Tracker 4: At the Roundhouse

For the past few years, lawmakers have arrived at the Roundhouse with a head of steam when it comes to public safety laws. But by the time the legislative session ends, that head of steam seems like it has dissipated into the cold Santa Fe air.

This year, we’re keeping a close eye on not only which bills die, but where they die, who casts the votes to kill them, and what the key points are in the debate surrounding crime and punishment.

2024

House Bill 106 would amend New Mexico law to make intentional exposure to fentanyl in addition to methamphetamine evidence of child abuse. Sponsored by Republicans Stefanie Lord and Andrea Reeb, the bill is as simple as it comes: it literally adds the words “or fentanyl” to existing law. 

There’s no question fentanyl exposure is dangerous to children. According to the New Mexico Department of Health drug overdoses deaths are on the rise across the U.S. but rates in New Mexico are above the national average. Fentanyl is a top concern nationwide. And the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Identified it as the “top drug threat” in Albuquerque 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham did not include it in her legislative agenda, nor does the bill have an executive message from the governor, but lawmakers have elected to consider it with the possibility that it might get added to the agenda.  

It’s hard to guess the cost of such a change in the law. The bill’s authors included $500,000 a year to help pay for more child abuse investigations.  

The House Judiciary Committee passed HB 106 on Monday, Jan. 22, on a bipartisan 7-3 vote. Democratic Reps. Gail Chasey, Reena Szczepanski and Matthew McQueen voted against it. In a testy exchange explaining his vote, McQueen said the bill had “serious issues” and that it was “not acceptable to say ‘Oh, we have to protect the children’ and so we overlook obvious flaws in bills.” Earlier in debate, McQueen questioned wording that is currently in New Mexico law and worried aloud that the bill was too vague.  

Other key points in the debate involved whether the law applied to unborn children – sponsor Andrea Reeb said it would not – and whether it might criminalize legally prescribed fentanyl. Reeb said it would all come down to intent, saying anyone legally prescribed fentanyl still has a duty to keep it away from a child. Supporters said it was a matter of protecting our state’s children.

The bill was sent to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. It died after never receiving a hearing in that committee. 

House Bill 27 amends New Mexico’s Extreme Risk Protection Order – also known as a Red Flag Law. The idea is to make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of people who may be a danger to themselves or others. The law was originally passed in 2020. It is infrequently used. In December KOB 4 found 28 cases were filed in Bernalillo County; more than double what we found in the rest of the state. On Tuesday, an APD witness stated 30 cases have been filed by APD since the law was enacted.  

The bill would set a specified one year, 365-day period for orders. It also expands the number of people who can request to have an order filed to include licensed healthcare professionals and law enforcement officers. The bill also seeks to speed up the process by requiring respondents to immediately hand over their guns upon being served. Law enforcement agencies would also be allowed to sell or destroy any unclaimed guns 365 days after an order expires.  

There aren’t any direct costs tied to the bill. Analysts noted that it’s hard to predict any additional costs considering the bill is just an expansion of a law that’s already on the books.  

The House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee passed a committee substitute for the bill on Tuesday, Jan. 23. It was a party-line 4-2 vote. Republican representatives John Block and Stefani Lord opposed the bill.

Block also asked about the addition of medical professionals, asking if any licensed professional, from a podiatrist to a nutritionist could petition the court. Sponsors said only those licensed under specific licenses listed in the bill could make a petition. A question from Block about legal representation resulted in a combative exchange. Block asked if respondents could be represented by public defenders. Bill sponsors said no. Lord asked how respondents would be notified to claim their firearms before they were destroyed. An APD expert witness said that would vary by jurisdiction. Lord also asked if New Mexico judges were okay with the potentially increased workload. She was told no objections had been raised. The substituted bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee. 

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill on Monday, Jan. 29. It was a 7-4 vote on party lines with Republicans Jared Hembree, T. Ryan Lane, Andrea Reeb, and William Rehm opposed. Republican representatives brought up similar concerns to those brought up in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. Democratic Rep. Eliseo Alcon tried to amend the bill to require unclaimed firearms to be destroyed. The amendment failed.

The bill was sent to the House floor, but it never received debate or a vote.  

