February 16, 2016

Senate committee says no to allowing youth curfews

A bill that would let cities and municipalities impose limited youth curfews failed in a Senate committee Tuesday evening.

Blue LightsThe Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the legislation on a 6-4 vote, with bipartisan votes on both sides of the issue.

“This in no way mandates a statewide curfew,” House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, the sponsor of the legislation, said in describing the bill. Instead, it would only allow cities and municipalities to impose curfews that only were from midnight to 5:00 a.m. and even then had a number of exceptions.

The Albuquerque Republican said that he was brought the idea by Albuquerque city councilor Ken Sanchez. He also said that the family of Steve Gerecke, a bartender who was killed by youths in his driveway at 3:00 a.m. one morning, asked Gentry to carry the legislation.

“This does restrict the rights of minors,” Gentry said. “I freely admit that. But I think the bill does pass constitutional muster.”

He added that the proposal was narrowly tailored for a public safety interest.

“We see this as a public safety measure as well as a child protection measure,” Department of Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt said.

Others disagreed.

“There’s probably never a good time to bring up this legislation,” ACLU of New Mexico policy director Steve Allen said, adding that because the city of Albuquerque is under a Department of Justice consent decree after an investigation into use of force, “this is particularly bad time.”

Some questioned if the child protection portion, which supporters have pushed, was overstated.

Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero opposed the legislation and said that if he saw a child out at 2:00 a.m. currently, he feels police already have the authority to talk to the child, to make sure they are alright.

Instead, opponents focused on increased police interactions with young people.

“I really worry about this giving the police the authority to stop any young looking kid,” Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said.

Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, joked, “Jason Harper,” referring to the young-looking chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The vote means the legislation is dead for the year, barring a big change in the committee.

Correction: The story originally said Steve Allen is the executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico. Allen is the policy director. We regret the error.