Editorial: Time for REAL ID compromise
Now that the New Mexico House and Senate have both staked out clear positions on the driver’s license issue, it is critical that they move swiftly toward resolution.
The House of Representative, now in Republican control, and Gov. Susana Martinez, came into the session with their plan well defined, and did their part in moving HB 99 through the House in the first eight days of the session.
The House bill certainly represents a compromise, in that it would allow New Mexico residents who immigrated to the country illegally to continue driving under full sanction of the law. That is a huge step from where the governor and House Republicans had been in past years.
But any true compromise must involve both parties, and that hasn’t happened yet.
Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto, D-Albuquerque, commended the House for moving quickly to rush their bill over, but suggested the Senate would move in a more deliberative fashion. Here’s the problem. All that stuff about the Senate being the more deliberative body sounds great when we’re talking about the U.S. Congress, which meets year-round. But it doesn’t work nearly as well with a must-pass bill in a 30-day session.
And this is a must-pass bill.
Any notion by Democrats that they were given a reprieve when the federal government announced just before the session began that airline travel won’t be affected by our continuing noncompliance with the REAL ID Act until 2018 should be immediately dismissed.
New Mexico has numerous federal military and research facilities throughout the state that are enormously important to our economy. It is simply unacceptable that our driver’s license is no longer valid to enter these facilities.
The ball has been in the Senate’s court since Jan. 27. Senators have introduced several bills to address the problem, but on Tuesday seemed to settle on a proposal led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D- Deming, and Stuart Ingle, R-Portales. Instead of taking up one of their own bills, they amended HB 99 in the Senate Public Affairs Committee to be more in line with what passed through the Senate last year.
There are aspects of both bills that we like. The Senate bill would give people a choice. Complying with REAL ID will require all of us to produce documentation to be held by the government. Those who have no plans to fly or need to enter federal buildings would be able to just keep their old licenses under the Senate plan.
At the same time, we think some of the security restrictions in the House bill are a reasonable deterrent to the problem of people who aren’t state residents coming here to take advantage of our law.
In a rural state like New Mexico, with limited public transportation, if any, we are sympathetic to the argument that people need to be able to drive for the basic requirements of daily life. But we are less sympathetic to concerns about the design of the license or a requirement for fingerprints.
We believe there is a reasonable compromise here, and we urge both sides to find it in the next two weeks.
This editorial was written by the Las Cruces Sun-News