January 5, 2016

Three strikes, ethics and pot: A look at pre-filed legislation

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When the legislative session begins on Tuesday, Jan. 19, NM Political Report will be on hand for wall-to-wall coverage through adjournment at noon on Feb. 18.

RoundhouseAnd, actually, legislation is already starting to be introduced. Pre-filing of legislation began on Dec. 15 and will continue up until Jan. 15. There are already some notable pieces of legislation for the upcoming 30-day session.

While the short session is primarily for budget issues, Gov. Susana Martinez will provide messages deeming other legislation germane to discussion this year. Between this and the new House majority, the session should have an even larger Martinez imprint than the previous five legislative sessions.

We will be taking looks at pre-filed legislation up through the end of next week and highlight bills that could be a big part of the legislative session and others that just seem interesting.

We’ll start with bills from the House side and tomorrow will look at the Senate bills.

HB 21: Optometrist Qualification of Legally Blind by Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque.

The bill allows optometrists to determine if someone qualifies as blind; currently only a licensed opthalmologist can do so.

HB 24: NM Resident Athletic Scholarship Increase by Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque.

The bill would require universities that give athletic scholarships to award fifty percent of those to those who went to high school in New Mexico if not as many are given to those who attended a high school in New Mexico, “the secretary of higher education shall require the institution to withdraw a sufficient number of athletic scholarships offered to out-of-state residents in order to reallocate offers so that fifty percent or more of the athletic scholarships available from the institution.”

HB 26: Solar Market Development Tax Credit Changes by Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque

The bill would extend the solar tax credit through 2024; the tax credit would remain at the current ten percent through the end of 2018 and then decrease by one percent annually until it is at five percent in 2025. Last year, Martinez vetoed an extension without an explanation. There is a Senate version of the legislation as well.

HB 29: Allow Local Government Curfew Ordinances by Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Carl Trujillo, R-Santa Fe.

The legislation would allow counties or municipalities to “adopt a curfew ordinance to regulate the actions of children between midnight and 5:00 a.m.” and to “regulate the actions of children during daytime hours on school days.” The controversial legislation will likely be tied into the tough-on-crime narrative from Republicans.

HB 30:  Communication of Certain Images to Children by Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen.

The legislation would amend legislation that makes it illegal to send images of “the person’s intimate parts” to “any person’s intimate parts” to children.

HB 34: Post-Thanksgiving Gross Receipts Deduction by Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque.

The bill would allow people to deduct purchases from small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is known as Small Business Saturday.

HB 35: Habitual Offender Sentencing Changes by Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque.

A “habitual offender” in New Mexico is one with a prior felony conviction and those can have an additional year imposed on their sentences. The bill would stop allowing judges to suspend or defer the additional year for any habitual offenders. It removes the part of the law that allows judges to suspend or defer sentences for those with previous nonviolent felony offenses where a judge finds “that justice will not be served by imposing a mandatory sentence of imprisonment and that there are substantial and compelling reasons, stated on the record, for departing from the sentence imposed.” Currently, someone is only considered a habitual offender if their sentence, including probation, for a previous sentence was within the last ten years. This legislation would remove that.

HB 37: Three Strikes Law by Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque.

HB 56: Three Strikes Law by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque.

The legislation would increase the amount of offenses that would prompt a life term in prison. The original law was passed in 1994 and no one has been charged with it yet; that’s likely because the penalties in the original law all carry 15 to 30 year prison terms.

HB 41: School Superintendent Contract Criteria by Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque.

The bill would, among other things, cap contracts for school district superintendents, assistant superintendents and any school employee who makes more than $150,000 at two years. It would also only allow four weeks of severance pay for those who had their contracts terminated with cause and none for those whose contracts were terminated with cause.

HB 51: Firearms Transfer Act by Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque

The governor once supported the piece of gun control legislation but it seems unlikely that it will be put on the call this year. The legislation would require background checks of sales at gun shows.

HB 55: Amend NM Religious Freedom Act by Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, and Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell.

Last year amid the controversy over Indiana instituting a wide-ranging law that critics said would allow discrimination against LGBT customers, NM Political Report wrote that New Mexico has a similarly-named law that was nothing like the Indiana law. This bill would change that and would allow anyone to refuse service to LGBT customers as long as it “is substantially motivated by religious belief.” It also removes language about protection for those based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” in some cases.

HB 60: Suspension or Deferral of Felony Sentences by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque

The bill would only allow judges to suspend or defer fifteen percent of any sentence for “a felony offense that is a serious violent offense.”

HB 63: Workers’ Comp Benefits & Intoxication by Dennis Roch, R-Logan

The legislation would sharply reduce the amount of worker’s compensation benefits someone who was injured while intoxicated on the job can receive. Roch has introduced the legislation in the past few years, but it has failed to make it to Martinez’s desk. From the legislation: compensation benefits otherwise due and payable from an employer to the worker under the terms of the Workers’ Compensation Act shall be reduced by the degree to which the intoxication or influence contributes to the worker’s injury or death; provided that the reduction shall be a minimum of ten percent but no more than ninety percent, subject to the other requirements of this section.

HB 65: Child Porn Images as Individual Offenses by Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis

The bill would allow additional jail time for each image of children who can be proven to be under the age of 13. It would also allow charges for “each separate depiction” of a child under 18—that is separate charges for each image.

HB 67: School Grade Retention & Reading Plans by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.

This is the third grade retention law, which would stop the children who cannot pass the reading test at the third grade level from moving on to the fourth grade. It also provides for intervention before the student is held back. Again, it’s a bill that has been introduced for years but has failed to make it to Martinez’s desk.

HB 72: Allow Use of Juvenile Disposition & Evidence by Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.

The bill by the House Majority Leader would allow judges to consider youth offenses in sentencing

HB 75: Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act by Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park.

The bill has a very unlikely path to being heard in a committee, let alone becoming law, but it would provide for the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana in the state of New Mexico. Four other states, including neighboring Colorado, have legalized recreational marijuana. We spoke to McCamley about the bill in a story earlier Tuesday.

HB 80: State Ethics Commission Act by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

The House Minority Leader has the piece of legislation that would institute a state ethics commission; again, it’s a perennial bill that fails to gain meaningful traction. The proposed ethics commission would investigate ethics complaints “against public officers, public employees, candidates for elected office, government contractors and lobbyists.”