FBI Agents Raid The Homes of 3 APD Police Officers, 1 Criminal Defense Attorney Ostensibly Over Scheme To Dismiss DWI Cases; DA Forced To Dismiss 152 DWI Cases; Mayor Keller Should Dismantle And Reconstitute Entire DWI Unit;  Scandal Discredits APD’s Professed Values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness And Respect”

On Friday January 19,  a bombshell blew up that rocked the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the legal community when it was reported by all local news outlets that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) executed search warrants and raided 3 homes of Albuquerque Police officers and the home and law office of a prominent DWI criminal defense attorney. The US Attorney’s office of New Mexico confirmed “federal law enforcement activity at those locations” in cooperation with the Albuquerque Police Department and that one home was used by the DWI defense attorney as a law office.  The APD police officers and the criminal defense attorney are at the center of a federal investigation involving the dismissal of hundreds of pending DWI criminal cases by the APD Officers ostensibly for some sort of remuneration to have the cases dismissed.

A total 3 homes in Albuquerque and one home in Los Lunas tied to the ongoing investigation were raided and searched. The federal search warrants remained sealed on Friday, January 20. No one has been charged or arrested in the case.


All of the APD Officers under investigation were assigned to APD’s DWI Unit but none have been identified by name  in that  an ongoing federal criminal investigation is continuing. APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos issued the following statement:

APD has been working with the FBI for the past several months on an investigation involving members of the department. Due to the sensitive nature of the investigation, some officers have been placed on administrative leave, and others will be temporarily reassigned within the department. APD leadership is working closely with the FBI to ensure a complete and thorough investigation can be completed.

Police Union President Shaun Willoughby when contacted by the media said he was totally unaware of the federal investigation. Willoughby said this:

“I don’t know the premise of the investigation. I don’t know any details of the investigation. I don’t even know the names of the officers placed on leave.”


On Saturday, January 20, the Albuquerque Journal reported that it was a  home being used as an office by prominent criminal defense attorney Thomas Clear III that was raided by the FBI with a search warrant.  According to the Albuquerque Journal, Thomas Clear,  III resigned January 19  as chairman of the state Public Defender Commission.  The commission is an 11-member panel that oversees the operation of the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender as an independent agency. Maggie Shepard, communication director for the Law Offices of the Public Defender, said Clear has served as chair since August 2017.  Clear’s website states that he has been practicing law for more than 40 years, focusing on criminal defense.

Neighbors who live near Clear’s law office, located inside a house on a street in Northeast Albuquerque, told the Journal they saw FBI agents early Thursday using crowbars to remove the front door.  FBI agents were seen spending hours within the residence carrying out files and at least one hard drive or computer and other items.

Marcus Burnham, a neighbor, said he saw a team of FBI agents in tactical gear show up to Clear’s home and pound on the front door, yelling, “FBI. Search warrant” for about 10 minutes.  No one answered the door and ostensibly no one was inside.  Eventually the FBI agents breached the front door and went inside. The busted front door to the home was later secured by two large pieces of wood. Clear’s office phone wasn’t accepting phone messages on Friday, and he didn’t answer a Journal email seeking comment.

Burnham said he regularly has seen marked Albuquerque Police Department units, and sometimes  Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office vehicles, parked outside the law firm’s office. He said Clear and his paralegal worked out of the office and usually could be seen coming and going daily. One neighbor said Clear lives elsewhere in Albuquerque.

Tessa DuBerry, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, confirmed federal law enforcement activity at Clear’s office. She said it was “done with the full cooperation of the Albuquerque Police Department. … We will decline to comment further.”


On Friday, January 19, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office announced it had dismissed 152 active and pending DWI criminal cases because of the federal investigation.  According to court records reviewed by the Albuquerque Journal, of the 152 pending DWI cases dismissed, 136, or nearly 90%, were filed by 3 Albuquerque police officers. One officer was responsible for 67 of the cases.  Another officer had 41 and the third APD officer was listed as the arresting officer on 28.  The majority of the cases dismissed, 107 cases, were filed in 2023, making up 10% of APD’s DWI misdemeanor cases for the year. Eleven of the dismissed cases were filed this year.

KOB 4 News asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office if the FBI investigation into multiple APD officers had anything to do with the DA dropping 152 active and pending DWI cases. According to KOB 4, the name of the APD officer who owns the home in Los Lunas is one of the officers that occurs multiple times on the long list of dismissed DWI cases. A Department of Justice spokesperson said this:

“DOJ policy does not allow us to confirm the existence of or otherwise comment on ongoing investigations.”

On Friday, January 20, Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman confirmed the investigation did lead to the dismissal of 152 DWI cases due to the federal investigation “in deference to an ongoing federal investigation.”  Initially, the DA office declined to say if those cases were related to the FBI raid, but a search of court records by News 13 found more than a dozen cases dating back over the last year which were dropped were originally signed by the officer whose home was raided. District Attorney Sam Breman said this:

“Of course, it is very concerning, but all I can tell you is that I have no choice. We had to do this, [dismiss the cases], and unfortunately, we dismissed 150 DWI cases. … The idea of dismissing approximately 150 DWI cases is a gut punch to me. It makes me sick to my stomach, but I have no choice, my prosecutorial ethics will require me to dismiss these cases.” 

Maggie Shepherd, Communications Director for the New Mexico Law Office of the Public Defender said the office received the list of dismissals Thursday, January 18 and that the office is looking into whether any other cases may need additional scrutiny. Public Defenders’ Office said about 35% of the cases are theirs and said the office is reaching out to clients and looking at cases not on the list that might need additional investigation.

New Mexico Chief Public Defender Ben Baur for his part said this:

“I can confirm that these are all DWI cases and a portion of them are LOPD clients.We immediately began identifying which clients are impacted and looking into whether there are other cases that may need additional scrutiny.


The approved FY 2923- 2024 General Fund civilian count is 717, and the sworn count is 1,100 for 1,817 fulltime positions. However, the approved budget includes funding to support only 1,000 of the 1,100 sworn positions. There are currently 5 police officers along with one sergeant and one lieutenant assigned to the APD DWI unit.

  • The number of DWI arrests made by APD in 2020 was 1,788
  • The number of DWI arrests made by APD in 2021 was 1,230

Page 246 annual approved budget  https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-approved-budget-final-sept-13.pdf

  • The number of DWI arrests made by APD in 2022 was 1,287
  • The number of DWI arrests made by APD in 2023 was 727

Page 239 annual approved budget https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy24-proposed-web-version.pdf


The fact that it is the DWI unit involved with this latest APD scandal does not come as a surprise to many city hall and APD observers. The DWI  unit is known for its outright greed and overtime pay abuses that has repeatedly occurred over the last 10 years and no one has ever been held accountable and no one  has ever been prosecuted.

Since 2014, there have been 7 audits investigating APD’s overtime pay abuses. A significant number  of  overtime  pay abuses cases involved police officers assigned to the DWI units.  Review of the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023 city hall 250 highest paid wage earnings reveals the extent of the staggering amount of overtime paid to APD rank and file. The lopsided number of APD sworn police officers listed in the top 250 paid city hall employees is directly attributed to the excessive amount of overtime paid to sworn police officers who have gamed the system and which is allowed by the police union contract mandating time and a half pay. .

For the past 5 years in a row, over half of the top 250 wages earners at Albuquerque City Hall are APD sworn police officers in the ranks of police officer first class, senior police officer 1st class, master police officer 1st class, sergeant and lieutenant. All earned between $113,126.08 to $199,414.69 a year. All were paid hourly wages for 40-hour work week and all  paid time and a half for overtime pay. Police officers first class, senior police officers 1st class, master police officers 1st class, sergeants and lieutenant are all members of the APD police union, they are classified employees and can only be terminated for cause. The amounts paid because of overtime can be two and a half times and at even  3 times more than their base yearly hourly pay primarily because of overtime pay.

See related blog article in the postscript below.


There is absolutely no doubt that APD’s reputation has been trashed to a major extent because of this scandal. APD will likely be viewed by many as again having just another bastion of “dirty and corrupt cops” who have brought dishonor to their department and to the department’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness and Respect”.

This is so even before any charges have been filed against anyone, before any one is fired from APD and before any action is brought against the police officers involved for government corruption and criminal conspiracy to dismiss cases working with a prominent criminal defense attorney. Should the criminal defense attorney be charged and convicted of the crimes, he is likely facing disbarment from the practice of law.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman is commended for taking swift action with the dismissal of the DWI cases and ethically he had no choice but to do so, but his work cannot stop there. Bregman needs to decide if his office will also bring charges against the very officers who actions forced the dismissal of the cases.  Ditto as to Attorney General Raul Torrez who is also Chairman of the Law Enforcement Certification Commission in the state.


