Contact your legislator NOW about SJR5, SB8, & SB189

Midway Session Report: Elections Bills Bogged Down in Senate Committee & Unconstitutional “Tough on Crime” Bill Pops up in the Senate

Updates on Local Runoff Constitutional Amendment, NM Voting Rights Act, and a new Pretrial Detention bill now in the Senate

Voting and Elections:


CCNM’s priority bill, SJR5 Runoff Elections which is sponsored by Sen. Harold Pope has not been scheduled in the Senate Rules Committee yet. On Wednesday, Representative Pamelya Herndon introduced a mirror bill, HJR 14, in the House. We are asking the Chair of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee to schedule HJR 14 as soon as possible this week.  


SJR 5 / HJR 14 remains our top priority legislation this session to allow our state’s school boards and other local governmental bodies to hold runoff elections. In the last election, eleven school board members were elected by less than 50% of the vote and many times, far less. This means that those with a direct impact on our children’s education are often not supported by the majority of the voters residing in their district. Once passed by the legislature, this measure will be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to consider. 


We have all been closely watching the Senate Rules Committee and the widely varying testimony of citizens and advocacy groups on SB8, the NM Voting Rights Act, sponsored by Sens. Wirth, Duhigg, Pope and Hamblen and House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Martinez.  After rescheduling and then hosting brief testimony earlier in the week, the public was given extensive time to comment yesterday in a lengthy committee meeting. SB 8 will help streamline the restoration of voting rights, greatly improve Native voter protections, develops a permanent absentee list, and improves the state’s automatic voter registration process. Several provisions were removed from the bill, including voting rights for 16-year-olds, but an amendment attempting to remove “back-end” Automatic Voter Registration failed by a vote of 6-5. SRC will reconvene on Monday, February 7 at 9:00 am to finish committee debate and hopefully, hold a vote. 


 “Back-end Automatic Voter Registration” is a process that will register all currently unregistered voters through the MVD. Provisions are built into the language to ensure the eligibility of voters and protect the security and privacy of home addresses for protected citizens, such as survivors of domestic violence. SB 8 will be brought back to the Senate Rules Committee on Monday morning for a final committee vote before it moves to the Senate Finance Committee. 


CCNM strongly supports SB 144, Acts of Intimidation of Poll Workers, sponsored by Sen. Katy Duhigg. This legislation amends our criminal statutes to address an urgent need to add legal protections for New Mexico’s non-partisan poll workers from the threats and intimidation that occured during and after the last election. This bill will add language to our statutes to include inducing or attempting to induce fear in any employee or agent of the Secretary of State, a County Clerk, a Municipal Clerk, or a member of an election board for the purpose of impeding the free exercise or impartial administration of elections; such intimidation is a 4th degree felony. This bill is currently waiting to be scheduled in the Senate Finance Committee. 


Crime Bills:


As a member of the New Mexico S.A.F.E. Coalition, CCNM is working on legislation this session to refocus our state’s correctional efforts on cost-effective, evidence-based alternatives to incarceration that rehabilitate offenders, keep families intact, and make our communities safer


One of the hotly-contested crime bills proposed by the Governor this session, HB5, Pretrial Detention, which was killed in the House, has been followed by a mirror bill in the Senate, SB189, and is something Common Cause strongly opposes.  An essential portion of the bill regarding pretrial detention would create a scenario in which potentially innocent people are held in jails and prisons without proof that they are guilty of the crime of which they have been accused. 


Additionally, the bill’s language of “rebuttable presumption” is not only unconstitutional, but it is an impossible legal standard to meet. This language asserts that a defense attorney would have to prove that the client would not commit other violent crimes if released under supervision. To meet this standard, one would require a crystal ball to foresee the future. 


It is important that lawmakers realize that these proposed bills that are “tough on crime” do not address the real root causes of crime, such as income disparity, low access to behavioral health services, and much more.  More investigation is required to determine the best way to move forward with crime prevention – and this is not it.  It is the position of Common Cause that these types of pretrial detention and incarceration-based legislation will not result in lower crime rates, but rather undermine our national tenet of “innocent until proven guilty.”


This op-ed drafted by the City of Albuquerque’s former Deputy City Attorney explains several of the major concerns we share regarding these “tough on crime” bills this session. 


What we need you to do:


 Contact your representatives in the House and Senate and ask them to support  SJR5 (and its mirror bill HJR14) and SB8 and to oppose SB189.


CCNM is also working on many other important bills this session including:


SB 43, Prohibiting Life Without Parole for a Child, aka the “Second Chance” bill, sponsored by Sen. Sedillo Lopez and Reps. Gail Chasey and Day Hochman-Vigil.


HB 52, Harm Reduction Act Amendments, sponsored by Sens. Katy Duhigg, Linda Lopez and Reps. Tara Lujan, Day Hochman-Vigil


HB 81, Fines and Fees Reform, sponsored by Rep. Michaela Cadena


We will continue to update you on the progress of these important bills as they move through the legislature.  Thank you for your continued support to hold power accountable with us and improve democracy here in New Mexico.