February 21, 2022

Funding for sexual assault programs passes during legislative session

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

With relatively few reproductive healthcare bills before the 2022 legislative session, only one made it through intact.

HB 32, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, which eliminates gross receipts tax, sometimes referred to as a sales tax, on feminine hygiene products, was grafted into HB 2, the general appropriation bill. The elimination of the GRT effectively, in layman’s terms, eliminates any sales tax to the products, which Trujillo sees in broader terms of civic engagement and political access.

Trujillo said she wants to see poor and young girls to “start becoming more empowered and maybe this bill will help.”

“I want young girls to recognize that if they have that need for those necessities, they should not be shy about asking for them, and also start getting involved and engaged,” she told NM Political Report.

The bill unanimously passed the House Health and Human Services Committee but the House Taxation and Revenue Committee tabled the bill.  The House Taxation and Revenue Committee later amended a tax changes bill, HB 163, sponsored by Christine Chandler, D-Albuquerque, to include tax deductions for gross receipts tax for feminine hygiene products. But that bill stalled at the Senate Finance Committee.

Trujillo said HB 32 was then grafted into HB 2. She said that if the governor signs the bill and keeps the provision, the elimination of the tax will go into effect on July 1 of this year.

One argument opponents to the bill had in committee was that retailers will add to the price of the products if the tax is eliminated. House Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, called making exceptions on the GRT creates a “swiss cheese” effect on taxation.

Trujillo said feminine hygiene products are “a necessity” and that, if retailers do that, then Viagra, a prescription medication that can help with erectile dysfunction in men, “shouldn’t be a prescription.” 

Prescription medication is exempt from sales tax.

Trujillo said during a committee hearing that eliminating the tax is an equity issue because women in rural areas who are low income can suffer financially buying feminine hygiene products or endure shame if they go without.

“It’s very important,” she told NM Political Report. “As a former educator but also as a community activist, parents and young girls told me access to those products is very important.”

She said she hopes to see feminine hygiene products become free in the state.

“But that’s another bill in the future,” she said.

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City, said the bill she sponsored, SB 197, helped to restore some funding for the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission to help victims of sexual assault.

SB 197 asked for $5 million in funding for various sexual assault programming across the state. The general appropriation bill, HB 2, initially allocated $2.3 million of the $5 million the coalition requested last fall. Alexandria Taylor, director of sexual assault programming for the coalition, made the request during a presentation to the Interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee.

Related: New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs requests $5 million in funding

Receiving less than $5 million could hurt sexual assault programming, which is already underfunded advocates have said. Federal support is expected to decrease in Fiscal Year 2023. Advocates have called the fact that New Mexico ranks 7th in the nation for sexual assault a “public health crisis.”

Related: Sexual assault nurse examiner shortage impacts victims and families

Correa Hemphill said that $1.3 million of the $2.3 million was contingent on the passage of SB 197, which passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee unanimously but stalled at the Senate Finance Committee.

Related: Senate committee passes bill to fully fund sexual assault services

Correa Hemphill told NM Potlical Report that the Senate Finance Committee added an additional $2 million into HB 2 for sexual assault programming and during a conference committee, committee members agreed to another $500,000 allocation, bringing the total appropriation to $3.8 million.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be able to help with funding for these important services because we are experiencing a crisis of sexual violence in New Mexico, which is 7th in this country in rates of sexual violence. This is especially challenging for victims in rural communities who often have to travel over three hours to receive a rape kit at sexual assault nurse examiner programs,” she said in a text message statement.