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Gov. Martinez to sign bill fighting auto theft


Gov. Susana Martinez speaks to reporters outside her office in the Capitol after the legislative session ended last month. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Calling car theft rampant, Gov. Susana Martinez said Sunday that she will sign a bill aimed at stopping the sale of stolen vehicles to salvage yards.

House Bill 52 establishes an electronic system for salvage yards and other auto recyclers to verify with the state Motor Vehicle Division that the vehicle they're purchasing isn't stolen.

The signing comes as Albuquerque struggles with incredibly high rates of auto theft – the nation's highest in 2016, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

“Car theft is rampant in New Mexico – especially in the metro area,” Martinez said in a news release. “This bill will help protect New Mexicans across the state from thieves looking to steal their cars. No one should have to worry about their car being stolen when they go into the store or leave it in the driveway at night.”

Martinez is headed into the signing deadline for legislation passed in the final days of the legislative session, when most of the work gets done. She has about 40 bills to act on by Wednesday.

Martinez, however, is in Park City, Utah, for a few days for Republican Governors Association meetings, which is paying for her travel. She returns on Tuesday.

So far, she has signed or announced the approval of 67 bills and vetoed four. It's a remarkable contrast with 2017, when she vetoed more than half the bills passed by the Legislature.

Lawmakers said they made a genuine effort to work across the aisle and compromise this year.

Martinez, a Republican and former prosecutor, is wrapping up her second term this year and cannot run for re-election. Democrats hold majorities in the House and Senate.

Anything Martinez doesn't sign by Wednesday is automatically rejected, a procedure known as a pocket veto.

House Bill 52 had bipartisan support. It was jointly sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque; Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City; and Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque.

Under the legislation, auto recyclers will be required to alert law enforcement if the vehicle they're buying has been reported stolen. They must also stop the sale. Failing to check or halt the sale would be a misdemeanor, and a second or subsequent offense would be a fourth-degree felony.