New Mexico legislators rolled five different crime bills into one, then sent the measure to the governor Wednesday in what they called a bipartisan move to make communities and prisons safer. State senators approved the plan, House Bill 19, on a vote of 32-2. The measure already had cleared the House of Representatives on a 66-1 vote. Now the bill moves to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez for her consideration. Martinez herself pushed a number of crime bills during the 30-day legislative session, including an unsuccessful attempt to reinstate the death penalty.
The Legislature’s two chambers are at odds over a proposed $6.3 billion state budget. Unlike recent years when financial problems prompted rounds of cuts, partisan fights and depleted reserves, the disagreements that emerged Tuesday came down to comparatively minor questions about funding roads. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a spending plan on Tuesday that provides bigger pay raises for state police than a version of the budget passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate version of the budget, approved 40-2 by members of that chamber, also provides millions of dollars in additional funding for the district attorney in Albuquerque and returns some of the money cut from school districts last year. But the Senate also scaled back the amount of money the House had approved for roads.
New Mexicans will be free to continue walking the halls and galleries of their state Capitol with guns in hand or strapped to a hip. The House of Representatives on Friday night rejected a bill that would have prohibited openly carrying firearms in the Roundhouse. Backers had argued that Senate Bill 337 was a compromise that would continue allowing anyone with a proper license to carry a concealed firearm but end what some say is the intimidating sight of people holding guns during tense committee hearings. House members voted down the bill 35-31 after nearly 90 minutes of debate that reflected the conflict between security and openness in a building known as the people’s house. Several Republicans said the bill would be a step toward limiting access to a state Capitol where the public is free to come and go without passing through metal detectors.
It seemed for a few hours that the New Mexico Legislature, after years of rejecting the idea, was about to authorize a proposed constitutional amendment to establish a state ethics commission. Then the proposal hit a bump Thursday night. The state Senate had voted 30-9 hours earlier to approve House Joint Resolution 8, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque. But, when the resolution went back to the House of Representatives for concurrence on an amendment made by a Senate committee, Dines urged members to vote against going along with the Senate’s change. House members complied, and now three-member committees from each chamber will meet to try to reach an agreement.
The New Mexico Senate on Saturday approved a bill that would make it illegal for anyone but police officers and people with concealed-carry licenses to have a gun in the state Capitol. Senate Bill 337, sponsored by Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, and Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, passed on a bipartisan vote of 29-12. Seven Senate Republicans joined 22 Democrats in supporting the bill. And three Democrats voted with nine Republicans in opposing it.
After a rancorous and partisan debate Wednesday, state senators approved a bill that would allow people to register to vote up to three days before an election. Voter registration now stops 28 days before a primary or general election. The bill sponsor, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, called that an antiquated cutoff date and said some states offer same-day voter registration. Steinborn’s Senate Bill 224 passed on a 19-11 party-line vote with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing. The fact that all Republicans voted against it probably is not a good sign that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez would sign the bill if it clears the House of Representatives.
What began as a bipartisan compromise bill to ban people from openly carrying guns in the state Capitol is now bogged down in the Senate and at risk of being defeated. Senate Bill 337 would restrict possession of guns in the Capitol to police officers and people with a license to carry a concealed firearm. Sponsored by Sens. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, and Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, the bill cleared two Senate committees after being pitched as a way to balance the rights of law-abiding people who want to arm themselves and the impact on visitors to the Capitol who said they were intimidated by others openly carrying firearms, including long guns. The bill has been on the legislative calendar for a vote by the full, 42-member Senate for a week.
New Mexico’s five electoral college votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who received the most popular votes nationally, under a bill that state senators approved Monday in a party-line decision. All 26 Democratic senators voted for the measure and all 16 Republicans opposed it, perhaps a predictable outcome three months after Republican Donald Trump lost the popular vote but handily won the presidency in the electoral college. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said the electoral college allows presidential candidates to ignore most voters because it largely functions as a winner-take-all system in individual states. “Candidates have no reason to pay attention to states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind,” Stewart said. In addition, she said, minority-party voters in heavily Republican or overwhelmingly Democratic states believe that their votes don’t matter because the electoral college takes precedence over the popular vote.
A man carrying a loaded rifle over his shoulder walks into the New Mexico Capitol. He encounters no metal detectors. After speaking with a few police officers and Capitol employees, he strolls the halls of the Roundhouse, recording the entire episode. Viewed nearly a half-million times online, the 2013 video became a viral demonstration of the rights of gun owners to pack heat inside the Roundhouse. The video soon could become a relic of the past.
An hours-long debate over legislation that would bar late-term abortions in New Mexico led to the same fate as last year—a Senate committee party line vote against the measures. The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 5-4 to table two bills by Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, that would have banned surgical abortion procedures on viable fetuses at 20 weeks of gestation or more. One of the bills defines fetal viability as “when the life of the unborn child may be continued indefinitely by natural or artificial life-supportive systems.”
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Albuquerque is home to an abortion provider that practices the procedure into the third trimester of pregnancy. Sharer passed out pictures of his granddaughter Scarlett, who was born premature, to committee members during his presentation. He asked committee members what if Scarlett’s mother today was diagnosed with a terrible disease, evoking common arguments from pro-abortion rights advocates that late-term abortion procedures often involve pregnant women whose lives are in danger.