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Senate passes privacy, forfeiture bills

SANTA FE – Police would have to get a warrant before accessing someone’s private electronic data – such as email and text messages – under a bill adopted 41-0 by the Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 61, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, now heads to the House.

“There’s no reason for email to have less protections than snail mail,” said Steven Robert Allen of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. “Yet today law enforcement can search much of your electronic communications without a warrant, including your old emails, texts, chats, social media posts, even your Dropbox and other cloud storage, all without ever going to a judge.”

LAWMAKERS WILL HOOP IT UP: With bragging rights and knee ligaments on the line, New Mexico lawmakers will exchange suits for sneakers next week to take part in an annual charity basketball game.

The coaches for this year’s contest are University of New Mexico football coach Bob Davie, who will guide the Senate “Lobos,” and New Mexico State University women’s volleyball coach Mike Jordan, who will coach the House “Aggies.”

Despite having fewer members than the House, the Senate goes into this year’s contest with a three-game winning streak after winning 32-29 last year in double overtime.

This year’s showdown will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Santa Fe High School gymnasium. Like previous years, proceeds from the game will benefit the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center.

LIMITS ON PROPERTY SEIZURES: The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday in favor of legislation that would limit the ability of local governments to seize property from people accused – but not convicted – of a crime.

Senate Bill 202, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque and Republican Rep. Bob Wooley of Roswell, now heads to the House for consideration.

It passed the Senate on a 40-0 vote.

Ivey-Soto said that if the bill becomes law, the city of Albuquerque would have to change its vehicle seizure program. The city would have to wait until there’s a conviction before seizing the cars of people arrested for drunken driving.

“Senate Bill 202 maintains the principled position that property will not be forfeited unless there is first a conviction,” Ivey-Soto said.

The Legislature passed a similar law last year, but there was a legal debate over whether it affected Albuquerque’s program.