Garcia Richard: Legislative Update Continued

By Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard
Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Sandoval

Two weeks ago, I wrote a story for the Los Alamos Daily Post outlining the Governor’s damaging vetoes to the state budget and the actions that the legislature could take to remedy those cuts, including a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the vetoes.

This week the New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to take up the petition from the legislature, challenging the Governor’s vetoes. A hearing is scheduled for May 15.

In the meantime, legislators from both the House and Senate are signing on to call themselves back into an extraordinary session to deal with this crisis. However, it is unclear at this time whether or not the required votes are there, which would take a three fifths majority of both chambers.

While those actions continue to play themselves out over the next few weeks, I have returned to providing a legislative wrap up of what occurred during the last legislative session. This week’s installment will focus on those important pieces of legislation that I carried this session, but were unsuccessful.

As many of you may remember, one of our own was attacked by a mother bear last year when running a race in the Jemez Mountains. Karen Williams, Los Alamos resident, awoke from her ordeal only to find that the mother bear had been destroyed as dictated by current rabies procedure. She and I both began a legislative attempt to mandate that the Game and Fish commission employ a more humane approach towards wildlife/human interactions in the form of House Bill 109. 

It called for a multi-prong approach to responding to a perceived incidence of rabies that was endorsed by medical personnel who treat rabies on a daily basis. Unfortunately, despite Karen’s great work on convening rabies and wildlife experts to testify in committee, HB 109 did not make it out of its first hearing. We did however begin a conversation about treatment of wildlife that I believe we can continue with the Game and Fish commission even into the next administration to encourage wildlife management individuals to look to other states for best practices in the way that they respond to wildlife.

We will continue to urge the commission to incorporate these methods into their regulations.   Very often, this is the result of good legislation, it begins a dialogue that results in changes that in the end do not need a legislative solution.

Another bill I carried dealt with public safety. As folks may recall, over the years I have carried and passed a number of bills dealing with domestic violence issues. When I was a college student, I would work summers as a manager of a women’s shelter and saw firsthand the devastation and terror that domestic violence caused families and children. Throughout the past decade, New Mexico has ranked in the top three in the nation for the number of deaths in our state due to domestic violence.

In addition, analyses of domestic violence statistics finds that firearms that are used in domestic violence related murders or attacks are, on average, purchased only seven days before the crime.

In New Mexico, most purchases of a firearm require the buyer to undergo a background check with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to ensure that the buyer is not an individual prohibited from owning a firearm.  However, guns listed for sale on the Internet, and gun shows do not require background checks. This means that an individual with a domestic violence conviction—who should be prohibited from purchasing a firearm–would be able to access one without a background check.

I carried House Bill 50 and 548 in an attempt to resolve this issue by requiring background checks on all purchases of firearms resulting from a public notice or at a gun show. The language of the bill underwent numerous edits in order to make it less burdensome on law abiding gun owners, and Los Alamos residents from the gun owning community suggested language that would preserve the original intention of the bill while not impeding on law abiding activities.  We made those suggested amendments, but in the end, we did not find consensus and the bill died in its second committee.

I believe that the work on the issue of domestic violence deaths in our state in important and will continue to pursue solutions.

Finally, I carried bills this session to give judges an alternative to interlock devices in DWI convictions (House Bill 49), allow voters registered as independents to vote in primaries (House Bill 206) and provide opportunities for homeschooled students to participate as teams in extracurricular activities (House Bill 270). These bills made it through various stages of the process—House Bill 270 making it all the way to the Senate floor! They were all important initiatives that I plan to continue working on.

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