- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Gov. Susana Martinez signed three public safety bills Tuesday, including one that cracks down on those who seek to sell or solicit children for sex.

Martinez said “it has been my calling first as a district attorney and now as a governor to stand up for those who do not have a voice of their own.”

The bill aimed at curbing child prostitution makes it a second-degree felony to hire or offer any child younger than 16 for sex.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, fixes what the governor’s office had called a “glaring loophole” in state law since there had been no prostitution penalty for such offenses involving children younger than 13.

Previously, suspects had been charged with other sex crimes against minors.

Martinez signed the bills at an Albuquerque child and family resource center.

One of the other measures requires all cellphone and pager companies to issue Amber Alerts via text messages to customers for children believed to have been abducted.

Bill sponsor Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, said the system is credited with finding and saving nearly 500 children nationwide since 2002.

The third bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, provides additional compensation for victims of violent crimes and allows applications outside of a two-year eligibility period in certain circumstances.

In addition, a court can now order anyone convicted of a misdemeanor to pay a $50 penalty assessment and $75 for a felony conviction.

Frank Zubia, who pushed to get the bill through and is director of the state Crime Victims Reparation Commission, said about $750,000 a year will come in for victims through the assessments. Legislative analysts have said that will more than offset recent increases in victim compensation.

Martinez was a prosecutor for 25 years before being elected governor in 2010.

Each year, dozens of bills protecting New Mexico families wend through the Legislature, whether fixing loopholes or adding penalties “for those who haven’t learned their lesson,” she said.

“Unfortunately, many of these bills never reach my desk,” Martinez said at the bill signing at the All Faiths resource center. “But even with so much partisan gridlock that was experienced this legislative session, we were still able to pass meaningful legislation that will help protect our little ones and our victims of crime.”

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