Dinelli New Mexico Sun Guest Column: “NM Legislature Should Enact Omnibus Violent Crime and Gun Control Act”

On February 6, the online news outlet New Mexico Sun published a 750 word Pete Dinelli guest opinion column entitled “Enact Omnibus Violent Crime and Gun Control Act”.  It is a longer version of a 550word guest column published by the Albuquerque Journal on January 31.

Headline: Enact Omnibus Violent Crime and Gun Control Act

By Pete Dinelli

Feb 6, 2023

“In an effort at “bipartisanship”, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham held a high-level news conference with top Democratic and Republican legislators to ask for enactment of a wide range of “solutions” to deal with the state’s violent crime. The Governors efforts at “bipartisanship” is commendable but her approach is piecemeal at best.  It does not even come close to what is actually needed to have an impact on preventing gun violence.

 A far more comprehensive approach is what is needed. Enactment of an “Omnibus Violent Crime and Gun Control Act” is needed to deal with the state’s violent crime.

What is needed is a balance between crime and punishment and gun control. The message must be loud and clear. You use a gun during the commission of a crime, or you are negligent with your gun, you go to prison with mandatory enhanced sentences.  


The following crime and sentencing provisions should be included in the “Omnibus Gun Violence And Gun Control Act”:

  • Making possession of a handgun by someone who commits a crime an aggravated third-degree felony mandating a 6-year minimum sentence.
  • Increase the firearm enhancement penalties provided for the brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony from 3 years to 10 years for a first offense and for a second or subsequent felony in which a firearm is brandished 12 years.
  • Create a new category of enhanced sentencing for use of a lethal weapon or deadly weapon other than a firearm where there is blandishment of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony with enhanced sentences of 5 years for a first offense and for second or subsequent felony in which a lethal weapon other than a firearm is brandished 8 years
  • Make it a third-degree felony for failure to secure a firearm mandating a 3-year sentence. Gun owners would have to keep their firearms in a locked container and make them inaccessible to anyone but the owner or authorized users.
  • Increase the penalty of shooting randomly into a crowded area a second-degree felony mandating a 9-year sentence.
  • Allow firearm offenses used in a drug crime to be charged separately.
  • Change bail bond to statutorily empower judges with far more discretionary authority to hold and jail those pending trial who have prior violent crime reported incidents without shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense.
  • Mandate public school systems and higher education institutions to “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, security measures, including metal detectors at single entrances designated and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers. 
  • Make organized retail crime a specific offense punishable by felony charges when value of goods stolen exceeds certain threshold.
  • Cases of juveniles arrested in possession of a weapon are to be referred the District Attorney for automatic prosecution as an adult for sentencing.
  • Make it a 3rd degree felony if a person recklessly stores a firearm and a minor gains access to it to threaten or harms someone. 


The act would include the following gun regulation measures:

  • Outlaw possession and sale assault weapon style weapons such as AR-15-style rifles and pistols with magazines of 10 rounds or more making it a third degree felony with a 6 year mandatory sentence.
  • Outlaw the sale of “ghost guns” parts.
  • Outlaw possession of semiautomatic firearm converters.
  • Limit all retail gun purchases of all types of guns per person to one gun per month. 
  • Institute mandatory extended waiting period to a full month for gun purchases.
  • Outlaw the straw purchase of guns for someone who isn’t legally able to make the purchase themselves.
  • Outlaw the sale in New Mexico of “bump-fire stocks” and other accessories.
  • Allow crime victims to sue gun manufacturers for actual and punitive damages.
  • Require the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold.
  • Implement in New Mexico mandatory handgun licensing, permitting, training, and registration requirements.
  • Expand gun ownership age limitation to 19 for rifles and shotguns.
  • Expand the prohibition of deadly weapons from a school campus to school zones making it a third-degree felony.
  • Call for a constitutional amendment to repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a statewide vote and would ensure a healthy debate. 

 The Omnibus Violent Crime and Gun Control Act must include funding for the criminal justice system. This would include funding District Attorney’s Offices, the Public Defender’s Office, the Courts and the Corrections Department.”

Pete Dinelli is a native of Albuquerque. He is a licensed New Mexico attorney with 27 years of municipal and state government service including as an assistant attorney general, assistant district attorney prosecuting violent crimes, city of Albuquerque deputy city attorney and chief public safety officer, Albuquerque city councilor, and several years in private practice. Dinelli publishes a blog covering politics in New Mexico: www.PeteDinelli.com.


The link to the Dinelli Albuquerque Journal guest column is here:





The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:

“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”

The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here:



2023 New Mexico Legislative Update: Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill Passes Senate Finance Committee 6-5 And Heads to Senate Floor; Committee Vote Prompts Republican Outburst And Antics; Democrats Need To Hold Firm And Approve Senate Bill 11

On February 23 and after a 3 hour contentious hearing the NM Senate Finance Committee voted 6 to 5 to approve Senate Bill 11 that will create and fund a new state program that would make payments to employees who take time off for the birth of a child or to attend to serious medical situations for themselves or family members.  Senate Bill 11 is  fiercely  opposed by business groups and Republican legislators who described it as a tax on both workers and employers alike.

Senate Bill 11 is sponsored by Albuquerque area Democrat and Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart.   The Senate Finance Committee held a specially convened hearing to hear from members of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force. The task force had representation from advocacy groups, business owners and labor unions that met last summer and issued a final report in October.  The task force drafted SB 11.


The program would, if enacted, provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for an employee who has a new child,  is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking or has a serious medical illness or to care for a family member with a serious medical illness.

Under the SB11 the Department of Workforce Solutions would administer the program. Employees would pay $5 for every $1,000 of income and employers with 5  or more employees would pay $4 for every $1,000 of income into a fund.  Starting in 2026 the fund  be used to compensate employees who qualify for the paid leave.

Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart said she thinks that over time the Department of Workforce Solutions would likely be able to lower the contributions.

The formula to be paid the benefits is 100% of minimum wage plus 67% of wages above minimum wage. Only minimum wage earners would earn their entire pay during the paid leave. The employee requesting time off would have to show documentation to establish the request for the leave and the Secretary of Workforce Solutions can impose fines on anyone who tries to commit fraudulent claims.

Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart is asking for $36.5 million in nonrecurring funds from the general fund over the next 2 years. Stewart said that the program once it is up and running by January 1, 2026 would begin paying back the state the money and it is expected to take a full 6 years.

Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Sarita Nair said her department supported the bill but said the worst-case scenario would be an “unfunded mandate” by the Legislature.


Stewart sponsored and introduced several amendments at the beginning of the February 23 hearing which she said were based on recent meetings with the business community.  One  of the amendments cleaned up language to add a definition for Indian Tribes and ensure consistency of that throughout the bill.

Another amendment removed a waiver for businesses that have an equal program to the 12 weeks of paid leave to a waiver for businesses that offer a substantially similar program to the 12 weeks of paid leave.

Stewart also sponsored a changed to the minimum amount of time an employee can take from 4 hours to 8 hours. Stewart said upon completion of an intermittent leave claim, both the Department of Workforce Solutions and the employer would receive a finding and an ending on the claim,

Stewarts amendments passed on a 5-4 party line vote.


Not at all surprising, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee expressed strong objections to SB 11.  Republicans expressed concern about small business owners in New Mexico and said this is a “mandate” and that does not need to be imposed.

Farmington Republican State Senator Bill Sharer had this to say:

“[My] real heartburn here, especially as a small business owner myself, is New Mexicans are still struggling. It feels like they just had the snot beat out of them. … We want to be compassionate. … We just don’t want to have our hands tied about how compassionate we have to be.”

Elephant Butte Republican State Senator Crystal Diamond  said she feared a kind of reverse discrimination could happen if the bill is enacted. She said she feared employers would not hire women of child-bearing age because the employer would fear the woman would take up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Diamond raised a rhetorical question and asked this:

“By law, they [employers] shouldn’t discriminate. But if I’m applying for a job, I’m more of a liability for an employer, for women who’ve worked so hard, we’re creating a setback here. By law [the employer] shouldn’t do that. But clearly I’m more of a liability than Senator Sharer if I’m applying for the same job. Do you see how this creates a form of unintended discrimination?”

Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart Stewart responded to Diamond saying this:

[T]hat’s what’s happening now. Why do we have half of the women of workforce age not working? They have to stay home with babies. They don’t get help from employers. They fire people. They have to quit because they had a C-section and need 6 weeks off, not one or two. I think this helps women more than men actually. It helps businesses because it’s a way to keep employees and not have to pay. It’s an insurance program. It’s a way to keep employees coming back, keep their job and they want to come back because they’re not getting the whole of their salary, only 67% of it.”

Silver City area Democrat Senator Siah Correa Hemphill who voted “YES”   referenced her experiences as a mother and said the proposal would help women in particular.  Hemphill cited data showing only 53.2% of New Mexico women age 16 and older held jobs over a recent five-year period and said this:

“This bill will protect women in the workplace.”

Last year, New Mexico lawmakers enacted a separate paid sick leave law that also  took effect last year.   Some business groups said the cumulative effect of the policies could prompt some small employers to leave the state. Terri Cole, the president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce had this to say:

“If you pass this bill, New Mexico will become more corporate and less unique.”

In response to Cole, Senator Stewart said about two-thirds of the state’s roughly 44,000 businesses with more than one employee would not have to pay into the leave fund, though their workers would have to do so.


Opponents of  Senate Bill 11 cited a Legislative Finance Committee (LFC)  analysis that said the Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force likely underestimated how many people would file and take paid family leave under the proposed law.  The LFC bill analysis projected the fund could face a $516 million deficit by the 2028 budget year. It’s an amount that could cause the state Workforce Solutions Department to order an increase in the premium amount that businesses and employees would have to pay into the fund.

Supporters of Senate Bill 11  insist the bill has been thoroughly vetted and said it could actually help businesses by providing a level playing field across the state. Supporters dispute the LFC  analysis saying it relies on U.S. Department of Labor surveys about the federal Family and Medical Leave Act which requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in certain circumstances  and not on other states’ experiences with paid family leave laws. Senator Mimi Stewart said this:

“We want employees to want to go back to work. … The “[fiscal impact report]  is wrong. … It used an inaccurate study.”

Gallup area State Senator George Muñoz was the sole Democrat to vote against the bill even though he voted against a motion to table the bill.   Muñoz said  he opposed Senate Bill 11 because the Fiscal Impact Report questions “the solvency of the fund and we need to fix that.”

Senate Bill 11 will now go to the Senate floor for a final vote and if it passes the Senate, it goes onto the House.

Links to quoted and relied upon news sources are here:



Some New Mexico employers already provide paid family leave, and could decide whether to join the state program, as long as they offer similar benefits. Under a 2019 executive order issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham paid family leave is already required of some employers and the list of employers  includes the University of New Mexico, Netflix and the state of New Mexico. However, the Governor  has not taken a stance on Senate Bill 11 with a spokeswoman saying  she was still evaluating the proposal.


On February 24, Senate Republicans on the Senate floor challenged as inappropriate the manner and method the Senate Finance Committee voted 6 to 5 to approve the Paid Family and Medical Leave  SB 11.  Pandemic-related rules and the Senate Finance Committee vote on paid family leave bill prompted Senate Republicans to slow virtually all Senate floor proceedings to a crawl. The Republican  delay tactics included a 30-minute mini-filibuster by Farmington Republican Senator William Sharer and requests that bills being voted upon be read in their entirety.  The reading of pending legislation before a vote is taken is usually “suspended” or waived by a sperate vote so as to save hours of time with the underlining presumption that legislators have already read and understand the legislation they are about to cast their final vote on.

The Republican procedural protests caused Senate Democratic leaders to cut short the day’s planned floor session.  It  halted action on the 178-page elections reform bill that was on the daily agenda, legislation also strenuously opposed by Republicans so Republican’s were able to delay two major Democrat initiatives with their obstructionist antics.

The Senate floor dispute centered on Republican false accusations that Senate Democrats broke a Senate procedural rule during the February 24 Senate Finance Committee hearing  when the final committee vote on the  Paid Family and Medical Leave bill was cast via telephone by Senator  Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, who is self-isolating at his home because of COVID-19.  Under the Senate procedural rule in question, senators who have tested positive for COVID-19 can participate remotely and also vote  on bills, but only if they are “visually present” via online technology.

During the committee hearing, Gonzales voted “YES” on the legislation joining 5 other Democrats in voting in support resulting a 6-5 vote after Democrat Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla called him and then held his phone close to a committee microphone to record the vote, but was not visually present on the committee’s webcast. Not once did anyone on the committee even suggest that someone else was on the telephone line nor that they did not recognize the voice.

Senate Republican Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen said on the Senate Floor
“That’s well outside the Senate rules.” Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho for his part self righteously said “We have rules for a reason.”  There is also obstruction that goes on for a reason.

Democrats strongly defended the legality of the committee vote.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman George Muñoz  said  Gonzales had been participating in the committee hearing via zoom before encountering technical difficulties while trying to vote.

Republicans argued the bill should be sent back to the committee for another vote, but their attempt to do that was rejected by the entire State Senate on a party-line vote.  The Senate vote triggered the requests for bills to be read in their entirety. This led to the Senate’s official reader, Harry Montoya  to read aloud much of a 37-page licensing bill before the request was dropped.

The link to the relied upon and quoted news source is here:



There is no getting around it. Republican votes and obstructionist antics to derail the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill and other Democrat legislation go way beyond mere “loyal opposition.”  Simply put, when Republicans find themselves on the losing end of a vote, they will go to any lengths to obstruct the business of the majority without seeking any compromise nor concessions.

Democrats and the voting public need to remember that it was Republican Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington who effectively killed the Democrat House sponsored  Voting Rights Bill last year with a filibuster on the Senate floor. Last year the Voting Rights bill had the endorsement of Governor Michell  Lujan Grisham, Secretary of State  Maggie Talouse Oliver and Democratic leadership measure. In order to run out the clock on the 2022  legislative session, Sharer talked about San Juan River fly-fishing, baseball rules, Navajo Code Talkers and the celestial alignment of the sun and moon during his lengthy filler buster on the Senate floor and it worked.

Republican Shaerer and his Republican colleagues are once again doing whatever they can, where ever they can,  to stop the passage of Democrat initiatives.  Democrat initiatives  Republicans  oppose this year include the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, this years HB 4  Voting Rights Act and  HB 7  the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act that prohibit discrimination in reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming healthcare and that prohibits  municipalities and counties from passing ordinances that directly or indirectly discriminate against either reproductive and gender-affirming care.

Democrats in the 2023 legislative session hold a 45-25 majority in the House and a 27-15 edge in the Senate and this year’s session is a 60 day session.  With less than 3 weeks left of the 2023 legislative session, Senate and House Democrats need to move as quickly and as aggressively as possible to get a final votes on all of their pending legislation in order to avoid embarrassing Republican filibusters. If not, they will have only themselves to blame.

2023 NM LEGISLATURE UPDATE: Lawmakers Block Rebuttable Presumption For Pretrial Detention; DA Bregman Proclaims Pretrial System “Broken” When It’s His Office That Needs Fixing;  Enhanced Sentencing After Convictions Will  Have Impact On Violent Crime, Not Pretrial Detention

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for a second time is advocating major changes to the state’s  criminal justice pretrial detention system  in the form of enacting “rebuttable presumption” to make it easier to hold defendants accused of violent crimes until trial.  The legislation would create a “rebuttable presumption” of dangerousness for defendants charged with violent crimes and that they be held without bond pending trial.

The aim of rebuttable presumption” is to make it easier for more defendants to be held in custody before they’ve been convicted and to keep them from committing new crimes. Proponents of rebuttable presumption say it will reduce violent crime.  Opponents of rebuttable presumption say courts can already keep a defendant behind bars and that reputable presumption shifts the burden of proof to defendants and violates the basic constitutional right of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

District Attorneys throughout the state have argued the changes to the bail bond laws, as well as rules imposed by the New Mexico Supreme Court, make it way too difficult for them to do their jobs and prove to a judge that a defendant poses a threat to the public justifying that a violent felon be denied bail and be held in custody pending trial. As crime rates increased judges were accused of allowing “catch and release of violent felons”.

Over the last 6 years, prosecutors, law enforcement and elected officials have repeatedly slammed judges and the court system for letting out until trial those accused of violent felonies, particularly when they re-offend. Judges are bound by the Code of Judicial conduct and no judge can comment and defend themselves on any pending case or even make any kind of an attempt to publicly defend themselves in the court of public opinion.