On November 16, 2023, it was a full 9 years that has expired since the city entered into the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ) after the DOJ found a “culture of aggression” and a pattern of excessive force and deadly force.  Over the last 9 years, APD has devoted thousands of manhours, the city has spent millions of dollars on the reform process, creating and staffing entire divisions and roles and rewriting policies and procedures.

The Court appointed Federal Monitor has been paid millions and has performed extensive audits on APD’s performance measures and filed 18 audit reports on APD’s implementation of the reforms.  APD is now on the verge of being in full compliance of the reforms that will result in the case being dismissed.  Full compliance and dismissal of the case will likely be affected by the scandal. What is downright pathetic is that ostensibly this scandal on how APD has dismissed hundreds of DWI cases went totally undetected by the Federal Monitor and it’s hard to believe that no one reported the problem to the monitor and his audit team.


All 4 search warrants are under seal.  Major question that will likely be answered by what’s in  the search warrant once it is unsealed is who tipped off the FBI and exactly how the DWI cases were selected for dismissal and the type of remuneration was paid to the officers. Was it cash payments, was it gifts or some other remuneration such as airline tickets and vacation trips?

DWI charges can be either misdemeanor or felonies and such arrests are within the discretion of the arresting officer. DWI cases can be dismissed voluntarily by the arresting officer with the filing of a dismissal pleading or can be dismissed by the court for an officer’s failure to appear and testify at trial.  The big question is what type of remuneration was paid to get the cases dismissed by the APD officers or were they paid simply not to show up to court? Another question that must be answered is if any other criminal defense lawyers are involved or co counseled in the cases?


One thing is for certain is that swift corrective action must be taken to restore the integrity and the credibility of APD’s DWI unit and action must be taken by Mayor Tim Keller.  This is one crisis that cannot be solved by Keller’s public relations apparatus. APD Chief Harold Medina to some extent needs to be held responsible for what has happened. There was a level of mismanagement and inept supervision by APD higher command staff.

There are 5 police officers along with one sergeant and one lieutenant assigned to the APD DWI unit.  The Deputy Chief of Field Services, who oversees the DWI unit, should be removed and reassigned immediately and the same should happen to the entire DWI Unit.  All sworn police officers assigned to the DWI unit should be replaced with all new staffing including Sergeants and Lieutenants.  If APD Chief Harold Medina declines to take such action, he needs to be asked to step down and replaced. The office of Inspector General should undertake an immediate review of all APD DWI cases of the last 3 years to determine to what extent cases were dismissed by the unit and the reasons why.

Throughout the APD Police Academy and most of its classroom walls as well as APD main station and substations are placards that proclaim APD’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness And Respect”.  Until Mayor Tim Keller and his administration take aggressive action to deal with this latest APD crisis, APD’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness And Respect” are meaningless words on a wall.

Absent from all the news coverage has been any comment from Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Harold Medina. The dynamic duo of police reform are likely held up somewhere in a city hall bunker trying to figure out what to do and who they will blame for this latest APD scandal. Yet another sad day and black eye for APD that is self inflicted.



Links to all quoted news sources are here:

KOB Channel 4















The link to a related blog article is here:

City Pays Obscene Millions Of Overtime To Select Few First Responders Despite Repeated Scandals Of Paying 2 and 3 Times Base Pay;  $34,380 Bonus And Longevity Pay To  19  Year Cop Veterans; An In Depth Review Of The 4 Year History Of Overtime Abuse Allowed By Hapless Mayor Tim Keller And City Council

Murders In City Down By 20%; First Decline After 5 Full Years Of Historical Highs; Clearance Rates Up After Historical Lows; Old Fashion Police Work Brought Homicides Down, Not Keller’s “Show And Tell” Programs Of “Trying To Get People Not To Shoot Each Other”; Juveniles Involvement Concerns APD And District Attorney

On January 5, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released its end-of-year data for homicides.  During the last 6 years, the city’s murder rates rose, dropped one year, and then rose to a historical high and dropped by 20% in 2023. Following is the breakdown of homicides by year:

2017: 72 homicides
2018: 69 homicides.
2019: 82 homicides
2020: 76 homicides
2021: 117 homicides
2022:  120 homicides

2023: 97 homicides




According to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), murders were down 20% last year. In 2023, APD said there were 97 murders, compared to 121 investigated by APD in 2022.  APD reported that 84 homicides were solved in 2023 with 53 of the cases from 2023 and 31 of the cases are from previous years. APD reported that 117 suspects were arrested, charged or died in 2023  and 12 of the homicide suspects from 2023 were juveniles.

According to APD, there are a few things that may have led to the 20% decrease in homicides. They include officers being more proactive, new and updated technology and arresting people. In 2017, APD only had five homicide detectives who investigated 72 homicides. The homicide unit now has 16 detectives, and roughly 200 officers went through the department’s detective academy.

Chief Medina said this:

“So 240 people, almost, that … have been incarcerated for homicide over the years. We know that we’ve had groups that we think were involved in several over the years. … Once we get them, we take them out of the picture. If not, they would have continued and continued.”


Chief Medina said APD will be using  technology and community programs to help reduce crime and said this:

“We’ll also be rolling out a new program where we’ll be looking out for areas with repeated shots being fired in an area, and we’re going to do a lot more community outreach in those specific neighborhoods.”

APD also plans to add more mobile cameras across the city. Medina said this:

“We just got funding to purchase some additional camera trailers, and we’re going to be positioning camera trailers in parking lots of different high schools within the area so that the Real Time Crime Center can observe them.”


The raw data breakdown for the 2023 homicides is as follows:

Of the 97 homicides:

  • 84 homicides were solved.
  • 53 of the cases were from 2023.
  • 31 of the cases are from previous years.

Of the 97 victims, 81% were male versus 19% female. Compare that to homicide suspects, where 82% are male and 18% are female. The most common weapon used in 2023 homicides was a firearm.


APD reported 117 suspects were arrested, charged or died in 2023.

  • 72 of the suspects are from 2023 cases.
    • 64 arrested
    • 5 dead
    • 3 charged or considered wanted.


  • 45 of the suspects are from previous years.
    • 20 suspects are from 2022 cases.
    • 12 suspects are from 2021 cases.
    • 7 suspects are from 2020 cases.
    • 1 suspect is from a 2019 case.
    • 1 suspect is from a 2018 case.
    • 2 suspects are from 2017 cases.
    • 1 suspect is from a 2016 case.
    • 1 suspect is from a 2014 case.


The types of weapons used to commit homicide in 2023 includes incidents with multiple suspects and where only one suspect fired a gun during commission of homicide.  The data is as follows:

Firearm used in commission of homicide: 80%

Cutting Instrument used in commission of homicide: 10%

Blunt force: 9%

Fire:  1%


The age of victims of homicides in 2023 were as follows:

  • Age 17 and under: 4%
  • Ages 18 to 25: 24%
  • Ages 26 to 35: 24%
  • Ages 36 to 45: 30%
  • Age 46 and older: 17%


The data showed that 17% of homicide suspects in 2023  are 17 years old or younger:

  • Age 17 and under: 17%
  • Ages 18 to 25: 32%
  • Ages 26 to 35: 19%
  • Ages 36 to 45: 21%
  • Age 46 and older: 11%


Total Juvenile suspects in 2023 were as follows:

  • 1 was 13 years old
  • 1 was 14 years old
  • 4 were 15 years old
  • 5 were 16 years old
  • 1 was 17 years old

Total Juvenile suspects: 12


Although the number of homicides is down, the  alarming  trend from last year is the  number of underage kids with guns committing crimes.  APD Chief Harold Medina said this:

“Approximately 10% of our homicides involve juveniles. … We’ve had two, two very young adults murdered over the last couple years in conflict over firearm. We had the incident outside of West Mesa High School, and we had one at a local hotel off of Carlisle.  A conflict over a firearm, which neither one of them should have possession of, led to a shooting. So it’s just these youth cases that are very concerning. We got to do everything we can to keep firearms out of the hands of youth and make sure that there’s consequences. …  That’s a concern because I think that number [of underage kids with guns committing crimes] is on the rise. Towards the second half of the year, we just saw an explosion of underage individuals who were involved in homicides.”


The city is taking steps to try and reduce teen violence. The Albuquerque Community Safety Department implemented the Violence Interruption Program (VIP) at West Mesa and Robert F. Kennedy High School. The program is aimed at reducing gun and gang violence in schools. The VIP focuses on students at the highest risk of becoming part of the gun violence cycle.

