SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Saturday, March 4, legislators will debate bills on some serious topics. That includes a bill to limit the activities of paramilitary groups and a bill to prevent convicted juveniles from receiving life sentences.

Paramilitary activities

Legislators in the House Judiciary Committee are set to debate a bill aimed at preventing organized groups from carrying out dangerous or intimidating activities. House Bill 14, sponsored by Rep. Raymundo Lara (D-Doña Ana), would limit what certain security and law enforcement-like groups can do.

The bill would clarify restrictions on groups such as the New Mexico Civil Guard, a militia group that got in trouble for their role in the 2020 protest over Albuquerque’s statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate. Such groups, sometimes referred to as paramilitary or militia, are currently limited in what they can legally do.

“The state constitution prohibits private paramilitary activity, but today New Mexico doesn’t have a law that’s tailored to effectively preventing paramilitary groups from mobilizing for acts of intimidation and violence,” Mark Baker, an Albuquerque attorney and expert witness for the bill, previously explained.

The bill would prohibit armed group members from interfering with government operations. The bill would also prohibit armed group members from trying deceive others into thinking they are police officers.

Federal and state laws currently prohibit those sorts of activities, according to an analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. But House Bill 14 might add more clarification and more options for prosecution of such crimes.

Juvenile life sentences

Legislators will also debate a bill to limit the ability of New Mexico courts to impose life sentences without parole for juveniles. Senate Bill 64, sponsored by a handful of Democratic legislators, would require serious youthful offenders to eventually be eligible for parole.

According to the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department, no juvenile is currently serving a life sentence without parole in New Mexico. But, about half of the other states across the U.S. do offer parole opportunities for all youthful offenders, no matter how serious their crime, according to the advocacy group, The Sentencing Project.

The bill doesn’t mean all juveniles would necessarily receive parole. But all young offenders would at least have the opportunity for a parole hearing if the bill becomes law.

In case you missed it: Firefighter healthcare fund

Recently, legislators considered a bill to help New Mexico’s firefighters pay for healthcare. House Bill 495, a bipartisan bill, would set up a new fund for firefighters.

If the idea is approved and gets funding, it could provide up to $5,000 per year for firefighters’ healthcare. But the funds would only be available for career firefighters, not volunteers. For more info on the bill, check out this KRQE News 13 story.