New Mexico House panel OKs bipartisan crime legislation

Democrats and Republicans rallied behind a package of crime and public safety legislation on Wednesday, lending a bipartisan stamp of approval to five very different bills that may not end long-running disputes over criminal sentencing or bail reform but which backers say represent a coordinated approach to one of the most pressing issues at the Roundhouse […]

New Mexico House panel OKs bipartisan crime legislation

Democrats and Republicans rallied behind a package of crime and public safety legislation on Wednesday, lending a bipartisan stamp of approval to five very different bills that may not end long-running disputes over criminal sentencing or bail reform but which backers say represent a coordinated approach to one of the most pressing issues at the Roundhouse this year.

Including mostly noncontroversial pieces of legislation from both sides of the aisle, parts of the package won support from a disparate group including the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Law Office of the Public Defender.

The bill would toughen sentences in some respects but could also lighten sentences for minor offenses.

The proposal would impose stiffer sentences for violent felons caught with a firearm while also ensuring some of the pettiest crimes — such as littering — are not punishable with jail time.

The measure would also expand behavioral health services to jail inmates with mental illnesses, provide bonuses for long-serving police officers and stiffen the rules requiring DWI offenders to have ignition interlock devices removed from their vehicles.

By rolling disparate bills together, leaders of the state House of Representatives marked out common ground on a topic that has been fiercely partisan but also a top priority.

The measure comes amid a flurry of proposals to increase sentences and even reinstate the death penalty. But criminal justice reform advocates have argued that tougher sentences will not deter crime and have countered that the solution for the state with the highest rate of property crime in the country must address New Mexico’s high rates of poverty as well as access to mental health treatment.

Rolling together pieces of both arguments might improve the bill’s prospects of making it through a Democrat-controlled Legislature and on to the desk of a Republican governor.

“This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the things that need to be done to identify our public safety problem,” Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, told the House Judiciary Committee.

But he argued this measure tries to take a broader approach to improving the criminal justice system.

Said Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, “We’re not going to address crime [and] public safety unless we start looking at all of the different elements that affect public safety.”

Rolled into the package is a bill sponsored by Gentry that would effectively double the sentence for felons caught in possession of a firearm from 18 months to 3 years.

Lawmakers have offered various similar pieces of legislation in recent years. But this measure has been narrowed to only include felons who had been convicted of violent crimes.

On the other hand, the package of bills also includes a measure sponsored by Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, to ensure a list of minor, nonviolent offenses are no longer punishable by jail time and instead only carry fines. The list includes littering, “coasting” and jaywalking.

An analysis by legislative aides suggested this could help save money spent on prosecuting and locking up suspects for nonviolent crimes.

However, a similar bill passed the Legislature only to meet the governor’s veto pen.

“I am not necessarily opposed to some of these penalty reductions; a sensible reduction for a limited number of minor offenses could ease some of the burdens that our courts and public defenders face,” Martinez wrote in her veto message.

But she raised concerns about some provisions, such as changes in laws against nude dancing in liquor establishments and parking in handicapped accessible spaces without the required placard.

Changing those laws went too far, Martinez wrote.

Those laws are not part of this latest bill, perhaps giving it a better chance of getting the governor’s signature.

Another facet, based on legislation initially sponsored by Gentry and Ely, would help jails screen inmates for mental health issues, connect them with treatment services and enroll those eligible in Medicaid before release to encourage them to continue treatment.

A similar measure in Michigan has been credited with significantly cutting recidivism.

Other pieces of the law would provide state funds for local police departments to give bonuses to long-serving officers. And yet another piece would increase the requirements for a DWI offender to have an ignition interlock removed from their vehicle.

The House Judiciary Committee approved it on a vote of 10-1, with Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Grants, the only dissenter after raising concerns about how the bonuses for police would be awarded.

The package of bills heads next to a vote by the full House.

Contact Andrew Oxford at 505-986-3093 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewboxford.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

A representative from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office outlined on Thursday the bills the governor’s office will back during the upcoming special session, but…
Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
SCOTUS rejects proposed resolution to Rio Grande water dispute

SCOTUS rejects proposed resolution to Rio Grande water dispute

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a proposed settlement that would have ended the more-than decade-long dispute between Texas and New…
FWS says two Rio Grande fish do not warrant listing under Endangered Species Act

FWS says two Rio Grande fish do not warrant listing under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that two fish species found in New Mexico do not meet the criteria for listing them as…
Want to know what Albuquerque’s climate might be like in 2080? Head to Roswell

Want to know what Albuquerque’s climate might be like in 2080? Head to Roswell

Thanks to climate change, the Albuquerque of the future may feel a bit more like present-day Roswell. That’s according to a new web app…
Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury secured $8.3 million for childhood development and youth services in the 1st congressional district through federal community project funding. Stansbury,…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Some mental health issues on the rise in New Mexico

Some mental health issues on the rise in New Mexico

A recent report by KFF, a foundation that provides health policy analysis, found mental health issues on the rise and disparities in mental health…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

With nearly 53 percent of the precincts reporting as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, most of the legislative candidates endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes New…
Some mental health issues on the rise in New Mexico

Some mental health issues on the rise in New Mexico

A recent report by KFF, a foundation that provides health policy analysis, found mental health issues on the rise and disparities in mental health…
New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

Food insecurity is on the rise as state benefits have decreased and the future of federal benefits have an uncertain future.  Sonya Warwick, director…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
Republican Herrell signs onto what critics call anti-transgender message

Republican Herrell signs onto what critics call anti-transgender message

Republican candidate Yvette Herrell, who is running against Democrat Rep. Gabe Vasquez for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat, committed herself to a message…
Post-primary, Biden leads Trump in NM

Post-primary, Biden leads Trump in NM

President Joe Biden leads former president Donald Trump in the race for New Mexico’s five electoral seats, according to a poll commissioned by NM…
Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

The Democratic National Committee announced on Monday that it will spend $70,000 for organizing staff to aid U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, the Democrat trying…
Some mental health issues on the rise in New Mexico

Some mental health issues on the rise in New Mexico

A recent report by KFF, a foundation that provides health policy analysis, found mental health issues on the rise and disparities in mental health…
SCOTUS rejects proposed resolution to Rio Grande water dispute

SCOTUS rejects proposed resolution to Rio Grande water dispute

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a proposed settlement that would have ended the more-than decade-long dispute between Texas and New…
FWS says two Rio Grande fish do not warrant listing under Endangered Species Act

FWS says two Rio Grande fish do not warrant listing under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that two fish species found in New Mexico do not meet the criteria for listing them as…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report