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Gov says a special session is possible after most public safety bills fail to pass

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
Morgan Lee
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

In a news conference following the close of the 2024 New Mexico legislative session, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed frustration and disappointment that more of the approximately 25 public safety-related bills she backed did not pass. She said a special session focused on getting more of these tough-on-crime bills through is “not off the table.”

The governor said she considers nine bills that made it through the legislative session public safety-related, but that only five were policy changes and not just financial investments.

“I do want to focus on three of the bills in particular that I believe unequivocally save lives,” she said. “I also want to point out they were heavy lifts.”

She highlighted a 7-day waiting period for gun purchases, restrictions on carrying guns at polling places, and an automatic “no-bond hold” for people who commit a second felony while awaiting trial for a first until their original judge can weigh in on their conditions of release.

She said that she wished other bills that would have kept more New Mexicans considered dangerous locked up ahead of trial had gotten through.

A bill that would presume a person accused of a crime is dangerous and require defendants to prove they are not, rather than the current process of prosecutors having to prove they are a danger to the community and cannot be free while awaiting trial, failed to pass because of constitutionality concerns. Another that died would have changed how someone is deemed incompetent to stand trial and what happens next. If a person was evaluated to be both incompetent and dangerous, the bill would have them detained by the Department of Health and ordered into behavioral health treatment.

“I want to just say to New Mexicans I don’t think it’s safe out there. And I don’t think that they think that it’s safe out there, because it plays out horrifically every single day,” she said. “And, until it is safe in every neighborhood and in every city, I don’t think any of our jobs are done.”

She said it is too early to say whether she’ll call a special session on public safety and which proposals she would want to see introduced if she did.

“My focus is really on evaluating deeply over the next 20 days,” she said, referring to the period of time she has to sign legislation passed in the final days of the session. “Certainly, a call to New Mexicans — you should let us all know what you think.”

She added, however, that the “criminal competency” bill would be high on her priority list.

She said, despite her frustrations, lawmakers were able to accomplish a lot in a short, 30-day session. She called the $10.22 billion budget a “positive note,” with funds heading to environmental, infrastructure, economic development and health care initiatives.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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