On February 15 the New Mexico Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted narrowly on a 4-3 vote to table Senate Bill 123 the rebuttable presumption bill sponsored by State Senator Linda Lopez. The bill would have directed judges to presume that defendants charged with certain crimes, such as first-degree murder and felony child abuse, are too dangerous to release before trial, subject to rebuttal by defense attorneys thereby shifting the burden of proof to the defense.   Senate Bill 123 outlined serious violent felony offenses charges that would trigger a “rebuttable presumption against release” of the defendant.  Under the bill, a judge could still order the person released if the defense offered arguments that outweighed the presumption. Legislative analysts estimated the bill could cost the state about $15 million a year in additional detention costs.

Committee Republican lawmaker members supported the measure while Democrats members were split.  Voting in favor of tabling  Senate Bill 123, thereby killing the measure, were Democratic Sens. Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque, Brenda McKenna of Corrales, Bill Tallman of Albuquerque and Sedillo Lopez of Albquerquerqu. Voting to oppose tabling the bill were Republican Sens. Gregg Schmedes of Tijeras and David Gallegos of Eunice, in addition to Democrat Senator Moe Maestas, a former state prosecutor.

The committee’s vote to table the bill keeps it from advancing further and is likely a fatal blow.  However, the committee could vote to reconsider, which is not likely, or it could be resurrected in separate legislation which is in fact pending.


During the Senate Committee hearing, opponents of Senate Bill 123 said the bill would violate the rights of people accused, but not convicted, of a crime. It was argued that serious violent crime charges alone are not a good predictor of whether a defendant will commit a new crime upon release.

Opponents of Senate Bill 123 included the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Law offices of the New Mexico Public Defender office.  Kim Chavez Cook of the Law Offices of the Public Defender outlined a series of recent state Supreme Court decisions that she said suggest the “rebuttable presumption” approach based solely on a person’s charges wouldn’t survive a legal challenge. Cook said this:

“We need to find a solution that does not violate our state Constitution.”

Albuquerque area Democrat State Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a retired UNM law professor, for her part  said this:

“There’s nothing that shows this statute is actually going to make us safer than what’s happening now. … I believe our system is worse if we convict innocent people and we hold innocent people [pending trial].”


Albuquerque Democrat State Senator Linda Lopez, a co-sponsored of the bill, told the committee about the terror she and her family suffered when her own home was shot at in a politically motivated attack.

Albuquerque area Democrat Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, who has worked as a prosecutor, said it’s clear New Mexico needs more aggressive monitoring of defendants who are released before trial.  Maestas suggested judges in the Albuquerque area have sometimes set the bar too high by rejecting detention motions filed by prosecutors.   Maestas also argued the bill would intrude into the domain of the judiciary.  Notwithstanding his reservations, Maestas voted NOT to table the legislation.


Democrat Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, who was appointed on January 3  to his job by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham testified before the committee alongside of State Senator Linda Lopez, the  sponsor of the legislation,  in favor of the reputable presumption bill.  Bregman told committee members:

“[New Mexico’s] pretrial system is broken … plain and simple. … I’m not blaming anybody. I’m asking for help.”

This coming from former high-profile defense attorney Sam Bregman who for decades made a lucrative living defending defendants who were released pending trial, including one former APD police SWAT officer who was charged with killing homeless camper James Boyd.  As a criminal defense attorney, Bregman never said New Mexico’s pretrial system is broken.  He is  known for taking advantage of it whenever he could as a defense attorney to help his clients stay out of jail pending their trial.  Now that he is responsible in part for making the criminal justice system work, he changes his tune.

Bregman was confronted by Democrat State Senator Joseph Cervantes, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a highly respected trial attorney, who in no uncertain terms asked Bregman point blank why Bregman was supporting a rebuttable presumption measure that Bregman knows is unconstitutional.  Bregman made history for being at a loss for words and gave no credible answer. It is unknown what promises DA Bregman made to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to secure his appointment as Bernalillo County District Attorney.   It is more likely than not Bregman agreed to support “rebuttable presumption” despite whatever reservations he had as a private defense attorney given that the Governor has made passage of it a priority.

Another promise Bregman likely made to the Governor was to serve only 2 years as Bernalillo County District Attorney and not run for reelection.  Two  years is no way  long enough to correct the deficiencies in the Bernalillo County District Attorneys office, no matter how great or bombastic Bregman is as an attorney in a courtroom.  At least Governor appointed Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman is not pointing fingers at the courts as being the cause of our high crime rates which is something his predecessor Raúl Torrez did for the 6 years to embellish his reputation so he could run for Attorney General.

It’s DA Office conviction rates that really matters when it comes to reducing crime.  District Attorney Sam Bregman would be wise to concentrate on fixing his own broken office that is now his for 2 years after being appointed by the Governor.  The Bernalillo County District Attorneys’ Office has a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charged by grand juries. A report prepared by the Second Judicial District for the New Mexico Supreme Court showed in part how overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the District Attorney’s Office was contributing to the high mistrial and acquittal rates.

As of November 21,2022, according to the New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has a $30,350,800 million operating budget with an adjusted operating budget of $36,680,800 which includes all sources of financing including federal grants.  The office is budgeted for 337 full time positions.  The office is fully budgeted for 102 attorneys  who are “at will” and 255 other “classified” employees consisting of paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance division personnel who can only be terminated for cause under the state personnel rules and regulations. 276 of the positions are “active” meaning filled. The office has an alarming 61 vacancies, which includes attorney vacancies. The number of vacancies in the office is larger than most other District Attorney’s offices in the state.

Bregman said he has hired 13 additional attorneys since he took office 7 weeks ago which is a good start bringing to 85 the number of prosecutors in the DA’s office which means he still has 17 attorney vacancies. (102 fully funded positions – 85 filled positions filled = 17 vacancies).  Bregman  said he plans to hire an additional 40 prosecutors this year, but that is easier said then done given the high turn over rate of the office and the need for a substantial increase of the DA budget by the 2023 legislature.

What is also a positive sign is that there has  been a major uptick in the scheduling of criminal trials in 2023 by the Second Judicial District Court. But for how long the uptick in jury trials will continue remains to be seen.  District Court Judge Brett  Loveless, who oversees the 2nd Judicial District Court’s criminal division had this to say:

“I do think that there will be an uptick in trials.  Whether it will be as substantial as nine a week, on average, remains to be seen. And if it is, I think it will be short-lived.”

Links to quoted news source material are here:




There are two other pretrial-detention measures still pending. One is House Joint Resolution 9 calling for a constitutional amendment to make more defendants eligible for pretrial detention. It’s sponsored by Republicans Reps. Andrea Reeb of Clovis, Bill Rehm of Albuquerque and Stefani Lord of Sandia Park. Joint Resolution 9 has cleared one House committee and is awaiting action in another. If approved by lawmakers, it would go to voters.

The second proposal is Senate Bill 174  sponsored by Republican Senator Gregg Schmedes of Tijeras. Senate Bill 174 is very similar to Senate Bill 123  tabled by the committee. It centers on pretrial defendants charged with new crimes. If enacted, it would require and direct judges to presume that a defendant who is charged with first-degree murder while out on pretrial release is too dangerous to release again subject to rebuttal by defense attorneys. There is also a provision in the bill dealing with defendants who pick up other new charges. Senate Bill 174 cleared one Senate committee and is awaiting action in another.

The link to quoted and relied upon news source material is here:



Many legislators remain very skeptical of rebuttable presumption. Las Cruces area Democrat Senator Joseph, a highly respected and seasoned trial attorney in his own right  and the Chairman of the influential Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the current system is largely working as intended under a 2016 bail reform constitutional amendment.  Cervantes described a rebuttable presumption as a “unconstitutional shortcut.” Cervantes in the past has said not all of New Mexico is beset by crime.  He cited Sunland Park as one of the state’s safest communities and said this:

“We operate under the same laws as the rest of the state, and we have entirely different outcomes.”


It was last year on January 20, 2022 the powerful Legislative Finance Committee released a 14-page memo analysis of the proposed “rebuttable presumption of violence” legislation for  pretrial detention. The report was also a status update on crime in Bernalillo County, law enforcement and bail reform.

LFC analysts found that low arrest, prosecution and conviction rates have more to do with rising violent crime rates than releasing defendants who are awaiting trial. The LFC report called into serious question if violent crime will be brought down by using a violent criminal charge to determine whether to keep someone accused of a crime in jail pending trial.

