The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Officials discuss little-known license law

 

September 11, 2019



CLOVIS — If a law passes in the New Mexico Legislature and nobody knows it’s a law six years later, does it make an impact?

Shannon LeBlanc offered evidence results vary when the Legislature’s military and veterans’ affairs committee met Monday in Clovis.

Committee members were asked about creating legislation that would allow occupational licenses from another state to be accepted in New Mexico for military spouses.

James Burns, chair of Clovis’ Committee of Fifty, said military spouses were having issues finding work when they arrived at Cannon Air Force Base because they had to start licensing processes all over again. He believed House Bill 530, which passed the House but died in a Senate committee at the 2019 legislative session, would have fixed the issue.

Burns brought with him LeBlanc, who recently moved to Clovis and has 11 years experience as a school counselor. When she tried to get a job in the same field in New Mexico, LeBlanc said the New Mexico Public Education Department instructed her to start the process from scratch even though her Florida license was still good until 2022.

Committee members were surprised at the difficulty LeBlanc experienced — mainly because that license reciprocity should have been approved since House Bill 180 passed in the 2013 session.

Both that 2013 bill that passed and 2019’s HB 530 that died in session were sponsored by committee member Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez, D-Bayard.

Martinez said HB 530 was created to go a step further than the 2013 law and eliminate fees, but he wasn’t aware state agencies weren’t following HB 180.

Legislators said it was frustrating on all sides, for them because — in the words of Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, “even though we’ve dealt with it, we’re being told we haven’t dealt with it.” It’s also difficult for people like LeBlanc because the confusion has apparently cost her at least half a school year of employment opportunity and retirement fund benefits.

“Either somebody isn’t understanding the law,” Brandt said, “or they’re misapplying it.”

Rep. Randy Crowder, R-Clovis, who serves on the committee and played the role of unofficial committee host, asked the committee if it wanted to send the governor’s office a letter addressing state agencies not following HB 130. Members agreed, and indicated it should be sent to the head of the state licensing department as well.

Members also discussed the following items during the Monday meeting:

• Disabled veteran license plate transfers: Should a person holding a special license plate as a veteran or a Purple Heart recipient die, current state law requires the widow to forfeit the license and reapply for it. Committee members would like the widows to have the ability to simply transfer the license instead. The talk, however, did provide legislators an opportunity to see how many special license plates are available for New Mexico drivers.

A list provided to members included 59 different specialty plates held by more than 120,000 New Mexico drivers as of Jan. 22. License plates available for extra fees include but are certainly not limited to awareness for numerous diseases, Route 66 commemoration, bass fishing, radio station licensees, Pearl Harbor survivors. Of local note, there are 548 Eastern New Mexico University license plates held by alumni and other supporters.

• Building Healthy Military Communities: Members spoke with Valentina Livingston, state coordinator for BHMC. The initiative includes coordinators in seven states that aim to better understand challenges faced by geographically dispersed service members and their families.

Livingston said her biggest challenges are communicating with people who aren’t comfortable with email or mobile technology and people in rural counties who are nowhere near a New Mexico military installation but still need services.

• Veterans services: Matt Barela, southeast region supervisor and veteran service officer, provided a presentation that noted the state had 158,994 veterans served by 14 field offices. He said one in every 12 New Mexicans is a veteran, including 5,334 in Curry County, 1,197 in Roosevelt County, 832 in Quay County and 179 in De Baca County.

Crowder asked Barela on the occasions New Mexico field offices help veterans from Texas, if there is any reimbursement sought from Texas offices for services provided. Barela said a veteran is a veteran, and he’s sure Texas offices take the same approach when New Mexico veterans visit them.

 
 

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