Senate Bill 55 would make hazing a crime in New Mexico. It’s no secret that hazing is a serious concern at schools across the state. Just last year, the NMSU men’s basketball season ended prematurely due to allegations of hazing. Head coach Greg Heiar was fired. Three students now face sexual assault charges. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham put her support behind the bill. 

The Senate Education Committee passed an amended bill sending it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The original bill included a possible 4th-degree felony charge for instances of hazing that cause “substantial harm.” The amendment removed the felony charge. There was no opposition to the amendment. 

If made law, anyone found guilty of hazing would face a misdemeanor charge. Student organizations or groups that permit hazing could be held liable for damages, and would lose state-funded grants, scholarships, or awards. Universities would also be required to state steps to prevent hazing, provide anti-hazing training and education, and provide annual reports on hazing incidents and investigations.  

In the House, Rep. Joshua Hernandez introduced House Bill 225. The House bill is similar to the Senate bill before it was amended to remove the felony charge. The bill also includes an appropriation of $500,000 to implement a statewide online portal with training on hazing, and how to report it.  

The House Judiciary Committee considered the bill on Friday, Feb. 9. The bill was amended to limit the crime to only instances of hazing at colleges and universities. The committee held off on taking any action on the bill to continue working on it. Committee Chair Rep. Christine Chandler stated she did not believe the bill had a chance of passing this session but said it was clear there was interest in crafting some sort of anti-hazing law. The bill did not get another hearing and died at the end of the 2024 session.

House Bill 114 aims to reduce gun violence by instituting additional regulations on the manufacturing, sale, and advertising of guns. Firearm industry members would be required to implement reasonable measures to prevent loss or theft of guns, and to prevent fraudulent sale or distribution of guns. Failure to do so could result in civil penalties of $5,000 for each violation.  

The law may generate money for the state, but legislative analysts say it would be minimal. In terms of costs, analysts estimated a one-time cost of $450,000 to the New Mexico Department of Justice to defend a legal challenge against the bill in court. They estimate an additional $5,500 per event would be needed to provide extra security for court personnel. Private citizens would also be allowed to sue for potential punitive or compensatory damages.  

The House Public Consumer and Public Affairs Committee passed a substituted bill on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Republicans John Block and Stefani Lord were opposed. On Friday, Jan. 25, the House Judiciary Committee passed an amended version of the bill on a party-line vote.

It was sent to the House floor but never received debate or a vote.  

A pair of competing bills would institute a 14-day waiting period on gun sales in New Mexico. The House is considering House Bill 129. The Senate considered Senate Bill 69 The House bill ultimately was sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk after undergoing several amendments. 

HB 129 was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Andrea Romero. She says the waiting period is meant to allow time for federally required background checks to be completed. Romero says her bill will save lives. A substituted bill passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Jan. 25 on a party-line vote.  

The House Judiciary Committee passed a substituted version of the bill on Monday, Jan. 29.

The full House debated HB 129 on Friday, Feb. 2. The bill was amended on the House floor to reduce the waiting period to seven days. The amendment was put forward by Rep. Art De La Cruz of Albuquerque. In an exchange with Republican representative Stefani Lord, De La Cruz said he felt a waiting period was logical as a step to reduce suicides. Under questioning from Republican T. Ryan Lane, Del La Cruz stated with his amendment he hoped to give an appropriate space of time for people in crisis without being overly inconvenient for others. The amendment was approved in a 35-34 vote. HB 129 was then passed in a 37-33 vote.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard House Bill 129 on Wednesday Feb. 7. The chair of the committee, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, is the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, SB 69. Cervantes' bill included exceptions for concealed carry permit holders, law enforcement agencies, and immediate family members. That was something House Republicans wanted to see. Cervantes told lawmakers he wouldn't carry this bill if he didn't think it was constitutionally sound.  

When HB 129 reached the Senate Judiciary Committee he offered an amendment to the House bill that would set a time for a gun sale to be completed even if a federal background check is not completed. The amendment also included the exemptions contained in the Senate bill. The amendment was adopted by the committee. Two additional amendments were proposed. One would have restored the waiting period in the House bill to 14 days. That amendment failed. The second would have allowed gun sellers to report federal background checks not completed within 30 days to law enforcement. It also failed. The committee passed the amended bill and sent it to the full Senate.  