According to the LFC report, rebuttable presumption is “a values-based approach, not an evidence-based one.” The LFC report said  that while crime rates have increased, arrests and convictions have not. It goes on to say the promise of “swift and certain” justice has a more significant impact on crime rates and  that rebuttable presumption does not.

The LFC memo states in pertinent part:

“Research shows the certainty of being caught is a more powerful deterrent to crime than severity of punishment. … For the criminal justice system, this means it is important to prioritize solving crimes and securing convictions, particularly for serious offenses… Neither arrests nor convictions have tracked fluctuations in felony crimes, and in 2020 when felonies began to rise, accountability for those crimes fell.

“Albuquerque’s violent crime rate rose by 85% from 2012 to 2017 and has since remained stuck at a persistently high level. … Over the same time period, arrests for violent offenses rose by only 20%, resulting in a widening accountability gap for the most serious offenses. Closing this gap should be the key legal goal for APD and the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.”

The LFC memo states that the percentage of cases that ended with a conviction in 2011 was 80% compared to 59% in 2020. The LFC memo did say the conviction rate deduction could be partly explained by the implementation of case deadlines or bail reform, which resulted in fewer plea deals since people were not being held in jail and had less incentive to enter a plea in a case. According to the report:

“Low conviction rates compromise the certainty of justice and suggest law enforcement agencies and prosecutors need collaborative strategies to improve communication and to build better cases and bring them to swift resolution.


The Governor’s and Legislator’s continued support of Rebuttable Presumption for pretrial detention is a real waste time. They need to turn their attention elsewhere where it will do some good and that would be  enhancement of the  sentences of violent criminal in cases where they have actually been convicted and not merely holding pending their trial.

The following enhance sentencing provisions should be considered by the New Mexico legislature:

Making possession of a handgun by someone who commits a crime an aggravated third-degree felony mandating a 6-year minimum mandatory  sentence.

Increase the firearm enhancement penalties for the conviction of the sale and distribution of illicit drugs and for the brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony from 3 years to 10 years for a first offense and for a second or subsequent felony in which a firearm is brandished 12 years.

Create a new category of enhanced sentencing for use of a lethal weapon or deadly weapon other than a firearm where there is brandishment of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony with enhanced sentences of 5 years for a first offense and for second or subsequent felony in which a lethal weapon other than a firearm is brandished 8 years

Make it a third-degree felony for failure to secure a firearm mandating a 3-year sentence. Gun owners would have to keep their firearms in a locked container and make them inaccessible to anyone but the owner or authorized users.

Increase the penalty of shooting randomly into a crowded area a second-degree felony mandating a 9-year sentence.

Allow firearm offenses used in a drug crimes to be charged separately.

Change bail bond to statutorily empower judges with far more discretionary authority to hold and jail those pending trial who have prior violent crime reported incidents without shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense.

Cases of juveniles arrested in possession of a weapon are to be referred the District Attorney for automatic prosecution as an adult for sentencing.

Make it a 3rd degree felony if a person recklessly stores a firearm and a minor gains access to it to threaten or harms someone.

The message must be loud and clear to the violent criminal:  You use a gun or weapon during the commission of your crime, especially fentanyl drug dealing, you go to prison with mandatory enhanced sentences for a very long time.  

2023 NM LEGISLATURE UPDATE: New Voting Rights Act Passed By House; Goes To Senate For Consideration; Expect More Republican Obstruction Tactics To Run Out The Clock; Democrats Need To Be Aggressive And Pass It This Time

On February 22, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed House Bill  HB 4 the Voting Rights Act, by the  very comfortable margin of 41-26.  The bill  will now go on to the Senate for consideration. If passed by the Senate, the new bill would do the following:

1.  Phasing in a system of automatic voter registration, such as during MVD  transactions, for citizens who are qualified to vote but aren’t registered.  Supporters say it would include an opt-out for those who don’t want to register, similar to what’s used in Colorado.

2. Creation of a permanent absentee voter list. Voters would have the option of opting in to receive ballots by mail before every election rather than  having to apply each time.

3.  Automatic restoration of voting rights for inmates exiting prison. Under the current system, they must complete probation or parole before registering to vote again. There are 21 states that automatically restore voting rights after incarceration. Another 16, including  New Mexico, require someone convicted of a felony to complete their entire sentence, including probation and parole, before registering to vote.

 4.  Establishing a Native American Voting Rights Act intended to better coordinate access to the polls on tribal land and allow the use of tribal buildings as a voter-registration address for people without a traditional  address.

 5. Calling for election day to be a state holiday.

House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque  is a bill co-sponsor and a licensed New Mexico Attorney. She had this to say about HB 4  during debate:

“There are threats to our sacred right to vote in this country. In this country, the franchise is a birthright or it’s the right of naturalized citizens of this country. It’s not a privilege. It is our civil right. It’s our most sacred civil right. … HB 4—co-sponsored with a number of individuals— includes important provisions for our communities and our state. We have here the opportunity to put into statute the Native American Voting Rights Act. There are critical improvements to streamline and make more secure our automatic voter registration system. The secure automatic voter registration system makes certain that election administrators have the most current address for voters so our voter rolls are kept up to date.” 

The state House debated for over 3 hours with the final voted concluded at  11:20 p.m. The bill passed mostly along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.  House passage of  HB 4 results in it being forwarded to the Senate where intense Republican opposition is expected.


Most of the debate on the House floor  and opposition to HB 4 Bill came from Republicans who strenuously opposed  voter rights expansions and oppose efforts to make voting more convenient.  It was Alamogordo Republican John Block who offered the first of many amendments from Republicans, all of which failed.  Block’s first amendment sought to require identification at polling places, which was tabled on a 42-22 vote.


Republican Representative Block questioned  the provision of the bill calling for the creation of a permanent absentee voter list where voters would have the option of opting in to receive ballots by mail before every election rather than  having to apply each time.  Block asked how the county clerk’s office would know and update its records if a voter moved out of state or died.

Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey said that, having had to update the absentee ballot information for a relative who had recently died, that a survivor would have to take a death notice to the county clerk’s office.  In the case of a voter moving and therefore changing their residence, the voter would update the address with the USPS which would notify the county clerk’s office when any mail sent to the old address was returned to the county clerk’s office.

Bernalillo County Republican State Representative Alan Martinez, R-Bernalillo sponsored an amendment that would remove the voluntary permanent absentee voter list. Representative Chasey called the amendment unfriendly and noted that 9 states have absentee voting for almost every election, including Oregon, which began the program in 1995.  The House tabled Martinez’s amendment on a 42-24 vote killing the amendment.


Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, repeated on the House floor many of the  same questions  he had  previously asked in a committee hearing for the bill. Attacks on the use of election “drop boxes” for ballots in particular have proven to be a very popular area of objection and accusations of fraud by Republicans after Der Führer former Der  President Donald Trump made it so in his 2020 election denying his loss.

Block asked about rural drop box usage in Otero County, a sprawling, rural county that Block represents.  Otero County has 2  secured ballot boxes: one at the Otero County Clerk’s Office in Alamogordo and another at the Tularosa Public Safety Facility.  Block asked a question about post offices in rural communities and how absentee ballots can also be submitted via the U.S. Postal Service rather than in a secured ballot drop box. Block wanted to know if the county clerk would need to request more secure drop boxes.

House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey responded to Blocks questions on drop boxes by saying:

“This is a floor, not a ceiling, and the Secretary of State’s office pays for it. So it’s up to the county clerk to add additional boxes according to the geographic nature.”


Roswell Republican Greg Nibert sought to amend the bill to change the verbiage about secured ballot boxes to make it an option to have them rather than a requirement.  Floor Leader Gail Chasey Chasey called the amendment unfriendly and the chamber tabled the amendment on a 43-23 vote killing the amendment.


Since 2001, convicted  felons who have served their time and sentence have been allowed to vote. HB 4 seeks to expand the right to vote by  allowing  felons to vote upon their release from incarceration in a prison, not wait until their full sentence of probation is completed.

HB 4 states:

“During the reentry phase of an inmate’s sentence, if the inmate is a voter or otherwise a qualified elector, the inmate shall be given an opportunity to register to vote or update an existing registration… prior to the inmate’s release from custody. …  The secretary of state shall maintain current information in the statewide voter registration electronic management system on the ineligibility status of an inmate to vote or register to vote pursuant to this section, as well as an inmate’s eligibility status to vote upon release and to register to vote or update an existing voter registration while preparing for release.”

