Some vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez are raising eyebrows among legislators and others—and at least one partial veto may be challenged in court. Wednesday was the final day for Martinez to decide whether or not to sign bills from this year’s legislative session. She signed 80 bills into law, but vetoed 31 others. Some she rejected using her veto pen, while with others she just allowed time to run out in what is called a “pocket veto.”
One portion of a bill that may see a new life was part of the crime omnibus bill the Legislature passed in response to the spike in crime, particularly in Albuquerque. The bill combined a number of ideas aimed at reducing crimes.
A New Mexico advocacy group supporting criminal justice reform efforts released its report card Wednesday on legislation from the 2017 regular legislative session. Specifically, the group, NM SAFE, analyzed legislation aimed at changing criminal penalties. At a press conference, a few members of the group spoke about the analysis and what it means for New Mexico. Tanya Romero with the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families said the state needs more reforms instead of tougher criminal penalties. “Domestic violence, a good percentage of it, is through historical trauma,” Romero said.
Dozens of people who oppose Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees gathered in Albuquerque Wednesday afternoon, standing behind a coalition of speakers who said they were ready to fight against Trump’s efforts. Some held signs, saying “We’re Not Going Anywhere” and “Mayor Berry: Reject Trump’s Immigration Machine #heretostay.”
Signed Wednesday, Trump’s order makes official the administration’s plans to increase deportations, punish sanctuary cities by ending federal grant funding and build a new border wall between the United States and Mexico. At the press conference, El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos executive Rachel LaZar said those who oppose Trump will fight back. “We will organize locally to pass and strengthen local immigrant friendly policies,” LaZar said. “We will use strategic litigation to fight back and we will ramp up some of our organizing efforts to fight back against Trump’s deportation machine and agenda of hate.”
ACLU of New Mexico executive director Peter Simonson echoed LaZar.
A top city official’s assertion that police had to to put Donald Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters just a few feet from each other is wrong, the ACLU says. And the ACLU’s national website says that “police are permitted to keep two antagonistic groups separated” when it comes to public protests. But Mayor Richard Berry’s Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montaño, apparently didn’t know that on Monday when he told an Albuquerque Journal reporter just the opposite. According to the Journal’s story, “Montaño said police determined it would be against the law to force Trump supporters and protesters into separate areas. Previous case law, he said, calls for them to have the ‘ability to be right next to each other.”
But Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, said case law doesn’t restrict police departments as much as Montaño claimed.
Lawmakers favored adding a new group to rank alongside people of color, LGBT people, the physically and mentally impaired and others as protected under the state Human Rights Act—law enforcement officers. The bill, which the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee passed Tuesday afternoon on a 5-4 party-line vote, would make crimes committed against law enforcement officers specifically because they are law enforcement officers hate crimes. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said penalties for people who commit crimes against an officer on the first offense would increase by one year and on the second offense by two years. “A couple of police officers were murdered in the line of duty last year,” Gentry said, referring to New Mexico officers Daniel Webster and Gregg “Nigel” Benner. Gentry cited an increasing number of officers killed by guns in the country, which he said grew by 56 percent from 2013 to 2014.
Two New Mexico lawmakers announced sponsorship of a bill on Wednesday that would require New Mexico law enforcement to obtain a search warrant in order to obtain personal electronic records. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe and Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, announced their co-sponsored legislation, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, in the Roundhouse. ACLU-NM Director of Public Policy Steve Allen said constant technology advancements creates ambiguity when it comes to accessing personal records. “The golden age of convenience has also made this the golden age of surveillance,” Allen said. Allen said the Senate bill, which does not have a number yet, is part of a national effort, called the Nationwide Privacy Push.
An old adage goes “nothing good happens after midnight.” Some New Mexico lawmakers are attempting to make that adage into a law that would allow local governments to implement a curfew for anyone under 18. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, filed HB 29 last month partly as an answer to two violent crimes that took place in Albuquerque last year. One instance involved a group of teenagers who were charged with the murder of an Albuquerque homeless man and the other involved a teenager who was shot and killed at an Albuquerque park late at night. Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who is a cosponsor of the curfew bill said he wanted to give local governments “the local authority to bring the curfew forward.”
The idea of the state giving authority to cities and counties is not new and also stems from a New Mexico Supreme Court decision from 1999. In 1995, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico successfully challenged a curfew implemented by the City of Albuquerque.
In a crowded conference room in the mayor’s office last November, reporters and police officers gathered to see Republican lawmakers and Mayor Richard Berry discuss their plans for combating repeat criminal behavior.A visibly emotional Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the room of his intention to toughen New Mexico’s three strikes law. “This piece of legislation is very personal to me,” Pacheco said. Pacheco, a former law enforcement officer, told reporters that he was personally affected by a number of violent, high profile crimes committed earlier in the year. In May 2015, Rio Rancho Police officer Gregg Benner was shot and killed while on duty. In October, Albuquerque Police Officer Daniel Webster was shot and later died from his injuries.
Rhetoric on abortion heated up in 2015 after anti-abortion advocates leaked videos of Planned Parenthood officials and Robert Dear violently attacked a clinic in Colorado Springs. But whether the emotional debate comes to bills at the legislative session later this month and next isn’t yet known. Measures impacting abortion rights face odds this year because the upcoming session is focused on the state budget. Gov. Susana Martinez has the sole authority to allow any legislation not related to the state budget to be heard this year. So far, only state Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, has confirmed publicly that she asked Martinez to allow the Legislature to hear a bill that would ban abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and The Charles Koch Institute, two groups that arguably have differing opinions on many things, appeared on the same same stage in Albuquerque on Wednesday to discuss civil asset forfeiture. New Mexico famously ended the practice of civil asset forfeiture earlier this year. Representatives from the two groups, along with a criminal defense attorney and a former director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office, discussed the importance of reforming states’ laws regarding asset forfeiture. Moderated by Paul Gessing, the director of the free market think tank Rio Grande Foundation, the panel discussed how New Mexico recently passed a law to change how and why law enforcement is allowed to take property. One particularly interesting member of the panel was Brad Cates, a former prosecutor, New Mexico lawmaker and one of the people responsible for creating a law that allowed police to seize property without a conviction or even an arrest.