Public Affairs Committee Unanimously Votes To Advance Streamlined State Driver’s License Bill
SANTA FE, NM ‒ On Friday, the Senate Public Affairs Committee voted unanimously to advance a proposal that would help streamline the process of applying for and obtaining a non-REAL ID driver’s license and identification card for countless New Mexico residents.
SB 278, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque), would implement a series of changes aimed at streamlining the application process for a state driver’s license or ID card by doing away with the fingerprinting requirement for first time applicants, allowing applicants to renew every four or eight years, ensuring the license is accepted on par with the REAL ID within our state and changing the name of the Driving Authorization Card to “New Mexico Driver’s License,” among other proposed changes.
In 2016, the New Mexico Legislature overwhelmingly voted to give New Mexicans a choice when it came to selecting a drivers’ license and an identification card. However, the previous administration did not implement the new law as the Legislature intended.
A settlement agreement with Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the ACLU of New Mexico and others that resulted from a 2018 lawsuit brought many necessary changes to ensure that the 2016 law was followed. Yet there are still key changes that are needed to make the process more efficient for New Mexico residents, including those experiencing homelessness, the elderly, Native Americans and those living in rural communities.
“We’ve made some great strides toward improving the application process but more needs to be done,” said Marcela Diaz, Executive Director for Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “This proposal puts us one step closer to ensuring New Mexico’s residents have a more streamlined process, including MVD.”
“Eliminating the fingerprinting requirement would be a lifeline for people experiencing homelessness,” said Hank Hughes, executive director of New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. “A New Mexico resident is required to pay $45 for fingerprinting. For someone experiencing homelessness that is the same cost as one night of shelter. Many of our members have had to use our limited donations to cover the fingerprinting requirement fee for those we serve. This change will go a long way.”
“There are many New Mexico residents who qualify for a REAL ID but simply don’t want one,” said Steven Robert Allen, Policy Director at the ACLU of New Mexico. “The proposal ensures a less onerous process for everyone involved.”
“Low income New Mexicans need access to a driver’s license or an identification card,” Sovereign Hager, Legal Director for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Unnecessary fingerprinting is too expensive, burdensome and blocks access for many New Mexicans just looking to get ahead.”