February 15, 2023

Legislative Roundup

Gabriela Campos/The Santa Fe New Mexican

Local actor Joseph Gavigan has his prosthetic makeup appraised by legislative assistant Sharon Shaffer in Española Sen. Leo Jaramillo’s office during Film & Media Day at the state Capitol on Wednesday. Gavigan’s makeup took two hours to complete by special effects makeup artists Derek Herrera and Jon Shroyer.

Days remaining in session: 30

No state park fee hike — yet: An effort to raise daily fees for state parks by $1 per vehicle stalled in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee in a unanimous vote to table it.

It’s not as if lawmakers felt House Bill 265 did not have merit — the $1 hike would go toward infrastructure needs, such as roadway repairs.

Rather, they were not happy with how the bill would address the issue. 

HB 265 would create a “state park adjacent municipality fund” within the State Treasury so cities and towns surrounding parks could access the money for capital improvements. The bill’s fiscal impact report said the $1 hike would raise only about $620,000 annually, which, some committee members said, isn’t nearly enough when divided among all 35 state parks.

Lawmakers asked the bill’s sponsors to consider reworking the bill for further consideration.

Block’s border barrier blocked: Meanwhile, the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee quickly voted 5-3 to table House Memorial 20 to create a barrier along the New Mexico/Mexico border.

Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, said the memorial is an “anti-trafficking” measure aimed at protecting children and minority families who are trying to cross into the country.

His measure would encourage migrants to seek legal ways to enter the United States. Lawmakers did not discuss the memorial before tabling it.

No gold star for Purple Star: It can be tough for some children of military families to adjust to public school life, which is one reason the state Legislature voted last year to approve a Purple Star Public Schools Program to help ease the transition by providing academic, social and emotional support for students.

Some lawmakers wonder if the state has done anything to initiate the program, so they introduced House Memorial 22, which directs the Public Education Department to study and assess the status of the program by Nov. 1.

Members of the House Education Committee unanimously approved the measure Wednesday. HM 22 next goes to the House floor for consideration.

Student wellness rooms approved: A bill to create a “wellness rooms” pilot program for New Mexico public schools received an 8-1 vote of approval Wednesday by the House Education Committee.

House Bill 112, sponsored by Rep. Pamelya Herndon, D-Albuquerque, would allocate $5 million to establish student wellness rooms at schools across the state, with priority given to schools with high populations of low-income kids, English learners, disabled students and Native Americans.

The rooms would provide calming spaces to help ease students’ stress, the bill states.

The spaces would not replace existing protocols for crisis interventions or provide therapy services, Leslie Kelly, the Public Education Department’s behavioral health program coordinator, told the committee.

Pro-abortion push: Members of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice held a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol to express support for House Bill 7, which would block cities and counties from preventing access to reproductive care.

Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the coalition, said the group is trying to dispel “the false narrative that all people of faith are against abortion.”

Jamie L. Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, said efforts to limit abortion access represent “religious overreach” by “men who will never, ever be pregnant.” 

The coalition released an open letter of support for abortion rights legislation. The letter read in part, “New Mexico has a long history of valuing and protecting the dignity of all women. It is time to end all attempts to interfere in a woman’s deeply private medical decisions about abortion and leave them in the capable hands of a woman, her family, and her doctor, in consultation with her faith.”

Quote of the day: “As I told the governor before, I’m from Española, where we’re brown, we’re down and we’re low to the ground. But in this case … we’re not low to the ground, we’re up in space.” — Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, referring to NuMex “Española Improved” — a hybrid of Hatch Sandia and Española peppers — grown on the International Space Station. The Senate passed a memorial declaring Wednesday as “Chile Day” in the chamber.