Yesterday, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed the New Mexico Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, Senate Bill 158. This is the second time that Governor Martinez has vetoed the Act. (See The Bad News: No Enactments of the Uniform Collateral Consequences Act This Year, May 19, 2011).
The New Mexico statute, sponsored by State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, who also serves as a Uniform Laws Commissioner, would have been the most faithful enactment of the Uniform Act so far. The bill was adopted without a dissenting vote in either house of the New Mexico Legislature.
The 2013 version of the Uniform Act was watered-down in an unsuccessful effort to meet Governor Martinez’ objections. S.158 lacked the provision of the Uniform Act that would have permitted the issuance of a Certificate of Restoration of Rights. The Certificate would permit the mitigation of substantially all collateral consequences for individuals who could show five years of law-abiding and responsible behavior.
The only relief provision in the New Mexico bill was the Order of Limited Relief, which would have permitted the sentencing court to issue an order mitigating sanctions relating to employment, education, housing, public benefits, and occupational licensure.
There were a number of other less significant non-uniform changes in the New Mexico legislation. Still, the bill have would have adopted the basic scheme of the UCCCA, requiring collection of statutes imposing collateral consequences (but not regulations), a generalized notice to defendants in criminal cases of the concept of such consequences, requiring that collateral consequences be formally adopted, and regulating the effects of out-of-state convictions and extensions of relief. On balance, its adoption would have been an important step forward in the effort to rationalize and moderate the effects of collateral consequences.
Governor Martinez’s veto Statement, Senate Executive Message No. 48, fails to demonstrate a real understanding of the bill itself or of the underlying problems presented by collateral consequences.
Governors in other states have shown an emerging understanding of the need for reform.
As part of her Streetsafe Task Force recommendations, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue recommended adoption of certificate of relief legislation based on the UCCCA. In 2011, the North Carolina Legislature adopted, and Governor Perdue signed, what has become Article 6 of G.S. Chapter 15A (G.S. 15A-173.1 through 15A-173.6), allowing certain ex-offenders to apply to a court for a certificate of relief from collateral consequences. To be eligible for relief in North Carolina, a person must essentially be a first time offender with convictions of only misdemeanors, or felonies of lower levels of severity. The legislation requires a 12 month waiting period after sentence has been completed before an ex-offender can seek relief.
Uniform Laws Annotated, which publishes the complete text of Uniform Acts together with commentaries and notes, has designated the North Carolina statute as a substantial enactment of the UCCCA.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, led efforts in his state to reduce the effects of collateral consequences. Thanks to his leadership, Ohio adopted its collateral sanctions legislation, Senate Bill 337, in July of 2012. That legislation, ORC § 2961.21-2961.24, permits persons with record of conviction to seek a certification of qualification for employment. Following the UCCCA, such a certificate mitigates collateral consequences by requiring case-by-case consideration as to an occupational license or employment opportunity. It also provides some immunity from negligent hiring actions if the employer has been presented with a certificate.
The possibility of broader reform along the lines of the UCCCA remains under active discussion in Ohio.
Meanwhile in Alaska, State Senator Majority John Coghill, R-North Pole, and Minority Leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, wrote to the ABA’s National Inventory of Collateral Consequences Project, asking that Alaska be moved to the head of list of states that are being inventoried by the Project. They wrote that a completed inventory would assist Alaska government in advancing an Omnibus Crime Bill that acknowledges that some collateral consequences are not rationally related to public safety and may impede ability of former offenders to find employment and housing.
The NCICC Project agreed to take up Alaska immediately, and the Senators have announced plans to open legislative hearings this summer to address collateral consequences and related issues.