ABQ mayor details 2017 legislative priorities

J.R. Oppenheim
January 19, 2017 06:56 AM

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry wants the New Mexico Legislature to address items connected to crime and the city’s police department during this current 60-day session.


Berry’s office released his priorities Wednesday afternoon, the second day that lawmakers have met at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Among his goals, Berry supports a push to allow retired police officers to return to the force while still receiving their pensions.

The Albuquerque Police Department still needs to hit a staffing level of 1,000 as required by a consent agreement with the Department of Justice, and Berry said allowing retired officers to rejoin APD would aid the department in reaching that goal.

In fact, the right-to-work legislation topped the mayor’s list, appearing first of the five listed priorities.

“It has been definitively determined by an expert actuary and PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) staff that this legislation would not harm pension solvency,” according to the mayor’s list of priorities. “In fact, the actuary found that it may actually improve solvency.”

The release states mayors, county sheriff’s and law enforcement from across the state supported legislation similar to this in the past.

Regarding crime, Berry supports a bill that would make an attack on an officer a hate crime, reinstatement of the death penalty, and the expansion of New Mexico’s DNA testing – commonly referred to as Katie’s Law.

Also, Berry’s office says the city needs additional funding to handle its rape kit backlog. The city has already allocated $200,000 to deal with the backlog, but the release states more money is necessary.

The mayor’s priorities do not include references to economic development or job creation. Here is Berry’s priority list, along with explanations, in full:

Return to Work: This legislation will allow retired municipal police officers and other retired law enforcement personnel in New Mexico to return to work in public safety while still collecting their pensions. It has been definitively determined by an expert actuary and PERA staff that this legislation would not harm pension solvency - in fact, the actuary found that it may actually improve solvency. All surrounding states allow this policy in some form. In the past, this legislation has received support from 39 mayors representing 78% of the State’s population, all 33 county sheriff’s departments, and the State Police.  This unified support by many Mayors and public safety professionals show that this bill will increase sworn officer levels across the State. If passed, the bill will allow APD to add 100 officers and it would have saved taxpayers over $11.5 million dollars; money that could have been used for recruitment and retention bonuses for current officers. While the Albuquerque Police Department is continuing its robust recruitment efforts, to reach 1,000 officers, Return to Work is absolutely necessary to bring experienced officers back into the department.

Crime: Mayor Berry will support any legislation that will make New Mexico a worse place to be a criminal and supports several crime bills that will be under review this session including: making crimes against police officers a hate crime, death penalty, Katie's Law, and others.

Rape Kit Backlog: Funding is needed to address the sexual assault kit backlog at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). In July 2016, Mayor Berry allocated $200,000 to evaluate, inventory, and test kits in APD’s possession. However, more funding is needed as the City continues to address this issue.

Hold Harmless: With the regression of the gross receipts tax distribution to counties and municipalities, Mayor Berry urges State lawmakers to not accelerate the withholdings.  The City of Albuquerque is able to support current Hold Harmless provisions but will become vocal in opposition if drafted legislation tries to expand the reach of the current policy.

Capital Outlay Request: As the Rainforest Building is rising adding to Albuquerque’s downtown skyline, but more work is needed to be done at the Innovate ABQ site.  This public-private partnership will not only be an economic catalyst for Albuquerque but for the entire state of New Mexico.  This development with become a one stop shop for New Mexican entrepreneurs to support a “grow-our-own” economic development strategy.  Additional funds would be utilized for the continued development to have the higher education institutions locate on this centralized site in partnership with the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.


J.R. Oppenheim

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