Civil Rights Act advances to last vote in Senate

By Walter Rubel Southern New Mexico Journalism Collaborative

A bill that would remove the legal protections of qualified immunity from public employees was passed by the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee by 5 to 4 votes on Wednesday, March 10, and is now pending the final vote in the Senate.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, is a co-sponsor of House Bill 4, which was recommended by a civil rights commission created under laws passed at a special session last June. It will enable people to sue public agencies for violating their civil rights.

The law was rejected by local governments across the state, who said it would lead to more lawsuits and more costs to taxpayers.

Informed police work

The legislation, which aims to give police officers more information about the people they run over during a traffic obstruction, was passed in a vote between 45 and 12 in the House on Wednesday and is now going to the Senate.

House Bill 223 would create a new register of people suffering from an illness or disability who may not be able to understand and obey orders from officials or respond to the flashing lights. This information would be made available to officers before they approach the vehicle.

“By giving law enforcement agencies the ability to access relevant medical information about the potential occupants of the vehicle in advance, we can avoid problematic situations where a cooperating person may appear to be non-compliant or where an officer’s lights trigger medical problems can, “said the sponsor Rep Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque.

Renewable energy

The legislation to provide new financing options for energy efficiency and environmental improvements in commercial, agricultural and apartment buildings was passed on Wednesday with 42 to 26 votes and is now going to the Senate.

House Bill 299 would allow the district committees to set up an improvement loan program for homeowners. After improvements, the loans would be repaid through special valuations of the property.

“House Bill 299 ensures property owners can access this funding and complete projects that will boost our economies, support construction, and improve climate resilience, energy efficiency, water conservation and more,” said sponsor Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces.

Walter Rubel can be reached at [email protected].

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