89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Governor eyes special session and license requirement for panhandling in NMPBS interview

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham attends a news conference highlighting newly signed legislation to bolster the state's health care workforce and make medical care more accessible in Santa Fe, N.M., Friday, April 7, 2023. Gov. Lujan Grisham used her veto authority to scale back a tax relief package based on concerns it could undermine future spending on social programs while signing the annual spending plan in state history.
Morgan Lee
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is considering calling a special legislative session this year to try to pass more public safety legislation.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham still says there is a high likelihood that she’ll call a special legislative session this year to try to get more public safety bills on the books.

One of those laws could require people who panhandle to get business licenses.

The Governor told NMPBS’s Lou DiVizio last week in an interview on the public affairs show New Mexico in Focus that she is working with committee chairs and other lawmakers on three to five bills for the special session, which would last less than a week.

One would restrict panhandling, which the U.S. Supreme Court cited as protected speech in 2015. She said the new bill would be constitutional because it would regulate the practice, not ban it.

“Like any other businesses, panhandling is a business,” she said. “There may be other constitutional regulations that you could place. So, you got to get a license – they would be free. [You] could do a background check. You could think about placements that maximize traffic safety, pedestrian safety, public safety.”

This kind of requirement would likely be difficult for many people experiencing homelessness to meet. A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office this year noted that many lack personal I.D.s and other important documents because they have no safe place to store them.

Among the other bills that the Governor is considering is a bill that would raise the penalty if someone has a firearm on them while committing a felony.

Two others would change how a person accused of a crime is deemed competent to stand trial and open the door to forced mental health and addiction treatment.

“If you're sick, and you're self medicating, you can't make those decisions. It has to be made by other individuals,” she said.

Versions of those bills died in the one-month legislative session this year. Studies show little evidence that forced treatment has a positive impact on patients.

She says she is 80% confident that she will move forward with the special session and expects to make a decision by the end of April so the session can take place after the June primary election.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
Related Content