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Senate bill would streamline driver’s license approvals

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A proposal moving forward in the state Senate would lift the fingerprinting requirements imposed on some applicants and make other changes to streamline the approval process for New Mexico drivers who don’t want or need a license under the U.S. Real ID Act.

The legislation, Senate Bill 278, would revise the state’s two-tiered system for drivers – in which there’s one license compliant with the Real ID Act and a less-stringent option not intended for federal purposes.

Under the bill, the second option, now called a driving authorization card, would be renamed the “standard driver’s license.”

It would authorize people to drive a vehicle and be accepted at businesses and public agencies the same way a Real ID license would be, but it wouldn’t be guaranteed to be accepted for federal purposes, such as boarding commercial airliners, after Oct. 1, 2020, when federal enforcement is set to begin.

The legislative proposal also would repeal a requirement for some applicants to provide fingerprints when they seek the standard driver’s license or identification card.

A top official in the state Motor Vehicle Division said the fingerprinting requirement isn’t necessary and often trips up applicants with an insignificant discrepancy in their background, such as a two-part last name in which the order of the names is sometimes flipped.

The state also has facial recognition software that can catch people trying to circumvent the system, according to MVD.

The proposal won bipartisan support Friday in the Senate Public Affairs Committee, where it passed with no opposition. It must clear at least one more committee before reaching the Senate floor.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, an Albuquerque Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation builds on changes the state made to settle a class-action lawsuit that accused New Mexico of illegally denying driving authorization cards to people who had the proper documents.

The system has “been an unmitigated disaster for a lot of people throughout the state,” Ivey-Soto said.

Former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss was among the plaintiffs.

“Now we’re just trying to clean up some things and make it work for everybody,” Coss said Friday.

Representatives of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness spoke in favor of the legislation, jointly sponsored by Ivey-Soto and Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque.

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