According to Medina, the number one criminal activity juveniles take part in is auto theft and he said this:

“The 5-year-old was killed using what we believe were two stolen cars. Other incidents involve youth in stolen cars last week. I know they pulled over some youth with firearms in stolen cars. … I’m very concerned about the involvement of youth and the fact that a lot of times, a stolen motor vehicle is viewed as a property crime.”


Chief Medina highlighted the success rate of APD solving homicides with 84 cases solved. The chief said increasing the number of homicide detectives on staff from 5 to 16 and doubling supervision from 1 sergeant to 2 sergeants was a big part of the reason APD has been able to solve more cases. Medina said this:

“There is a specific reason why we are getting more cases cleared from the past, we’ve actually brought in more resources. … Number one, officers are getting more proactive, number two, technology is starting to catch up in a lot of different places, and number three, there is a large portion of individuals who are in custody.”

During the January 5 press conference, Chief Medina said it was  a worry that more people in the city are getting their hands on guns. There were 14 officer-involved shootings last year, and APD said 12 of the individuals involved were armed.  APD  also said they categorized 16 shootings as justified, which means in particular it was in self-defense. Those are reported separately to the FBI and not included in the homicide numbers.

Links to quoted news sources are here





In 2018, during Mayor Keller’s first full year in office, there were 69 homicides. In 2019, during Mayor Keller’s second full year in office, there were 82 homicides. Albuquerque had more homicides in 2019 than in any other year in the city’s history. The previous high was in 2017 when 72 homicides were reported in Mayor Richard  Berry’s last year in office. The previous high mark was in 1996, when the city had 70 homicides. The year 2020 ended with 76 homicides, the second-highest count since 1996. In 2021, the year ended with an astounding 117 homicides with 2022 ending even higher at 120 homicides. Finally after a full 6 years of Keller in office, the city saw a decline in homicide for the first time, with 97 homicides reported.



The city of Albuquerque is a performance-based budget. Each year, city departments must submit statistics to substantiate their accomplishments and justify their budgets. The homicide clearance rates for the Albuquerque Police Department are disclosed  in the annual APD city budgets.

For the years 2019 to 2021, the city’s homicide clearance percentage rate have been in the 50%-60% range but have in fact dropped dramatically to less than 40% one year.

According to the 2019,  2020, 2021,  2022 and 2023  APD approved city budgets, following are APD’s homicide clearance rates for the years 2016 to 2024:


2016: APD homicide clearance rate 80%

Fiscal year 2019 APD approved budget, Page 212:



  • 2017: APD homicide clearance rate 70%.
    2018: APD homicide clearance rate 47%.

Fiscal year 2020, approved budget, Page 213:



  • 2018: APD homicide clearance rate 47%.
  • 2019: APD homicide clearance rate 57%

Fiscal year 2021 approved budget, Page 227:



  • 2020: APD’s actual homicide clearance rate reported: 57%
  • 2021: APD’s actual homicide clearance rate reported: 53%

Fiscal year 2023 approved budget, Page 245:

Click to access fy23-approved-budget-final-sept-13.pdf


  • 2022: APD’s actual homicide clearance rate reported: 71%
  • 2023: APD’s actual homicide clearance rate reported: 79%

Fiscal year 2024 approved budget, page 238

Click to access fy24-proposed-web-version.pdf

The link to review all city budgets from Fiscal years 2007 to 2024 is here:



On January 9, Bernalillo County District Attorney Bregman held a press conference to announce a new policy  where juveniles  facing firearm-related charges must tell the District Attorney’s  where they got their gun before any plea discussions can take place. The new policy comes a year after Bregman came out with an “anti-gun” initiative that encouraged gun owners to keep their firearms secure from their children and that would prosecute students who bring them to schools. According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney Office, in 2023, juvenile crimes went up from 568 cases in 2022 to 781 cases. Of the 781 cases, about 34% of those  or 268 cases involved a firearm.

Bregman said this of the new policy:

“… We need to find out where these guns are coming from. There are far too many juveniles getting access to firearms and doing crazy, crazy stuff. … [W]e have to get a hold of the people who are distributing these guns. … This office is committed 100% to finding out where these kids are getting their firearms. … [the DA’s office will work with law enforcement] “to find the source of that gun, and if it leads to other sources of other guns, we’ll continue that investigation until we know we’re doing everything we can to keep guns out of juveniles’ hands. … I can’t think of anything more dangerous to a community, to a school, to our children. ”

District Attorney Sam Bregman has been visiting Albuquerque Public Schools students, where he tells them about the ramifications of bringing firearms to campus.  There have been and will continue to be some “honest and frank discussions,” he said, adding that he plans to visit more schools including Highland High School Wednesday.



In 2019, Mayor Tim Keller reacting to the spiking violent crime rates, announced 4 programs in 9 months to deal with and bring down the city’s high violent crime rates . Those APD programs are:

  1. The Shield Unit

In February 2018 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) created the “Shield Unit”. The Shield Unit assists APD Police Officers to prepare cases for trial and prosecution by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office. The unit originally consisted of 3 para legals. It was announced that it is was expanded to 12 under the 2019-2020 city budget that took effect July 1, 2019.


  1. Declaring Violent Crime “Public Health” issue

On April 8, 2019, Mayor Keller and APD announced efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque. Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems.

  1. The “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP program)

On November 22, Mayor Tim Keller announced what he called a “new initiative” to target violent offenders called “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP). The VIP initiative was in response to the city’s recent murders resulting in the city tying the all-time record of homicides at 72 in one year. Mayor Keller proclaimed the VIP is a “partnership system” that includes law enforcement, prosecutors and social service and community provides to reduce violent crime. According to Keller vulnerable communities and law enforcement will be working together and building trust has proven results for public safety. Mayor Keller stated:

“… This is about trying to get these people not to shoot each other. …This is about understanding who they are and why they are engaged in violent crime. … And so, this actually in some ways, in that respect, this is the opposite of data. This is action. This is actually doing something with people. …”

  1. The Metro 15 Operation program.

On Tuesday, November 26, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to announce a 4th program within 9 months to deal with the city’s violent crime and murder rates. At the time of the press conference, the city’s homicide count was at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017.

Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year. Keller dubbed the new program “Metro 15 Operation” and is part of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) program. According to Keller and then APD Chief Michael Geier the new program would target the top 15 most violent offenders in Albuquerque. It’s the city’s version of the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.

Links to news coverage are here:



Based on the city’s high violent crime and murder rates from 2018 to 2022, it appears Mayor Tim Keller’s and APD’s novel little policy  programs  implemented for show and tell of  declaring violent crime a “Public Health” Issue” and the “Violence Intervention Plan” oftrying to get these people not to shoot each other”  to bring down the city’s homicides have  in fact been overall failures, if not somewhat embarrassing, and were never taken as serious law enforcement practices.

The blunt truth is that what has likely brought the homicides down in the city has been APD finally dedicating sufficient staff and resources to get the job done of investigating, making arrests and actually solving and clearing the cases.  APD Chief Medina emphasized how increasing the number of homicide detectives on staff from 5 to 16 and doubling supervision from 1 sergeant to 2 sergeants was a big part of the reason APD has been able to solve more cases. Training has also been a big component with upwards of  200 officers going through APD’s detective academy. APD detectives  are no longer overwhelmed with pending cases and they have become more proactive,  technology is being relied upon to solve cases, and more people are being arrested and presumably tried and convicted.

Notwithstanding the 20% drop in the homicides, the public perception is that the city has become a very violent city and many simply do not feel safe. Complicating matters is the sure number of juveniles committing crimes with guns. The biggest question is if homicides will continue to decline.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham In “State of State Address” Backs Ambitious Public Safety And Gun Control Agenda For 2024 Legislative Session; Way Too Much For 30 Day Budget Session; Should Be Handled By Special Session; Governor’s Guest Opinion Column: “It’s Time To Ban Assault Weapons In New Mexico”

On Tuesday, January 16 the 2024 New Mexico legislative session began at noon.  It ends on February 15 at noon.  The 2024 legislative session is a 30-day short session where much of the session is  devoted to exclusively  approving the state’s annual budget.  Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has already released her proposed 2024-2025.  She is proposing a $10.5 billion budget which is a 9.9% increase from the current fiscal year that ends on June 30. The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) introduced its own competing budget proposal. The LFC’s version is slimmer with just a 5.9% budget increase compared to Governor’s 9.9%. The LFC budget recommendation totaled $10.1 billion, retaining enough reserves to protect against future budget cuts and keep revenues growing for the next several years.

