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.
Following the 2016 legislative session, Gov. Susana Martinez touted passage of some tougher-on-crime laws, a new state budget and a bill to bring the state into compliance with the federal Real ID Act. In a short post-session press conference, she touted her five-year legislative battle of changing the state law that gives driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants as complete. But she also acknowledged the caveat. Related Story: Sanchez happy with what Senate accomplished
“While this bill allows limited permits for those who are here illegally, they must prove residency and identity and subject themselves to fingerprinting and background checks,” she said. Until this year, Martinez said she wouldn’t accept a two-tier system if it still allowed undocumented immigrants to still drive legally.
Legislators wrestled Wednesday afternoon with the idea of adding cops and law enforcement to the list of protected classes under state hate crime laws. State House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, is carrying the bill as part of a “tough on crime” package endorsed by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and the House Republican leadership. One GOP lawmaker expressed his skepticism of the idea in a hearing of Gentry’s bill at the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee. “I believe we’ve got laws already on the books that should take care of this,” state Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, told Gentry at the hearing. “A lot of these things go on the judge’s discretion anyway.”
The committee didn’t vote on whether to endorse the bill or not.