Bipartisan asset forfeiture bill awaits signature

The 2015 New Mexico Legislative Session was marked with partisan divides. Both Democrats and Republicans left the session pointing fingers and placing blame across the aisle. A rare exception to the lose-lose scenario was a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at reforming the state’s Forfeiture Act. HB 560, sponsored by Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, addresses a national concern about police seizing money or property from individuals without the conviction of a crime. While the bill passed both the House and Senate without a single dissenting vote, some committee members wondered if asset forfeiture is a problem in New Mexico.

Abortion restriction proposals stall in Senate committee

Two bills drafted to impede access to certain abortion procedures were set aside on Sunday by Democrats in the state Senate Public Affairs Committee, a move that likely signals the end of both measures during this session. Party-line votes tabled both HB 390, sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, and HB 391, which was carried by Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas. While the drafters worked in close collaboration, the bills would impact the provision of abortion services in markedly different ways. HB 390 proposed a ban on abortions of pregnancies at 20 or more weeks gestation and included language Herrell said made exceptions for “physical harm if the woman’s health is in jeopardy” or if a woman asserts the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or sexual abuse. Described by some supporters as a “parents’ rights” measure, HB 391 would require the formal notification of a parent or legal guardian of any minor female seeking an abortion.

Solitary confinement reform fails in committee

A House committee voted down legislation aimed at limiting isolated confinement in jails on Friday afternoon. The legislation failed to pass on a 6 to 5 vote, on party-lines with Republicans opposing the legislation. The bill’s sponsor Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and his two expert witnesses told committee members that prisoner isolation does more harm than good. One of his witnesses was civil rights lawyer Matthew Coyte. Coyte has won numerous cases against correctional facilities across the state where inmates were exposed to inhumane conditions.