A House committee spent about nine hours Friday from the early afternoon deep into the evening debating and listening to public testimony regarding three bills aimed at toughening violent crime sentences. All three bills passed the committee and two will head to the House floor next. The debate turned most heated when the committee discussed a bill to reinstate the death penalty. Sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andy Nunez, R-Hatch, the bill focuses on those convicted of killing law enforcement officers or children. The legislation passed on a party-line vote.
Gov. Susana Martinez officially issued the proclamation for a special session, less than 24 hours before legislators are scheduled to gather to discuss a solution to the state’s large budget deficit and other issues Martinez placed on the call. In addition to filling the budget deficit, Martinez will allow legislators to discuss legislation to reinstate the death penalty for certain crimes, expand the state’s three strike law and life imprisonment for intentional child abuse resulting in the death of a child. Legislators can only discuss items Martinez puts on the call during a special session. The special session is necessary to deal with a nearly $600 million budget deficit from this year and a recently-completed budget year. Legislators and the governor are required by the state constitution to balance the budget each year.
One of the key races that will decide the political control of the state House of Representatives pits an upstart against a Roundhouse veteran in southern New Mexico. The incumbent, Republican Andy Nuñez, has represented the district for most of the past decade and a half. He faces former Nathan Small, a Democrat who recently served two terms on the Las Cruces city council. NM Political Report will profile some key legislative races from now until election day. Nuñez, 80, is perhaps best known for switching his political affiliation multiple times over in the past few years, from Democrat to independent to Republican.
The death penalty debate will be coming to the Legislature sooner than many expected. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday morning that she will add the death penalty to the call for the upcoming special session, adding a contentious piece of debate to a special session that already promised to hold heated debates over fixing the state’s massive budget deficit. Martinez still has not set a date for the special session. “I will ask the legislature to reinstate the death penalty as an option for those who murder children and police officers, as well as correctional officers,” Martinez wrote in a statement on Facebook. “Those horrific crimes deserve the ultimate punishment.”
New Mexico voters support Gov. Susana Martinez’s proposal to bring back the death penalty, a poll commissioned by NM Political Report found. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, found that 59 percent of registered New Mexico voters support the proposal to bring back the death penalty for those who kill police officers or children. Meanwhile, 34 percent support current penalties of life in prison and restitution for families. Only eight percent are undecided, showing how hot button the issue is already. Related: Call for death penalty echoes Legislature’s ‘tough on crime’ session
Men are slightly more likely to support bringing back the death penalty.
If Gov. Susana Martinez’s call to reinstate the death penalty after the killing of an on-duty police officer looks familiar, that’s because something very similar happened last year. After the 2015 high-profile killings of Rio Rancho police officer Gregg Benne and Albuquerque police officer Daniel Webster, Martinez and Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives made tough-on-crime measures their signature effort during the ensuing legislative session. Now, another high-profile death of a cop—this time Hatch police officer Jose Chavez—presents a similar political opportunity. And this time, it comes ahead of a general election where Republicans are aiming to preserve their majority in the state House of Representatives and win control of the state Senate. In a prepared statement announcing her intentions, Martinez also evoked the recent Dallas massacre of five cops during a protest prompted by police shootings of two unarmed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Gov. Susana Martinez wants to roll back the clock on the death penalty repeal. KVIA reported Martinez wants to reinstate the controversial punishment in response to the killing of police officers in recent years. A police officer was killed during a traffic stop last week in Hatch. The accused killer was wanted for murder in Ohio. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, after more than a decade of efforts.
The issue of driver’s licenses and who in New Mexico should be able to have them is a long-running topic in the New Mexico Legislature. Indications say, an agreement should happen this year thanks to pressure from the federal government. However, it is only one such issue with a long and winding road towards passage. Many lawmakers in the Roundhouse agree that it is common for bills to see years of debates, years of committee assignments and years of failure before they make it to the fourth floor and the Governor can sign them into law. A number of current laws have spent years being fine-tuned and changed in order to gain more traction.