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Anti-crime bills gain momentum in New Mexico Legislature

People walk under the state Capitol rotunda during the annual legislative session on Feb. 2 in Santa Fe. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

SANTA FE – New Mexico legislators advanced a pillar of the governor’s tough-on-crime agenda Friday with House approval of a bill that increases penalties for some murder and attempted-murder charges and eliminates the statute of limitations for filing those charges.

The state House voted 66-0 to endorse the bipartisan bill, which moves to the Senate for consideration. The Democrat-led Legislature has until Feb. 17 to send bills to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The basic sentence for attempted murder would increase from three years in prison to nine years. The sentence for second-degree murder — an intentional killing with some mitigating circumstances — would increase from 15 years to 18 years.

Lujan Grisham earlier this week criticized Democratic legislators for the pace of work on anti-crime bills. Efforts to ban pretrial release for certain crimes have stalled amid concerns about constitutional rights and the effectiveness of the proposal.

Separately, House legislators voted without opposition Thursday night to expand the eligible purposes of state grants for law enforcement, sending the initiative to the Senate for additional vetting.

The proposed changes would be a financial boon for emerging policing and intervention programs that coordinate treatment for drug addicts, provide transitional housing to ease the aftermath of prison, and expand “crisis intervention teams” that reduce the risk violence during police encounters with the mental ill.

Lujan Grisham has signaled her support for the House-approved initiatives to combat crime, amid a record-setting spate of homicides in Albuquerque.

In other matters, legislators have outlined a package of tax relief for working families and Social Security beneficiaries that also would slightly reduce gross receipts tax rates on retail sales and business transactions.

A Senate panel on Thursday endorsed a tax-relief package that would eliminated taxes on Social Security income, though not for upper-income retirees, and provided slight reduction in the state tax on gross receipts for most retail sales and business transactions.

Tax rebate proposals are under discussion, but have not received a public hearing.

Democratic lawmakers are backing a proposed $1 billion increase in general fund spending for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1 with room for an additional $400 million in tax cuts. That proposal would still leave the state with roughly $2.6 billion in extra money by June 2023.