After the 2017 general legislative session adjourned, Gov. Susana Martinez vowed to veto any tax increases and to call legislators back to the Roundhouse for a special session soon to redo the budget. Democrats said their package would avoid any further cuts to education, which has seen several slashes in recent years because of declining revenue to the state. The governor’s office says a state government shutdown could happen as early as next month. This story also appears in this week’s edition of the Alibi. In a post-session press conference, Martinez blamed lawmakers, saying some “failed to do their jobs this session.” Her tone capped a tense few days between her office and the Legislature.
After a contentious, hours-long debate, the state House of Representatives voted by a wide margin for a bill to ban conversion therapy for minors — the widely discredited practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation. The measure cleared the House late Wednesday on a 44-23 vote. Nine Republicans joined 35 Democrats in backing it. Only one Democrat, Rep. Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque, sided with a bloc of mostly rural Republicans who opposed the initiative. That group of Republicans dragged debate on the measure deep into the night, raising concerns that it would trample freedom of religion and suggesting that homosexuality is a choice or even a mental illness.
Thursday marks the halfway point of the 2017 New Mexico Legislature’s 60-day run in Santa Fe. And while half the time is gone, perhaps 90 percent of the work remains. All-important debates over how to spend the public’s money, where to get it and how much to keep in reserve, are yet to be resolved. How much should be devoted to keeping the schools running? What kind of tax breaks are effective in stimulating a sputtering economy?
In a bipartisan decision Friday, a Senate committee voted 5-0 in favor of a bill that would outlaw the use of conversion therapy to treat homosexual, bisexual or transgender minors. The vote by the Senate Public Affairs Committee for Senate Bill 121 came after emotional testimony from audience members, some of whom had undergone conversion therapy. Kei Cypher, a student at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, said she was raised in a religious family in Colorado Springs, Colo., that was confused when she came out at age 13. “They told me it was something I got from MTV or video games,” she told the committee. “They took me to a therapist who told me it was a perversion and that I should snap my wrist with a rubber band or hold ice in my hands every time I had such thoughts.”
Randy Royster said when his daughter Amber started questioning her sexuality as a teen, he sent her to a therapist recommended by his pastor. The therapist used “conversion therapy,” a treatment designed to change a person’s sexual orientation. Royster said the therapy caused great harm to his daughter and guilt and shame for him. “No loving parent would purposefully do something that would hurt their children,” he said. “Had I known then what I know now, I would have turned to a therapist who understands that trying to change a young person’s sexual orientation through therapy is a long-discredited practice that often causes long-term mental and physical harm.”