On January 16, in her in her 6th State of the State address that lasted one hour, Governor Lujan Grisham covered a broad range of topics, including affordable housing construction, education and clean energy. But the governor, who last year instituted a public health order restricting where people can carry guns, highlighted ambitious  gun control legislation she wants pasted during the 2024 legislative session.

Proclaiming “enough is enough” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called  for the enactment of  gun  control and safety package that would ban assault weapons and make purchases of automatic and semiautomatic weapons legal only for people at least 21 years old with a two-week waiting period.  The Governor said this:

 “This is the most important work we’re going to do. … Because all the other stuff, the jobs, the futures, the homes, the education — really, we can’t keep New Mexicans safe.”




On January 12, 2024, notwithstanding that the 2024 legislative session is a 30 short budgetary session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her support of  bills she wants lawmakers to consider during the session to address public safety. The bills include raising the age to purchase a gun, regulating assault weapons, and increasing penalties for a range of crimes.  The governor is also asking lawmakers to discuss a handful of crime-related bills backed by both Democratic lawmakers as well as Republicans.

Three of the gun control initiatives Lujan Grisham is supporting for the 2024 session are in fact failed legislation from the 2023 Legislative session.  The bills from the 2023 legislative session that failed include:

  • House Bill 101, which would have prohibited people from possessing assault weapons;
  • House Bill 100, which would have established a 14-day waiting period for guns; and
  • Senate Bill 116, which would have made it illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase an automatic or semi-automatic firearm, all died in committee.

The current versions of the bills are set to be carried by all the same lawmakers who sponsored them last year.

Asked why the current versions of the measures would be successful in the 2024 session, Governor Spokeswoman Maddy Hayden had this to say:

“[There is] more momentum around public safety than ever, and you can expect a full-court press on every one of these bills to get them across the finish line. … This year is seeing a convergence of not only a public that continues to demand action from the [State Legislature] on public safety, but also a sense of energy felt after the meaningful results of the concerted efforts of the last few months in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.”

With respect to the legislation about regulating the possession and sale of assault weapons, Hayden said a language shift in the new proposal to define such firearms in terms of how they deliver bullets made this year’s version stronger than previous versions.

In the governor’s public safety agenda, she refers to how assault weapons “fire bullets at extremely high velocity, assault weapons can inflict massive trauma including the piercing of law enforcement body armor.”


One bill, sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe), would regulate the manufacture, sale, and possession of assault weapons.  The bill would make it a misdemeanor to have an assault weapon during the commission or attempted commission of a felony.  A defendant   would also face separate charges for the felon.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Romero would put a 14-day waiting period in place between the initiation of a federal background check and the handover of a gun in a legal sale. According to the governor’s office, the bill will likely include  exceptions for sales between family members, those carrying valid New Mexico concealed carry permits, or a federal firearm license.

Another bill sponsored by Rep. Reena Szczepanski (D-Santa Fe), would raise the minimum age to buy automatic and semiautomatic guns. Currently, the legal age is 18 years and the  bill would raise that to 21. The bill would also prohibit owning guns that can accept high-capacity magazines.

A  bill sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos, Sandoval, and Santa Fe Counties), would allow gun manufacturers to be held liable if they use deceptive business tactics.

A bill, sponsored by Rep. Joy Garratt (D-Abq.) and Rep. Chandler, would amend the existing Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Order by creating an expedited system for issuing protection orders and expanding the list of those that can ask for an order. It also lets police ask for a search warrant in order to enforce an order.

A bill, sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe), would prohibit guns within 100 feet of a polling place during an election. The bill would not apply to on-duty police officers.

The governor is also asking to make it a crime to carry a firearm in a park or playground owned by a county or municipality. The governor’s controversial public health order put a similar rule in place, temporarily, in Bernalillo County.

The gun bills announced came months after Lujan Grisham enacted a public health order to tackle gun violence and declared gun violence   a public health emergency. She did so following the shooting death of an 11-year-old leaving an Albuquerque Isotopes baseball game in September.

The governor initially included a ban on publicly carrying firearms in Bernalillo County, but that was trimmed back — to only include parks and playgrounds — after a federal judge issued an order blocking the ban.


Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for a third 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. For the 2024 session, the  bill is sponsored by Sen. Craig Brandt (R-Sandoval) and  would shift the way courts decide if someone should be held in jail before their trial. The governor’s office says the bill would create a presumption that violent offenders are a threat and should be held before trial, unless the defense offers clear and convincing evidence that they won’t be a danger to the community.

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.


Another bill sponsored by Sen. Brandt would expand existing anti-racketeering laws to include human trafficking, rape, exploitation of children, escape from a penitentiary, and tampering with public records as a crime. The idea is to offer more ways to prosecute gang activity.

One bill, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Maestas (D-Abq.), would increase the penalty for second-degree murder from 15 years to 18 years. It would also increase the penalty for attempted second-degree murder.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. Marian Matthews (D-Abq.), would amend the state’s existing human trafficking statutes. The bill would lengthen the statute of limitations, increase penalties, and boost victim protection, the governor’s office says.

The governor also wants to boost civil commitments for those who are considered a danger to themselves or society.

Othe legislation The governor is asking for includes  a ban on panhandling, increased hazing penalties, stronger data-sharing requirements for law enforcement agencies, an easier process for retired public safety officers to return to work, boosted funds for law enforcement recruitment and compensation, stronger penalties for commercial burglary, and the ability for law enforcement to test for both drugs and alcohol during a misdemeanor DWI search warrant.


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had this to say when she unveiled her public safety agenda for the 2024 legislative session:

“We have a gun problem … and we have a public safety problem.  … We have a responsibility to our children, to families, communities to solve it, and I believe this package goes a long way to do just that. … This is, without a doubt, the largest and most comprehensive public safety package in our state’s history. It’s the most together we’ve been on addressing public safety, crime and gun violence since I’ve been involved in government and certainly since I’ve been the governor. … Gun violence is a significant contributor to the cycles of crime in our communities and will continue to use every tool at our disposal to end this epidemic. Likewise, we will strengthen our support for law enforcement, increase penalties for violent crimes, and once again pursue legislation to keep violent offenders behind bars pending trial. All of this will build upon the progress and investments we’ve made in previous years.”

The governor’s public safety priorities include the following 21 bills dealing with firearms and cracking down on crime with the sponsors identified:

  • The Firearm Industry Accountability Act amends the state statue to allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for deceptive trade practices. (Sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler)
  • Assault weapons ban lawfully regulates the manufacture, possession and sale of weapons of war, most often the gun used in mass casualty events. (Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero)
  • Raising the age to purchase automatic firearms to 21 from the current minimum of 18 years of age. (Sponsored by Rep. Reena Szczepanski)
  • Firearms purchase waiting period creates a protracted waiting period of 14 days between the initiation of a federal background check and a buyer taking possession of a firearm, thereby reducing the opportunity for gun violence and suicide. (Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero)
  • Prohibiting guns in polling places makes it illegal to carry firearms within 100 feet of polling places during an election. (Sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth)
  • Prohibiting guns in parks and playgrounds will make it illegal to carry a firearm in county or municipal parks, playgrounds, and their accompanying parking lots.
  • Increased criminal penalty of the crime of second-degree murder raises the maximum penalty from 15 to 18 years. (Sponsored by Sen. Antonio Maestas)
  • Felons in possession of firearms increases the criminal penalty for felons found to be in possession of guns making it a second-degree felony. (Sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil)
  • Amending the human trafficking statute increases the statute of limitations, criminal penalties, and victim protections under New Mexico’s current human trafficking statute. (Sponsored by Rep. Marian Matthews)
  • Changes to commercial burglary statute will strengthen law enforcement’s ability to respond to businesses who have revoked a person’s right to enter or remain on their property due to a prior theft. It will allow police to charge offenders with the crime of commercial burglary, a 4th-degree felony.
  • Pretrial detention is legislation designed to create a rebuttable presumption for persons charged with serious, largely violent offenses. Unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, a defendant that poses a threat to the safety of community members can be held in custody pending trial. (Sponsored by Sen. Craig Brandt)
  • Mandated treatment will give judges a more robust avenue to civilly commit individuals who are a danger to themselves or society.
  • RICO amendments will update the existing Racketeering Act by adding additional crimes to include human trafficking, rape, exploitation of children, escape from penitentiary, and tampering with public records.
  • ERPO amendments are designed to amend the Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Order Act. Specifically, it will provide an expedited process where orders are issued 24-7 via an on-call judge, a requirement of immediate relinquishment of firearms upon service of an order. This legislation also changes reporting parties to include law enforcement and health care professionals. (Sponsored by Reps. Christine Chandler, Joy Garratt)
  • Return to work for public safety personnel is designed to provide a mechanism to allow for public safety personnel who previously retired from PERA to be able to return to work and continue to serve their communities. The goal of the bill is to be able to shore up significant public safety personnel vacancy rates in state, county and municipal public safety agencies.
  • Panhandling ban will prohibit the unlawful use of public spaces, streets, sidewalks, curbs, with the primary goal of increasing public safety and vehicular efficiency.
  • Misdemeanor DWI search warrant requirement amendment will update the requirements for testing the blood of a suspected intoxicated driver to include both drugs and alcohol for misdemeanor crimes when the arrested person refuses testing.
  • Hazing penalties will criminalize hazing and aggravated hazing, protecting students or prospective students in New Mexico. Hazing is a misdemeanor and aggravated hazing a fourth-degree felony. This bill provides for criminal penalties for teachers, coaches or other reporting parties who knew, or should have known about hazing and failed to report it.
  • Data sharing requirements for law enforcement agencies will require the regular reporting of crime data from law enforcement agencies to the state as a condition of state funding.
  • Firefighter, law enforcement, corrections officer recruitment fund is designed to provide financial support to recruit candidates to these critical public safety fields.
  • Compensation increases for State Police, corrections/parole officers provides for a 14% funding increase ($11.5 million) for State Police and an 8% increase ($7.2 million) for corrections, probation & parole officers.


