Senate version of bail reform advances

After Senate passage last week, a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the bail process in New Mexico cleared its first House committee Monday afternoon. The bill would allow general election voters this fall to weigh in on allowing a judge to deny bail to defendants deemed dangerous to society. Under the amendment, defendants who don’t present a danger to society could not be held if the only thing keeping them in jail was a lack of money

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 7-2, with Reps. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, casting to only dissenting votes. The bill has support from criminal defense attorney organizations, public defender offices, civil liberty groups and city and county organizations.

Opioid overdose prevention bill advances

The Senate Public Affairs Committee decided to send a bill regarding prescription opioids and overdose prevention on to the next committee without a recommendation. The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, aims to require the New Mexico Department of Health to post overdose prevention information online and require some insurance providers to offer coverage for prescription opioids that make it more difficult to overdose. Some types of opioid pills have an abuse-deterrent option that has been modified to make it harder to alter the form. The idea behind making a pill harder to crush is that many addicts crush prescription pills into powder to intensify or speed up the effects. Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, raised concerns about insurance companies being mandated to carry these types of medication, even though there are no generic versions of the drug available.

Driver’s license bill moves forward after large amendment

After a marathon hearing, the Senate Public Affairs Committee advanced a driver’s license bill that supporters hope will finally end the problem the state has been facing for years. It didn’t come without controversy, in the form of an extensive amendment to the bill that passed the House, HB 99, to make it essentially a Senate bill, SB 256. It was not a committee substitute, which would require it to go back through committees in the House. But with an amendment, if it were to pass the Senate, then the House and Senate could have a conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions. The SPAC amendment passed on a party-line vote, with Democrats voting for it and Republicans against.

Dueling bail reform amendments advance

Two competing proposals for reforming New Mexico’s bail process moved forward on Monday, setting up an inevitable clash as they move towards the floors of the House and Senate. The Senate version has two components: It would allow judges to deny release of those awaiting trial if they are deemed a danger to the public and it would allow judges to not impose bond if the only thing keeping someone accused of a non-violent crime in jail is a lack of ability to pay bond. The House version only has the first part, on allowing judges to keep those deemed dangerous in jail until trial. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, presented his version along with New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels. Wirth said the legislation was “narrowed dramatically” since he started the vetting process through interim committees last year.

Senate passes driver’s license compromise (updated)

The state Senate voted to institute a two-tier driver’s license system in the state that they hope would stop the sometimes heated debate on allowing those in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses. The legislation passed easily after a relatively small amount of debate for an issue that has had such a large amount of attention from both the media and the public in the past five years. The legislation passed 35-5 with five Republican Senators voting against. The bill now heads to the state House with about 24 hours left in the session, raising questions on if the bill has enough time to pass and if the House Republican caucus will support something that still allows those in the country illegally to drive legally in the state. Update: The bill was assigned to the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee; with less than 24 hours left in the session, this is likely a death knell for the legislation.

Two-tiered driver’s license bill passes Senate committee

Legislation some are calling a compromise driver’s license bill passed a Senate committee on a party line vote. The Senate Public Affairs Committee approved SB 653 sponsored by Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, which would create a two-tier driver’s license system for New Mexico. According to the bill, drivers who are in the country with a “lawful presence” could obtain a license that complies with the federal Real ID mandate. Others who cannot provide a social security number or proof of “lawful presence”, would be able to obtain a license to allow them to drive but would not be valid for some federal purposes. The House rejected a two-tier license plan when the chamber passed a bill repealing the controversial law that allows those in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.

Senate Dems table min wage increase

A proposed minimum wage increase to $8.30 per hour failed to pass a Senate committee on Tuesday evening. The legislation was supported by Republican members of the Senate Public Affairs Committee but didn’t get any support from Democratic members. Most Democrats prefer a larger minimum wage increase from the current $7.50 per hour. “To me, it’s just a slap in the face to raise it so little,” Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, told the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants. Stewart went on to say that she would not vote for any minimum wage increase that was less than $10 per hour.

Bill to curtail drone surveillance passes committee

A bill that would bar people from using unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, “to conduct surveillance” without a warrant passed a Senate committee on Tuesday afternoon and is now headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, SB 303, passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee on an 6-2 vote, though committee members warned it had some problems that may trouble the Judiciary Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said it was help give some privacy to New Mexico residents. The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, a former police officer. “It’s not just theoretical, this is happening already,” Ortiz y Pino told the committee.