On Saturday, Feb. 10, the Senate debated House Bill 129 for nearly four hours. Sen. Cervantes introduced another amendment to the bill on the floor. The amendment reduced the amount of time a gun seller would have to wait if a background check is not completed to release the gun from 30 days to 20 days. The amendment was passed. The bill faced opposition on the floor. Opponents said it would not impact crime and would instead punish responsible law-abiding gun owners. Supporters agreed it may not impact crime, but said the bill is primarily aimed at reducing suicides. House Bill 129 passed in a vote of 23-18. The amended bill was sent back to the House for a concurrence vote. 

The House accepted the amended version of the bill in a 36-32 vote. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for signature. If the governor signs the bill, it will become law.  

House Bill 137 would ban gas-operated semi-automatic guns. It would also prohibit detachable magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, bump stocks, and other “machine gun” attachments which are designed to increase the rate of fire. It mimics a bill U.S. Sen. Martin Hein introduced in the Senate known as the GOSAFE Act. There are exceptions in the bill for government agencies, as well as Native American tribes and pueblos.  

Analysts note the New Mexico Department of Justice and the Administrative Office of the Courts warned the bill may result in lawsuits against the State of New Mexico. The estimated cost of defending against legal challenges is $450,000 and an additional $5,500 per event to provide security to court personnel. Analysts also noted the bill is expected to result in more people ending up in prison, raising the costs of housing inmates. 

The bill passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Jan. 25 on a party-line vote. It was sent to the House Judiciary Committee.

The House Judiciary Committee passed a substituted version of the bill on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Changes included updating definitions to ensure BB guns were excluded from the ban. The date of implementation was also changed from January of next year to July of this year to limit people from rushing to buy gas-operated guns before the law went into place.

The bill allows for guns already in existence to be grandfathered in. Those guns will have to be registered with the New Mexico Department of Justice. The registration deadline for gas-operated guns grandfathered in by the bill was also extended to Sept. 1.

Republican Andrea Reeb raised concerns about the registration requirement. She said she was worried people unaware of the new requirement, or those who used their weapons to defend themselves, would be charged with crimes.

Sponsors and expert witnesses stated there would be a six-month grace period, and public outreach to help law-abiding citizens avoid issues should the law be passed. The bill was sent to the full House on a 7-4 vote. Republicans William Rehm, Jared Hembree, T. Ryan Lane, and Andrea Reeb were opposed.  

The bill was sent to the House floor, but it was never brought up for a vote.  

House Bill 127 would raise the age to 21 to legally purchase or possess automatic or semi-automatic guns, or large-capacity magazines. There are exceptions for safety courses, target shooting at ranges, organized competitions, performances, and legal hunting or trapping. Those under the age of 21 would still be allowed to possess a gun on private property under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian

If passed, it would make illegal sales a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. It's hard to say how much the bill would cost the state in terms of prosecution or imprisonment. Analysts believe the cost would be minimal to moderate 

The bill passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Jan. 25 on a party-line vote of 4-2. Republicans John Block and Stefani Lord were opposed. It was sent to the House Judiciary Committee.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, the House Judiciary Committee debated the bill. Sponsors said the bill will save lives and is just one of several reforms needed in New Mexico. Republican Rep. Ryan Lane wondered why the law was needed, considering laws already on the books restricting the purchase of handguns. The bill was passed and sent to the full House floor in a party-line vote of 6-4. Republicans William Rehm, Jared Hembree, T. Ryan Lane, and Andrea Reeb were opposed.  

It was sent to the House floor but never received a vote.  

Senate Bill 122 would have established so-called rebuttable presumption for the most violent suspects in New Mexico. The idea was to automatically assume suspects charged with murder, human trafficking, felony child abuse, and certain other felonies are a danger to the community, and to hold them in jail.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham included the bill in her public safety agenda. She said it would keep New Mexicans safe from career criminals.  

This is not the first time we’ve seen a rebuttable presumption bill in the Roundhouse. Past proposals failed in 2021, 2022, and 2023 

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted to table the bill in a 5-4 vote on Monday, Jan. 29.

