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Fights Flare Up Over Sex-Crime Bills

By Kate Nash and David Miles
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE— Gov. Bill Richardson's sex-offender package got its first special session hearings Tuesday while other sex-crime and tax-reform measures were introduced.
    The House and Senate judiciary committees considered a number of sex-offender measures Tuesday evening. But other bills by Republicans ran into roadblocks, sparking charges of partisan politics as the session moved through its second day.
    Legislators got a look at a 188-page tax plan sponsored by Sen. Ben Altamirano, D-Silver City, Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque, and other senators. The Democratic-drafted measure includes some of Richardson's tax proposals.
    The bill includes proposals to create a $2,500 income-tax exemption for high-income senior citizens; expand the Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate; increase the sales tax on the purchase of motor vehicles from 3 percent to 4 percent; and more than double the tax on alcohol.
    Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks said the governor has not endorsed the massive bill. The governor has said he would consider an alcohol tax increase, but he is still studying the Democratic tax proposals. The bill also contains Richardson's $1.5 billion transportation plan.
    Senate Minority Whip Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, said Republicans oppose the bill because it contains tax increases.
    "It will bog down in the Senate," Rawson predicted.
    House Majority Whip James Taylor, D-Albuquerque, warned that legislators may have to take another look at tax changes during next year's regular session after they receive new state revenue projections.
    In other action, the House rules committee voted to table a sex-offender measure by Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell.
    Foley's bill would require people convicted of sex crimes to give authorities a DNA sample and information on the motor vehicles he or she owns when registering in the state's offender database. The measure also would require offenders to register with the state-operated database for the rest of their lives, instead of up to 20 years as the state's current Megan's Law requires.
    Foley, who in the past has sponsored other measures to toughen sex-offender laws, was angered by the committee's action.
    "It's disgusting. I've never seen such a partisan hack job in my life," he said of the vote along party lines.
    Foley said the bill clearly falls within the subject matter of sex-offender legislation the governor has asked lawmakers to act on.
    Democrats argued Foley's measure went beyond the intended subject areas for the special session. Richardson proposed to have a state board study and recommend possible changes to New Mexico existing Megan's Law.