NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Lawmakers are once again trying to require drivers in New Mexico to have front-end license plates. There was initially a push for them in 2019, but that bill didn’t make it across the finish line in time.
House Bill 56 is sponsored by Republican Representative for Albuquerque, Bill Rehm; Representative Chasey; and Democratic Representative for Albuquerque, Marian Matthews. The bill requires all motor vehicles to have two license plates and two registration stickers.
According to committee discussion, New Mexico switched from being a two-license-plate state to just one in 1961. Lawmakers want to have both front and back plates again because they believe it will help curb crime. Currently, roughly half of U.S. States require front-end license plates.
“It gives us just another method to identify a potential criminal or even a missing person or an amber alert of some sort,” says Commander Mark Torres with the Albuquerque Police Department. Torres says all they have to go on right now is the make and model when looking at the front of a vehicle.
“It seems like one of the least things we can do to help make our community safer,” says Democratic Representative for Albuquerque, Gail Chasey. Chasey is the majority floor leader and a co-sponsor of this bill.
There are a few exceptions to this in the bill, including state vehicles. The bill also imposes a two-dollar annual registration fee for vehicles with a front plate starting in 2024. If passed, people would have to have both plates on all vehicles by 2027.
Lobbyists and business owners say this would help them catch organized retail criminals. “This bill will help with everything from catching those who are running red lights to those who engage in retail theft to violent crimes like drive-by shootings. That it will help make our roads and communities safer and the chamber urges committee support,” one person in support of this bill said.
However, some people who own classic and specialty cars say this would be costly and even hinder the effectiveness of sensors and cameras on the front ends of some cars. “I’m not about to drill holes in my car that could cost a considerable amount of money to fix down the road. If two plates are the best option, why don’t all 50 states require two plates? One plate states in my opinion are doing just fine in enforcing the traffic laws and issuing citations,” says one person opposed to the bill.
No action was taken on the bill Thursday, Feb. 23. The chair of the committee stated that the sponsors did not submit a substitute version in time for them to consider it. They will debate this bill again once analysts have had enough time to come up with a report on the substitute bill.