Civil rights invoice heads to Lujan Grisham | Legislature | New Mexico Legislative Session

A revised civil rights bill that would end “qualified immunity” in New Mexico is being passed on to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk after passing both chambers on Wednesday.

The big question: will the governor sign it?

Lujan Grisham’s press secretary did not return messages asking for a comment on House Bill 4, which the Senate cleared shortly after midnight on Wednesday with a vote between 26 and 15 with several amendments.

Changes include the removal of mandatory legal fees and a requirement that a government agency be notified within one year of a potential claim involving law enforcement agencies. Regulations designed to allay concerns of cities and counties fear the proposed New Mexico Civil Rights Act will lead to higher insurance rates and costly settlements.

The House of Representatives voted 43-26 on Wednesday afternoon – largely on a party-political basis, with Republicans opposed to the move – to approve the Senate’s amendments to the bill.

“We will soon have a clear path to justice and a meaningful way to hold the government accountable,” House spokesman Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, tweeted after the vote. “This is a bright day for the NM Constitution.”

Some House Republicans questioned the amendments and re-discussed the negative impact they believed the legislation could have on law enforcement and other government agencies.

Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, raised concerns that a number of individuals involved in alleged civil rights violations could also file individual lawsuits under the law.

“I could certainly understand why communities across the state were so concerned about this legislation. It seems like a misstep with a large number of people present could potentially be ruinous for a small community,” he said.

Most of the opposition to the law came from the proposal to eliminate a doctrine known as qualified immunity as a legal defense against civil rights complaints filed against government agencies in the state district court. The doctrine protects government employees, including the police, from personal liability under federal law when workers violate people’s constitutional rights.

Lawsuits are currently being filed in federal court for violations of US constitutional law. HB 4 would provide a way to file similar claims in a state court under the New Mexico Bill of Rights. The damage would be limited to $ 2 million.

Republican Senate officials condemned the move during Tuesday’s nightly debate, calling it law enforcement and saying it would result in increased costs for government agencies that would ultimately be passed on to taxpayers.

“This bill does nothing to address the issue of public employees violating individual rights,” said Senator Craig Brandt of R-Rio Rancho. “It’s just a slap in the face for all civil servants in our state. All we’ve done in this bill is draft lawyer enrichment bill.”

Senate sponsor of the law, Senator Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, urged lawmakers to “reject some of the rhetoric heard in the Chamber,” calling it a tactic to share it.

“It’s just a distraction trying to pretend we’re against the police,” he said.

Republicans said government concerns about higher insurance tariffs and increased liability risk are real.

“We’ve been here for a long time, and cities and counties call and say, ‘Please don’t do this to us. Please don’t do this to us.’ Because if we do this to them, we will do it to the people of New Mexico, “said Senator Bill Sharer of R-Farmington.

“We don’t want to deprive anyone of their civil rights, but neither do we want taxpayers of any jurisdiction to just put money into this endless pit of lawsuits,” he added.

Senator Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said New Mexico would create an “abyss” with its civil rights law.

“We have the most liberal liability laws anywhere except Washington, DC, and what we didn’t have has now been added,” he said. “It’s going to open up areas of liability that we’ve never seen before. And our counties and cities, our highway divisions, every government agency we have, will, I believe, be subject to things they’ve never thought of. “

With one exception, the vote in the Senate was largely partisan. Senator George Muñoz, a more moderate Democrat from Gallup, joined Republicans in opposing the proposal.

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