Bipartisan crime package clears Senate
February 14, 2018 11:50 PM
SANTA FE, N.M. -- A group of bills aimed at cracking down on crime in New Mexico is on its way to the governor’s desk.
The Senate passed a bipartisan package of five bills Wednesday, and representatives in the House approved. However, some senators who voted for it say it’s not enough to tackle the state’s crime problem.
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said the package was a compromise between Democrats and Republicans.
"This is a step, and I think that what we've finally have figured out after debating back and forth," he said. "Penalties or just treatment? The answer is both."
After brief a floor debate, the omnibus crime package cleared the Senate by a vote of 32-2. The five bills in the package would:
- provide substance abuse and mental health screening and treatment for an inmate to keep them from winding up back in jail once they’re released;
- increase prison time for felons caught with a firearm;
- offer bonuses for the most experienced law enforcement officers to keep them on the force;
- increase DWI ignition interlock removal requirements;
- and reduce penalties for minor non-violent crimes like jaywalking.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, voted for the crime package but said lawmakers need to do more to fight crime.
"We shouldn’t be taking too many bows today. We have a very serious crime problem in our state," he said. "That crime problem is keeping businesses from coming to our state, from our state prospering and doing well. And most important to me as a father, it causes my daughters not to want to live in Albuquerque."
Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, voted against the bill saying it doesn't address the state's serious crime problem.
"It just doesn't do enough for some of the problems that we have," he said. "I tried to run two bills this session that would address some of these crime problems and they were rejected."
Before the vote, Baca tried to add the Baby Briana expansion bill to the crime package, which would make child abuse resulting in death a life sentence regardless of the child's age. But Wirth said Baca tried to add Baby Briana's bill too late in the game.
"One of the things that the sponsors of the bill had agreed to upfront -- and there's a trust component here -- is that to bring this bill down to the floor and really not have amendments put on it," he said. "The challenge is any member can amend a bill, so this kind of came at the very last minute. In fact, this amendment came too late the vote had already been called. So this really wasn't the place to have that discussion."
Updated: February 14, 2018 11:50 PM
Created: February 14, 2018 04:11 PM
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