NM Gov: Calling off Session Not an Option

Advocacy groups urge Lujan Grisham to hold off on public safety proposals

Cover Story Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham addressed the Legislature with her State of the State speech on Tuesday. (Andy Lyman)

A special legislative session focused on public safety will begin July 18 as scheduled, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office says, despite calls from several advocacy organizations urging the governor to cancel.

The ACLU of New Mexico, EQNM, Bold Futures NM and the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, along with 37 other organizations and mental health experts, sent the governor a letter July 9 expressing concerns about the proposals expected.

The letter cites concerns about so-called median safety legislation (a city version of which is slated for a vote by the City of Santa Fe governing body on July 10, along with proposals related to civil commitment and competency hearings. In the case of the former, the letter notes, legislation broadening the definition of “harm to self” and “harm to others” such that “the state can more easily force someone into a locked mental health facility, does nothing to tackle the underlying issue of critical shortages in voluntary care.” With competency hearings, “legislation that mandates detention and the initiation of involuntary commitment proceedings for certain individuals with mental illness in the criminal courts, strips prosecutors and judges of their ability to make discretionary, case-by-case assessments regarding an individual’s freedom.”

“It is heartbreaking that so many New Mexicans struggle to attain mental health care, addiction treatment, and affordable housing—especially the most marginalized people in our communities, including New Mexicans who are immigrants, queer, Indigenous, LGBTQ, Black and Brown,” the letter reads. “How can anyone feel safe when they do not know if they will have a roof over their heads tomorrow or how long it will take for a child grappling with a mental illness to be seen by a therapist? New Mexicans deserve better, and we must work toward solutions that invest in the long-term health, safety, and well-being of our communities.”

The letter urges the governor to “halt” the special session and “engage further with community experts in advance of the 2025 60-day legislative session.”

That’s not going to happen, the governor’s office says. A statement provided by Lujan Grisham Communications Director Michael Coleman says: “While the governor appreciates input from mental health and social justice advocates, calling off the special session and doing nothing is not an option. The status quo is not working in New Mexico, and every day that the root causes of crime and other public safety challenges go unaddressed is another day that New Mexicans are placed at risk.”

The bills Lujan Grisham has proposed, Coleman writes, “will provide accountability and treatment for those who become entangled in the criminal justice system because of underlying mental health challenges, while improving the safety of New Mexico’s communities. She’s asking law enforcement to beef up its collection and reporting of data about crime to help the state improve its strategies for fighting it. The bill to address median safety is not an attack on the homeless, it’s a common-sense strategy to reduce New Mexico’s first-in-the-nation status for pedestrian fatalities. The governor has also requested that lawmakers agree to stiffen penalties for convicted felons in possession of guns –– a clear violation of state and federal law and a primary driver of violent crime in our state.”

Moreover, he adds, “the governor and her staff have been engaged in meetings with legislators and other stakeholders on these issues for months. Enough is enough and this can’t wait.”

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