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House-approved public safety bill gets revisions

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – State senators on Sunday reshaped a broad anti-crime bill passed by the House last week, putting its future in doubt with just days left in the legislative session.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee objected to the way the proposal, House Bill 6, rolled several separate proposals into one piece of legislation.

The House version of the bill sought to stiffen criminal penalties for two gun-related crimes, make it easier for police officers to receive medical treatment for post traumatic stress disorder and broaden the funding sources for community policing strategies.

But senators suggested the PTSD treatment section should be considered separately, so they deleted it from the bill. They made other changes, too.

“I do think there are some parts of this that are not as fleshed out as they could be in order to get to what we want,” Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said.

The legislation now heads to the Senate Finance Committee, potentially its last stop before reaching the full Senate for consideration.

If it passes the Senate, it would go back to the House, where members could either accept the Senate changes, seek a conference committee to negotiate a compromise or reject the new version entirely.

Nonetheless, the current version of the bill keeps intact most of the major priorities sought by the House, where the measure won bipartisan support on a 59-9 vote.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also backed the package, describing it as a multi-pronged approach to addressing crime.

The proposal, as it stands now, still would allow for stiffer sentences for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a crime and being a felon in possession of a gun.

“There’s been a lot of negotiations back and forth,” said Rep. Bill Rehm, an Albuquerque Republican and co-sponsor of the bill. “I think we’re directing this at the actual violent felon who’s using a gun.”

The legislation also would allow the state’s law enforcement protection fund to be tapped for training and recruitment as part of efforts to employ “community-oriented policing” techniques that aim to prevent crime.

Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, said he wasn’t entirely happy with the bill but that he respected the work that went into it and would support moving it forward.

“We have to do something about crime in Albuquerque for sure,” he said.

As for the PTSD part of the legislation, it could still be revived. One option would be to bring it forward as a separate bill, or to push senators to add it back into House Bill 6.

Time is running out, however, as the session ends at noon Thursday.

The revised version of House Bill 6 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee without opposition.

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