Today, Governor Susana Martinez and Attorney General Gary King urged members of the New Mexico Legislature to quickly hear and pass legislation that would bring New Mexico into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act by tightening sex offender registration and notification laws. The Governor and Attorney General are supporting HB 179, which has yet to be heard in any House committee. Currently, it is scheduled to have a hearing in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee tomorrow morning.
The language in HB 179 is based on recommendations that were sought from the Department of Justice by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, regarding the changes that needed to be made in New Mexico law to move toward federal compliance.
"Protecting New Mexico's children and making our communities safer should be a shared priority for all lawmakers," said Governor Martinez. "This legislation will not only require registration for a broader set of sex crimes, but it will help provide law enforcement greater tools for cracking down on sex offenders through federal grant funds. I strongly urge the legislature to take quick action on this bipartisan legislation so we can take critical steps that will help keep our kids safe."
The New Mexico Sheriffs' and Police Association has expressed its support for the legislation as
"This legislation is critical to law enforcement's efforts to keep tabs on sex offenders and keep them away from kids," added Jack LeVick of the New Mexico Sheriffs' and Police Association.
"We are committed to keeping New Mexico's communities safe, but it's important that lawmakers provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to complete our mission."
Following last year's 60-day legislative session, Governor Martinez vetoed a bill that would have weakened critical aspects of our sex offender registration laws in New Mexico, while tightening others. For example, current law requires sex offenders to register their employment when it involves direct contact with children; changes in the vetoed bill would have required the registration of employment only when the contact with children is unsupervised, allowing sex offenders to work around children without parents knowing about it so long as their work is supervised by someone else.
At that point, Governor Martinez and Attorney General King committed to work together to again advance a bill that would make New Mexico's sex offender registration laws among the toughest in the country, knowing that failure to be in compliance with the Adam Walsh Act can cost the state up to $270,000 each year. The basis of HB 179 in this legislative session is the roadmap provided to the state by the U.S. Department of Justice outlining steps that New Mexico needs to take to come into compliance with that act.
"This bill is designed to bring New Mexico law into compliance with federal law regarding our Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), thereby protecting New Mexico from the loss of significant federal funding," said Attorney General King. "The measure adds new registration offenses, creates a three-tier registration compliance, and adopts current federally approved definitions for various offenses. For these reasons, my office strongly supports this important legislation.