Democratic leadership have said  their  priorities match up with most of Lujan Grisham’s firearm legislation. However  House Speaker Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, did not  directly respond to an inquiry on whether Democrats would support an assault weapons ban. Martínez said this:

“As is the case with any bill that is germane, meaning it falls into the scope of the governor’s executive message or within the scope of the budget process, all of those bills will be considered.  They’ll be heard. They’ll have a fair hearing. They’ll have votes. … It is my hope that we can get folks to the table to talk about this and have a productive conversation.”

Martínez said some bill sponsors have talked with Republicans about the gun legislation. He pointed to a bill that Rep. Raymundo Lara, D-Chamberino, and Minority House Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, worked on last session.


Republicans were quick to respond to Governor Luja Grisham and  the bills she is supporting.  Republican leadership said Lujan Grisham’s proposed legislation would take away New Mexicans’ constitutional rights.

Senate Minority Leader Gregory Baca, R-Belen, said if New Mexicans had to legally follow the governor’s proposed gun measures, they would put themselves at risk by doing so.

“What we have is we have criminals running the streets, breaking the law, obtaining firearms illegally, which I can tell you will not change.  … We’re not going to convince criminals to not commit crimes with firearms by going in and registering and doing background checks. … [The governor] took a hyper-partisan turn with the announcement of several anti-Second Amendment measures targeting New Mexico gun owners who only want to protect themselves and their families. … Let’s be clear — if the Governor and other Democrats were half as hard on criminals as they are on law-abiding citizens, our communities would already be much safer. … Enough with the false solutions. Let’s enforce the laws we have, keep dangerous criminals behind bars and give law enforcement the tools they need to do their job.”

Minority House Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec said New Mexico has a mental health and criminal problem that needs to be addressed instead of gun control. Lane said this:

“Our state doesn’t have a gun problem. … New Mexico is very unique [in]  that both right and left we celebrate the Second Amendment.”







Simply put, when it comes to gun all the gun control legislation Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is supporting in the 30 day legislative session not much if any will actually be enacted. Much of it is either dead on arrival or will not make it through committee mainly because it’s a 30 day session and there is simply not enough time to give all 21 measures a fair hearing.  That is why the Governor should again consider calling a special session to deal with gun control measures immediately after the 2024 session to address all the proposed gun control legislation.

Until the New Mexico legislature get serious about New Mexico’s gun violence crisis and enacts reasonable gun control measures in conjunction with crime and punishment measures, we can expect our violent crime rates to continue to increase, and God forbid, yet another killing of a child which is what prompted the Governor to issue her executive orders in the first place.

If Governor Lujan Grisham is really serious about the State’s crime crisis and wants  to do something about it, she should be calling for the New Mexico Legislature to  enact an “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act” and do so during a special session of the legislature.  The message that must be sent out loud and clear to violent criminals by our elected officials is that New Mexico has a zero tolerance of violent crimes committed with firearms.  The only way to do that is with responsible gun control measures to reduce the availability of guns and to enhance criminal sentencings.


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

  • Allow firearm offenses used in a drug crime to be charged separately with enhance sentences.
  • Making possession of a handgun by someone who commits a crime of drug trafficking an aggravated third-degree felony mandating a 10-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
  • Increase the penalty of shooting randomly into a crowded area a second-degree felony mandating a 9-year sentence.
  • Increase the penalty and mandatory sentencing for the conviction of the use of a fire arm during a road rage incident to a first degree felony mandating a life sentence.
  • 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.


Gun control measures that should be included the “Omnibus Gun Control And  Violent Crime Sentencing  Act” would include legislation that failed in the 2023 legislative session and other measures and would include the following:

  • Call for the repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote and no doubt generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby, but what is the real rational for allowing side arms and rifles to be carried down the street other than to intimidate others.
  • Restrict the sale, manufacture and possession of AR-15-style rifles along with semiautomatic firearms and make it a fourth-degree felony to purchase, possess, manufacture, import, sell or transfer assault weapons in the state.
  • Prohibited magazines with more than 10 rounds.
  • Prohibited the possession of semiautomatic firearm converter that allows the weapon to fire more rapidly.
  • Established 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. 
  • Institute a Federal and State background check system  with a  mental health component  that would disqualify a person with a history of mental health violent outbursts or a history of threats to others from making a gun purchase.  
  • Established 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.
  • Ban the manufacture, sale, trade, gift, transfer or acquisition of semiautomatic pistols that have two or more defined characteristics.
  • Revised the state’s Unfair Practices Act to target the sale of illegal firearms and parts, allowing the filing of lawsuits to enforce the act.
  • Prohibit in New Mexico the sale of “ghost guns” parts. Ghost guns are guns that are manufactured and sold in parts without any serial numbers to be assembled by the purchaser and that can be sold to anyone.
  • Require in New Mexico the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold as is required for all operable vehicles bought and driven in New Mexico.
  • Mandate the school systems and higher education institutions “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, and security measures and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers.
  • Require a permit to purchase all rifles and handguns.  There are 15 other states require a permit to purchase or licensing.  The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Firearm licensing has past performance.  A John Hopkins University study in a comparative analysis, describes licensing as the most effective firearm policy. Connecticut notes a 28% decrease in homicides, 33% decrease in suicides 10 years post licensing. When you compare states with and without licensing, there is a 56% decrease in mass shootings. Studies reveal a decrease of gun trafficking of more than 60% after licensing.  Missouri found similar increases in homicides and suicides when removing their purchase restrictions.  Licensing is constitutional it has broad public support.  Licensing brings in revenue to the state vs simply cost the state money.

The Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act Omnibus Gun Violence And Sentencing 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 and law enforcement departments across New Mexico.



On Sunday, January 15, the Albuquerque Journal published the follow guest opinion column by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham:


Every day, Americans wake up to the news of another community torn apart by gun violence. America’s gun violence crisis has become so rampant that we are virtually numb to the deadly reality that more than 120 Americans are shot and killed every day in our country. Far too often, these tragedies reach our doorsteps right here in New Mexico. Families from Farmington to Las Cruces feel the anxiety and fear of being gunned down at shopping malls and movie theaters, of dropping their children off at school.

We saw it in Farmington — a teenager legally purchased an AR-15 in late 2022 and bought an additional three magazines just days before he went on a shooting spree. He fired over 150 rounds, killed three and injured six, including two police officers. Three women were brutally slaughtered by an automatic weapon designed for warfare and whose only purpose is to kill multiple people in a short amount of time.

Between 2015 and 2022 in the United States, 8 of the 10 deadliest mass shooting incidents involved the use of a firearm equipped with a high-capacity magazine, an assault weapon, or both. Shootings where assault weapons were used resulted in more than twice as many people killed and more than 22 times as many people wounded per incident on average. There’s no training or survival class against an assault weapon. In addition to brutalizing our communities, these military-grade weapons can overwhelm and endanger law enforcement.

As governor, I took an oath to protect New Mexicans. I take this responsibility seriously and I refuse to stand by while weak laws allow our streets and neighborhoods to be terrorized by weapons of war again and again. It’s time for New Mexico to break the cycle and ban assault weapons once and for all.

Banning assault weapons isn’t a novel concept. President Clinton took decisive action in 1994 and the data are clear: banning assault weapons saves lives. A 2019 study revealed a staggering 70% reduction in mass shooting fatalities between 1994 and 2004, when the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was enforced. When the federal ban expired, state governments had to take up the charge of protecting their own people, and nearly one-third of the population now lives in states that prohibit assault weapons. Many of these states, such as California, have the lowest gun violence rates in the country.

