Committee approves House curfew measure

The issue of teen curfews set up a firestorm of back and forth between supporters and opponents of a bill addressing the issue Monday afternoon. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, presented a bill that would allow municipalities and counties to set their own curfew rules for minors. During his presentation to the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee, Gentry said that the bill would not have major impact, saying that the term “curfew” is “a bit misleading.”

“All this bill does is during school hours and from midnight until five, law enforcement can contact minors,” he said. Gentry said the bill defines minors as people who are 16 years old and under. Still, the bill drew opposition from many, including some fellow lawmakers in committee.

House bill to deny bail advances

A bill that would allow judges to deny bail on certain offenders has passed its first House committee on party lines. Sponsored by state Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, the measure would allow voters to approve or reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would let judges deny bail to offenders to “protect the safety of any other person or the community.”

The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee passed the bill on a 4-3 vote. Jeff Clayton, a policy director for the American Bail Coalition, said the bill would only affect the “worst of the worst.”

“We’re talking about somebody who is dangerous who is going to flee and be dangerous,” Clayton said. Among supporters of the bill were members of the bail bond industry, the state Department of Public Safety and Julie Benner, widow of Rio Rancho officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner. Most who opposed the bill mentioned their support of a similar measure by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.

Republican driver’s license bill through first committee hearing

The House Regulatory and Public Affairs passed, along party lines, a Republican driver’s license bill Thursday evening. Sponsors of HB 99, Reps. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch and Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, presented the bill and told the panel that this was their attempt at compromising on the multiple-yearlong issue of whether or not to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Nuñez said since 2010 he’s tried to repeal the state law that allows a person to get a driver’s license without legal documentation of citizenship. “Since then we made a lot of compromises,” Nuñez said.

‘Three Strikes Law’ expansion passes first committee on party line vote

A high profile bill aimed at expanding New Mexico’s three strikes law passed through its first committee Thursday on party lines. The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee passed HB 56 4-3. The sponsor of HB 56, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the panel that he was inspired to introduce legislation after a string of violent crimes in Albuquerque last summer. He said he saw it as his duty as a lawmaker to address the issue of repeat offenders. “We are sent here by our constituents first and foremost to protect the citizens of the state of New Mexico,” Pacheco said.

Bad year for wildlife at NM legislature | by Mary Katherine Ray

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]MARY KATHERINE RAY is the Wildlife Chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.[/box]

The 60-day New Mexico Legislature has concluded for 2015. Last November, a majority of Republicans were elected to the state House of Representatives, which turned the leadership of the House over to the Republican Party for the first time in 60 years. The consequences were not good for wildlife. Every single bill on the subject of wildlife had to go through the House Agriculture committee, which became the House Agriculture/Water/Wildlife committee when the newly elected leadership reorganized and shuffled the committee structure. Placing wildlife issues under the control of agriculture interests was not unlike placing hens under the control of foxes.

House panel advances late-term abortion, parental notification bills

The state’s House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee heard hours of impassioned, often graphic, public testimony before its Republican majority voted to pass two measures proposing to restrict abortion access and services. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, presented her HB 390, which would ban abortion procedures for any woman deemed by a physician to be 20 or more weeks pregnant. 

The bill’s language allows for exceptions if a woman attests her pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or abuse. There’s also an exception to the ban if a doctor deems a pregnant woman’s health is at risk. “However,” said Herrell, “the physician must try to save the life of the unborn child.” A related measure was introduced by Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas.

Minimum wage bills tabled in committee

The first minimum wage bills of the session were quickly tabled in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee by the Republican majority. There were two pieces of legislation, one by Rep. Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, and one by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque. Each would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour but had different timetables for doing so. Both bills were tabled on a party-line vote with the four Republicans on the panel voting to table the legislation and the three Democrats on the panel voting against tabling. Garcia told New Mexico Political Report following the hearing that he was not surprised by the committee’s action.