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 the proposals upset legislators in the Court, Corrections and Justice Interim Committee on both sides of the aisle. Earlier this year, Lujan Grisham said she would call legislators in for a […]

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 the proposals upset legislators in the Court, Corrections and Justice Interim Committee on both sides of the aisle.

Earlier this year, Lujan Grisham said she would call legislators in for a special session to start July 18 to address public safety after a spate of gun bills did not pass the 2024 legislature. Holly Agajanian, chief general counsel for the governor, presented primarily one bill Lujan Grisham expects legislators to take up during the special session. 

That bill is an assisted out-patient treatment bill proposal that would allow a judge to mandate out-patient treatment, including involuntarily. It would also allow individuals, whether first responders, family members or community members who work with mentally ill individuals on the streets to request involuntary out-patient treatment. 

This proposal brought the ire of both Democrats and Republicans sitting on the interim committee. 

Some on both sides of the aisle asked why a special session needed to be called for legislation that they believed could, and perhaps should, be addressed during a full session. Even some Democrats had hard words for Lujan Grisham’s proposal. 

Other bill proposals Agajanian mentioned for the special session would include prohibiting felons from being in possession of a firearm. Another is expected to address competency for individuals already incarcerated. Another  bill that would address individuals loitering on street medians despite a similar bill receiving pushback in the 2024 legislature over its constitutionality. It failed to pass. Agajanian said that the new median bill would contain language that says that in places where a speed limit is more than 30 miles per hour, individuals may not loiter on a median that is 36 inches or less. 

State Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, said it was hard for her not to feel the proposals are more about “political wins.”

“I was part of tabling or not passing bills my good friend Representative (Bill) Rehm brought. We put them in the dumpster and now we’re slapping some Democrat’s names on them and plagiarizing Representative Rehm here….Folks have been trying to have these conversations for a long time now and very quickly in a short summer we have to go because New Mexico is in crisis?” She said.

Rep. Alan Martinez, R-Española, asked why the state must spend $250,000 a day for a special session. 

“Why not say, you work on a pilot project, we come back in January?” Martinez asked. 

Agajanian said that the reason for a special session is because New Mexico is in a crisis in terms of both mental health and violent crime. She said recent reports show that the state has higher than average mental health problems and that it ranks 43rd in the nation for beds available for individuals with mental health issues. She said New Mexico led the nation for violent crime in 2022.

“Against this backdrop the governor has called this special session to deal with this crisis that has come to grip our state,” Agajanian said. 

On Wednesday, representatives from a successful assisted out-patient treatment program in Las Cruces spoke to the Courts, Corrections and Justice Interim Committee. But it has 40 individuals participating in it and Agajanian said other jurisdictions are not implementing similar programs. 

Several members of the committee expressed concern about the portion of the assisted out-patient treatment program proposal that would allow individuals who have a relationship with the individual suffering mental health problems to seek a process by which the individual could be placed into treatment involuntarily. 

State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said she was worried this could violate an individual’s constitutional rights. 

State Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, said she didn’t feel she had been presented with “great data that this is a solution that solves this problem and that is data I’d want to see before passing this legislation.”

Duhigg said she found data from other countries with a quick online search that suggests that involuntary mental health treatment could lead to worse outcomes, rather than better ones. 

Duhigg asked why the state needed legislative changes in order to establish the assisted outpatient treatment program in every county. 

“I have to go back to the fact that I don’t suggest that they don’t have the authority to do it on their own. I’m suggesting, it hasn’t been done. We need to require it,” Agajanian said. 

Duhigg said the state “often passes legislation that people don’t do.”

Courts, Corrections and Justice Chair Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, said she was confused over the logistics. She asked if the legislature would be mandating that the judicial branch set up these assisted outpatient treatment programs. 

Agajanian said the proposal breaks up the areas for the treatment programs based on the judicial boundaries of the state court system because those are smaller than regional boundaries and that would make it easier for an officer to take an individual suffering mental health problems to treatment rather than to jail. 

Agajanian also said the court would have a memorandum of understanding with the county and either Medicaid, private insurance or indigent funds would pay for the treatment. 

State Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan, expressed support for holding a special session. 

“Nobody wants to get something done. The sky is falling if we go into special session…Who knows what’s happening in Santa Fe or Las Vegas or Grant or Milan. We have no idea if anybody is getting treated or helped. I honestly do not think the sky is going to fall if we do something about this problem,” he said. 

State. Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said he has introduced a bill for 15 years prohibiting a felon in possession of a firearm. He said during this past session, that bill passed the House but never made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rehm also said he is an expert witness in traffic crash reintroduction and that he’d like to work with the governor’s office on both the bill prohibiting a felon in possession of a firearm and on the no loitering on a median proposed legislation. Rehm retires at the end of this term. 

Duhigg asked if Lujan Grisham would consider adding “serious sanctions” to managed care organizations to provide mental health treatment.

Agajanian said that was “music to my ears” and said she thought Lujan Grisham would be amenable to such a proposal. 

The Courts, Corrections and Justice Interim Committee meets again the last week of June. Chandler asked Agajanian if she could have a draft ready of the assisted out-patient treatment bill by the next time the committee meets. Agajanian said she would. 

“I don’t envy you,” Chandler said. 

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