NM advocates, patients push against Obamacare replacement

A coalition of healthcare advocacy and poverty rights organizations wants Congress to dump the Republican-backed replacement for the federal Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, Parents Reaching Out held a press conference in Albuquerque encouraging people to call their representatives and senators to urge them to oppose the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which the federal House of Representatives may vote on as early as this Thursday. “We are concerned about upcoming Medicaid cuts and the potential devastation to our community,” said Lisa Rossignol, the healthcare liaison at Parents Reaching Out, which organized the Wednesday press conference. The bill, backed by President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, would end the Medicaid expansion under the ACA by 2020. It would also cut money to Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor, by $370 billion over 10 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Berry admin not worried, but federal funds for ART not set in stone

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s administration is voicing confidence that $50 million in federal funding will come their way to help finance the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project. That’s at least what the city’s Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan said Monday evening at a city council meeting. He mentioned that former President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget recommendations include “a $50 million earmark” for the bus rapid transit project and that even though Congress hasn’t approved a budget, the money is still “currently on the legislative docket to be passed.”

ART, now well into construction with torn roads and narrow lanes that hold back traffic in the heart of Central Avenue, is projected to be 10 miles of dedicated lanes in the street for a rapid bus system with 20 stations. The project is slated to be up and running this fall, but it’s drawn controversy among some residents and business owners along the route, who have blamed slow sales on the project’s construction. More controversy came last week when President Donald Trump released his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2018, which freezes all funding for a Federal Transit Administration grant program for local public transportation projects—including ART.

A look at Gov. Martinez’s vetoes

Gov. Susana Martinez is getting attention, to say the least, for her onslaught of vetoes as the legislative session nears a potentially messy end. But the tension between Martinez and state lawmakers started with her early veto of the bill to fund the operations of the Legislature during the session and the interim. It continued towards the end of January, when she vetoed a much-publicized bill to allow for industrial research of hemp. February came and went with no bills headed to Martinez’s desk. But at the end of the first week of March, she rejected a measure to allow teachers to use all of their allotted sick days without absences making a negative impact on their statewide evaluation.

Bill establishing protections for pregnant workers heads to Senate

The House approved a bill to establish workplace protections for pregnant workers Tuesday afternoon on a 51-14 vote. The bill would require workplaces to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant workers who ask for them. Sponsors and proponents of the bill have given examples of reasonable accommodations such as allowing pregnant women breaks to walk or to or drink water at their desks. Some of the legislators who raised concerns about the proposal during debate, such as state Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, ultimately voted for the measure. Dow said she worried about businesses being held liable to new damages.

ICE enforcement surge makes some ‘live in constant fear’

Every morning before he leaves to go to work, Yalil scans the street outside his home to see if any unusual cars are parked outside. “If it’s something, we do have to plan not to go to work and stay the whole day home,” he said. Yalil’s little brothers, both still in school and born in the United States, are too young to understand why their family needs to be so cautious. But they’re instructed every day to never answer the door, “not even to the missionaries, the people who are talking about God,” Yalil said. “We just let them know they cannot open the door because my dad and my mom could be detained and we might not get to see them again,” he said.

House panel passes bill to remove pre Roe v. Wade law criminalizing abortion

A Democratic-majority House committee voted along party lines Thursday afternoon to remove pre-Roe v. Wade language in state statute that criminalizes abortion practices. The original state law, passed in New Mexico in 1968, makes “criminal abortion” subject to a fourth-degree felony. It defines “criminal abortion” as any action or attempt at an “untimely termination” of a pregnancy that is not “medically justified.” A medically justified abortion, according to state law, is limited to abortions in cases of pregnancy from rape, incest or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. The landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in most cases across the country, made state laws like this obsolete. Related story: House committee stalls another round of abortion bills

But proponents of the bill to strike the old state statute argue that the state language would go right back into law should the U.S. Supreme Court change Roe v. Wade in the future.

House passes bill to expand contraception access

The state House of Representatives approved a bill to preserve contraception coverage put in place as part of the federal Affordable Care Act and expand some access on a mostly party-line vote Monday evening. Three Republicans—state Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes and Nate Gentry of Albuquerque and Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences—joined ranks with Democrats to approve the bill. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, would expand access to contraceptives by requiring health insurance plans to allow women to obtain up to 12 months of their birth control prescription at one time. The bill would expand the types of contraceptives available over the counter and include condoms and vasectomies in health insurance plans.

ACA repeal would have big impact on recovering addicts

Lawrence Martinez says driving triggers him back to the dark days of dependency. “Monday was my first day driving the car,” the Albuquerque father of four said last week, talking about the car he and his wife recently bought, as he sat in a conference room at Albuquerque’s Turning Point Recovery Center. “That was an issue on its own, but it’s working out now. Leaving the house, I get anxiety. Once I get on the road, it’s perfect.”

Martinez has been recovering from a methamphetamine addiction since last July.

House committee stalls another round of abortion bills

A panel of state lawmakers spent five hours Sunday hearing and debating two bills that would have restricted abortion access in New Mexico before tabling them on party lines. At one point, state Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, bemoaned the predictability of the situation. “I was going to ask some questions, but it’s futile,” he said to the sponsors of a bill to ban abortions after 20 or more weeks of pregnancy. “We all know how this committee is going to vote. This bill is going to die on a 3-2 vote.”

Some members of the public echoed this.

Balderas joins AGs to support transgender rights

Hector Balderas joined 18 other attorneys general across the nation in filing an amicus brief in a case centering on transgender student rights scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court this month. The New Mexico attorney general, in a statement, said that transgender students “should feel safe and protected in their schools just like any other children, it’s just that simple.”

The case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., involves Virginia student Gavin Grimm, who with the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school board for violating his Title IX rights when the board created a policy to require students to use school bathrooms that fit their “biological sex.” Grimm, a high school senior, was born female and identifies as male. A lower court ruled last year that the school board’s policy did violate Grimm’s rights, and the school board appealed to the Supreme Court. The amicus brief, which is a legal argument made in a case by people not directly involved in it, argues that discriminating against gender identity violates Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination in the schools. “Discrimination on the basis of gender identity causes real and significant harm to both transgender people and to the amici States,” the brief reads.