New Mexico Governor Places Crime, Education On Agenda

By John Celock

New Mexico’s governor told lawmakers Tuesday that she wants to crack down on drunk drivers, while focusing on crime reduction and education.

Gov. Susana Martinez (R) used her annual State of the State Address to lay out an agenda that focuses heavily on fighting crime and education reform, along with recruiting new business to the state. Martinez, a former prosecutor who is the daughter and wife of police officers, focused much of the early part of her speech on the crime issue, including the murders last year of two police officers.

“We have vicious heinous criminals among us who are willing to take the lives of our greatest heroes and have no business being on our streets,” Martinez said.

Martinez called for amending the state constitution to allow judges to hold defendants without bail, along with creating a computer database that she said would give judges “real time access” to the criminal histories of defendants during bail and sentencing hearings.

Martinez also said that she wants to make parole violations a fourth degree felony, while allowing local governments to adopt curfews.

Much of Martinez’ criminal justice platform centered on drunk driving, with the governor saying that she wanted to increase DWI patrols on state highways, target the bars who are serving drunk drivers and work to increase efforts to arrest those who do not respond to warrants related to drunk driving.

Martinez, a potential Republican vice presidential nominee this year, also said that she wants her children and families agenda to have a focus on crime reduction. She called on lawmakers to end what she described as a loophole in the state’s child pornography laws. She noted the state Supreme Court had ruled that child pornography possession could only count as one criminal count regardless of how many images were possessed. She said that she wanted multiple counts allowed.

Martinez also called for increasing the amount of child protection staffers in state government who have a history of working with child abuse victims to reduce abuse, along with reducing the backlog of rape kits in the state.

In terms of addressing police officers in the state, Martinez said she would like to expand the amount of state troopers statewide, along with the number of corrections officers. She called for higher public safety salaries, saying more needs to be done in terms of retaining police officers.

“We not only honor our public safety workers, we also honor the victims of the senseless violent crimes we’ve seen,” she said.

Martinez said her goal is to “stand up to those who thrive on creating fear and chaos.”

Martinez also focused much of her education platform on the criminal justice aspect. She said she wants to expand Pre-K statewide, along with proposing an additional $10 million for reading programs. She said social promotion must end as well.

“We must end the practice of passing our students from grade to grade when they cannot read,” Martinez said.

Among her other education proposals was calling on lawmakers to raise starting teacher salaries to $36,000 a year, giving debit cards to teachers to purchase classroom supplies and expanding mentoring programs for teachers. Martinez said the mentor program would help new teachers adjust to the classroom and provide for new retention. Martinez also proposed an adjunct teacher program, which she said would allow for retired professionals to teach in their field of expertise on a part time basis.

Martinez said that she wants to reduce high school drop out rates by prohibiting dropouts from receiving a driver’s license.

Martinez harkened back to her days as a prosecutor, saying that she encountered teens who could not read and ended up in a life of crime. She said that working on education would reduce crime long term.

“If our kids do not learn to read and if we cannot graduate our kids without basic skills in life, the impact on society is enormous,” she said. “No child is unteachable. I will not give up on any child.”