Democratic Sens. Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, Bill Tallman, Antonio “Moe” Maestas, Brenda McKenna, and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez voted in favor of tabling the bill. Democratic Sen. Martin Hickey joined Republicans Gregg Schmedes, Steve McCutcheon, and Greg Nibert in voting against it. Opponents said the bill is unconstitutional.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman defended it. He said it’s based on federal law which is already in place. He said it would help keep our community safe.

Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez pushed back, asking how the bill would fly under New Mexico’s constitution which was amended in 2016 to allow release without bail. Bregman said he felt the wording of the bill would pass constitutional muster, but that it’s the job of the New Mexico Supreme Court to ultimately decide.  

Senate Bill 96 would increase the penalties for second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. If passed, the penalty for second-degree murder would be raised from 15 years to 18 years. The penalty for attempted second-degree murder would be raised from three years to nine years.  

The exact costs of the bill would vary based on the number of people incarcerated in New Mexico prisons. The bill is expected to increase the number of people behind bars. The Corrections Department Estimated the average cost to incarcerate a single inmate in Fiscal Year 2022 at $54,900. The Legislative Finance Committee estimated an additional $26,600 per inmate across all facilities if the bill passed.  

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee considered the bill on Friday, Feb. 2. Sponsor, Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas called second-degree murder the second worst crime on the books in New Mexico, but punishments for some other crimes are higher. Maestas said the bill would make the penalty match the crime by making it the second-highest penalty on the books. The committee passed the bill in a 6-3 vote.

Democratic Sens. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, Brenda McKenna, and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez opposed the bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee considered the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 13. It was unanimously passed and sent to the Senate floor.  

The Senate voted on the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 13. There was no debate. It passed in a 32-4 vote. Democratic Sens. Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, Brenda McKenna, Harold Pope, and William Soules were the opposing votes. The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee.  

The House Judiciary Committee heard the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 14. It passed in a vote of 5-3. Democratic Reps. Andrea Romero, Gail Chasey, and Matthew McQueen opposed the bill. Reps. T. Ryan Lane, Javier Martinez, and Reena Szczepanski were not present.  

The full House considered House Bill 96 on Tuesday, Feb. 14. It passed in a vote of 49-18. The bill was sent to the governor’s desk. If signed, it will become law.  

Senate Bill 271 would amend pretrial detention laws. Under the proposal, any defendant on pretrial release on a felony charge who is then arrested on a subsequent felony charge could be held in jail without bond until a judge could hold a hearing considering modifying or revoking their conditions of release. If passed and signed by the governor, the bill would go into effect immediately.  

Analysts estimate the bill would result in the state spending around seven million dollars more each year to cover the costs of additional inmates in New Mexico jails. However, costs would vary depending on how many people are detained. The analyst notes the Public Defender's office raised concerns about possible conflicts with the state constitution. But sponsor, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, believes his bill will not run into any issues.  

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee passed an amended version of the bill in an 8-1 vote. Sen. Brenda McKenna was the lone dissenting vote. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard the bill on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Sen. Katy Duhigg called the bill an election-year effort for lawmakers to try and look like they are doing something about pretrial detention and said the bill would be made moot by rulemaking from the New Mexico Supreme Court. Ivey-Soto said lawmakers have established statutes in the past that are directive to the court. He urged passage of the bill saying it would pressure the court to act. The committee tabled the bill.

Sens. Joseph Cervantes, Katy Duhigg, Bill O’Neill, and Mimi Stewart supported the motion to table. Sens. Ivey-Soto and Peter Wirth opposed the motion. Republican Sens. Greg Baca, Mark Moores, and Cliff Pirtle were not present.  

The Senate Judiciary Committee considered a substitute version of the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 13. It passed the committee in a 5-1 vote with only Sen. Mimi Stewart opposed. Sens. Cliff Pirtle and Katy Duhigg were not present. The bill moved to the full chamber.  

The full Senate voted on the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Sen. Greg Nibert questioned why an emergency clause was removed from the Senate Judiciary substitute. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto stated it was in deference to the separation of powers between the legislature and judiciary. He said the removal allowed the New Mexico Supreme Court to draft rules to implement the statute. Senate Bill 271 passed in a vote of 27-1. Sen. Brenda McKenna was the dissenting vote. The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee.  

