February 17, 2022

Omnibus crime bill heads to governor’s desk

Midway through Rep. Meredith Dixon’s introduction to an omnibus crime bill put together by the Senate, Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, stopped her.

At 4 a.m., he explained, the server for the legislative webcasts resets every morning and they would stand in place while that took place.

Dixon, an Albuquerque Democrat, continued her explanation of the new portions of the HB 68 after the brief interruption, speaking for another ten minutes. This was just a short portion of the three hours of conversation.

In all, the new version of the bill included 54 sections, a massive change from the five-section bill that left the House earlier in the legislative session.

Such is the life of a legislator as adjournment nears.

Rep. T. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, questioned Dixon and others for the entirety of the three hours on the legislation except for Dixon’s introduction. 

He started by saying, “It’s hardly recognizable to call this House Bill 68, but here we are.”

After the debate, the House voted to concur with the Senate changes on a voice vote.

Republicans in the House have stretched out debate on many pieces of legislation throughout the session. House rules allow for debate to be cut off after three hours of discussion.

The bill is the largest culmination of a tough-on-crime stance from legislators and the governor, as crime increased in recent years in, particularly in Albuquerque. While the rates are still significantly lower than in decades past, politicians have spoken about the need to get the rates under control.

Some changes include funding for 24-hour GPS monitoring of defendants on pretrial release, the creation of a new crime for operating a chop shop and three new crimes related to threats, including threatening a judge and threatening a shooting. 

The legislation also provides programs for recruitment of new officers and retention of current officers.

One large change to existing crimes is the elimination of a statute of limitation for second-degree murder. The statute of limitations is currently six years for second-degree murder.

The legislation also provides for new judgeships in three judicial districts, including the 2nd Judicial District which includes Albuquerque.

The bill now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk.

The legislative session ends at noon Thursday.