Governor establishes Civil Rights Commission; signs election protections, solvency measures into law
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday afternoon signed into law three measures approved in the recently concluded special session she convened to address the state budget as well as the public health, economic and human rights emergencies exacerbated by the global pandemic.
The New Mexico Legislature delivered eight pieces of legislation to the governor’s desk. On Friday the governor signed House Bill 5, Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 5.
House Bill 5 establishes the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, a bipartisan nine-member body. The commission will evaluate and make recommendations about the creation of a civil right of action for violations of state constitutional rights, and, in light of an ongoing national reckoning on unnecessary excessive force by police officers, will also review the use of qualified immunity as a defense to liability by an employee of a public body. Under the law, the commission will submit a report to the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee by November 15.
Six members of the commission will be appointed by the New Mexico Legislative Council; three will be appointed by the governor. No more than five members may be of the same political party. At least one member must have law enforcement experience. Geographic, gender, cultural and racial diversity must be considered in the appointment of members.
The legislation was sponsored by House Speaker Brian Egolf, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Rep. Karen Bash. The bill was approved with bipartisan support in both chambers.
“Our communities are marching to demand changes that rethink policing,” said Speaker Egolf. “With the creation of a New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, we’ll begin making real steps toward a future when violations of civil rights result in swift and certain consequences. I thank Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for seeing the need to take action, and the bipartisan support this common-sense legislation brought forward.”
Senate Bill 4 is an important measure designed to mitigate the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020 general election in New Mexico and provide for the secure and expeditious conduct of absentee voting this fall.
Under the new law, county clerks may automatically mail applications for absentee ballots to each mailable voter in the county, among other provisions. The bill also accommodates the secretary of health and secretary of state requiring additional provisions for voting-by-mail should they be warranted by emergent public health conditions. The legislation additionally protects the voting rights of New Mexico pueblos and tribes by ensuring polling places will not be closed or consolidated without the written agreement of the nation.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, Sen. Gabriel Ramos, Rep. Linda Trujillo and Rep. D. Wonda Johnson. The bill passed the state Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“As we prepare for the 2020 general election and given the current public health uncertainties, the purpose of this bill is to ensure that all voters will be able to cast their ballots safely, timely, and securely – whether voting in person or by mail,” said Sen. Ivey-Soto. “I’d like to thank Governor Lujan Grisham for including this on the call for the special session and thank the overwhelming majority of senators from both parties who voted to pass this legislation.”
“This November’s elections will be safe and accessible, amidst a global pandemic, in large part due to the passage of this legislation,” said Rep. Trujillo. “The COVID-19 crisis has created many challenges, but voting should not be one of them. I thank the governor for her support in safeguarding our state’s elections.”
Senate Bill 5 is an important solvency measure that reverts unencumbered state appropriations to the general fund and authorizes the issuance of several short-term bonds as part of a comprehensive effort to stabilize state finances in light of the global economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. George Muñoz and Sen. Stuart Ingle. The bill was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers.
“Righting the budget in the midst of unprecedented hardship stemming from this pandemic meant we had to make hard choices,” said Sen. Muñoz. “The measures in SB5 will help put existing money where it is most needed today without having to make more painful cuts to critical programs, and help us bridge the deep fiscal gap facing us in the months and years ahead.”
“This budget fix was able to get us out of some hot water for the time being without having to raise taxes,” said Sen. Ingle. “But New Mexicans need to understand that the budget solution used one-time money. The state won’t be out of financial danger until the economy picks up substantially and tax dollars come into the state coffers on a regular basis. We came together to modify the budget during the special session. We need to continue working together come January when we expect to face continued uncertainty that will need a lasting solution to help the economy.”