it would be added in a later committee.