Republican State Representative Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, a former District Attorney objected to  felons having their right to vote restored upon release from a detention facility.  HB 4 only states that a felon’s right to vote is restored upon release from custody.

Reeb said this on this issue during the House Judiciary Committee on HB 4:

“I would just point out… with the person serving house arrest or on an ankle monitor, there’s quite a bit of case law out there that says that if you are serving a sentence, it is considered presentence confinement. …  So you really haven’t completed all your requirements and while you’re on probation or parole, you do have pretty strict conditions of, you know, reporting and no drugs and all those different things.”

In response to Reeb, House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey, who is also an attorney, said probation periods can last up to 5 years in some cases and parole periods can last up to 2 years. Chasey said an estimated 17,000 people would become qualified to vote should the bill succeed.


The most intensely contested part of the bill is a provision phasing in automatic voter registration during some transactions at Motor Vehicle Division offices. An example would be when a person presents documents proving citizenship while applying for a driver’s license.   The newly registered voters would be told they’ve been added to the voter rolls and that they’ll get a postcard in the mail allowing them to decline the registration.

Republican Sen. Gregg Schmedes, R-Tijeras, an opponent of the bill said its inappropriate to register someone to vote, even if it’s briefly, over their objection. He said  said the will of the people, not the government, should drive voter turnout and not registration and he said this:

“It’s manipulative to do it without their consent.”

Aztec areas Republican House Minority Floor Leader T. Ryan Lane sponsored  an amendment that would allow people to opt in to register to vote rather than opting out as the bill currently states. As written, bill states”

“A qualified elector may become registered to vote by automatic voter registration at the motor vehicle division of the taxation and revenue department or other state or local public offices designated by the secretary of state.”

Arguing against the amendment Democrat Representative Christine Chandler of Los Alamos said options are provided such as unregistering by contacting their county clerk’s office, going online to unregister or by answering the postcard that says they do not wish to be registered to vote. Once again, Democrat Floor leader Chasey considered the amendment unfriendly and the amendment was tabled on a 41-25 vote thereby killing it.


Gallup Democrat Representative D. Wonda Johnson, a co-sponsor of HB 4  offered an amendment that removes the tribal absentee ballot assistants ostensibly after it was determined to be unnecessary.  Under the bill, a tribal absentee ballot assistant is defined in the bill as a “person designated as a tribal vote coordinator or community health representative by an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo or by the federal Indian health service.” The House voted to adopt the amendment.

Representative Johnson, who is a Diné native American, said this about the original intent of the provision:

“The goal here was to ensure that our tribes and elders have the same access to their vote and ballot box as those living off reservation and with the many differing needs in tribal communities, it is going to take a little more time to make sure we find the solution that works for tribal nations.”


House Majority Leader Gail Chasey, an Albuquerque Democrat who presented the bill, described the legislation as “a major step forward for protecting the right to vote for our citizens in New Mexico.”

Senator Katy Duhigg, an Albuquerque Democrat and a former Albuquerque City Clerk is a co-sponsor of Bill 4.  Duhigg had this to say about the House passage of the bill:

“[Democrats]remain dedicated to getting the New Mexico Voting Rights Act passed and signed into law. … Democracy thrives when we eliminate the unnecessary and cumbersome barriers to being involved in the process and the New Mexico Voting Rights Act reaffirms our state’s commitment to safeguarding the sacred right to vote.”

Representative  Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, had this to say:

“Letting every voice be heard, that’s what we want.”


New Mexico  House Speaker Javier Martínez made it clear at the beginning of the 2023 Legislative session that  the protection of voting rights would  be a priority. Martínez said this:

“As other states are rolling back voting rights and restricting access to the ballot box, New Mexico will continue to work hard to ensure that we remove unnecessary barriers so that all eligible voters can make their voices heard. … Our government works better when all people, no matter their walk of life, have a voice in who represents them.  [The  bill provisions are] critical to safeguarding our democracy.”

Democrat House Majority Leader Gail Chasey  called the legislation  a “game-changing piece of legislation.” Chasey and said this at the beginning of the session:

“At its core, it modernizes our elections and empowers our voters, making it easier for thousands of New Mexicans to register and to vote. … There’s simply too much at stake for our state and for our country — from reproductive rights to climate change to social justice to our economy — to allow only a portion of our citizens to have a vote.”

Republicans for their part argued they were right to block last year’s voting bill.  However, they expressed willingness this year to pursue a bipartisan compromise on election security during this year’s legislative session.  Republican Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca said this:

“Election security and integrity are more important than ever, and we will continue to engage in good faith efforts to make needed changes to our Election Code. …  Last year, we followed the lead of our County Clerks and unanimously passed a bipartisan election bill out of the Senate that strengthened voter rights and improved election security. … Unfortunately, that consensus bill was hijacked and derailed in the House by the majority party.”

Democrat Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver who strenuously promoted last year’s legislation only to see it go down to defeat called this year’s proposal “a strong step forward for New Mexico.”  Toulouse Oliver said this:

“This legislation, I think, is even better because it has really been spearheaded and brought to life by the advocacy community [that wants] to continue to sort of pick up the ball and continue to move it forward on advancing voting rights here in New Mexico.”

The links to quoted and relied upon news sources are here:

Link to NM Politcal Report article “Voting rights expansion passes House” written by   dated







Last year during the 2022 legislative session, a short 30  day session, the Voting Rights Bill failed in the Senate after passage in the House despite endorsement from Governor Michell  Lujan Grisham, Secretary of State  Maggie Talouse Oliver and Democratic leadership. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had made passage of last year’s bill a huge priority because of election deniers only to see it go down in defeat as Republicans out maneuvered them.

Democrats and the voting public need to remember that it was  Republican Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington, who effectively killed the measure last year with a filibuster on the Senate floor. In order to run out the clock on the legislative session, Sharer talked about San Juan River fly-fishing, baseball rules, Navajo Code Talkers and the celestial alignment of the sun and moon during his lengthy filler buster on the Senate floor. Sharer’s antics are a prime example of the lengths Republicans will go to in order to interfere with a person’s right to vote and make it as difficult as possible  to vote and to disenfranchise people.

Democrats in the 2023 legislative session hold a 45-25 majority in the House and a 27-15 edge in the Senate and this year’s session is a 60 day session so there is ample time to get it enacted.  Contributing to the likely passage is that the most controversial provisions have now been removed including the removal of allowing 16-year-olds to vote in school and city elections. With a little more than 3 weeks left of the 2023 legislative session, Senate Democrats need to move as quickly as possible to get a final vote on Voting Rights Act passed by the House in order to avoid another embarrassing Republican filibuster.

2023 NM LEGISLATURE UPDATE: Bill To Protect Reproductive, Gender-Affirming Healthcare Passes House; Goes to Senate For Consideration; Democrats Would Be Damn Fools Not To Enact Legislation

On February 22, the on-line news publication “New Mexico Political Reports” published the following news article written by its staff reporter Susan Dunlap

HEADLINE: Bill to protect reproductive, gender-affirming healthcare passes House

“A bill that would prohibit discrimination in reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming healthcare passed the House by a 38 to 31 vote on Tuesday evening.

HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, will, if enacted, prohibit municipalities and counties from passing ordinances that directly or indirectly discriminate against either reproductive and gender-affirming care. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe.

The bill seeks to enable the attorney general or district attorneys to sue an entity responsible for a violation. The court could apply remedies, including monetary damages. The court can also apply a $5,000 civil penalty or actual damages against the entity responsible for the discrimination.

The cities of Clovis and Hobbs and Lea and Roosevelt counties have passed anti-abortion ordinances that impact abortion clinics’ ability to apply for licenses in those political subdivisions and also place restrictions on medication abortion.

Serrato said in her opening remarks that “our state remains a place where we can make complex decisions with doctors.” 

State Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, a bill cosponsor, said 80 percent of transgender individuals consider suicide because of the stigma and shame.

Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe, also a bill cosponsor, said the bill will, if enacted, “prevent any criminalization of providers at the local level.” 

“I can’t imagine a more chilling effect,” she said. 

Republicans tried to amend the bill on the House floor multiple times. Minority Floor Leader T. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, introduced two amendments. The first amendment would have limited HB 7 to only apply to an emancipated minor or individuals 18 years or older. Lane expressed concern about children disclosing a desire for pharmaceutical gender-affirming care or a 10 year-old girl needing an abortion and confiding in a teacher rather than a parent. That amendment failed 44 to 23.

