A measure allowing cities and counties to pass curfew laws on minors passed perhaps its toughest test yet in Senate Public Affairs Committee.
The Democratic-controlled committee voted 5-4 in favor of advancing the bill, with Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, breaking ranks with his party and joining the four Republicans to support the bill.
Sponsor of the bill Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, mentioned during the beginning or his presentation that he had worked with Ivey-Soto to narrow the legislation in a few ways.
Originally, the bill allowed local governments to enact curfews for teenagers 15 years old and under during daytime school hours and from midnight to 5:00 a.m. Ivey-Soto successfully amended the bill to not allow curfews during daytime hours and exempted homeless teenagers found “at their permanent or temporary place of abode” from curfews.
“I think there are a couple of things that can bring me around on this bill,” Ivey-Soto said after speaking about his reservations for the measure.
Ivey-Soto said he based his homeless teens amendment on discussions with Equality New Mexico, a pro-LGBT rights organization that is opposed to the bill, and Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque.
But Candelaria, who also serves on the committee and sits next to Ivey-Soto, voted against the amendments, which the rest of the committee supported. He even shook his head and turned his back to Ivey-Soto as Ivey-Soto presented his amendment.
When he spoke, Candelaria argued that the amendment only “further compounds the issue.”
“It raises a new issue of how are police going to determine if [the teens] are 13 years or older?” Candelaria said. “I’m glad it pleases Senator Ivey-Soto, but it doesn’t please me.”
If the bill becomes law, police officers in communities that enact curfews will be allowed to approach and question minors under the age of 16 who are out after midnight. While supporters say the measure will help address crime problems, opponents argue it will lead to more racial profiling of minors and adults who look like minors by law enforcement.
Albuquerque previously had a youth curfew, but the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled the ordinance did not comply with state law. This attempt would give the authority to the local governments.
The bill moves next to Senate Judiciary Committee.