New study shows small number of defendants charged with second crime while awaiting trial

A new study looking at the impact of pretrial detention in New Mexico reinforces a previous legislative committee’s study and found that only a small percentage of defendants are charged with a second crime while awaiting trial. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the Santa Fe Institute and the University of New Mexico’s Institute for Social Research, found that of the more than 15,000 defendants charged with a felony between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2021, only a small fraction were charged with a second felony. 

“It is worth noting that very few of these defendants were charged with new high-level felonies,” the researchers wrote. “A total of 15 defendants in our dataset, or one out of every thousand, were charged with a new first-degree felony. A total of 141 were charged with a new second-degree felony, 70 of which were violent—about one-half of one percent.”

The latest study comes just months after the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee released similar findings. The legislative study was released just ahead of the 2022 legislative session where Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez, who is also currently the Democratic nominee for attorney general, all pushed for laws to increase penalties and make it easier to detain defendants before trial.  

The end of the session resulted in some concessions and the governor’s office seemed to shift away from its focus on a “rebuttable presumption” and called the final outcome a win. In terms of the legal system, the idea behind rebuttable presumption is that a judge assumes certain defendants are a danger to the community unless proven otherwise by the defendant’s attorney.  

The most recent study on pretrial detention, like the previous study, says rebuttable presumptions flip the burden of proof to the defense instead of prosecutors, raising “profound constitutional questions.”  

“In essence, they predict that a defendant will commit a serious crime if they are released between arrest and trial,” the researchers wrote.

Guv signs omnibus crime bill 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an  omnibus crime bill into law on Wednesday, which officials say will reduce crime. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, pushed a “tough on crime” agenda during the 2022 Legislative session. Lawmakers rolled several crime bills into one to create the omnibus bill, which increases penalties for violent offenders. State House Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Santa Fe, sponsored HB 68. The new law will also eliminate “gay panic” defense in criminal cases.

Governor signs MMIWR bills

Geraldine Toya has two reasons to be hopeful. 

First, she’s in the process of requesting that the Albuquerque Police Department reopen the case involving her daughter Shawna’s death. “I feel relief that something is getting done, you know; we’re wanting to still look for justice, answers,” she  said. Second, Toya (Jemez) was in attendance for the signing of legislation that will be a first step to addressing issues of missing and murdered Indigenous people in New Mexico. 

“Today’s the day that we are going to make history,” she said. “We’ve been searching for this moment, to get through with what we need, we deserve it. And we’re gonna actually see it and observe it for ourselves.

With limited funding, New Mexico sexual assault programming looks ahead 

With federal funding cuts expected by the next fiscal year, New Mexico sexual assault programming is considering how the shortage could impact the future. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission receives $4 million in recurring funding from the state to provide money to local sexual assault services. This year, the commission and the New Mexico Coalition for Sexual Assault Programs asked for $5 million in additional funding from the Legislature to fill gaps in services, improve salaries and prepare for the anticipated loss in federal dollars. But, the coalition did not receive all the money it asked for from the New Mexico legislature. In addition to the recurring $4 million, the legislature appropriated about $3.8 million in funding.

Lobbyist accuses Dem senator of sexual harassment, calls for his removal

A New Mexico lobbyist and policy advocate in an open letter issued on Tuesday accused a Democratic state senator of sexual assault and harassment and has called for him to resign from the Legislature. 

Marianna Anaya, who lobbied during the 2022 legislative session, including for a voting coalition made up of a number of organizations*, issued an open letter detailing instances where she said she received unwanted sexual comments and advances from Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.  

“Over the last eight years, my advocacy work has focused on helping individuals and families gain access to what they need – from better working conditions and quality education to access to healthcare and expanded voting rights,” Anaya wrote. “Over the years, I have collaborated with legislators who share these values and honor their positions by doing good work for the people of our community. Unfortunately, several of my interactions with you have made it clear that you do not respect the authority you have as a legislator, but rather, abuse the position.”

According to Anaya’s letter, her first concerning encounter with Ivey-Soto was in 2015 when Anaya worked for then-congresswoman and current Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Anaya wrote that she and Ivey-Soto were separately attending a reception hosted by the National Education Association. When she and Ivey-Soto were alone at a cocktail table, Anaya said, Ivey-Soto allegedly “slid [his] hand across [her] side and disgustingly groped and pinched [her] buttocks.”

“I did not know what to do or what to say – I just hoped that it would not happen again,” she wrote. 

Then, Anaya wrote, towards the beginning of the legislative session in January 2022, she and Ivey-Soto met to discuss a voting rights bill that Anaya was lobbying to pass.

Legislative session sees few wins for environment, energy bills

While a variety of energy and environment bills were introduced during the Legislative session, few managed to make it to the governor’s desk. The Green Amendment, which would have allowed voters to decide if the state’s Constitution’s Bill of Rights should be amended to include environmental rights, was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee and the Clean Future Act, setting a 2050 target to reach net-zero emissions across all sectors, failed to make it to the finish line as the session’s clock winded down. Related: Clean Future Act heads to House floor

“For the New Mexico Environment Department, our budget levels increased slightly but far below the Executive Budget request,” the department spokesman Matthew Maez wrote in an emailed statement in response to an inquiry from NM Political Report. “For example, the new Climate Change Bureau received only 29 percent of the revenues requested which will slow regulatory and policy advancement on the most pressing issue of our time. Further, the legislature delayed climate action and environmental protections by failing to pass the Clean Fuel Standard, Hydrogen Hub Development Act, and the Clean Future Act.

What passed, what failed in the legislative session

Here’s what happened with notable legislation during the 30-day session that ended Thursday. Budget: Lawmakers got the job done with about a day to spare. They approved a nearly $8.5 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2023 — a 14 percent increase over the current fiscal year, with raises for all state workers, including teachers, state police officers and judges. The budget also includes funding to increase the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour. Tax cuts: House Bill 163 made a late dash across the finish line.

What the failed cannabis clean up bill means

Largely overshadowed by legislation addressing crime and voting rights during this year’s 30-day Legislative session, a cannabis law clean-up bill failed to make its way to the governor’s desk. 

SB 100, sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, would have made a series of changes to the Cannabis Regulation Act, which went into effect last June. Those changes included clarifying tax language, allowing certain cannabis businesses to wholesale their products, among other things. One of the more significant changes though was a proposed production increase for smaller cannabis businesses. The bill was praised by those already active in the state’s cannabis industry as well as industry newcomers. 

But early in the committee process, a new change to the Cannabis Control Act emerged: water. The amount of water the new cannabis industry might use has been a big concern for many and part of the Cannabis Regulation Act requires that cannabis cultivators verify they have legal access to water.

Series of bombshells at the end of Legislature’s 30-day session

This year’s 30-day legislative session ended with a surprise. Or, more accurately, a series of bombshells. As the Legislature concluded its business at noon Thursday, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe — considered a key architect of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing and one of its most influential players — announced he is not seeking reelection this year. That was one one of the day’s rapid-fire shockers, as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced only an hour or so later she was rescinding New Mexico’s indoor mask mandate. Though most legislators seemed wrung out by a difficult month, punctuated by a nearly daylong marathon in the House of Representatives, the session’s conclusion was anything but anticlimactic.

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.