Sex crimes to be target in special session
The special session of the state Legislature is likely to pass a significant new law or laws on sexual predators, but its results on the other two issues announced by Gov. Bill Richardson — roads and taxes — may be less significant and less satisfying for area voters, local legislators said this week.
Rep. Joe Campos, D-Santa Rosa, said Wednesday the House had passed one of the strongest sex crime bills in the nation and sent it to the Senate for consideration late Wednesday or today. The bill combined five House bills into one omnibus package, he said.
“It’s a very tough bill. It will cost some money, but I think it will provide some security to citizens of New Mexico,” he said.
Among other things, the bill would make criminal sexual penetration of a minor between 13 and 18 a second degree felony. It would make criminal sexual contact with a minor 18 or under a second degree felony; and it would allow the state to parole sexual offenders in five-year increments for up to 20 years, Campos said.
It also would create a board, called the New Mexico Sentencing Commission, to continually monitor and “fine tune” sex crimes laws, he added.
But, Campos said he had more mixed reviews for the governor’s proposals on taxes and roads.
“An increase in the fuel tax and in taxes on overweight vehicles is not going to be good for my constituents and I can’t go along with them,” he said.
“Such things as potential cuts for seniors are good, but everything is wrapped up in a single bill. We’d like to find a way to take each provision separately, but haven’t, so far,” he said.
“As far as road construction is concerned, we need it,” he said, “but we need to find a way to pay for new roads other than the way it’s done in this bill.”
Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, said the omnibus tax bill “puts us in a box.”
She also said the somewhat secretive way the Richardson administration handled the bill left legislators unprepared to handle it in proper legislative fashion.
“We were told its contents were ‘confidential until officially introduced,’” she said.
State Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, the Senate minority leader, said he, too, thought the procedure abnormal.
“Legislation for a special session should be distributed 10 days early and it should be stuck to. We didn’t get to see it (this time) in advance,” he said.
Some of the issues in the tax and highway bills were not studied deeply enough, he added.
“For highways, we need a clear picture, not this huge thing the governor has presented. I’d rather have a plan saying when these things will be done and how each would be paid for,” he said.
Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, a former state secretary of labor, said he thought most of the road and tax legislation could be better addressed in January, in the regular Legislative session on finance.
“We continue to talk about revenue, but there is no talk about expenses,” he added. “If you’re going to talk about taxes, you need to look at the other side of the ledger.”