Baby Brianna child abuse expansion bill tabled in House committee

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A bill to expand the state’s child abuse statute, known as “Baby Brianna’s law,” was tabled in a House of Representatives committee Monday. The sponsor of the bill says she’s disappointed and not happy.

The bill, House Bill 45, was sponsored by Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque. The bill expanded the penalty for people who abuse a child over 12 years of age, resulting in the death of that child.

Right now, only those people convicted of abusing a child to death under 12-years old are sentenced to life in prison. If the child is over 12, the maximum time served is only 18 years.

Rep. Maestas Barnes thinks that when Baby Brianna’s Law was enacted, it was unfair to separate these as two crimes. That’s why she sponsored HB45, which would give those who kill a child by way of child abuse life in prison, no matter the child’s age.

Her bill, however, was tabled in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Monday and Rep. Maestas Barnes is not happy about it. This came after the bill passed two other House committees.

KRQE News 13 spoke to Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque, who voted “no” to the bill in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

“We don’t look at policy in appropriations, we ask ourselves one simple question: Do we have the money? And this year, the answer’s no,” Rep. Maestas said.

Rep. Maestas said it would cost too much money to keep people in prison longer and to hold the trials for these people. He pointed to the state’s Fiscal Year 18 budget crisis, which is still unresolved.

Rep. Maestas Barnes says the money argument is just a smoke screen for what is really a party-line vote.

“The extra time that an individual’s going to serve under the new law wouldn’t go into effect, wouldn’t affect the budget for 18 years after the conviction,” she said.

Rep. Maestas Barnes says the message the Democratic representatives who voted “no” to her bill are giving, is that New Mexico’s children are not valued equally.

This same bill was introduced in the 2016 Special Session with Rep. Maestas Barnes as a co-sponsor.

During that session, Rep. Antonio Maestas voted “no” to the bill in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill still made it to the House floor, however, for a vote. There, Rep. Maestas voted “yes” to the same bill.

The bill ultimately died on the Senate side, however.

Here’s a list of the lawmakers, listed with their party and county, who voted “no” to Rep. Maestas Barnes’ HB45 in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Monday:

  • Patricia Lundstrom (D-McKinley)
  • George Dodge (D-Guadalupe)
  • Harry Garcia (D-Cibola)
  • Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Bernalillo)
  • Nick Salazar (D-Rio Arriba)
  • Tomas Salazar (D-San Miguel)
  • Christine Trujillo (D-Bernalillo)
  • Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez (D-Grant)
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Bernalillo)

Rep. Candie Sweetser, D-Luna, walked out of the hearing before the bill was voted on and therefore was not present.

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