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Locals discuss upcoming legislative session

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Less than a week before state lawmakers convene in Santa Fe for the start of the 2020 legislative session, local city and county officials have several things they hope to see accomplished and some they want to see stopped.

The 30-day session begins at noon Tuesday and will largely concentrate on crafting a budget and items included on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s call to the Legislature.

A former FBI agent, Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh said Wednesday he would like to see bills taken up to address the issue of crime in the state.

“We fail to treat violent crime seriously in the state of New Mexico and that has to change,” Kintigh said.

One measure Kintigh said he would like to see taken up in the coming session is the removal of the six-year statute of limitations on second-degree murder.

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Legislation has been pre-filed by state Rep. William Rehm, R-Albuquerque, to remove those limits for second-degree murder, while leaving in place those limitations on other second-degree felonies.

Existing New Mexico law states no court can prosecute, try or punish an individual on a second-degree criminal charge unless charges are brought against someone within six years of it happening.

Kintigh said because court rulings have made charging someone with first-degree murder so difficult, the statute makes it harder to prosecute some homicides when new evidence arises.

“So trying to work cold cases from murders from years ago, how successful can it be?” he asked.

Will Cavin, chair of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, said he wants state lawmakers to work on what he calls “common-sense legislation.”

Cavin said he would like to see the state set aside funds to transform the section of U.S. Highway 380 that runs east of Roswell to the Texas state border and west of Roswell to Ruidoso into a three-lane highway with passing lanes on alternating sides of the road.

Cavin said such a change would make travel safer, especially with the heavy tourist traffic between the state’s eastern border and Ruidoso.

“So hopefully we can get our legislators and the governor to get something done to where we finally get some type of a three-lane highway going from Roswell to Texas,” he said.

Some locals though say what they want most is the Legislature not to do certain things.

Budget proposals submitted by both the governor and the Legislative Finance Committee envision large increases in education spending in the coming fiscal year.

Mona Kirk, who represents Ward 1 of the Roswell Independent School District, said one thing that she and the district do not want to see come out of the Legislature are more unfunded mandates attached to that money.

Last session, she said, the district had a lot of things mandated by the state. Although they received additional money, they tacked on more requirements for the district that comes with receiving that money.

In the end, Kirk said, those mandates end up costing the district more money.

“We absolutely don’t want anything that is not funded to be mandated,” she said. “That is our number one priority this time.”

The Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act” also known as Senate Bill 5, or a Red Flag bill has been placed on the governor’s call for the legislative session.

The legislation would allow relatives or law enforcement officers to petition courts to temporarily seize the firearms or ammunition of someone — who it can be demonstrated through probable cause — represents a danger to themselves or others.

Lujan Grisham has said the bill would provide law enforcement with a tool to reduce shootings and suicides.

Mike Herrington, Chaves County sheriff, though, said he opposes the law because he believes it attacks the right to bear arms of law-abiding citizens.

“Instead of going after the criminal where there are already laws on the books that take away their guns, they are trying to do that (to those) who are law-abiding,” Herrington said.

The bill, he added, also does not lay out in detail how law enforcement officers would go about enforcing the law.

Herrington added he is also concerned about legislation to legalize recreational cannabis. Lujan Grisham has placed recreational cannabis on her legislative call, saying it could create jobs and boost state revenues.

Herrington said he thinks he and other sheriffs will be unable to stop passage of legislation to legalize cannabis for recreational use, so he hopes lawmakers and the governor will work to help law enforcement deal with what he predicts will likely be an increase of cases of people charged with driving while intoxicated and in making mental health resources available.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.