Friday, March 18, 2011

Katie's Law: Conference Committee Compromise Goes to House & Senate

All six members of the conference committee on Katie's Law (SB365) -- Democrats, Republicans, House members, Senators -- expressed support for a compromise on the bill, now headed to both chambers for approval.

And members of the governor's staff who attended the meeting were smiling too. Bill sponsor Sen. Verne Asbill, R-Carlsbad, said he couldn't speak for Gov. Susana Martinez. But he said the governor had told him she believes the compromise actually strengthens the bill. This is a major bill on Martinez's agenda for this session.

Under the compromise -- which Asbill said was based on a Colorado law -- DNA would be collected from all felony suspects upon booking. The samples would be mailed to the state DNA lab but would not be analyzed and entered into the state database unless or until at least one of three conditions are met:

1) The suspect was arrested on a warrant;
2) A defendant appears before a judge who determines there is probable cause a felony was committed; and
3) The defendant skips a court hearing.

Asbill said that Sen. Michael Sanchez, who had sponsored an amendment that would have made it easier to expunge criminal records, has agreed to withdraw the amendment.

Jayann Sepich, mother of Katie Sepich whose 2003 murder was the impetus of the original Katie's law, attended the conference committee hearing. She said she was pleased with the compromise saying "Crimes will be prevented, crimes will be solved. Everyone's pleased."

Asbill predicted the Senate will approve the compromise tonight.

UPDATE: 9:49 p.m. Gov. Martinez indeed likes the compromise.

“This is a victory for anyone who wants to make New Mexico’s communities safer for our children and families,” the gov said in a news release just issued.

"I am proud to have worked with the sponsors of the Katie’s Law expansion in the House and the Senate to draft a law that will collect DNA from those arrested for all felony offenses and process that sample after a probable cause hearing or a defendant’s failure to appear after being released on bail," Martinez continued. "I am thankful to Sen. Asbill, Rep. Park, Dave and Jayann Sepich, and the broad, bi-partisan group of legislators from both chambers who came together to support this critical public safety measure; New Mexicans are proud of their work and our families are safer because of their actions."

10 p.m. The Senate has accepted the compromise. The House concurred earlier. It's on its way to the governor's desk.