As noted by one member of the public during the Nov. 8 Sandoval County Commission meeting, matters relating to addressing mental and behavioral health made up four of the top five issues listed as legislative priorities for the 2024 session. 

While County Manager Wayne Johnson told commissioners the 16 priorities were listed in no particular order, Commissioner Jay Block said it was clear the commission was placing an emphasis on addressing those issues – both for the people struggling with them and the people who have to deal with them.

“Mental health is extremely important and we’re supporting that here,” he said.

The top three priorities listed call for legislation that would provide funding for mental health resources and crisis intervention teams; services for behavior health and substance abuse; and training for government employees to deal with individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. 

No. 5 also calls for legislation to provide funding “for public safety personnel in the areas of crisis intervention, dealing with individuals suffering from mental illness or substance abuse issues, dealing with individuals in behavioral health crises.”

No. 4 on the list focused on bad cops. It called for legislation that would change the powers of the Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe “to track, discipline and make determinations regarding the continued certification of law enforcement officers with a history of disciplinary issues.”

Down the list at No. 14, the Commission asks for legislation that requires photo ID for voting, prohibits unsupervised ballot drop boxes, and tightens controls on absentee ballot chain of custody.

With the County facing a need to expand the district courthouse, one of the priorities called for matching funds to pay for construction and renovation of district courthouses. Last on the list was one that asked for an end to unfunded mandates that require counties to provide pay for state facilities, like district courts and district attorneys offices.

Getting into the intricacies of how “sausage is made” at the Roundhouse, the Commission also asks for legislation to fix inconsistencies relating to GRT increments, matters relating to allowances granted to Class A counties, Industrial Revenue Bonds, and tax credits.

“These are some hard-hitting issues our lobbyist will be working on,” Block said.

Commission Chairman David Heil agreed the list covered “the gamut.”

Commissioner Katherine Bruch, however, noted that it will be a 30-day legislative session next year. It’s likely that many of the priorities won’t be addressed, as the short-session is focused on the state budget, she said.

“Many of them will not be addressed because this is about money. This session coming up in January is about where the money goes,” she said.

Block also noted the governor could potentially call for a special session on gun control.

Gun advocates often say that guns don’t kill people, people do. Many of them blame the increase in mass shootings in America and other acts of violence on mental health.

In addition, the Commission’s list of priorities called for legislation that “improves” the Inspection Public Records Act, though it suggests longer wait periods for responding to requests and placing a higher cost burden on requesters. The Commission would also like to see the law updated to “discourage abusive and serial requests,” and prevent attorneys from utilizing IPRA as a substitute for discovery, according to the resolution.

Though way down on the list, another priority is to form a commission to review state laws and remove “outdated, burdensome, and conflicting statutory requirements for counties,” some of which have been on the books since the Nineteenth Century.

The list of priorities was approved on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Joshua Jones absent.

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