Legislature: Historic New Mexico Civil Rights Act Passes Senate Committee


The New Mexico Civil Rights Act cleared its first hurdle in the Senate today, passing the Senate House Health and Public Affairs Committee. The measure has already passed the House of Representatives.  

Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), and Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Las CrucesHouse 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.

New Mexico’s Bill of Rights protects New Mexicans’ freedom to 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 currently, victims who have these rights violated have no path to justice in state court. The New Mexico Civil Rights Act simply creates that avenue. 

“This legislation has been a long time in the making. The detailed research of the Civil Rights Commission laid the foundation of the Act, and we’ve adjusted it accordingly after hearing the valid concerns of various stakeholders across the state,” said Rep. Georgene Louis. “Ultimately, what this bill does is provide everyday New Mexicans a way to access justice within their communities and within state court.” 

“As we reflect on the events of the past year, we can see how many of our fundamental rights are being challenged, both here in New Mexico and around the country. But there is something we can do to provide access to justice to New Mexicans who have had their rights violated by government misconduct,” said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. “If enacted, the Civil Rights Act will give a powerful new vehicle for the New Mexico Bill of Rights to be enforced for the first time ever.” 

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. The bill was amended today to remove acequias, land grants, and other small units of government from the definition of a public body.

Passed by the Senate House Health and Public Affairs Committee 5-3, House Bill 4 will be heard next in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

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.