The House Judiciary Committee heard the bill on Wednesday, Feb. 14. The bill passed in a vote of 7-2. Reps. Christine Chandler and Andrea Romero were the dissenting votes. Reps. T. Ryan Lane and Reena Szczepanski were not present. The bill was sent to the full House.  

The House considered the bill on Wednesday, Feb. 14. It was passed in a vote of 57-10. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. If signed, it will become law.  

Senate Bill 204 would make it a felony to carry a gun in a park or playground. There would be exceptions for police officers, licensed security officers, and U.S. service members. The bill is part of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public safety agenda. The governor narrowed a controversial public health order in September to put a similar ban in place in Bernalillo County. That order is being challenged in court. The New Mexico Supreme Court heard arguments in January. No ruling has been issued. Senate Bill 204 would put the ban into New Mexico law.  

Costs associated with the bill would vary based on how many people are incarcerated under the law. It’s hard to estimate how many people would be charged or convicted. The New Mexico Department of Corrections reported it cost $49,600 to incarcerate a single inmate in Fiscal Year 2022. Analysts estimate additional costs of up to $37,500 for the state, and $28,800 for counties should the law pass.  

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee considered the bill on Saturday, Feb. 10. Sen. Greg Nibert proposed an amendment that would allow people with a concealed carry license or a federal firearms license to carry guns on playgrounds. Sponsor Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto stated he was neutral on the amendment but noted that public commenters who spoke in opposition to the bill all supported the amendment. The amendment passed in a 4-2 vote. Sens. Brenda McKenna and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez opposed the amendment. Sens. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, Gregg Schmedes, and Bill Tallman were not present for the vote on the amendment.

The bill passed the committee on a vote of 5-2. Republican Sens. Steve McCutcheon and Greg Nibert were the two opposing votes. Sens. Antonio “Moe” Maestas and Gregg Schmedes were not present.

The bill was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill died after not getting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 30-day session.  

Senate Bill 248 aims to ban panhandling in certain areas statewide. The bill would make solicitation in restricted areas or times either a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor punishable by six months to one year in prison. The governor included the proposal on her public safety agenda. New Mexico has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the country. The governor and supporters of Senate Bill 248 say it will reduce that rate by increasing safety on New Mexico streets.   

Legislative analysts noted the bill would likely lead to more people being incarcerated, raising costs for the judicial system. Costs would vary based on how many people are jailed for violations, and how long they are jailed for. Analysts estimate an additional cost of between $9,614 to $19,200 for each inmate.  

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee heard the bill on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Sens. Greg Nibert and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez both raised concerns the bill was not narrowly tailored enough to survive challenges on First Amendment grounds. The committee voted unanimously 8-0 to table the bill. Republican Sen. Gregg Schmedes was not present for the vote.  

Senate Bill 5 would ban firearms inside polling places and within 100 feet of the entrance. It also would ban guns within 50 feet of ballot drop boxes. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth is sponsoring the proposal, which cleared the Senate floor in 2023 before stalling in the House. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is also backing the bill. She included it on her public safety agenda for the 2024 legislative session. Guns are currently already banned from polling places contained within schools. Wirth said this bill is making sure all polling locations are on the same level. 

If passed, a violation would be a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Legislative analysts say the bill could have significant fiscal impacts by increasing the population in New Mexico prisons and jails. Estimated costs are $9,614 per inmate.  

On Wednesday, Jan. 24 the Senate Rules Committee passed an amended version of the bill.  The bill was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. On Friday, Jan. 26, the committee passed a substitute version of the bill. The full Senate debated and voted on the bill on Tuesday, Jan. 30. It passed in a 26-16 vote.  The bill was sent to the House.  

The House Judiciary Committee heard the bill on Friday, Feb. 9. The committee passed the bill in a 7-4 party-line vote and sent it to the full House.  

The House debated the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Republican Rep. William “Bill” Rehm sponsored an amendment on the floor that added an exemption for concealed carry license holders. Sen. Mark Moores attempted to get a similar amendment passed on the Senate floor, but it failed in that chamber. The amendment narrowly passed the House in a vote of 35-34. The bill then narrowly passed the House by the same margin of 35-34. The amended bill was sent back to the Senate for concurrence.  