Serrato said it was an unfriendly amendment and that teachers are already expected to report a crime or talk to the child’s parents. She added that it is “important to acknowledge children are people as well.”

Lane’s second attempted amendment would have inserted conscientious objection for abortion care for teachers. That amendment failed 43 to 24. Serrato said it was an unfriendly amendment and that it would prevent individuals from getting the healthcare they need.

State Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, tried to amend the bill to require parental consent if a child under the age of 18 seeks an abortion or gender-affirming care. Serrato said that was also an unfriendly amendment because research shows that “efforts to enforce parental notification often has the opposite effect” and said that being able to access care can reduce drug usage and be “life saving.”

“This bill primarily deals with discrimination, so this would be logrolling,” Serrato said. Logrolling refers to when a bill attempts to address multiple topics within one piece of legislation.

That amendment failed 44 to 25.

State Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, tried to amend the bill to include language that would require standards of care for abortion to be applied to “surgical clinics, maintain the same level of medical malpractice insurance as clinics that provide obstetrics and gynecology, that abortion facilities would have to employ emergency care staff and equipment on site or admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that an abortion clinic will provide 24-hour medical care.”

Serrato called that amendment unfriendly and said that abortion clinics are highly regulated, like all standards of care.

That amendment failed 44 to 23.

State Rep. Randall Pettigrew, R-Clovis, asked if firefighters would be vulnerable under this bill. Serrato emphasized that under this bill, no one’s scope of work would change.

State Rep. Nathan Lane, D-Las Cruces, asked if the bill is enacted, “do you think it will save a New Mexico kid’s life?”

Serrato said “100 percent.” Serrato said gender-affirming care can include things such as using the correct pronouns and a person’s correct name.

“It will save lives in our state,” she said about the bill

State Rep. Charlotte Little, D-Albuquerque, asked Serrato to explain hormone therapy as healthcare. Little is also a co-sponsor on the bill.

Serrato said individuals use hormone therapy “for everything,” and then named off examples such as some forms of birth control and menopausal medicines.

State Rep. Janelle Anyanonu, D-Albuquerque, who is also a cosponsor on the bill, asked about how a lack of access to reproductive healthcare can harm women of color in particular.

“I’ve seen from national statistics, women of color are disproportionately affected medically, women of color have much higher rates of maternal mortality and…Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth,” she said.

Serrato said women who are low income are also disproportionately affected.

The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill last week to clean up some language to ensure that agents are acting on behalf of a public body, that any moral concerns a provider might have are not violated and that they have all the protections already in existing statute to prevent providers from having to provide care they object to performing. The committee also amended the bill to clarify that if a civil suit arises, it could only do so against the public body, not against an individual.

The bill now heads to the state Senate.”

The link to the New Mexico Politcal Report where the article appears is here:


In a related news article published by the  Albuquerque Journal article entitled “House endorses proposal intended to strengthen abortion rights in New Mexico” written by Journal staff reporter Dan Boyd, it was reported as follows:

“Protecting abortion rights was a centerpiece of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s reelection campaign last year. She announced Tuesday that she is one of 20 governors establishing a multi-state network intended to strengthen abortion access.

“This historic alliance will continue to work to guarantee reproductive freedom in each of our states and to restore that right to every woman in America,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement.

In addition to the House bill acted on Tuesday, lawmakers are also considering legislation, Senate Bill 13, that would put into law an executive order issued last year by Lujan Grisham. It would prohibit state agencies from sharing the reproductive health care information of patients or providers for an out-of-state investigation.

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., expressed support for the House bill during a Tuesday speech to lawmakers, and she said during a subsequent interview the proposal comes at an important time.

“We’ve had the undermining and eroding of our basic rights at the federal level,” Stansbury said, referring in part to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.

The link to the full Journal article is here:


A link to a related news article is here:



It was on February 26, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill repealing the 1969 abortion ban. The 1969 law criminalized abortion to end a woman’s pregnancy except in certain circumstances, such as rape and incest. The 1969 state statute had not been enforced in the state due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade in the 1970s, which legalized abortion nationwide. The repeal of the 1969 law was necessitated by the fact the repeated attempts had been made over the years to have the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision of Roe v Wade.

On June 22, 2021 the United States Supreme Court released its decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization wherein the Supreme Court  overruled and reversed the cases of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and 50 years of constitutional law precedence ruling  that a woman does  not have constitutionally protected right to an abortion.  The US Supreme Court ruled the authority to regulate abortion was  returned to the individual states and their elected representatives.

As a direct result of the Supreme Court’s Dobb’s decision, abortion and woman’s reproductive rights became a defining issue in New Mexico’s 2022 Gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Mark Ronchetti.  Republican Mark Ronchetti made abortion and imposing limits on a woman’s right to choose a center piece of his campaign and suggested a “reasonable policy” that proposed banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother.  Ronchetti went so far to call for a constitutional amendment where voters would decide whether abortion should be illegal.


On August 29, 2022, the Albuquerque Journal published the results of poll taken on the issue of abortion rights for the November 2022 general elections.  The link to read the full unedited Journal column is here:


The poll found thar New Mexico voters are 3 times more likely to say abortion should always be legal than they were to say it should always be illegal.  According to the poll, 35% of statewide voters surveyed said abortion should always be legal, 22% said the procedure should be legal, for a combined total of 57%.

The poll found that 25% felt there should be some limitations and said it should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger.  Just 12% of voters surveyed said abortion should always be illegal, while 4% would not say and 2% said they did not know.

According to the Journal poll results, Democrats are firmly behind a woman’s right to choose with 55% of Democrats saying abortion should always be legal and 24% of Democrats said it should be legal with some limitations for a whopping 79% combined percentage.

Republicans’ opinion are dramatically opposite with 8% saying abortion should always be legal, while 24% said it should be banned and 41% said it should be illegal with exceptions for cases of rape, incest and to save a mother’s life, with a 65% combined total to make it illegal or illegal with the exceptions of rape, incest or threat to the life of the woman.

The difference by party affiliation shrinks to a 6% difference when it comes to how voters they felt if abortions should be legal with some limitations.  Interestingly, more Democrats, 24%, felt that there should be some limitations while fewer Republicans, 18%, felt there should be some limitations.

The Journal Poll did not find a big difference in attitudes on abortion between New Mexico voters based on their gender, ethnicity and age.  There was little difference in voters’ views on abortion based on their education level with one exception, voters with graduate degrees were far more likely than other groups of voters to say abortion should always be legal.


On November 4, 2022 it was reported that the City Commission of Clovis, New Mexico put off a vote on an ordinance designed to ban abortions within the New Mexico town fearing challenges to the move in a state where the procedure remains legal. Clovis was set to become the first town to pass a so-called “sanctuary city for the unborn”


On November 8, it was reported that the Hobbs City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance designed to ban abortions, despite the procedure being legal in the state. The so-called “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance blocks abortion clinics from operating.  At least one nearby county has approved an anti-abortion resolution.  The ordinance will surely be challenged in court and set aside.



On January 22, New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed an emergency petition with the New Mexico Supreme Court that challenges the anti-abortion ordinances passed by communities in eastern New Mexico. Torrez is asking the New Mexico Supreme Court strike down the ordinances, arguing they violate civil rights guaranteed by the state Constitution.

The legal challenge was filed as a direct result of the cities of Hobbs and Clovis, and the counties of Lea and Roosevelt passed local ordinances targeting abortion. According to the lawsuit filed the city and county ordinance infringe on the state’s authority to regulate health care.

Democrat Attorney General Torrez contends in the lawsuit that the city and county ordinances misinterpret a 19th-century federal law on the mail and conflict with state law regulating the practice of medicine.  He also argues the ordinances violate the state Constitution’s guarantees to equal rights, liberty and privacy which he said are more robust than what’s outlined in the U.S. Constitution.


Republicans oppose any efforts by Democrats to protect a woman’s right to choose and to expand woman’s health care rights in the state. Republican lawmakers and candidates are proclaiming Democrats are going too far.  They argue that New Mexico voters will support some of the abortion restrictions imposed in other states, such as parental notification for minors.

Governor Lujan Grisham and Democrats on the other hand in general campaigned heavily on safeguarding abortion rights and woman’s reproductive rights. Republicans  ignore and are totally out of touch with just how strongly people feel about the issue.

New Mexico Republicans have every intent to do what they can to deprive a woman of their right to choose and to deprive a woman from making her own decision on reproductive rights.  Simply put, no person, no candidate, no elected official, no voter and no government has any right telling a woman what she must do when it comes to abortion and what she must do when it comes to her own body.

