A New Mexico bill requiring anyone making video or digital recordings of livestock injuries to submit the recording to law enforcement within 24 hours has been allowed to languish in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. New Mexico lawmakers leave for home on Saturday, meaning that Senate Bill 221 is almost certainly dead. The striking blow was a report by the independent Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), which exists to write fiscal notes and research bills. “newmexicoflag_406x250The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has indicated that SB 221 could create constitutional concerns, particularly regarding the First Amendment,” according to the LFC report on the bill. “The agency states that the requirement to provide any pertinent recording to law enforcement ‘could be construed by the courts as an unconstitutional prior restraint,’ which refers to a limitation on free expression before such expression actually takes place. “Furthermore, AGO notes that SB 221 does not require all persons with knowledge of livestock cruelty to immediately report the incident, only a person who has made a digital recording is burdened with the requirements outlined in SB 221,” the report continued. “Lastly, the bill would provide neither immunity nor confidentiality to a person reporting livestock cruelty, which could deter reporting and compromise the ability of law enforcement to investigate.” SB 221 did obtain a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Conservation Committee before it was sent to Judiciary on Feb. 24, but that’s as far as it got. The 24-hour reporting requirement is one of three elements defining an “ag-gag” bill, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “Ag-gag” is a term used to describe animal protection laws that make it illegal for private parties to engage in undercover investigations that activist groups have often used to collect and publicize evidence of animal abuse. The two elements typically found in an “ag-gag” bill are an outright ban on making video or digital recordings without permission and making it a crime to obtain a job in animal agriculture with a falsified job application. Early in the session in Santa Fe, SB 221 did get labeled as a “ag-gag” bill, including by one local activist who called the bill a “convoluted way of deterring whistleblowers … .” After a three-year run, from 2011 to 2014, animal protection bills that can accurately be labeled as “ag-gag” are few and far between in 2015. A Washington state “ag-gag” bill got an early courtesy hearing before it was killed, and a Wisconsin legislator keeps talking about introducing an “ag-gag” bill, but has not done so. This is a far cry from the earlier period, where at times a dozen or more state legislatures were actively considering “ag-gag” laws. The first three bills with “ag-gag” components were passed North Dakota, Montana, and Kansas back in 1990 and 1991. Then, during the recent three-year period, came Idaho, Utah and Iowa. Idaho and Utah animal-protection laws are currently being challenged in federal courts on constitutional grounds by animal welfare and media interests. Court action in both of those cases is scheduled for later this year.