On Wednesday, Feb. 14 the Senate unanimously voted to accept the House changes. Sen. Mark Moores said the House amendment sponsored by Rep. Rehm is what earned the bill Republican support. He urged the Democratic majority to work with Republicans, saying the vote was an example of how things can get done in Santa Fe if both parties work together. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. If signed, it will become law.  

2023

Albuquerque Republican Rep. William Rehm is the driving force behind a bill he’s introduced several times at the Legislature. He’s still looking for a win on his idea, which he says creates a stronger deterrent to carrying guns while drug trafficking. He got some perhaps unexpected support in 2023 from a fellow Albuquerque representative; Democrat Joy Garratt signed on as a co-sponsor. 

House Bill 59 would have made carrying a gun while drug trafficking a third-degree felony. A legislative analysis pointed out the bill wouldn’t catch any new criminals (since they’d already have to be trafficking drugs to be convicted of this new crime). Rather, it would keep them in prison longer. The analysis estimated the bill would impact 12 criminals a year, adding perhaps 2 ½ years to their sentences. 

Democratic opponents of the bill argued that Rehm’s bill wasn’t focused on the right part of the crime, pointing out New Mexico already has a sentencing enhancement for using a gun while committing the crime of drug trafficking – a penalty that focuses on not just carrying a weapon, but using it. Analysts and critics often point to studies that show increasing penalties for criminal offenses to be an ineffective method for deterring crime. 

While HB 59 typified opposing views on how to handle crime and punishment, it didn’t get far in the 2023 session. During the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee meeting last January, Democratic Rep. Andrea Romero (Santa Fe) moved to table the bill. Democrats Joanne Ferrary (Las Cruces), Angelica Rubio (Las Cruces), and Liz Thomson (Albuquerque) voted in favor of the tabling motion. Republican Reps. Stephanie Lord (Bernalillo & Torrance) and John Block (Alamogordo) voted to try to keep the proposal alive. 

A number of measures in 2023 took aim at gun safety/control by attempting to legislate gun modifications or accessories. Albuquerque Democratic Reps. Patricia Roybal Caballero and Eleanor Chávez joined with Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez to propose a House Bill 72, which would have made it a felony to knowingly possess a semiautomatic converter (a device which turns a semiautomatic gun into an automatic one). The bill ultimately failed to get a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. 

Rather than providing a menu of options, some lawmakers worried similar bills like House Bill 50 could compete and sidetrack the assault weapons ban (HB 101). Like HB 72, HB 50 would have banned an accessory: high-capacity magazines. Ultimately, the assault weapons ban failed, but with the bill expected to resurface in the 2024 legislative session, there could be more debate in both chambers as legislators continue the fight to increase public safety. 

Democratic Rep. Andrea Romero (Santa Fe) sponsored HB 100, which would have required a 14-day waiting period before buyers could take possession of a gun. Romero and her four Democratic cosponsors saw the bill clear two committees and arrive on the House Floor nearly a month before the end of the session. But that’s where it died without a vote or floor debate – which means representatives didn’t have to be on the record with a stance on the bill unless they voted in committee. 

Based on debate, support for the bill largely broke along party lines, with Democrats favoring it and Republicans opposing it. But with no floor action despite a 45-25 advantage in the House, it’s safe to say Democrats were not united behind the bill. 

Supporters said the bill would provide a reasonable cooling off period for people who buy a gun on impulse during a mental health crisis. It would have also closed a background check loophole. Those who didn’t abide by the waiting period could face a misdemeanor charge. 

Opponents such as Republican Rep. Greg Nibert said the bill would run afoul of the Second Amendment. They added claims it would reduce teen suicide are likely inflated, since the minimum age for handgun purchases is 21 years old. They also claimed a waiting period unfairly burdened people in rural New Mexico, forcing them to make two trips for a gun purchase. 

The Senate took a late run at the issue, with SB 427. As sponsor Sen. Joe Cervantes explained, the Senate version created some exemptions to the waiting period. (For example, people who hold a concealed carry permit.) 

Senate Bill 427 cleared Senate Health and Public Affairs as well as Senate Judiciary but did not get a vote on the Senate Floor. 

