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Child Abuse, DWI Bills Stall In Senate Committee

SANTA FE, NM  –  House-approved bills calling for longer mandatory prison sentences for repeat DWI offenders and expanded child abuse penalties stalled today in a Senate committee.

While the bills could be brought back up for debate in the coming days, today’s tie votes in the Senate Public Affairs Committee decreases their odds of final passage.

That’s because the bills would have to clear the committee, and other assigned committees, and then gain approval on the Senate floor before lawmakers adjourn on Thursday.

That left the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, frustrated by what he claimed were “parliamentary” tricks aimed at killing the legislation.

“If the legislators don’t like it, just vote it down,” James said in an interview after today’s hearing.

His bill, House Bill 69, would make intentional child abuse resulting in death a first-degree felony regardless of the child’s age.

Meanwhile, a separate child abuse-related bill, that would increase penalties for intentional child abuse not resulting in death, was voted down, being tabled on a 5-4 party-line vote in the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

The DWI-related legislation, House Bill 82, would have tacked more mandatory prison time on habitual DWI offenders, or those convicted of at least five DWI offenses.

But Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, cited statistics showing a steady five-year decrease in the number of statewide felony DWI prosecutions.

“Everyone talks about the epidemic, but DWIs are going down,” Ivey-Soto said, adding he’d prefer to see more state dollars allocated for alcohol treatment programs.

Two other House-approved DWI measures are still pending in the Senate.