Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state Motor Vehicle Division might not realize it, but they just gave me an early birthday present,
My driver’s license expires next month, and for the past two or three years, I’ve seriously been dreading having to get it renewed, mainly because of all the horror stories I’ve heard from people testifying at state legislative hearings, readers and friends about the headaches, hassles and homicidal fantasies they had to endure just to renew their licenses. One woman I know had to legally change her name just so it would match the mountain of documents she needed to legally drive.
One thing that had me worried was, like many people, there are several variations on my name that appear on my credit cards, utility bills, etc. Some say “Steve Terrell,” some say “Stephen Terrell,” some are under “Stephen W. Terrell” or “Steve W. Terrell.” One is under the name “Tiffany Trump.” (Ok, that one’s a joke.)
But now, the administration tells us, things are going to change.
Just in time for my renewal.
The real credit belongs to former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and organizations such as Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and others who filed suit against the state in 2018. Coss himself couldn’t get a license after four trips to the MVD.
A spokesman for the previous administration initially called Coss’ suit a “political stunt” — a frequently used put-down by flacks for Susana Martinez’s administration.
But to its credit, the administration settled the suit a few months later. But even though the deal was done more than a year ago, the agreement wasn’t signed by state District Judge Bryan Biedscheid until last week.
And according to a news release from the Taxation and Revenue Department last week, “… the department did not undertake a stipulated public information campaign to inform the public about requirements to receive a non-Real ID compliant driver’s licenses until now, in order to allow for the inclusion of statutory changes made this year.”
The new law, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, streamlined the requirements to receive a standard driver’s license — one that is not compliant with the federal Real ID Act.
So beginning Oct. 1, you only need one document that provides proof of identity and age and two documents that prove New Mexico residency.
I wonder whether the aide-de-camp certificates I’ve gotten from former Gov. David Cargo and former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley would qualify.
Also, under the new law, you don’t have to be fingerprinted to get a regular license. You no longer have to provide a Social Security number or any other federal identification number. And you don’t have to show proof of lawful immigration status for a standard driver’s license.
As part of the MVD’s rollout, several Motor Vehicle Division offices, including Santa Fe’s, will be open on the first three Saturdays of October from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This means you don’t have to ruin a weekday to get your license. You can ruin a Saturday instead.
But you don’t even have to go stand in line at the MVD to renew a standard license. Starting Sept. 30, you can apply online at mvd.newmexico.gov.
But here’s the bad news. To quote the news release, “The more rigorous process to obtain a Real ID-compliant license is unchanged, as that process is established in federal law.”
After Oct. 1, 2020, you’ll need a Real ID-compliant license or a valid passport for boarding commercial planes or for entering some federal facilities. Standard driver’s licenses and state ID cards won’t cut it. So you still might have to produce your passport, birth certificate, pay stubs, electric bills and a notarized affidavit signed by the midwife who delivered your great-grandfather to get that.
Lujan Grisham during last year’s campaign wrote about the difficulties of getting a regular driver’s license in an opinion piece published by this paper. In it she raised an important point. “MVD agents are not properly trained and, in many cases, have given applicants incorrect information. Other times, MVD staff have required documentation, such as a Social Security card or birth certificate, that isn’t required by law.”
All the good intentions of the settlement, the new law and what appears to be a much better attitude toward the process could be undermined if MVD employees are not trained to meet the new changes. Hopefully, the administration has followed through on this.