Gov. Martinez unveils tough-on-crime proposals

January 9, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez is making a final push for lawmakers to pass a series of tough-on-crime bills in her last year in office, including measures to expand the state’s three-strikes law for violent felons and restore the death penalty.

Martinez, a Republican, unveiled the legislation Monday ahead of the 30-day session that begins next week in Santa Fe. Her proposals include a bill to toughen penalties for people who commit crimes while on probation or parole, as well as the capital punishment and three-strikes measures — which have both been rejected in recent years by lawmakers.

Democratic lawmakers, who now hold majorities in both the House and Senate, have in the past noted that the governor’s public safety agenda is outdated, and reminiscent of a wave of 1990s anti-crime laws that some other states have reversed in recent years. She has cited a crime wave in Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, and her decades as a prosecutor prior to becoming governor in arguing for harsher penalties for violent and repeat offenders.

“Every year since taking office, I’ve pushed lawmakers to get tough on crime because I’ve seen the consequences of not being tough on crime,” Martinez said.

The capital punishment legislation would restore the death penalty for people convicted of murder in the deaths of children, law enforcement officers and corrections officers, she said. The three-strikes proposal would require life sentences for repeat offenders convicted of a third violent felony.

While the governor’s proposals will go before lawmakers, House Speaker Brian Egolf, a Democrat from Santa Fe, said he expects an effort to boost funding for more local police officers will be a primary crime-fighting focus of the Legislature session.

“The best way to prevent crime is to have robust law enforcement with the community policing model,” he said. “Statutes on the books are fine, but we want to put more cops on the streets.”

Martinez said she also is backing some new proposals, including the bill to crack down on offenders who commit crimes while on probation or parole, or those released on court supervision while awaiting trial. Among her and her administration’s other proposals:

— Make it a felony for someone to lure a child with the intention of raping them or committing some other illegal act, regardless of a child’s age.

— Expand “Baby Brianna’s Law” to require mandatory life sentences for people convicted of intentional child abuse resulting in death, regardless of a child’s age. A similar proposal was tabled last year after a contention legislative session mired in budget debates.

— Close a loophole in existing law regarding the transmitting of sexual images to children.

Monique Jacobsen, the cabinet secretary for the Children Youth and Families Department, said multiple proposals pertaining to child welfare this year will go before the Legislature as part of one bill in an effort to improve the measures’ prospects of passage in a short, fast-paced session.

For the other legislation, Martinez at a news conference Monday did not outline in detail a strategy for passing legislation that has failed to become law in recent years, saying only that she hoped lawmakers were listening to the public and taking note of crime rates.

FBI statistics show Albuquerque saw a 16 percent jump in violent crime between 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the city had a violent crime rate of 1,112 incidents per 100,000 residents.

Martinez’s second term as governor ends in December.

Update hourly