Don’t Bother With License Compromise, Martinez Says

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday warned lawmakers who pledged a day earlier to find a compromise that retains driving privileges for illegal immigrants not to waste their time.

Martinez repeated she would veto any bill that allows illegal immigrants to legally drive in New Mexico, regardless of whether it’s a license or a not-for-ID state permit.

And if that means continued gridlock between the Senate and the Governor’s Office derailing any change in the law this year – so be it, Martinez said. After all, it’s an election year for the Legislature, she said.

“There’s an election that’s going to come up, and the people of New Mexico who are demanding a repeal of this law will get to decide who stays in office and who doesn’t,” Martinez said on the potential of inaction. “It just boils down to that. There’s going to be accountability to the voter, not to me.”

The retort came a day after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Al Park, D-Albuquerque, postponed action on driver’s license legislation to try to find a new compromise that might end the ongoing stalemate.

“I think inaction is the worst thing we can do,” Park said. “We have a repeal that the Senate won’t pass. We have a Senate version that the governor won’t sign, so I’m trying to find someplace in the middle.”

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The House last year passed the bill backed by the governor that would have repealed the 2003 law issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, which state officials say has been a rampant opportunity for fraud. That measure failed in the Senate.

The House this year is negotiating a bill resembling the Senate’s effort to retain licenses with tougher requirements and penalties for fraud that could pass the Legislature, which Park says needs to be modified if there’s any hope of getting past Martinez’s desk.

“I understand by trying to do something different, it’s ruffled feathers from the Fourth Floor (Governor’s Office) to the First Floor (legislative chambers). I don’t care. I’ve got to try,” said Park, who voted for the repeal last year, citing voter preference, and said he would back that measure again if no compromise is found.

Park is not seeking re-election this year. He has announced plans to run for a seat on the state’s Public Regulation Commission.

Martinez, however, said the repeal bill, HB103, as introduced by Rep. Andy Nuñez this session, is as far as she’s willing to go in compromise.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal

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