Between 1993 and 2017, California saw a remarkable 55% decrease in its firearm mortality rate, a reduction nearly four times greater than the rest of the nation in the same period of time. The numbers don’t lie; common-sense gun safety solutions save lives and it’s time for New Mexico to follow suit.

My proposed assault weapons ban takes an innovative approach. We can tackle this crisis by prohibiting the sale, transfer, and receipt of gas-operated semi-automatic firearms, such as AR-15 rifles, and large-capacity magazines that hold 10 or more rounds of ammunition. Our proposed assault weapons ban will keep these weapons of war off our streets while continuing to allow most handguns and common hunting firearms to be sold. My legislation would ban extraordinarily dangerous firearms based on their internal construction, so gunmakers will not be able to circumnavigate the ban in the future – as they have done in other states – by changing their firearms’ external features. This means that New Mexicans will be protected for generations to come, at the same time responsible gun ownership for self-defense, hunting and other activities meaningful to New Mexicans is preserved.

This upcoming legislative session, I am laser-focused on putting an end to our gun violence crisis. New Mexicans are ready for meaningful action – that’s how we honor victims and save lives. There are political forces who will oppose taking these weapons of mass destruction off the streets. In recent years, my administration has shown them that we are putting courage over politics by expanding background checks for gun purchases and preventing children from gaining access to their parents’ weapons. Now it’s time to get these weapons of war off our streets once and for all.

As a daughter, mother and grandmother, my family’s experiences motivate me to be in this fight. In 2019, my daughter was in a mall that was on active shooter lockdown, while we debated gun violence legislation here in New Mexico; my granddaughter’s school was locked down because a student brought a fake gun to school in their backpack that was mistaken for a real firearm. Later, two adults had an altercation outside of that school during afternoon pick-up, resulting in one of them brandishing a firearm while students were being released for the day and all access points to the campus were open. Parents don’t know if the school dropoff is the last time they will ever see their kids. For them, and for children across New Mexico, we cannot shy away from this crisis. Not anymore.

We need leaders at every level, regardless of our politics, to come together and present common-sense solutions to this ceaseless pattern of mass shootings. It’s time to put the safety of our families over partisan politics and meet this moment by doing what we know saves lives. Together, we can put an end to the public health crisis of mass shootings, protect our citizens and get weapons of war off our streets.

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


The link to a related blog article is here:

Gov. MLG Proposes 10.5 Billion State Budget For 2024-2025 Fiscal Year With 9.9% Budget Increase; Legislative Finance Committee Expected To Release It’s Own Budget

NM Legislative Finance Committee Introduces 2024-2025 Proposed Budget; Slimmer 5.9% Budget Increase From Governor MLG’s 9.9% Budget Increase

The 2024 New Mexico legislative session begins on Tuesday,  January 16 at noon and ends on February 15 at noon.  The 2024 legislative session will be a 30 short session where budgetary matters will be the primary focus.


On January 5, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) held a press conference to announce introduction of  its budget proposal for the fiscal year 2024-2025  and just  one day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released her own proposed budget. The fiscal year begins July 1, 2024 and ends June 31, 2025. The LFC’s version is slimmer with just a 5.9% budget increase compared to Governor’s 9.9%. The  LFC budget recommendation totaled $10.1 billion,  retaining enough reserves to protect against future budget cuts and keep revenues growing for the next several year.

The allocation for public education, like the Governor’s,  is the largest in the LFC proposed budget.  The $4.4 billion recommendation is essentially the same as the governor’s.  The LFC budget calls  for across-the-board raises for state employees totaling 4%. The governor’s pitch includes  a 3% raise for all state employees, plus bigger raises for state police and corrections, probation and parole officers.

Both budgets endorse the New Mexico Legacy Fund, a dedicated state fund for conservation signed by Lujan Grisham in 2023.  The major difference between the two budgets is that Governor Lujan Grisham recommends $250 million while the LFC recommended a $300 million appropriation.  The new budgeting tool would float funding evenly over four years while monitoring the performance of the program. The LFC is recommending it as a way to set aside this year’s revenue as a long-term funding plan. According to the recommendation packet, the program would “offer a chance to invest in new ideas,” such as pilot programs.

LFC Chair Senator George Muñoz, D-Gallup, said this  at the news conference:

“I think this is a very sound budget. … It keeps the Legislature … and the state of New Mexico able to grow over the next couple of years without having massive cuts.”

LFC Vice Chair Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, said the budget includes insurance against market volatility, and both representatives highlighted investments in workforce programs intended to boost education levels and employment in new industries

Lujan Grisham spokesperson Maddy Hayden said this in a statement:

“The Executive looks forward to working with the Legislature on a budget that lifts up all New Mexicans through continued investments in priority areas. … We are just beginning our review of the LFC recommendation and at this time do not have information on how the brand-new budgeting concept developed by the LFC of an ‘Expendable Trust’ would work.”




On January 4, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham released her proposed 2024-2025 state budget that begins on July 1.  She is proposing a $10.5 billion budget which is a 9.9% increase from the current fiscal year that ends on June 30.

The Governor  has submitted a record breaking $10.5 billion budget where she  is recommending the state capitalize on “record revenues” with $10.5 billion in recurring funds and $2.1 billion in one-time, nonrecurring cash infusions for the upcoming fiscal year budget.

Major increases in pay raises is being proposed for all state employees with even higher pay increases for law enforcement.  The Governor is proposing a 3% pay raise  for all state employees and teachers. State Police officers would be given a larger pay raise of 14% while corrections, probation and parole officers would get 7% pay raises. More than half a billion would be earmarked for law enforcement recruitment, pay, and equipment and support for other first responders.

The governor wants to put more than $3 billion toward healthcare initiatives to help subsidize patient care and draw more providers to the state. Hundreds of millions would also be allocated for economic development investments, roads and infrastructure, and shoring up the state’s water supply.

Lujan Grisham’s proposed budget includes provisions to keep more than a third of state revenues in reserve, in case of revenue shortfalls in the future. The New Mexico Constitution requires a balanced budget.  However  during the 2008 recession and an oil bust in the early 2010s, reserves proved insufficient to cover the losses.


As usual, public education is  the  biggest area for funding. More than $4 billion would go toward K-12 education to expand early childhood programs, train educators and  boost teacher pay.  A 7% budget increase from last year is being proposed for the Department of Public Education.   $4.5 billion would go to summer and after-school programs, literacy programs and a new Structured Literacy Institute, among other programs.

Spending on public education would increase by $283 million, or 6.8%, to nearly $4.5 billion. One goal is to bolster specialized literacy programs, while founding a state literacy institute. Additional funds would help extend annual instructional time at public schools across the state. Republicans in the legislative minority oppose the push to expand public school calendars.

The Lujan Grisham administration hopes to add 2,000 slots for infant and toddler childcare and expand early preschool by 1,380 slots through increased state spending, while also bolstering aid to children being raised by grandparents.  Legislators have expressed frustration in recent months with the results of sustained spending increases on public education. Statewide, the share of students who can read at their grade level is 38%. Math proficiency is at 24%. The state’s high school graduation rate hovers at 76%, well below the national average of 87%.


As usual, oil and gas revenues still dominates state revenues and is makes  up to almost 40% of the expected $13.05 billion in general fund revenues for the next fiscal year.

Although state revenues are still high,  Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Wayne Propst acknowledged that growth is expected to slow. Propst said this in a statement:

“We’re fully aware that growth is projected to slow in future fiscal years, but the state is in a unique position to continue to make smart investments now, while maintaining historically high reserves. … It’s also important to note that as we improve health outcomes, lift families out of poverty and bolster the state’s economy, costs for programs and services go down.”

The Governor’s proposed budget also addresses clean energy initiatives.  $20 million would be made available as low-interest loans to communities for projects that reduce carbon emissions, and $30 million would head to improving electric vehicle infrastructure in the state. The Governor’s Office is also pursuing incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids to bolster new clean cars requirements adopted by the state.

But Larry Behrens, the communications director for Power the Future, a group that advocates for energy worker interests, wanted more from the “massive” budget recommendation.


