Bernalillo County passes ‘immigrant-friendly’ resolution

After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-impassioned public comment in Albuquerque Tuesday night, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to reaffirm Bernalillo County’s status as an immigrant-friendly county. The commission voted 4-1 to approve the resolution. This echoes votes by the Albuquerque City and Santa Fe city councils in recent weeks. On the same night, the Village of Corrales rejected a similar resolution. In addition to declaring the county immigrant-friendly, the resolution also asked that “no county monies, resources or personnel shall be used to enforce federal civil immigration laws or to investigate, question, detect or apprehend person on basis of immigration status unless otherwise required by law to do so.”

Commissioner Stephen Michael Quezada sponsored the legislation.

House panel passes bill to remove pre Roe v. Wade law criminalizing abortion

A Democratic-majority House committee voted along party lines Thursday afternoon to remove pre-Roe v. Wade language in state statute that criminalizes abortion practices. The original state law, passed in New Mexico in 1968, makes “criminal abortion” subject to a fourth-degree felony. It defines “criminal abortion” as any action or attempt at an “untimely termination” of a pregnancy that is not “medically justified.” A medically justified abortion, according to state law, is limited to abortions in cases of pregnancy from rape, incest or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. The landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in most cases across the country, made state laws like this obsolete. Related story: House committee stalls another round of abortion bills

But proponents of the bill to strike the old state statute argue that the state language would go right back into law should the U.S. Supreme Court change Roe v. Wade in the future.

AG Sessions’ remarks leave questions about ABQ police reform

Comments from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week that he intends to “pull back on” federal oversight of police departments drew mixed reactions from officers and civil rights advocates in Albuquerque, where a police reform agreement between the city and the Justice Department is nearing the midway point of its third year. Reform proponents told New Mexico In Depth they were troubled by Sessions’ remarks, and they are ready to step in to ensure that APD adheres to constitutional policing if the federal government steps away. The president of the Albuquerque police union, meanwhile, said officers were pleased with the tone of support from the attorney general. The rank and file hope his comments could signal a softening of what they see as the agreement’s more onerous requirements. So far, though, the agreement and its effect on APD personnel have continued unabated since Donald Trump took office on Jan.

Bill would force internet devices to filter pornography, other ‘obscene’ material

A New Mexico legislator is getting on board with an effort to force manufacturers of electronics that connect to the internet to install filtering devices that would block online “obscenity.”

State Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, told NM Political Report he plans to sponsor a bill that would do so in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January. The bill, called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, is backed by a group attempting to introduce identical bills in the legislatures of at least 23 other states this coming year. Nine state legislators and 11 lobbyists are listed as members of the national group, which bears the same name as the legislation, according to the group’s website. Gallegos said his previous attempts at curbing human trafficking got him interested in sponsoring this bill. But a look at an unfiled draft of Gallegos’ legislation shows that it goes much farther than just dealing with human trafficking.

SOS says office can’t pay open records penalty

The Secretary of State’s office can’t pay the penalty after being unable to comply with an open records law related to allegations of voter fraud. Now, after another appeal lost by the Secretary of State, the tab is nearly $125,000 and Secretary of State Brad Winter says they can’t pay up. That news comes from a report in the Albuquerque Journal. The penalty for violating the state law dates back to Dianna Duran’s time as Secretary of State and a 2011 assertion that voter fraud was rampant in New Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sought the documents from Duran’s office to back up the allegations but never received any.

Martinez: Reinstate the death penalty

Gov. Susana Martinez wants to roll back the clock on the death penalty repeal. KVIA reported Martinez wants to reinstate the controversial punishment in response to the killing of police officers in recent years. A police officer was killed during a traffic stop last week in Hatch. The accused killer was wanted for murder in Ohio. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, after more than a decade of efforts.

ACLU says city wrong about Trump protest location

A top city official’s assertion that police had to to put Donald Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters just a few feet from each other is wrong, the ACLU says. And the ACLU’s national website says that “police are permitted to keep two antagonistic groups separated” when it comes to public protests. But Mayor Richard Berry’s Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montaño, apparently didn’t know that on Monday when he told an Albuquerque Journal reporter just the opposite. According to the Journal’s story, “Montaño said police determined it would be against the law to force Trump supporters and protesters into separate areas. Previous case law, he said, calls for them to have the ‘ability to be right next to each other.”

But Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, said case law doesn’t restrict police departments as much as Montaño claimed.

PED to erase ‘gag rule’ against criticizing standardized tests

The state will no longer have a so-called “gag rule” in place against teachers, stopping them from criticizing controversial standardized tests that many teachers dislike. The move comes just weeks after PED found itself facing a lawsuit over the existence of the rule. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico called the rule “unconstitutional” and filed a lawsuit on behalf of six public school teachers and one parent of a public school student. The Associated Press first reported the upcoming change in policy by the Public Education Department. The rule, in place for years, said public school employees could not “disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of standardized tests.” Consequences of the rule included “suspension or revocation of a person’s educator or administrator licensure or other PED license.”

In the past, PED officials said no one had ever been punished under the rule.

After appeal, SoS’ office has to pay big in open records case

An open records case related to unproven allegations of widespread voter fraud will cost the Secretary of State’s office $90,000. The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported on the decision by the state Court of Appeals. Then-Secretary of State made national headlines when she alleged that 117 foreign nationals were registered to vote—and that 37 had actually illegally voted. Duran checked voter registration records against motor vehicle and Social Security databases; she sent 64,000 records with alleged irregularities to state police to investigate. Some questioned why Duran sent the files to the state police instead of to individual county clerks to check the voter rolls; experts said at the time that these were likely clerical errors or voters just using variations on their name (Tom instead of Thomas, for example).

ACLU suit seeks to end testing ‘gag rule’

A lawsuit challenges a ban on “disparaging” school tests by public education students that has been called a “gag rule” in the past. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed the lawsuit in First Judicial District Court Wednesday morning on behalf of six public schools teachers and one parent of a student in public schools. A regulation from the state Public Education Department (PED) says that public education employees cannot “disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of standardized tests.” Penalties for violating the provision include “suspension or revocation of a person’s educator or administrator licensure or other PED license.”

The ACLU of New Mexico says that this runs counter to the rights of teachers and students under the New Mexico Constitution. The suit seeks an injunction to stop the enforcement of the rule. “The Public Education Department can’t enact sweeping restrictions intended to intimidate teachers and silence viewpoints that they don’t like,” ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Maria Sanchez said in a statement.