Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a press conference announcing the re-establishment of the Organized Crime Commission.

Gov reestablishes organized crime commission

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Wednesday that she reestablished a multi-agency Organized Crime Commission. The governor said during a press conference that the reestablished commission is “indicative of the kind of leadership that is occurring in the state of New Mexico that is laser-focused on public safety” and holding “individuals conducting criminal activity accountable at every level in every single place in the state and doing it in such a fashion that lends itself to our federal partners and other states so that we’re collaborating across state lines on activity that we know is impacting individuals public safety right here in our state.” 

Lujan Grisham said she brought back the commission to combat human trafficking, drug trafficking and illegal gun access. “The individuals who participate here today are going to be looking at ways to enhance our success and holding those individuals accountable,” Lujan Grisham said. “The individuals on the street that they recruit drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal gun access and distribution… which all lends itself into some of the worst public health outcomes the country has ever seen.”

Lujan Grisham did not know how long since the commission was last active; however’ the last formal report from the commission came in 1978. Gov. Bill Richardson, who held office from 2003-2011, reestablished the commission but the Lujan Grisham administration could not find documents from that era.

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

Bill prohibiting firearms at polling places passes first House committee

A bill that would ban firearms at all polling places passed the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a party-line 4-3 vote Monday. “The premise of SB 44 is straightforward and it’s as follows: guns and elections don’t mix,” bill sponsor Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe said. “What this bill does is prohibit the carrying of a firearm within 100 feet of a polling place. It is drafted to contain exemptions for a peace officer and for security authorized by the local government to be stationed within 100 feet of the polling place.”

The bill was co-sponsored by House Majority Whip Rep. Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe. More: Bill prohibiting firearms at polling places moves to House

Many public commenters who spoke against the bill asked why this bill was needed and if the issue of people carrying firearms at polling places was, indeed, a problem.

"Vote Here" signs in front of the Otero County Administration Building on New York Avenue in Alamogordo.

Bill prohibiting firearms at polling places moves to House

A bill prohibiting firearms at polling places passed the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration. SB 44 was passed on a 28-9 vote Wednesday. “(SB 44) prohibits the carrying of a firearm within 100 feet of a polling place during an election, with an exception for peace officers,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said. “This puts in place the same rule that already exists when a polling place is at a school. Currently, when a polling place is at a school, you cannot have a firearm.

"Vote Here" signs in front of the Otero County Administration Building on New York Avenue in Alamogordo.

Bill prohibiting firearms at polling places advances

A bill to ban firearms at all polling places was approved in the Senate Rules Committee on a 6 to 3 vote. Polling places that are located inside schools already have this provision in place, but SB 44 would expand it to all polling locations. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, sponsored SB 44. The bill states that, “Unlawful carrying of a firearm at a polling place consists of carrying a loaded or unloaded firearm within one hundred feet of a polling place on election day or while early voting is in progress.”

The bill allows law enforcement or other authorized security personnel to carry their firearms.

The bill’s Fiscal Impact Report notes that this would constitute a new petty misdemeanor causing those charged under SB 44 to spend up to six months incarcerated which could cost counties funding to house more inmates. “Based on the marginal cost of each additional inmate in New Mexico’s jail system, each offender sentenced to jail for this crime could result in estimated increased costs up to $9,614 to counties,” the Fiscal Impact Report states.”It is difficult to estimate how many individuals will be charged, convicted, or get time in prison or jail based on the creation of a new crime.” 

The Administrative Office of the District Attorneys state in the report that the bill would survive a Second Amendment challenge.

Modernizing the Legislature to be discussed during this year’s session

In some ways, the New Mexico Legislature operates the same way it did at statehood more than a century ago. The legislative session itself is the shortest in the nation and New Mexican legislators are the only ones not paid for the job of to producing, debating and approving legislation. One of the organizations behind the movement to update the legislative session for modern times is Common Cause, which hopes to have a state constitutional amendment placed on the ballot that would extend the session and add a five day recess after 30 days that would not count against the session’s active days. Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Mario Jimenez, III spoke to New Mexico Political Report about this and other issues the organization is pursuing. “We often see legislation that is hastily run, and we often have to come back and fix those in future legislation because of a few things that the legislature may have missed over some conflicts within other sections of law or sections of the Constitution,” Jimenez said.

Heinrich, Udall join Dem filibuster on gun legislation

Update 5:30 pm: Heinrich spoke for roughly 20 minutes, mainly focusing on how as a gun owner himself, he can’t understand why the proposed reforms are controversial. “The fact that we’re arguing about this is unfathomable,” Heinrich said. “I can’t tell you how many times I have been through the background check process.” He also said he was proud of the many candlelight vigils that happened in New Mexico in response to the Orlando shootings. Heinrich asked Murphy whether his proposals include due process measures for people who feel wrongly listed on the federal Terrorist Watch List to contest their status.