The Roundhouse had heartening news Wednesday for a growing number of New Mexico voters who aren’t affiliated with a major political party and would like the state to end a primary election system that excludes them. Lawmakers on the House of Representatives’ State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted 6-3 to advance a bill that would allow all registered voters to cast ballots in primaries. Under the measure, independent voters and those registered with a minority party could simply request a ballot from one of the major parties, with no requirement to alter the party affiliation on their registration. It’s not the first time state legislators have considered such a measure.
The House Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill that would decriminalize abortion by a vote of 8 to 3, including one Republican who crossed the aisle. State House Rep. Phelps Anderson, a Republican from Roswell, sided with the seven Democrats on the committee who voted yes to HB 7. Just before the bill went to vote, Anderson expressed some of his views. “Many people who have spoken to me have expressed strong opinions but I find myself saying I’m not sure one voting yes or no changes anything that is very important to me and, secondly, the issues that have been raised are not encompassed within this bill,” Anderson said. HB 7 will, if it passes the full New Mexico Legislature, repeal a law written in 1969.
After a challenging year marked by grief brought on by a deadly pandemic, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered a hopeful vision for New Mexico during her annual State of the State address Tuesday, including a plan to get more students back into classrooms in less than two weeks. “Every school district in the state will be able to welcome all ages of students safely back to the classroom on Feb. 8,” the governor said in her 26-minute address, which she delivered virtually, without the usual pomp and circumstance. The governor’s State of the State is typically given during a crowded event at the state Capitol on the first day of the legislative session. This one came a week after lawmakers convened.
School districts will be able to start in-person learning, through a hybrid system, for students of all ages beginning on Feb. 8, Gov. Michelle Lujan Griaham announced during her State of the State address on Tuesday, declaring, “there’s no substitute for in-person learning.”
The state will leave the decision up to local school boards whether or not to allow in-person learning again, as it has for elementary school students for much of the past few months. Middle and high school students at public schools have been using remote-only learning since March of 2020. “I believe the planning and hard work has paid off, and our state has developed a solid, epidemiologically-sound plan for a safe expansion of in-person learning for all age groups, supported by union leadership,” Lujan Grisham said. “We will get this right, and we will move forward, and every school district in the state will be able to welcome all ages of students safely back to the classroom on February 8.”
Related: Lujan Grisham delivers State of the State address, remotely
Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart and Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase provided more details in a press conference after Lujan Grisham’s State of the State, where he called it a “first step.”
“It’s not a last step and it requires our ongoing diligence to make sure that it works,” Stewart said.
Senate Bill 10, which would repeal the 1969 abortion ban on state law books, passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee 5-3 Monday. The vote fell along party lines with the three Republican state Senators voting against and the five Democrats on the committee voting in favor. After a two hour wait due to technical difficulties, the committee hearing ran for nearly 2.5 hours due to the length of the debate on the issue. Members of the public for both sides gave impassioned speeches both for and against. “(The bill) makes sure that women, in collaboration with their provider and families, can make decisions for themselves.
Major hospital systems in New Mexico say that they are prepared to administer many more COVID-19 shots as they become available. But the nature of the supply chain is not only out of their hands, it’s out of the hands of the state, which relies on distribution from the federal government. Department of Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins said that, as of Sunday, the state had received 221,375 COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government and administered 203,830, or over 90 percent. “New Mexico [has] the third-highest vaccine administration rate among all states in the country,” Collins said. “So we have a lot to be proud of.”
The limiting factor for New Mexico Collins said, echoing what health officials had said earlier, was available supply.