Sun. Jul 12th, 2020

Civil Rights Commission; signs election protections, solvency measures signed into law

SANTA FE (KSMX)- Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday afternoon signed into law three measures approved in the recently concluded special session where she convened to address the state budget as well as the public health, economic and human rights emergencies exacerbated by the global pandemic.

The New Mexico Legislature delivered eight pieces of legislation to the governor’s desk where Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 5, Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 5.

Civil rights House Bill 5 establishes the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, a bipartisan nine-member body. The commission will evaluate and make recommendations about the creation of a civil right of action for violations of state constitutional rights, and, in light of an ongoing national reckoning on unnecessary excessive force by police officers, will also review the use of qualified immunity as a defense to liability by an employee of a public body.

Senate Bill 4 is a measure designed to mitigate the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020 general election in New Mexico and provide for the secure and expeditious conduct of absentee voting this fall. Under the new law, county clerks may automatically mail applications for absentee ballots to each mailable voter in the county, among other provisions. The bill also accommodates the secretary of health and secretary of state requiring additional provisions for voting-by-mail should they be warranted by emergent public health conditions. The legislation additionally protects the voting rights of New Mexico pueblos and tribes by ensuring polling places will not be closed or consolidated without the written agreement of the nation.

Senate Bill 5 is an important solvency measure that reverts unencumbered state appropriations to the general fund and authorizes the issuance of several short-term bonds as part of a comprehensive effort to stabilize state finances in light of the global economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.