A breakdown of what the governor is asking by category for is as follows:

Water & Natural Resources 

  • $500 million capital appropriation from severance tax bonds for the Strategic Water Supply. Lujan Grisham announced the Strategic Water Supply program during a December trip to Dubai. It treats water for use in renewable energy production
  • $250 million general fund transfer to the Land of Enchantment Conservation Fund, which feeds into the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund
  • $20 million to support low-interest loans to communities to implement projects that reduce carbon emissions

Housing & Homelessness 

  • $250 million for the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund
  • $250 million to the New Mexico Finance Authority Opportunity Enterprise Revolving Fund to increase funding for affordable housing, including developments of low-income multi-family housing, down payment assistance for low and middle-income households, homeowner rehabilitation and weatherization programs, etc.
  • $40 million for homelessness initiatives to coordinate and expand homelessness services statewide


  • $33 million to expand early pre-kindergarten by 1,380 slots
  • $101.2 million increase to the State Equalization Guarantee Distribution for the necessary adjustment to 180 classroom days
  • $58.1 million for structured literacy, including $30 million for a new Structured Literacy Institute
  • $43.5 million for healthy, universal school meals
  • 3% pay increase ($96 million) for all educators

Health Care, Behavioral Health & Child Well-Being 

  • $2.15 billion in recurring general fund for the Health Care Authority, formerly the Human Services Department
  • $100 million for the Rural Healthcare Delivery Fund
  • $87.9 million for Medicaid provider rate increases to 150% for maternal/child health, primary care, and behavioral health
  • $24.7 million to create a new Family Services division at the Children, Youth and Families Department

Public Safety 

  • $35 million for corrections and law enforcement recruitment statewide
  • $5 million for the Governor’s Commission on Organized Crime
  • $35 million for the Firefighter and EMT Recruitment Fund

Economic Development & Infrastructure 

  • $100 million to launch the New Mexico Match Fund, which will leverage federal funding for infrastructure investments, including roads, bridges, water, energy and broadband
  • $25 million for the Local Economic Development Act Program (LEDA)
  • $9.7 million for the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP)
  • $5 million in total funding for the New Mexico Media Academy
  • $1.5 million special to the Economic Development Department to broaden New Mexico’s international market reach


In the weeks during the session, state agencies will  make presentations to the various legislative standing committees during the session  including  the House Appropriations and Finance Committee to discuss their budget requests. The hearings will allow for public comment and amendments and changes to the budget.

One thing is for certain, the governor’s proposed budget is ambitious because of the 9.9% increase she is proposing but the job of promoting her programs during the 2024 legislative session will be made much easier because of the oil boom that has propelled New Mexico’s government revenue to record highs.

The record surplus should allow the Governor to virtually fund all the education programs she wants, invest in capital projects and infrastructure but only if the legislature allows her.

Former Bernalillo County Sherriff Manny Gonzales Announces Switch To Republican Party And Running For U.S. Senate Against Democrat Incumbent Martin Heinrich; Grudge Likely Motivating Factor For Gonzales

On January 10, former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, a longtime Democrat, announced that he is switching to the Republican Party and running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich.  The announcement comes a full 2 years after the former sheriff lost to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller for Mayor.

In 2021, Gonzales lost in a landslide to Democrat Mayor Tim Keller who won with 56% of the vote with Gonzales securing 26% of the vote and Republican Radio Shock Jock Eddy Aragon securing 18% of the vote. Although the percentage victory was high for Keller, the voter turnout was a low 119,745 votes cast in a city that has 383,000 voters. Gonzales served two 4 year terms as Bernalillo County Sheriff from 2014 to 2022, which is now occupied by Democrat Sheriff John Allen.

In a news release formally announcing his campaign, Gonzales pointed to economic growth, border security, law enforcement support and public safety as priorities.  On his campaign web page,  Gonzales said open borders, high crime and “radical politicians” were ruining the state, and that Senator Martin Heinrich “sits idly by without a shred of respect for our great state to say enough is enough. … If anything, Sen. Heinrich has aided in this lawlessness, and allowed our great state to be riddled with crime and low education outcomes.”

Gonzales vowed to bring New Mexican values to Washington, touting his unwavering commitment to public safety and the betterment of the community. In a press release making the announcement, Gonzales said this:

“I’m honored to embark on this journey to serve New Mexico in a different capacity, one that allows me to continue fighting for the safety and prosperity of our communities. My decision to run for the U.S. Senate under the Republican banner stems from a deep conviction that our state needs practical, common-sense solutions, not partisan rhetoric.”

Gonzales said he was compelled to run by what he called “the failure” of New Mexico’s Democratic leadership by “being silent — having no policies, no active role” in national discussions on things like border safety and high taxes. Gonzales said this in an interview on Fox News:

“I offer that alternative: having solutions and working with both sides of the aisle to get something done.  … Not settling for the same old excuses by career politicians. … [I am] a person of very strong convictions [and] I believe I have the best chance to unseat Heinrich. When people like myself no longer subscribe to these radical policies that are failing us here in New Mexico with families, education, overspending — they are going to understand that they have an opportunity to replace these career politicians that are just looking for their next seat.”


In response to the Gonzales announcement, Heinrich Spokeswoman Caty Payette said the Democrat incumbent senator “is running for re-election to continue delivering real results for New Mexicans. … He remains committed to investing in the brighter future the people of our state deserve. … That stands in direct contrast to Manny Gonzales, who, like his hero and role model Donald Trump, is running for office to avoid his legal troubles. Hopefully, Manny won’t have to fake signatures to get on the ballot this time around.”

During the 2021 Mayor’s race, Gonzales was denied public financing when the city clerk found the Gonzales campaign had fraudulently collected $5 qualifying donations.


The New Mexico Democratic Party was quick to react and to condemn Gonzales’ announcement.  Daniel Garcia, Democratic Party of New Mexico spokesperson, said this in a statement:

“This latest power grab attempt by Manny Gonzales shows that he has no shame — not for his mounting legal troubles nor his previous campaign ethics violations. … “We trust that New Mexican voters will see right through Manny’s media circus announcement, which proves that he’s willing to run for public office regardless of party or values as long as he gets some time in the limelight. … New Mexico Democrats are already campaigning across the state for Senator Martin Heinrich’s reelection with an army of volunteers excited to join us every step of the way.”


Former Sherriff Manny Gonzales made headlines late last year when he and his former undersheriff Rudy Mora were named by federal authorities in an alleged scheme to import machine guns for resale to collectors and gun enthusiasts.  Neither Gonzales nor Mora have been charged in the case.  According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), both men submitted fraudulent requests to import automatic weapons for a demonstration and possible purchase.

The local firearms dealer they gave the letters to, James Christopher Tafoya, faces federal charges in the scheme.  The scheme has led to charges against police chiefs, gun dealers and others across the country.  The ATF has said to news outlets that the Federal investigation is ongoing.

The links news sources are here:








It was on  July 21, 2021  that then President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr announced during a White House news conference that 35 federal agents were  being sent to Albuquerque as part of the expansion of “Operation Legend” with other cities also being sent in a handful of cities across the United States.  Then Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales and U.S. Attorney John Anderson for the State of New Mexico were present for the announcement, but they did not speak. The week before, Gonzales announced that he had been invited to the White House to met with President Trump declining to report why.

During the press announcement, President Trump said there has been a “shocking explosion” of “heinous crimes” in cities. as a result of efforts to “defund, dismantle, and dissolve” police departments. Trump boldly proclaimed assistance is being sent to cities where their leadership wants to “defund, defame or abolish” police departments. Trump severely criticized city leaders headed by Democrats throughout the country for not doing enough to combat crime and for putting the “interests of criminals” above law-abiding citizens.

In advance of the Trump’s announcement of “Operation Legend” targeting Albuquerque, city and state leaders denounced the plan. Sheriff Manny Gonzales came under severe criticism from city and state elected officials for attending the press conference where he did not say a single word.  Before the Trump press conference, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich called for the resignation of Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales claiming Gonzales was inviting federal law enforcement agents to the city. Heinrich called the law enforcement being sent to Albuquerque the president’s stormtroopers” and he said this:

“I believe that it is time for Sheriff Gonzales to step aside and make room for someone who will make maintaining the peace and promoting the safety and protection of Bernalillo County residents our law enforcement’s top priority. … Instead of collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, the Sheriff is inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque. … If we can learn anything from Portland [Oregon], it’s that we don’t need this kind of ‘help’ from the White House. The President is currently using federal law enforcement agents like a domestic paramilitary force. That’s precisely how fascism begins and none of us should ever encourage it or accept it.”



During the 2021 Mayor’s race, Gonzales ran on a “law and order” platform proclaiming crime was out of control and crime rates were unacceptable levels and he could fix things. What he ignored was that he had been Bernalillo County Sheriff for two terms and that during his tenure crime was as much out of control in the county as in the city.

