SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico House passed public safety legislation Friday that lawmakers say aims to put more police on the streets, and treat more inmates with a substance abuse or a mental illness diagnosis as a way to reduce recidivism.
The omnibus package includes multiple measures proposed by both Democrats and Republicans.
It won near unanimous approval in the House on Friday, and now goes to the Senate with about two weeks left in this year’s 30-day legislative session in Santa Fe.
Among the other bills in the package is a measure to increase prison time for violent felons convicted of possessing a firearm.
There also is a measure to reduce penalties for very low-level infractions, like littering and improperly displaying a license plate. Lawmakers say the measure would allow prosecutors, the courts and public defenders to focus more attention on serious crimes.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have given renewed focus to addressing rising crime rates this year, with an effort to find a bi-partisan approach after years of division over bills that sought to expand the state’s three-strikes and mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.
Republicans largely viewed the proposals to stiffen sentences for criminals as a tough-on-crime approach to addressing violence in the state, while Democrats argued the measures would not go very far in actually deterring criminals from committing a robbery, assault or other offense.
This year’s omnibus legislation represents a comprehensive approach to addressing skyrocketing crime rates, especially in Albuquerque, with measures that address multiple levels of the criminal justice system, said Rep. Nate Gentry, the Republican Minority leader in the House.
“These proposals not only increase sentences for violent repeat criminals, but they include important prevention measures to help offenders treat their substance abuse and mental health issues and help break the cycle of crime,” Gentry said.
He said he worked closely with the Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf to bundle together evidence-based legislation that can “move the needle” on public safety.