New Mexico Adds Special Penalties for Organized Retail Crime

The new bills will make it a felony to commit organized retail theft and will block the sale of stolen catalytic converters.

SANTA FE (AP) - New Mexico's governor has signed anti-crime legislation that aims to curb coordinated thefts at retail stores as well as the sale of stolen catalyst converters which can be sawed off of unattended pickups and cars.

Michelle Lujan Grisham helped enact felony charges for straw purchases, where a firearm is purchased legally to be sold to someone who cannot lawfully own a gun.

New Mexico's new legislation would allow local prosecutors pursue separate sanctions. Federal law prohibits the purchase of straw guns. Ryan Lane, the Republican House Minority leader, sponsored the bill as a rare instance of bipartisan support to restrict guns.

State and local business groups lobbied lawmakers to create a category of "organized retail crime" and to stiffen penalties for thefts of merchandise from stores. Retailers are struggling to control losses due to coordinated thefts.

In a press release, Democratic House Speaker Javier Martinez from Albuquerque applauded the new legislation. He said organized retail crime affects both the safety of retail workers as well as their families while they shop.

Newly-signed environmental legislation will create a plan to clean up underground pollution caused by coal ash from a recently closed coal-fired plant in northwest New Mexico, the San Juan Generating Station.

Nariel Nanasi is the executive director of New Energy Economy, an environmental advocacy group that represents utility customers. He said that the legislation would help to ensure that toxic metal contaminants do not leach into the soil or leak into waterways.

The governor signed a bill in support of economic development to encourage creative artists and entrepreneurs by investing public funds into shared facilities, such as foundries and galleries, high-tech tools shops, and manufacturing centers. Reena Schzczepanski, a Democratic state representative from Santa Fe, was one of the sponsors.

Micaela Cadena, a Democratic State Rep. from La Mesilla, signed a bill that eliminates court fees. These can be a burden on the poor. The fines that are imposed to punish the offender remain.

The advocates for the law say that fees are not meant to be punitive, but court debts often lead to bench warrants which are accompanied by additional fees. This can result in or prolong imprisonment.