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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bill that would allow judges to deny bail on certain offenders has passed its first House committee on party lines. Sponsored by state Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, the measure would allow voters to approve or reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would let judges deny bail to offenders to “protect the safety of any other person or the community.”
The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee passed the bill on a 4-3 vote. Jeff Clayton, a policy director for the American Bail Coalition, said the bill would only affect the “worst of the worst.”
“We’re talking about somebody who is dangerous who is going to flee and be dangerous,” Clayton said. Among supporters of the bill were members of the bail bond industry, the state Department of Public Safety and Julie Benner, widow of Rio Rancho officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner. Most who opposed the bill mentioned their support of a similar measure by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
State Rep. Deborah Armstrong watched with interest while California debated changes to the law on exemptions vaccinations for children. California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that would give California one of the strictest laws regarding vaccination exemptions. The other two states with similarly strict laws are West Virginia and Mississippi; Mississippi has the highest rate of vaccinated children in the nation. “I’m glad to see that there was support and recognition that something needs to be done to not have exemptions be really easy, but for legitimate reasons to be able to have an exemption,” the Albuquerque Democrat told New Mexico Political Report in a short phone interview on Wednesday morning. Armstrong introduced legislation in this year’s New Mexico legislative session that would close a loophole in the state’s vaccination law.
A bill that would create a medical cannabis fund for research purposes passed through its second of three House committee assignments on Saturday morning. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, would create an appropriation for research on medical cannabis to be conducted through the Department of Health. Most of the Republicans on the committee told Armstrong they would not support her HB 466 both because of objections to medical cannabis and because of the appropriation. House Majority Caucus Chair Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, told the sponsor that she had similar concerns as other members, but that she also understands why people might use medical cannabis. She said that when her mother was dying she would have done almost anything to help her.
A bill by a freshman Democrat would close what she describes a loophole in vaccinations. With a rise in the number of unvaccinated, New Mexico and other states have seen outbreaks of Measles, a disease that can be deadly that had largely been stopped because of vaccinations. Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, is the bill’s sponsor and told New Mexico Political Report that the national attention helped bring momentum to the idea. “There’s national attention on it,” she said. “As a result of that national attention, everyone talking about it, some pediatricians approached me that the time is right to try and deal with this, the current exemptions.”