New Mexico GOP seeks to expand racketeering laws

New Mexico GOP seeks to expand racketeering laws

There's about one month left until state lawmakers are expected to return to the Roundhouse for a public safety special session.

SANTA FE, N.M. – There’s about one month left until state lawmakers are expected to return to the Roundhouse for a public safety special session.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham already picked her slate of proposals she wants the Legislature to pass, but some lawmakers believe she’s missing the mark.

KOB 4 spoke to Republican leaders Thursday, who are now pushing the governor to revive a bill from earlier this year. It all has to do with tackling organized crime in our state.

Senate Republican leaders introduced a bill during the 30-day legislative session earlier this year aimed at expanding New Mexico’s racketeering laws.

Those are the laws that allow police and district attorneys to go after organized crime organizations. For example, the mafia, gangs, and cartels.

Their bill — which gained support from the governor at one point — would’ve added several new crimes to the current law. That includes rape, the sexual exploitation of children, escaping from jail, dog fighting, and most notably human trafficking.

“Our RICO statute is very weak. It doesn’t cover a lot of different crimes that are covered in other places. And so really, what happens a lot of times is they pass that on to the federal government, if the federal government will take the case. But our DA’s would like to be able to try those cases, ourselves, especially when the federal government says, ‘Well, it’s really not a federal issue, it’s more of a state issue,’” said state Sen. Craig Brandt. 

Brandt was behind the original bill, and he’s now pushing the governor to add it to her special session agenda.

Brandt says district attorneys and law enforcement leaders want this bill because it will give them sharper teeth against the worst of the worst. 

“This will allow you to go after the top person, even if he’s never gotten his hands dirty. It allows you to bring a case against them. That’s really what RICO’s all about, is being able to bring a case against the top of the organization and cut the head off of the snake. Not literally, but you know what I’m saying? Put the head of the snake in jail, and close down that criminal activity,” said Brandt. 

The governor did support this bill during the 30-day session, and it was part of her public safety package. However, the bill got stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee and never made it past the halfway point.

Brandt believes passing this bill would have a much bigger impact on crime in New Mexico than the governor’s current slate of proposals.

Her office decided not to comment on this Thursday, but the bills the governor is expected to bring to the special session include: proposals reworking the state’s criminal competency and assisted behavioral health treatment laws, as well as a median safety bill, increasing penalties for felons with firearms, and new data sharing requirements for law enforcement agencies.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already expressed concerns about many of those bills.

“If we can actually take and do some things about crime in New Mexico, then absolutely, let’s have a special session and let’s actually get the job done. But if we’re just going to go out there and twiddle our thumbs and come home with nothing accomplished, let’s not waste our time,” said Brandt. 

Senate Republican leaders introduced a slate of border safety bills earlier this year, but it’s unlikely the governor will include those in her special session agenda.

The special session is scheduled to begin on July 18. and we’ll be watching it closely.