NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham pocket vetoed a bill that would have created a new division in the state Attorney General’s office focused on protecting the constitutional rights of children. AG Raúl Torrez was behind Senate Bill 426 which would have created a team of attorneys in his office focused on protecting the rights of children.

He says the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department has failed to protect kids in our state. “But this is bigger than that. We have, we have kids in other parts of the state that don’t have access to resources. We have racial discrimination, gender-based discrimination,” said Torrez.

The bill passed this session with strong bipartisan support. The governor pocket vetoed it, a move that surprised Torrez. “So it’s just a real shame that we won’t have accountability. And ultimately, the people that are going to be harmed by this are the most vulnerable
members of our community,” said Torrez.

Monday night, the governor’s office sent this statement:

There are several issues with this well-intentioned bill that we believe would muddy the intent of the legislation, which is to bolster the civil rights protections of New Mexico’s kids. Instead, this legislation would likely add barriers for child victims to access resources and create confusion among entities already doing this work. We also believe that much of the work outlined in the legislation can be undertaken by the AG regardless of whether or not the bill is signed.

The function of investigating and instituting reforms already lies within many state agencies through an inspector general position.  

The governor agrees with AG Torrez that systemic reform is needed in the way New Mexico cares for its most vulnerable children, and she is committed to continuing to work with him and the Legislature to make meaningful changes to the systems that serve New Mexico’s children. 

Lastly, this bill did not include any funding to create the office. 

Maddy Hayden, Director of Communications

AG Torrez argued that the funding was built into his budget which he will still use to hire attorneys focused on the civil rights of children. Torrez said that he still plans to move forward with the division. “We’re going to create the Civil Rights Division without some of the explicit tools that were contained in Senate Bill 426. And we are going to actively engage in protection and oversight and we’re going to actively engage in investigations and potentially litigation on all agencies, not just see what failed to step up and protect children,” said Torrez.