FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2016
Statewide Groups Condemn Administration's Plan To Unlawfully Implement New Driver's License Law Without Public Input; New MVD Regulations Harshest On New Mexico's Most Vulnerable Residents
Santa Fe, NM--Statewide civil rights groups, domestic violence and homeless advocates condemn a plan by the Governor's administration to unlawfully implement the state's new two-tiered driver's license law using proposed regulations that would harm New Mexico's most vulnerable residents without public comment, as required by law.
Earlier this year the N.M. Legislature approved House Bill 99 which created a two-tier driver's license system - one that meets all the requirements of the federal REAL ID Act and an alternative license known as the Driver's Authorization Card, or D.A.C., that would be available to everyone. H.B. 99 also created a two-tier system of state identification cards.
"Once again this administration misapplying state law," said Marcela Diaz Executive Director for Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "New Mexicans and state legislators wanted an alternative to the REAL ID for everyone and the Driver's Authorization Card is that alternative. Why is the Governor seeking to implement harsh new regulations that would make it hard for New Mexico's most vulnerable people, the homeless, elderly and the poor from getting that alternative license?"
Last month, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) issued proposed regulations purporting to implement the requirements of HB 99. The proposed regulations detail exactly what documents the Department will accept from New Mexicans seeking either license and identification cards.
State law requires that the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department (NMTRD) issue proposed regulations for public comment, make changes based on the comments and only implement the new law after a public hearing and comment period have taken place. The only public hearing on the regulations is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 18th at 9:30 a.m. in Santa Fe.
However, according to MVD Deputy Director Alicia Ortiz, the Department plans to start implementing the new regulations and cease accepting a broad range of documents for the alternatives to the REAL ID on October 17th -before the public hearing is scheduled to take place and before the comment period ends. Such action by the MVD is a clear violation of state laws governing the implementation of regulations by state agencies.
Several civil rights groups and homeless advocates sent a letter to NMTRD Secretary Demesia Padilla last week demanding that the Department follow the law and wait to consider public comment before implementing changes.
"State agencies must follow the law when it comes to changing policies and practices that affect New Mexicans," said Sovereign Hager, a supervising attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. "That means only making changes after considering public input. We hope the administration does the right thing and complies with New Mexico state law."
Other concerns in the letter included that the proposed regulations violated provisions and the statutory intent of H.B. 99 to maintain the current access to the non-federal alternatives by continuing to accept the same wide array of documents.
"People experiencing homelessness are unlikely to have the types of documents required by the proposed regulations," said Lisa Huval, Associate Director of the NM Coalition to End Homelessness. "The list of documents that MVD will accept for both the non-federal ID and drivers' licenses should remain expansive. That way those experiencing homelessness will be able to obtain a form of identification so they can find safe and stable housing, secure employment and access other crucial services."
"The legislative compromise that resulted in HB 99 intentionally allows U.S. citizens and legal immigrants to opt out of the REAL ID and opt for a driver's authorization card, the alternative to the REAL ID compliant license," said Peter Simonson, Executive Director at the ACLU of New Mexico. "It also identifies the information those New Mexicans would need to provide the MVD in order to get that alternative. The Department does not have the authority to require information beyond what the statute requires. NMTRD Secretary should use her wide, regulatory authority to create a more expansive list for the DAC and truly give New Mexican a choice as Legislators intended."
The letter further states that the proposed regulations unnecessarily add an additional requirement that all New Mexicans seeking a non-federal ID or drivers' license must produce an additional document containing an identity number and prohibits applicants from using the same document to demonstrate identity and identification number.
"New laws approved by the Legislature should be implemented in a way that help families, not make it harder for them," said Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Executive Director for Enlace Comunitario. "Survivors of domestic violence need to have easy access to an alternative to the REAL ID. Imposing such requirements even before public comment goes against not only the law but our values as New Mexicans."
As of Thursday, October 13th, the NM Division of Motor Vehicles has not responded to our letter.