SANTA FE (KRQE) – A lawmaker wants veterans to have a special New Mexico driver’s license so police would know they’re veterans. The reason why has stirred up debate.
The Senate Public Affairs committee, as of late, has been the place where a lot of big-issue bills have died. That wasn’t true Wednesday night, as a bill from Democratic Rep. Jeff Steinborn passed.
His bill would allow veterans to have the word ‘veteran’ stamped on their drivers licenses if they so choose.
Republican Sen. Craig Brandt, who sits on the committee, was left fired up after what he says Rep. Steinborn said.
“He tried to sell it as a convenience for veterans,” Sen. Brandt from Rio Rancho said. “I don’t see it like that at all.
“He said that law enforcement needs to have this as a tool on your driver’s license so they know you’re a veteran because veterans have (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and they’re dangerous.”
Sen. Brandt, a veteran himself, said those comments offended him and all New Mexico veterans.
“It struck a nerve. I tried to hold my tongue but I didn’t.”
KRQE News 13 tried to catch up with Rep. Steinborn Thursday before a committee he sits on started but he didn’t want to comment.
So KRQE News 13 looked to an Albuquerque legion hall instead.
“There’s a good way at looking at it and there’s a bad way at looking at it,” Paul Espinoza, the Department State Commander for the American Legion of the State of New Mexico said.
“I mean, it may be offensive to a lot of veterans for putting it on there.”
You don’t have to look hard to see veteran license plates around the state as many vets choose to have those. Some don’t think having the word ‘veteran’ on a driver’s license is a bad idea.
“For example, if the vet has PTSD issues, the officer needs to know,” veteran Rudy Duran said.
Another veteran told KRQE News 13 it could help, as many law enforcement officers served in the military meaning they could sympathize better with them and maybe even cut them a break.
“People get offended by several things,” veteran Paul Enz said. “I don’t see it as offensive at all.”
Rep. Steinborn’s bill now heads to the Senate floor. There, Sen. Brandt said if it’s brought up, he’ll spend hours speaking out against it.
Rep. Steinborn sent KRQE News 13 the following statement later Thursday afternoon.
“I regret that the comments I made about legislation helping our veterans were misunderstood. I respect Sen. Brandt but respectfully disagree with his interpretation of my remarks. In explaining my legislation I spoke to the importance of first responders having sensitivity to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have nothing but the highest admiration and gratitude towards those that have served our country. I will continue to work on legislation with our Veterans and Military community to ensure that they receive the services and benefits they have earned.”
With just two days left in the session, and stacks of bills still trying to get to the Senate floor, it’s possible this bill won’t be heard.