Roundhouse Rundown: Rebuttable presumption, gun safety initiatives, racketeering
SANTA FE, N.M. – It’s no secret Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants state lawmakers to address crime during this 30-day legislative session.
She outlined nearly two dozen public safety initiatives, and a lot of them are moving forward. But a bill aimed at keeping our streets safer just hit a major hurdle Monday afternoon.
Any hopes of establishing a rebuttable presumption for the most violent suspects in New Mexico will likely have to wait until next year. That’s after the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted to table, or hit pause, on a proposal from Republican state Sen. Craig Brandt, who was working with the governor’s office on this bill.
The idea was to automatically assume some violent suspects are a danger to the community – people accused of murder, rape, human trafficking, assaulting a peace officer, and other crimes.
Unless their attorneys could convince a judge they are not a danger, they would automatically be held in jail before their trial.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman fiercely supported the proposal, saying it would help close the revolving door of violent suspects being released and committing more crimes.
He also argued Monday that’s how the feds do it.
“You don’t hear about federal criminals who commit violent crimes, getting out committing additional crimes pending trial. You do hear that about that in the state, and I can’t speak to all the specific studies, but I can speak about what’s going on in Albuquerque on a daily basis. Yes, my attorneys are doing a phenomenal job and doing a better job on presenting that. But I truly believe that this is for the safety of the community,” Bregman said.
This is not the first time we’ve seen a rebuttable presumption bill in the Roundhouse. They make appearances almost every year, but Democrat lawmakers consistently argue the idea is unconstitutional.
One Democrat on the committee noted the bill was heading to the Senate Judiciary Committee next, which would’ve thoroughly discussed that constitutionality issue, but the committee voted 5-4 to table the bill.
The governor shared the following statement following the committee’s vote:
“I am dismayed that our Legislature has once again refused to undertake an honest, robust debate on the state of our pretrial release system. Crime is out of control and something needs to change. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in behavioral health services, education, economic opportunity – critical components that ensure every New Mexican gets a fair shake. However, I will not stand by as repeat violent offenders walk in and out of our courthouses without consequence.
A rebuttable presumption is not an extreme policy, and ours is modeled after federal law that has been in place for decades.
It is time for the Legislature and the public to stand up and give this proposal the robust debate that New Mexicans agree it deserves.”
GUN SAFETY INITIATIVES
Meanwhile, some of the governor’s other public safety bills did take steps forward Monday.
The House Judiciary Committee approved two more gun safety initiatives. That includes some proposed changes to the red flag law, which allows judges to order law enforcement to confiscate guns from people considered a danger to themselves or others.
This year’s bill would expand that program to allow law enforcement and some health care professionals. For example, social workers can submit those removal requests. It also speeds up the process for judges to make those emergency decisions.
The committee also approved a bill establishing a 14-day waiting period for all firearm sales here in New Mexico. Unlike a similar bill in the Senate, the House version calls for a 14 business day waiting period, and does not include exceptions for concealed carry holders or family members.
The committee approved both of those bills along a party-line vote Monday afternoon. They are now heading to the House floor for a vote along with the proposed Firearm Industry Accountability Act.
NEW MEXICO’S RACKETEERING LAW
A bill from Brandt that proposes to expand New Mexico’s racketeering law also cleared its first committee on Friday. The proposal adds several new crimes under the list of qualifying offenses and expands some definitions to make it easier for prosecutors to use.
In a statement, Brandt says: “This bill is a key tool in the toolbelt of prosecutors, allowing them to attack and prosecute modern criminal organizations at every link in the chain.”
That bill has already cleared two committees, but still has two more to go before it reaches the Senate floor – the halfway point.
KOB 4 will be tracking all of the bills mentioned on Tracker 4 as they move through the Roundhouse.