This story is a staff report from The Paper.


UPDATE: This story and headline have been updated to include clarifications on the governor’s line-item veto concerning restrictions on legislation to recruit and retain law enforcement officers.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday signed House Bill 68, a bipartisan package of initiatives designed to combat crime in New Mexico communities and invest in public safety personnel across the state. The bill was part of the record-level $8.5 billion spending plan for the coming year.

“Every New Mexican deserves to feel safe in their communities – and they are demanding action from their government,” said Lujan Grisham. “House Bill 68 expands upon the transformational work we’ve done in previous years, strengthening our state’s public safety system and making streets safer in every New Mexico community. ”

While the governor left the bulk of the spending proposed by the legislature, she used her line-item veto authority to cut some restrictions in the $50 million funding designated for law enforcement officer recruitment and retention to be administered via stipends. The package called for funding only for agencies that use a community policing model. The community policing stipulation was left out, which the governor cited would make funding more available to law enforcement agencies statewide.

The legislation:

  • Establishes programs to recruit and retain law enforcement officers, accompanied by $50 million in the budget to establish an officer recruitment fund;
  • Strengthens penalties for gun crimes, including a felon in possession of a firearm and the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony;
  • Creates criminal statutes relating to violent threats, property damage, and chop shops;
  • Eliminates the statute of limitation for second degree murder;
  • Increases death benefits for the families of peace officers killed in the line of duty to $1 million, establishing New Mexico’s policy as the nation’s most generous;
  • Establishes the Violence Intervention Program Act, accompanied by $9 million in the budget to establish violence intervention programs statewide; and
  • Allocates Crime Reduction Grants, accompanied by $2 million in the budget for crime reduction grants.

“This legislation will help our justice system better address and reduce dangerous crime,” said Rep. Meredith Dixon. “Enhanced penalties, together with investments in addressing the underlying causes of crime, will help us make our communities safer both now and in the long-term.”

“Our constituents demanded we respond to crime in our city and state and we heard them. HB 68 is an important step that will improve the effectiveness of our criminal justice system to deter crime,” said Rep. Marian Matthews.

“Crime must be the priority in every session until we have a system that works from top to bottom to protect New Mexico families. This is a real first step forward, getting support to our officers and getting tougher on gun violence,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. Mexicans who call the Albuquerque metro home.”

The legislation also requires recent GPS data maintained on persons who are on pretrial release to be more easily furnished to law enforcement officers; redefines the role and composition of the Law Enforcement Academy Board and splits its functions into two separate entities; and creates new judges in the 2nd, 5th, and 13th judicial districts.