Legislature: Historic New Mexico Civil Rights Act Passes House


The historic New Mexico Civil Rights Act passed the House of Representatives Tuesday and will now be considered in the Senate. 

Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), and Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces), House Bill 4, the New Mexico Civil Rights Act provides an avenue for justice for New Mexicans who have had their constitutional rights violated by government actors.

The New Mexico Bill of Rights protects New Mexicans’ freedom to enjoy the rights of life and liberty, safety and happiness, free elections, freedom of religion, speech and press, equal rights for men and women, and victims’ rights. But without the New Mexico Civil Act, violations of any of these rights do not allow for justice in state court. The New Mexico Civil Rights Act simply provides that avenue for justice. 

“Right now, it is a David vs. Goliath story for New Mexicans who’ve had their civil rights violated by government misconduct. Under the New Mexico Bill of Rights citizens are promised equality, freedom, and the right to enjoy life and pursue happiness, no matter their race or background,” said Rep. Georgene Louis. “The Civil Rights Act ensures that right for all New Mexicans, and provides an avenue for justice for individuals and improves accountability for our government entities and our state as a whole.” 

“The New Mexico Civil Rights Act will help to rebuild the trust between government and the people of New Mexico. We’ve taken to heart the feedback from stakeholders and made significant changes that directly address their concerns,” said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. “I am confident that the current version of the New Mexico Civil Rights Act strikes the right balance to hold government accountable for misconduct and secure the rights contained in our New Mexico Bill of Rights.”

After listening to the valid concerns of stakeholders, the latest version of House Bill 4 clarifies that no individual teacher, law enforcement officer, or other public employee can be sued, holding government agencies solely accountable. The bill also places a $2 million cap, including attorney’s fees, on judgements under the Act, providing cities, counties, and other entities with financial predictability and allowing them to obtain insurance.

Passed on the House Floor with a 39-29 vote, House Bill 4 will now head to the Senate for consideration. 

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings, and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.