Although the bill had backing from key Democrats President Pro Tem Sen. Mimi Stewart (Bernalillo) and Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth (Sante Fe), there were controversial issues. This includes unclear language, exemptions for law enforcement officers, and constitutional concerns.  

Sante Fe Democratic Rep. Andrea Romero and four other democrats introduced House Bill 101, which functioned as an assault weapons ban. It would have created two new criminal offenses. The first, made possessing or selling a defined “assault weapon” or large capacity magazine a crime. The bill also created a grandfather provision for owning a banned weapon, provided the owner filed a statement of ownership with the state. Failure to do that would also be a felony. Both violations could be punishable by an 18-month prison sentence. 

Speaker of the House Javier Martinez referred the bill to two committees, and at the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee meeting on Feb. 8, 2023, Romero introduced a substitute version of her bill, which passed on a party-line vote, with Democratic Reps. Romero, Ferrary, Rubio and Thompson voting for it. Republican Reps. Block and Lord voted against the ban. It died there, though, after not receiving a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. 

Romero called it a “mass shooting prevention bill” – language that clearly drew a line – and said it could have the same impact the 10-year Federal assault weapons ban had. She argued that since the ban expired in 2004, mass shootings increased 

Dozens of expert witnesses challenged the bill, worried about a Second Amendment violation. Republican Rep. John Block (Alamogordo) expressed skepticism about the definition of an assault weapon as well as the lack of exemptions for shooting sports and disabled individuals. Block cited Everytown for Gun Safety statistics saying 81 percent of mass shootings happen with handguns rather assault weapons 

Democrats have promised a return to the issue, citing Sen. Martin Heinrich’s GOSAFE Act as a model that might meet with success by focusing not on banning specific guns, but on the mechanisms that make them more lethal. 

Since the fatal shooting of Albuquerque middle schooler Bennie Hargrove in 2021, the teen’s family and Rep. Pamelya Herndon have fought to hold adults accountable if children get access to their guns and threaten or cause harm to someone else. While the effort failed in the first session after Hargrove’s August 2021 death, it passed in 2023.

House Bill 9 makes it a misdemeanor if the gun is accessed and used as a threat, but a felony if a child takes an adult’s gun and uses it to cause “great bodily harm” (a legal term for serious injury) or death. The bill narrowly passed the House with seven Democrats – most from rural districts – voting against it. A House floor amendment added stronger language requiring a gun to be in a person’s “immediate control” rather than in “close proximity” to be exempt from the law. Debate went for hours, with Republicans wary of how prosecutors might interpret negligent storage of a gun.

A Senate floor amendment added clarifying language around a parental-permission exemption for hunting and other legal recreational gun uses. The bill passed along party lines (Democrats “yea” and Republicans “nay”), with additional questions from Republicans about how law enforcement might interpret parts of the law such as the concept of how close a gun would have to be to someone for it to be in their “immediate control.”

Organized retail crime (ORC) is an ever-increasing threat to the retail industry, resulting in multibilliondollar losses annually and danger to both customers and employees. Democratic Rep. Marian Matthews (Albuquerque) had the backing of Speaker of the House Javier Martinez (Albuquerque) and four other team members – as well as House Republicans for House Bill 234.

The bill amends the elements of shoplifting and introduces two new criminal offenses – aggravated shoplifting and organized retail crime – both of which are punishable as a third degree felony with up to three years in prison. Not many bills win widespread support from both parties, but HB 234 sailed through both the House and Senate after a few amendments. Last April it was signed by New Mexico governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham with an effective date of July 16, 2023.

The new law allows shoplifters to be charged based on the total value of merchandise stolen from multiple stores or locations. That provision makes it easier to prosecute shoplifters who cross county lines, committing the same crime in different jurisdictions. Additionally, third parties can be prosecuted. For example, any of the higher-ups in a retail theft ring.

The National Retail Federation claims that on average organized retail theft incidents have increased by 26.5 percent in 2021, with eight out of 10 retailers reporting that the violence and aggression associated with ORC has also surged. Many provisions of HB 234 deal with conduct that is already criminalized, but supporters said the bill modernized New Mexico law and created additional penalties to serve as a deterrent.