APS facing federal scrutiny for handling of disabled student

The federal government is investigating alleged discrimination by Albuquerque Public Schools against a student with a disability. The claim involves Michael Bruening, a 16-year-old autistic student who last saw an APS classroom in May 2015, according to his mother, Laura Gutierrez. The school district placed Bruening on homebound instruction, or education at home, but according to Gutierrez hasn’t done enough to support his educational development. Gutierrez, who said she does the bulk of instructing her son now, estimates he’s only attained education levels around the 6th or 7th grade. “I can’t teach him without him blowing up,” she said in a recent interview.

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.

Revised bill on aid in dying could get some GOP support

Several Republican members of the state House Judiciary Committee signaled late last week that they could support a bill allowing terminally ill patients to end their own lives. But they raised concerns about whether the measure would provide enough safeguards for patients. The sponsor, Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, agreed during a committee hearing Friday to rewrite sections of House Bill 171 to address some of those concerns. She is expected to present a revised bill to the committee next week. HB 171 would change a 1963 law that makes it a fourth-degree felony for anyone to assist in a person’s suicide and would allow medical professionals to prescribe lethal drugs to patients who meet certain criteria.

Bill seeks oversight of private boarding homes

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — The Loving Care Shelter Home, one of several private homes in Las Vegas that has provided room and board for people with mental illness, is a ramshackle place between a mobile home and a burned-out house in an old neighborhood near downtown. Inside the home, according to a recent state inspection report, residents lived in filth, with paint chipping off walls, stained and threadbare rugs, torn window screens, electrical hazards, a rickety wooden front porch with an old couch with cigarette burns and piles of debris in the backyard. The medical care of the five residents at the Loving Care Shelter Home was shoddy, as well, according to the 96-page report by the state Department of Health on the home’s deficiencies. Among other problems, residents didn’t get required medical checks, and there were no plans to manage their illnesses, the report says. The home’s two staff workers weren’t trained in how to store drugs and assist residents with their medications.

Bill to require ‘reasonable accommodations’ for working pregnant women advances

A bill to require workplaces to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant workers passed a state House committee on party lines Friday morning. During debate, Southwest Women’s Law Center attorney Sarah Coffey provided examples of “reasonable accommodations,” which included allowing pregnant workers to have a bottle of water at their desks, giving them more bathroom breaks and allowing them to walk around the office when needed. “We’re trying to alert women and employers that women don’t need to necessarily quit their jobs or stay home if there’s a small accommodation made to keep working,” state Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque and sponsor of the legislation, said at the hearing. Three Republicans on the House Health and Human Services Committee—state Reps. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences, Gail Armstrong of Magdalena and James Townsend of Artesia—voted against the measure.

Lawmakers introduce bills to expand reproductive health access, protections

Advocates and supporters of reproductive health access and rights unveiled three bills in the state Legislature they say will improve and protect access. This includes measures to preserve birth control access under the federal Affordable Care Act and allow women on the birth control pill to obtain one year’s worth of refills at a time, penalize medical providers that refuse to offer certain reproductive health services and procedures and require workplaces to make “reasonable accommodations” to employees who are pregnant. Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring the bill to expand access to birth control. At a Tuesday press conference for the bills, Armstrong said her measure is in anticipation of contraception access through the ACA “that may be on the chopping block.”

“We’re going to ensure that regardless of what they do federally, in New Mexico we take care of women and families and let them choose what’s best for them in deciding if and when and how often to have children,” Armstrong said. Her bill would guarantee patients access to any type of federally-approved contraception without “having to prove that something else doesn’t work” before obtaining the kind “most appropriate for you,” she said.

NM Dems file legislation to blunt Trump’s impact

A local legislator’s bill to bar New Mexico law enforcement from imposing federal immigration laws is getting attention as a measure to challenge President Trump’s expected crackdown on illegal immigration. “Given the repressive potential coming from the Trump administration, I wanted to make sure our immigrant community felt safe and protected,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, said in a recent interview. Hers is just one of several proposals sitting before the New Mexico Legislature directly reflect what’s happening as a result of 2016’s contentious campaign and the election of Donald Trump as president. State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, for example, is carrying a bill that would require New Mexico’s electors to cast their votes to reflect the national popular vote. State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, has a measure to eliminate “faithless” electors, or state electors who cast votes without abiding by their state’s vote totals.

GOP Rep joins Democrats to halt abortion bill

One Republican helped five Democrats kill a bill that would have legally defined when an infant is “born alive” and mandated medical intervention for those infants. Rep. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, joined all Democrats in the House Health Committee to table the “Require Medical Care for All Infants” bill Saturday morning after a short debate. The debate followed more than two hours of public testimony on the bill earlier in the week. Follow-up Story: GOP Rep won’t say why he voted against abortion bill

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said his measure was meant protect infants who still show signs of life after abortions. “What we’re talking about is the life of a child who is born alive after an abortion procedure,” Montoya told the committee.

Committee votes to stop cities from raising minimum wages

Votes for two bills affecting taxes and wages came across the same partisan lines at the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee Friday afternoon. The committee approved a bill 4-3 that would bar municipalities from setting minimum wages and employment rules that differ from the statewide minimum wage, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against. They then tabled a measure that would raise state income tax on households earning $100,000 or more by one percentage point. While the state’s minimum wage is $7.50 an hour, cities like Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe have higher wages. Santa Fe’s ranks as the seventh highest at the nation at $10.84 and is scheduled to jump to $10.91 in March.