As a Democrat, Gonzales always had been moderate to conservative opposed by Progressive Democrats. Some would say he is a MAGA Trump conservative because of his cooperation with the Trump Administration during his tenure as Sherriff.  The Gonzales strategy to become Mayor was to build a coalition of conservative Democrats, Republicans and appeal to conservatives in general especially Trump supporters. Its the same strategy he is using now to run for US Senate.

When Gonzales travelled to the White House for a press conference with Trump who was running for a second term, he was labelled as a “Democrat In Name Only”. Gonzales likely did not expect a Republican would run for Mayor but when Republican radio talk show host Eddy Aragon entered the race at the last minute, it was a major blow to Gonzales creating a viable coalition of conservatives. Aragon was able to collect the required number of qualifying signatures to get on the ballot within 10 days and siphoned off votes from Gonzales.

On September 14, 2021 a District Court Judge upheld the City Clerk’s decision to deny Gonzales $634,000 in public finance for violating campaign finance rules during the qualifying process finding impropriety in the collection of his qualifying $5 donations. Gonzales was forced to become a privately finance candidate. In his first 3 weeks as a privately funded mayoral candidate, Sheriff Manny Gonzales raised over $330,000 which is evidence of strong fund-raising capabilities. The Gonzales campaign reported in its 7th finance report that the Gonzales had more money on hand than incumbent Mayor Tim Keller for the last full month of the campaign.

The initial reaction to Manny Gonzales running for United States Senate as a Republican against Democrat Martin Heinrich will no doubt will be that he does not have much of chance. That would be a mistake. Gonzales has a wealth of name recognition from being a former Bernalillo County Sheriff and he is Hispanic born and raised in New Mexico. National polling has Trump gaining on Biden among Hispanics and young voters.  https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/4383903-trump-leads-biden-among-hispanic-young-voters-poll-2024-election/ Then there is the matter of Senator Martin Heinrich having a low approval rating under 50% at 45% approval to 36% disapproval rating back in August .  https://247wallst.com/special-report/2023/08/31/us-senators-who-lost-the-most-popularity/

Now that Gonzales is running as a Republican, its likely he will be the only Republican running that  will be able to raise a significant amount of money given conservative  Republican dislike for Heinrich and the fact that Trump is also on the ballot. As a native Hispanic from New Mexico, Gonzales has a better chance of building a coalition of Democratic conservatives and Republicans and Independents statewide than he did in progressive Bernalillo County when he ran against a progressive Democratic Mayor.

The biggest threat that has the potential of totally derailing the Gonzales candidacy for Senate is if anything actually comes of the ATF investigation and if Gonzales is charged. Gonzales has not been indicted of any crimes, but he has been listed in a document that the federal authorities have indicted other people. Its unknown yet if Manny Gonzales will become a witness for the federal government or perhaps is even charged with crimes himself. Then again, being indicted 4 times has not stopped Der Führer Trump from running for President so why should that stop ethically challenged Manny Gonzales.

Despite Democrats Holding 5-4 City Council Majority, Conservative Republican City Councilors Dan Lewis and Renee Grout Elected President and Vice President Of City Council; Progressive Democrat Mayor Tim Keller Now Faced With New Conservative Majority; “Rubber Stamp Trio” Of  Progressive Democrats Joaquin Baca,  Nichole Rogers, Tammy Fiebelkorn Will Likely Be Marginalized By Conservative Majority

On January 8, the newly elected Albuquerque City Council held its first meeting. Its very first vote was to elect new City Council Officers of President and Vice President. Historically, the party with the majority elects officers that are in the majority. Notwithstanding Democrats holding a 5-4 majority on the City Council, Conservative Republican Dan Lewis was elected City Council President and Conservative Republican Renee Grout was elected Vice President.  Moderate Democrat District 3 Councilor Klarissa Peña was elected as the chairwoman for the Committee of the Whole.  The Committee of the Whole is considered the most important of all standing committees with all 9 councilors assigned to discuss and hold hearings on the annual budgets and capital improvements proposed by the mayor.

Links to news sources are here:





The City Council is split with 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans as follows:


District 1 Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez
District 2 Progressive Democrat Joaquin Baca
District 3 Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña
District 6 Progressive Democrat Nichole Rogers
District 7 Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn


District 5 Conservative Republican Dan Lewis
District 4 Conservative Republican Brook Bassan
District 8 Conservative Republican Dan Champine
District 9 Conservative Republican Renee Grout

Although the new City Council is split with 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans, Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez has often allied himself with conservative Republicans Dan Lewis, Renee Grout, and Brook Bassan who are still on the council and newly elected Conservative Republican Dan Champine is expected  to join them in allowing them to approve or kill measures on a 5-4 vote but being unable to override Mayor Tim Keller’s veto’s with the required 6 votes.


Mayor Tim Keller became actively involved and behind the scenes in the campaigns of 3 Progressive Democrat  city council candidates in the 2023 municipal elections. The candidates who had the full support of Mayor Tim Keller were Progressive Democrats Abby Foster, Joaquin Baca and Nichole Rogers. Keller’s own campaign manager, politcal advisor and confidant Neri Holguin  was the paid politcal consultant for Progressive Democrat Abby Foster, who lost to Incumbent Brook Bassan  and Joaquin Baca, who prevailed over his two opponents to win without a runoff.

Mayor Keller  was also involved with the campaign of Nichole Rogers. She had worked for the Mayor Tim Keller as a policy advocate and community organizer. Confidential sources confirmed that Rogers received significant help in collecting nominating petitions signatures and qualifying donations from at least 2 city hall employees who work directly for Mayor Tim Keller.  Rogers  also went so far as to tell Progressive Democrats privately in the District that she was Mayor Keller’s candidate to replace Progressive Democrat Pat Davis who is a Keller ally.

Keller political consultant Neri Holguin initially was involved with the Rogers campaign. It was Holguin who called Jeff Hoehn and told him in no uncertain terms not to run for city council, that he could not win and that Mayor Keller would not support him and that Keller wanted a person of color for the district. Holguin also  headed up the measured finance committee and solicited donations for it  that published a number of negative and misleading politcal hit pieces against Jeff Hoehn in the runoff.


Least anyone forget, it was in 2017 that the dynamic duo of Tim Keller and Dan Lewis ran against each other in a runoff for Mayor. Then State Auditor Tim Keller, a mere one year into his 4-year term as State Auditor announced he was running for Mayor. Then Republican District 5 City Councilor Dan Lewis gave up his seat after serving 2 terms on the city council to run for Mayor. Keller won the 2017 runoff by a decisive landslide by securing 60,219 votes or 62.20% against Dan Lewis who secured 36,594 or 37.8% of the vote.

When Keller was first elected as Mayor in 2017, he enjoyed having a super majority of 6 Democrats to 3 Republicans which allowed him to enact a very progressive agenda with the help of Progressive Democrats Pat Davis and Isaac Benton. In 2021, Conservative Republican Dan Lewis was again elected to the City Council by beating moderate  Democrat Cynthia Borrego, who has since been elected a state representative,  which reduced the council majority to 5 to 4. Once returning to the city council, Lewis attempted to repeal many Keller initiatives, including a tax increase, repeal of the plastic bag ban and increasing the Mayors authority to issue emergency public health orders.  Lewis quickly made it known privately to his supporters his intent to run for Mayor again in 2025.  From the very get go of his return to the city council, Lewis has been as disruptive as possible on the city council in order to generate the news coverage he so covets to run for Mayor again in 2025. For the past two years Lewis has been the biggest critic of Mayor Tim Keller.

Mayor Tim Keller has already made it known privately he intends to run for a third term in 2025.  Now that Conservative Republican Dan Lewis is President, expect him to use his position as much as possible to oppose and disrupt Keller’s progressive agenda with the help of District 1 Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez and perhaps even District 3 Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña. As President, Lewis appoints the chairs of the council committees and expect him to appoint conservatives. Also complicating things for Keller is that Conservative Republican Brook Bassan no doubt harbors strong resentment towards Mayor Keller for his involvement in her re election and his support of Progressive Democrat Abby Foster who ran a very negative campaign and who almost beat Bassan.

It is more likely than not that District 2 Progressive Democrat Joaquin Baca, District 6 Progressive Democrat Nichole Rogers and District 7 Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn will be  marginalized to a great extent  by the conservative majority.  All 3 will be viewed as Mayor Tim Keller’s “rubber stamp trio” and  essentially be  relegated to being observers on the council  and getting very little accomplished on their own without a working majority.

A link to a related blog article is here:

“Dynamic Duo Of Failure” Exchange Competing Guest Columns In ABQ Journal; Prelude To Another Mayor’s Race Between Mayor Tim Keller and City Councilor Dan Lewis In 2025; Examining The Failed Records Of Tim Keller and Dan Lewis