By Etta Pettijohn

The democrat majority in the New Mexico legislature has advanced a bill to make this a “sanctuary state,” prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from using any resources to enforce federal immigration law.

Lawmakers on the Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 to move Senate Bill 196 forward, with all Republicans voting nay. The state’s democrat Attorney General had a representative in the hearing to voice his support of such a measure.

If adopted into law, state and local law enforcement officers would not be able to apprehend illegals in the state solely because they are suspected of breaking federal immigration law.

SB 196 is sponsored by Senators Linda Lopez (D-11), Sen. Richard Martinez (D-5), Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-13). Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature and statewide office, including the governor.

The City of Santa Fe approved a resolution prohibiting any use of municipal resources to enforce immigration law there in 1999.

Albuquerque’s Sen. Lopez, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the proposal would improve public safety by ensuring immigrants feel comfortable reporting crime and helping local police officers.

According to statistics from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, not allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in order for “officers to take custody of criminal aliens in a secure environment, such as a local jail, jurisdictions that refuse to honor ICE detainers put ICE officers and others at risk by forcing them to go into often perilous environments to arrest dangerous criminal aliens.”

The ICE data shows there are nearly one million aliens with final orders of removal, and not enough officers or resources to deport them.
Of the 53,908 criminal cases filed by federal prosecutors in the 94 U.S. District Courts in fiscal year 2016, 23,573 cases (43.7 percent) were located in just the five border districts (Arizona, Southern District of California, New Mexico, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas).
Half of all federal criminal cases filed in U.S. District Courts in Fiscal Year 2016 (25,965 of 53,908 cases) were referred by the DHS, according to the immigration enforcement data.

“While noncitizens made up approximately 7.2 percent of the U.S. population in 2016,[1] they accounted for 41.7 percent of all federal offenders sentenced for felonies or Class A misdemeanors in that fiscal year. Even excluding all types of immigration offenses, noncitizens accounted for more than 20 percent of all federal offenders sentenced for felonies or Class A misdemeanors, nearly three times their share of the general population.

“In the five border districts, noncitizens accounted for 73.5 percent of all federal offenders sentenced for felonies or Class A misdemeanors in fiscal year 2016, and 47 percent of all federal non-immigration felonies or Class A misdemeanors.”

TAX CODE CHANGES PROPOSED
As promised during the election, New Mexico lawmakers in the majority have begun looking at ways to reform the state’s tax code.

Among these proposals are an increase in the state’s gas tax rate by 10 cents a gallon, creating new personal income tax brackets for individuals making more than $23,500 annually and eliminating about 30 tax breaks.

House Bill 6, sponsored by Representatives Jim R. Trujillo - (D-45), Sheryl Williams Stapleton - (D-19), Javier Martínez - (D-11), Susan K. Herrera - (D-41), Antonio Maestas - (D-16), would increase the tax on gasoline by 10 cents a gallon, from 17 cents to 27 cents, starting in mid-2020, including increasing the special fuels tax from 21 cents to 26 cents.

Sponsors of the measure say the wear and tear on the state's highways justifies the increase, while opponents say the state has plenty of money to cover the cost of road improvements without putting the burden on taxpayers.

While no vote has been scheduled on these, the House Taxation and Revenue Committee in coming days will be considering the following:
-- Raising the personal income tax rate from 4.9 percent to 6.5 percent. New tax brackets are proposed, based on annual income, starting with an increase to 5.2 percent for a single filer making $23,500.

-- Dropping the state gross receipts tax rate by a 0.5 percentage point, from 5.125 percent to 4.625 percent.

-- Taxing not-for-profit hospital services at the same rate as for-profit hospital services.

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

House Bill 356, introduced in the House last week, would legalize, tax and regulate recreational use of marijuana.

The proposal must garner approval from the Health and Human Services Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee before it can come to a floor vote.

Sponsored by Representatives Martínez, Antonio “Moe” Maestas, Daymon Ely, Deborah A. Armstrong and Angelica Rubio, the measure is expected to pick up several amendments before reaching a final form.

In its current form, the bill would retroactively seal certain cannabis-related criminal records, allow cities and counties to opt out of allowing commercial sales of marijuana, and establish a licensing system for business. It is estimated to have the potential to raise about $40 million a year in new tax revenue.