Democrats in the 2023 legislative session hold a 45-25 majority in the House and a 27-15 edge in the Senate.  Democrats would be damn fools not to deliver on their promises to protect a woman’s right to an abortion and access to reproductive health given the attempts by some Republican controlled municipalities and counties in the state to do whatever they can to make abortion illegal or inaccessible to woman.

2023 NM LEGISLATURE UPDATE:  Nine Gun Control Measures Make Progress Towards Enactment; Republican “Over the Top” Opposition; Democrats Need To Move Forward

Midway through the 2023 New Mexico Legislature, there are 9 new major gun-control measure bills introduced in the New Mexico House or Senate. Democratic legislators are pursuing aggressive new gun-control measures intended to address mass shootings and violent crime.   Republican lawmakers and other opponents are saying the restrictions would interfere with the rights of law-abiding citizens and do nothing to deter crime. Lawmakers had until February 16 to introduce new bills.

The 9 measures are  as follow:

House Bill 9, sponsored by Albuquerque area Democrat Representative Pamelya Herndon makes it a crime to store a firearm in a way that negligently disregards the ability of a minor to access it. Criminal charges could be brought only if the minor later brandishes or displays the firearm in a threatening way or uses it to kill or injure someone. House Bill 9 would make it a misdemeanor to negligently allow a child access to a firearm, and would make it a felony if that negligence resulted in someone dying or suffering great bodily harm.  On February 9, House Bill 9 passed the House on a 37-32 vote after a three-hour debate and it now goes to the Senate.

House Bill 50 prohibits magazines with more than 10 rounds.

House Bill 72 prohibits possession of semiautomatic firearm converter that allows the weapon to fire more rapidly.

House Bill 100  would establish a 14-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm and requires a prospective seller who doesn’t already hold a valid federal firearms license to arrange for someone who does to conduct a federal background check prior to selling a firearm. The bill includes exclusions for sales between law enforcement officers and between immediate family members. The proposal passed its first committee along party lines and is currently scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 101 as written  would make it a fourth-degree felony to purchase, possess, manufacture, import, sell or transfer assault weapons in the state.  It would restrict the sale, manufacture and possession of AR-15-style rifles along with semiautomatic firearms with certain characteristics, such as semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines, or semiautomatic pistols with a fixed magazine capable of loading more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The bill would prohibit the sale or possession of assault weapons, which are defined as semiautomatic rifles and handguns with certain characteristics. House Bill 101 also states any semi-automatic rifle that has the capacity for a large magazine would be considered prohibited in addition to attachments like grenade launchers and flash suppressors. The legislation does include limited exceptions to the ban including police officers and members of the armed forces. A substitute bill introduced during a committee hearing included a clause to allow current assault weapon owners to keep those firearms, provided they register them with the New Mexico State Police. The bill has raised concerns from the New Mexico Attorney General that it could be contested in court due to potential Second Amendment violations.

House Bill 306 is sponsored by Minority Floor Leader Ryan Lane, a Republican from San Juan County. It seeks to prevent gun straw purchases, a type of firearm purchase where someone buys a firearm for another person who is legally banned from owning firearms, such as a convicted felon.

Senate Bill 44 would make it a misdemeanor to carry a firearm within 100 feet of a polling location on election day or during early voting. On-duty law enforcement officers and security personnel would be exempt.  On February 16, the New Mexico Senate voted on a 28-9 vote to approve Senate Bill 44 after lengthy debate where Republicans lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill to extend exceptions to individuals who have permits to carry a concealed firearm. The amendment failed on  13-23 vote


Senate Bill 116 would establish a minimum age of 21 for anyone seeking to purchase or possess an automatic firearm, semiautomatic firearm or firearm capable of accepting a large-capacity magazine. The bill would effectively raise the minimum age for buying an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21.

Senate Bill 171 seeks to ban the manufacture, sale, trade, gift, transfer or acquisition of semiautomatic pistols that have two or more defined characteristics. Those characteristics include a detachable magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip, a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward hand grip or silencer; or a shroud that is attached to the barrel that allows the shooter to hold the firearm with the second hand without being burned. The legislation also applies to firearms that can be modified to shoot automatically by a single pull of the trigger, and it would prohibit the sale of ammunition coated with materials designed to penetrate metal or pierce protective armor, along with ammunition designed to explode or segment on impact. Ammunition coated with materials designed to penetrate metal or pierce protective armor is often referred to as “cop killer” ammunition in that such ammunition is not necessary for hunting or target practice.


On February 7, it was reported that with a series of 4-2 party-line votes, members of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted to advanced legislation to establish a two-week waiting period for firearm purchases and prohibit the sale and possession of certain semiautomatic rifles and handguns. The ban would go into effect in March 2024 with exemptions for people who already have the prohibited firearms.  The bills will now go to the House Judiciary Committee potentially for their final committee hearings before reaching the full House chamber for a final vote by the House.

House Bill 100 proposes a 14-day waiting period. House Bill 101 would ban the sale and possession of “assault weapons”, defined as semiautomatic rifles and handguns with certain characteristics but with a grandfather clause. Among the items restricted would be a semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine and a pistol grip.

People who owned the prohibited firearms before the law took effect could keep them but would face limits on where they could take them. They would have to submit paperwork to the state.  Possession would be permitted at firing ranges and sport shooting competitions.

Santa Fe Democrat State Representative Andrea Romero who is sponsoring the assault weapons ban and waiting period for gun purchases said she has seen the “tide change” at the Capitol in recent years. For her, the massacre of children in Uvalde, Texas,  was the  tipping point that motivated her to propose new restrictions.  Representative  Bottom of Form

Romero called the legislation a “mass-shootings prevention bill” and said the legislation would reduce suicide by establishing a “cooling off” period for gun purchases and help prevent the massacre of children at schools by removing “weapons of war” from city streets.  Romero said this:

“These are really smart pieces of legislation. …We’re not just trying to take away guns. We have seen far too many mass shootings carried out using these weapons. … As state lawmakers, we have the power to take this important step to prevent these senseless tragedies.


Supporters appeared before the House Consumer and Public Affairs committee in force to support the legislation. Allen Sánchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged lawmakers to keep in mind the damage caused by mass shootings and said this:

“We bury the victims. … These are real people with real mourning families.”

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence is backing the legislation this year. Miranda Viscoli, co-president of  New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, said she’s optimistic about significant legislation making it to the governor’s desk this year. Viscoli said the political environment in the state has changed over the last decade as lawmakers have seen the impact of bills already passed. She said this:

“We’re realizing we passed some pretty good gun-violence prevention laws. … They’re working, and they’re not taking everybody’s guns away. … People are literally tired of the gun violence.”


Not at all surprising, Republican lawmakers and other opponents showed up in force and packed the House Consumer and Public Affairs committee room to testify on the proposals and said that in no uncertain terms the restrictions would interfere with the rights of law-abiding citizens and do nothing to actually deter or reduce crime.

Opponents say the proposals will not be an effective way to combat crime or protect the public. Opponents also said the proposals would keep domestic violence victims from arming themselves in an emergency and would restrict the rights of gun enthusiasts who legally bought their firearms.

Sandia Park Republican Stefani Lord  said the proposals to  ban  the possession of AR-15-style rifles or magazines with more than 10 rounds will  turn law-abiding gun owners into felons just for having property they legally purchased. Lord said it’s entirely the wrong approach and said this:

“The criminals are going to have access to whatever they want. … I’m trying to make sure that our legal gun owners still have a way to defend themselves, their home, their property, their livestock.”

San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari, an opponent, said this about the legislation:

“A right delayed is a right denied. … This is going to prevent people from protecting themselves against their aggressors. … Let’s go after the bad guys, not law-abiding citizens.”


All the gun control legislation is facing fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers and New Mexico Sherriff’s.  Most New Mexico sheriffs strenuously opposed the 2021 “red flag” gun law bill advocated by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham that allows law enforcement officers, contingent on a judge’s approval, to seize guns from individuals that are found to pose an immediate safety risk.  The Sheriffs falsely argued the law was “unconstitutional” and then politically retaliated against the Governor by supporting or endorsing her Republican opponent Mark Ronchetti.

