On Wednesday, the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee advanced H.B. 4, the “Civil Rights Act” sponsored by Speaker of the House Brian Egolf and Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Bernalillo), who are both attorneys.
The bill has the ability to bankrupt local communities with slews of frivolous civil rights lawsuits, end qualified immunity and put a target on law enforcers’ backs. Local governments from all across the state are vehemently opposed to the measure, as well as many local law enforcement officials from all over New Mexico.
“More money for insurance or claims means less money for essential services or higher taxes,” said Santa Fe County Attorney Greg Shaffer during testimony against the bill. “This shifting of risk impacts all citizens,” he said. “More money for insurance or claims means less money for essential services or higher taxes.”
In a previous hearing of the bill, Detective Shaun Willoughby of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association said, “This particular bill takes away our ability. This is basically a tax increase. We are taxing the public all over the state of New Mexico. Hurting budgets that can be used for training on the mental health, can be used for resources and social programs in the poorest state in the nation.”
Proponents of the police-attacking bill came sponsored by dark money groups like billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s “Moms Demand Action,” the Soros-funded “Sierra Club,” “ProgressNow New Mexico” and “Equality New Mexico.” These groups’ supporters claimed H.B. 4 was a necessary reform for civil rights while not addressing how it would cripple local municipalities’ budgets, open these localities to million-dollar frivolous lawsuits, and put targets on peace officers’ backs.
Egolf has been criticized for sponsoring the bill, as it would directly benefit his private law practice, which is 60% civil litigation and claims. His unethical sponsorship of the bill led a prominent retired judge to file an ethics complaint against Egolf. He had his lawyer file a motion to dismiss the ethics complaint, as reported on Friday. During House consideration of H.B. 4, Egolf voted against an amendment proposed by Rep. T. Ryan Lane (R-San Juan) to bar legislators from financially benefiting from the bill.
The measure barely squeaked by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 5-4, with Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo) voting with all Republicans against the radical measure. A similar measure was brought forth by Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Doña Ana) regarding tort claims and qualified immunity. However, it was swiftly rejected, with two Democrats voting to kill the bill. Cervantes also may have profited off of his legislation.
It is unclear how long it will take H.B. 4. to get to the full Senate, but the bill’s passage would be just one step away from becoming law.