Legislative Update #6

Since our last update, none of the bills we are tracking have moved to the finish line. LJC is working diligently to make certain that House Bill 56, the SORNA overhaul bill, does not pass the Senate. More notably, House Bill 201, the early probation release bill, has passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

House Bill 56 – Oppose

As it currently stands, the SORNA-overhaul bill has not moved from the Senate Judiciary Committee since it passed the House with the amendment discussed earlier. The end of the legislative session is in sight, and we will focus our efforts on educating key legislators of the problems with this bill and we can only hope that time runs out. Unfortunately, they will continue to bring this legislation back year after year.

House Bill 74 – Support

The bill’s current text would restore a felon’s right to vote upon release from incarceration, allow felons on parole/probation to vote, and provide an alternative process of restoring a felon’s right to hold office upon receiving a “certificate of rehabilitation” rather than limiting the governor’s pardon powers. HB 74 was amended on the House floor to require felons who must register under SORNA to get verification from their local authority that they are SORNA-compliant before they receive their right to vote back.  Further analysis of the voting process has shown that a series of last-minute floor amendments was responsible for the addition of the SORNA-requirement to the originally proposed bill.

We are also working with our partners to remove the special amendment which proscribes a different process for those required to register pursuant to SORNA to regain their right to vote. This is an extremely unique opportunity to get a law on the books that re-enfranchises felons the right to vote so long as they are not in prison or jail. Even if we cannot get the SORNA-amendment removed, we will continue supporting the legislation. Due to the potential for the political climate to change dramatically in 2022, we may not see an opportunity to get a bill like this passed into law for years to come.

House Bill 201 – Support

HB 201 calls for the early release of individuals on probation who are deemed a minimum/medium risk, have “met all of the obligations” of their probation, and completed ½+ of their supervision. We discussed earlier our concerns that this bill was too vague upon inception, making it ripe for floor amendments and revisions similar to House Bill 74. As it stands, the bill has survived the House with near unanimous support, no changes, and no floor amendments. Like HB 74, this is an opportunity to get a law on the books that may not otherwise pass in the roundhouse for the foreseeable future. We hope to bring you positive news about this bill in the coming weeks.

Senate Bill 291 – Support

Originally, SB 291 called for the creation of a private prison inspector that independently investigated and monitored the conditions in private prisons throughout New Mexico. Upon its emergence from the Senate Judiciary Committee, it now reads to call for the creation of an independent prison inspector that investigates and monitors the conditions in all state-run and private prisons within New Mexico. More transparency and accountability in the prison system is welcomed with open arms. Time is running short this legislative session, and we are working to make sure good legislation like this is on the governor’s desk by the time it is adjourned.

To read the full text of these bills, go to http://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/BillFinder/Number

To view our expansive bill tracker this session, go to https://libjusco.net/2021/02/11/legislative-session-2021-bill-tracker/

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