Gun control and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants continue dominating the spotlight as the 2013 Legislature's 60-day session passes the midway point.
Before the legislators left the floor Friday, bills in both the House and Senate were being considered on issues including heath care, tax, education and public safety.
One of the key pieces of legislation, which was passed by the House with bipartisan support last week, is House Bill 77. The bill requires background checks on anyone buying firearms at gun shows, and establishes an alignment with the state's mental health and criminal conviction records with the federal instant background check system.
"It is disingenuous for state lawmakers to pat themselves on the backs for passing legislation that will do nothing to address the true problems at hand," said Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico. "Any new restrictions — such as this law — will only burden law abiding gun owners."
Roch was among several opponents to HB 77 who pointed out repeatedly that those with criminal intent will gain access to guns through theft or through illegal sales on the black market.
HB 77 will do nothing to prevent criminals from putting our families at risk, Roch said. He said he refuses to take away residents' Constitutional rights for this ineffective proposal.
The bill is currently being heard in the Senate. Gov. Susana Martinez said if it reaches her desk in its present form she will sign it into law.
"As we go forward we need to protect our gun rights but at the same time there is a need ... (for) communications between state systems or databases to conduct those background checks," said Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas.
Campos said having the data from criminal and mental records will help ensure weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.
But at least one eastern New Mexico lawmaker doesn't like the bill.
"In it's current form this is a bill which I cannot vote for," said Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales.
Ingle said he does not believe requiring background checks at gun shows will keep guns out of the hands of criminals. He said he has not had a chance to read the bill in its entirety and could not comment on an alignment of state and federal databases for background checks.
Another topic being heavily debated by both parties in the House and Senate is legislation on New Mexico driver's licenses for illegal and undocumented immigrants.
The House Labor and Human Resources Committee tabled HB 161 and HB 132. Each would repeal the 2003 law that allows illegal immigrants to get New Mexico driver's licenses — bills Gov. Martinez heavily supported.
Campos, introduced SB 578, which would create a special license of two years duration for undocumented immigrants.
Campos said the law currently in place allows an undocumented immigrant to get a license for four to eight years. He said SB 578 would shorten the license for two years.
Campos said Ingle has signed SB 578, which is similar to Ingle's SB 521 allowing drivers licenses to illegal and undocumented immigrants for a one-year duration.
Campos said there are two tiers for those applying for a license in SB 578.
The first allows residents to apply for a license with special markings that will be in compliance in the National Real ID Act, allowing residents to board a plane with their New Mexico License.
The second tier leaves the current licensing system in place with safeguards for undocumented and illegal immigrants to apply for a license, which could be used for driving only.
Campos said this also creates a system ensuring those operating vehicles are licensed, are insured and provides a way to locate the immigrant.
Ingle said SB 521 would create a special license for undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children and qualify for "Deferred Action Childhood Arrival" status under an executive order issued by President Barack Obama. He said this would allow them to apply for a license with a one-year duration. Other undocumented immigrants who don't meet this requirement could not apply for a license.
In the House Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, sponsored a similar form of legislation, HB 606, which was introduced Friday.