SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the Senate still out, the focus on the House floor was on crime legislation as the House approved an expansion of the state’s three strikes law.
The bill, if approved, would expand the crimes that could qualify for a strike under the state’s current law.
While the House was debating that bill, victims of recent tragedies gathered outside of the office of Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, to try and put pressure on the Senate to vote on the crime legislation Governor Susana Martinez, R-NM, put on the agenda for the special session.
“This is not an emotional political play,” said Veronica Rael-Garcia, the mother of Lilly Garcia, the four year old shot and killed in a road rage incident. “We already understand that none of these laws will help our families but it can help somebody else’s.”
Democrats in both chambers have questioned the urgency of approving those bills during a special session with the state’s nearly $600 million budget crisis unsolved. They allege that the Governor and Republicans are using those bills to try and score political points in the November election and distract from New Mexico’s money problems.
“This is the largest deficit, the most difficult financial situation I’ve observed in my 28 years in the legislature,” said Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming. “We’re more than happy to entertain the crime bills three months down the road in the regular session.”
The Senate adjourned early Saturday morning after passing a sweeping plan to plug that big budget hole. However the House has already amended some of those bills, some significantly, and tabled others. That means the Senate would have to come back into session to send a true fix to the governor’s desk.
Each day of the special session costs an estimated $50,000, although Sunday was likely cheaper with the Senate remaining adjourned.