House Democrats fired more verbal shots across the aisle on Thursday. Members of the House Minority accused House Republicans and Gov. Susana Martinez of pushing tough on crime bills while holding job bills sponsored by Democrats in the Rules Committee.
House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said that House Republicans have been too focused on increasing criminal penalties while many New Mexicans are struggling with poverty and treatment for substance abuse.
“Unfortunately, House Republicans have ignored those issues entirely,” Egolf said.
Egolf said in the three Republican districts with the highest poverty rates, 24 to 26 percent of constituents are struggling to live on as little as $10,000 a year.
Democrats said they compiled a group of bills called the Economic Opportunity Plan, which includes efforts to improve infrastructure in rural areas, keep jobs in New Mexico and improve health systems.
Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, said she has introduced bills that would address public health issues. She said these would help prevent crime better than tougher penalties.
“Our largest behavioral health system is in our jails and prisons,” Armstrong said. “If we don’t provide behavioral health services before someone gets there it will just continue to be recidivism and increased costs.”
Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, told reporters he was disappointed by both the number of bills to increase criminal penalties and lack of bills to address jobs in the state. He called SJR 1, which would reform bail procedures, the “number one crime fighting bill this session.”
Maestas said the Republican’s focus on crime bills is misguided.
“We cannot prosecute our way to prosperity,” Maestas said
House Republicans have repeatedly said they are pushing bills with increased penalties and changes to the criminal code in order to protect New Mexicans. Republicans have also criticized Senate Democrats for blocking bills aimed at cracking down on crime.
NM Political Report could not reach a representative from the House Majority office regarding Thursday’s press conference. We will add any comments we receive.T
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly cited three Republican districts as the highest in poverty statewide. They are actually the three poorest Republican districts.