Sandia Park Republican Stefani Lord said Democrt sponsored gun safety proposals focus on a “tool” used to commit crimes, but not the issues that are driving the increase in New Mexico violent crime rates.  Lord said that it is drug addiction, mental illness and illicit firearm trafficking that need to be addressed.  Lord said this:

“I feel the gun bills they present are consistently going after responsible gun owners and are not addressing crime issues.  … On the Democrat side, they are constantly pushing to focus on just the tool, the tool that is used to commit a crime, and not the issues that are actually behind all the reasons that we have very high levels of crime. We are lacking severely on behavioral health and rehabilitation.  … I know that there’s some bills being drafted for mental health and for rehabilitation, for drug addiction, and maybe those will get through, or maybe we can actually work together. Because I feel if the Republicans and the Democrats could work together on some of these issues, we might actually do what is best for New Mexico.”

Republican State Representative Stefani Lord relies on the traditional Republican dogma argument that gun legislation will  turn law-abiding gun owners into felons just for having property they legally purchased. She said that would be the case with bans on AR-15-style rifles or magazines with more than 10 rounds.  Lord said this:

“The criminals are going to have access to whatever they want. … I’m trying to make sure that our legal gun owners still have a way to defend themselves, their home, their property, their livestock.”

Lord went so far to say that even some of the less expansive, reasonable gun proposals are problematic.  She said a gun storage requirement might leave a woman without enough time to defend herself against a violent ex-husband. She said this:

“They need to be able to protect themselves.  … Especially in rural America, it takes a while for law enforcement officers to get there.”

EDITOR’S COMMENTARY:  AR-15 style rifles are not “defensive weaponry” nor used for hunting  but are assault “weapons of war” designed to kill as many as possible within seconds.  Why in gods name does any law-abiding citizen need an AR-15 style rifle to “defend themselves, their home, their property, their livestock” from an aggressor or for that manner  from an abusive ex-husband?  

Advocates for gun owners say the number of gun proposals this year is unusual.  Zac Fort of the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association said none of the legislation is an effective way to combat crime. Fort said this:

“We’re used to seeing a lot of bills  … but I think the severity of the bills has definitely increased this year. … We’re not able to hold criminals accountable right now. … I don’t think it’s a problem that we don’t have enough laws. I think it’s a problem of prosecution.”


Before becoming Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham was a strong advocate of gun control during her years in congress.   During her first term as Governor, Lujan Grisham pushed lawmakers to pass gun safety legislation.  She said she planned to continue that effort during the 2023 legislative session. Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said this:

“The governor will pursue a robust package of common-sense gun safety legislation in the upcoming session, the details of which will be decided in the coming weeks. … The governor is clear: New Mexicans are beyond sick and tired of crime, and gun violence continues to be a nationwide scourge that warrants immediate and outcomes-focused attention.”

Governor Lujan Grisham announced in her January 17 “State of the State” address she is supporting enactment of further gun control measures.  She has announced support of the following 4 gun control measures in this year’s 2023 60 day legislative session:

  • Banning the sale of AR-15-style rifles.
  • Allowing crime victims to sue gun manufacturers.
  • Making it a crime to fail to properly secure a firearm that’s accessible to an unsupervised minor.
  • Closing a loophole in state law to allow prosecution when a person buys a gun for a someone who isn’t legally able to make the purchase themselves, a transaction known as a straw purchase.

Santa Fe Democrat State Representative Reena Szczepanski said this about the gun safety storage bill:

“Firearms have increased to become the leading cause of death for children. …This is a huge public health crisis now for children. …  [The safely storing firearms]  bill … is really geared at keeping children safe, keeping children safe in their homes, and really addressing responsible storage. …  I think we can do this in a way gun owners can support and that addresses safety.”

In her State of the State address, she told lawmakers this:

“We all know that we cannot keep our people safe, [we] can’t keep our police officers and their families safe if weapons of war continue to flood our neighborhoods.”

Links to quoted news sources relied on are here:







The backdrop to the introduction of the 9 new measures is New Mexico’s and Albuquerque’s high crime rates.  Every year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) compiles data from police agencies across the nation.  The data from 2021, with 2022 data yet to be released, showed New Mexico had the nation’s second highest rate of total crimes against persons.

The FBI numbers show New Mexico’s per-population kidnapping and abduction rate was the highest in the nation. New Mexico’s firearm ownership and fatality rate is among the nation’s highest. In 2016 over 37% of adults in the state lived in a household with a firearm which is 5% higher than the national average according to the think tank Rand Corp.

In 2021 New Mexico law enforcement reported over 28,000 crimes against persons. That includes crimes such as murder, rape, assault, and kidnapping.  Given New Mexico’s population, the state’s crime rate against persons per population is the second highest in the nation. FBI data shows for every 100,000 people in New Mexico, law enforcement reported 2,189 crimes against persons in 2021. The only state with a higher rate was Arkansas, which reported 2,276 crimes per 100,000 people.

New Mexico law enforcement agencies reported nearly 25,500 instances of assault in 2021. That’s 1,872 more than the state reported in 2020. New Mexico law enforcement also reported more homicides in 2021 than the year before. Across New Mexico, police reported 193 homicides to the FBI in 2021. That’s 67 more than in 2020.  Not at all surprising is that the majority of the state’s reported homicides were in Albuquerque.

New Mexico isn’t at the top of the list in all crime categories. While New Mexico law enforcement reported 1,663 instances of sex offenses in 2021, 6  other states had higher rates of sex offenses per population. That includes states like Alaska, Utah, and Montana.

New Mexico law enforcement reported 822 kidnappings and abductions to the FBI in 2021. That puts New Mexico at the top of the list regarding kidnappings and abductions per 100,000 people. Kansas, Colorado, and Utah also rank high on the list of kidnappings and abductions per population.

New Mexico’s firearm fatality rate is among the nation’s highest. According to the New Mexico Department of Health, there were a total of 562 state residents who died in 2021 due to firearm-related injuries.  This figure is up significantly from the 481 firearm-related deaths in 2020. Of the 562 state residents who died in 2021 due to firearms, 319 cases, were classified as suicides and 243 were classified as homicides. In New Mexico, the rate of 14.9 firearm-related deaths per every 100,000 residents in 2010 nearly doubled over the last decade and there were 23 such deaths for every 100,000 residents in 2020.

The links to quoted and relied upon news sources are here:





Albuquerque is at the forefront of New Mexico’s high violent crime rate.  According to legislative data released, the city had about half of the state’s violent crime in 2022 but has just 25% or so of its total population.  The Albuquerque Police Department reported that in November, gun law violations spiked 85% this year alone. The last two years have also been two very violent years for Albuquerque.  The number of homicides in the city have broken all-time records.  In 2021, there were 117 homicides, with 3 declared self-defense reducing homicide number to 114. In 2022, there were 121 homicides, a historical high.  

It has been reported that there have been more APD police officer shootings in 2022 than during any other year before.  In 2022, there were 18 APD Police Officer involved shootings,10 of which were fatal.  In 2021 there were 10, four of which were fatal.

Crime rates in Albuquerque are high across the board. According to the Albuquerque Police’s annual report on crime, there were 46,391 property crimes and 15,765 violent crimes recorded in 2021.  These numbers place Albuquerque among America’s most dangerous cities.

All residents are at increased risk of experiencing aggravated robbery, auto theft, and petty theft.  The chances of becoming a victim of property crime in Albuquerque are 1 in 20, an alarmingly high statistic. Simple assault, aggravated assault, auto theft, and larceny are just some of the most common criminal offenses in Albuquerque. Burglary and sex offense rates In Albuquerque are also higher than the national average.

Links to quoted news sources relied on are:







All the identified legislation has passed at least one committee and are waiting for their day before their respective Judiciary committees that will scrutinize the legal ramifications of these proposals, including if they are constitutional. All 9 of the legislative measures introduced and now being debated in the 2023 New Mexico State Legislature in and of themselves are first good steps to help curb gun violence. Taken together they mean a major and effective approach to reduce gun violence.

Democrats in the 2023 legislative session hold a 45-25 majority in the House and a 27-15 edge in the Senate and this year’s session is a 60-day session. New Mexico Democrats would be damn fools not to enact all 9 measures as New Mexico Republican legislators continue with their national party’s failure to do anything but cater to the National Rifle Association not believing the country has a gun crisis.

Any change made by one chamber requires the bill to go back to the first chamber for agreement before the 60-day session ends.  Lawmakers have until noon on March 18 to finalize changes and send bills to Lujan Grisham. If signed by the governor, the bills then become law.