The 60-day legislative session has come to an end with sweeping changes coming to New Mexico elections, pending the governor’s signature. HB 4 included many of the changes, including expanding voter rights.
The bill provides voting protections and improved voting access for Native Americans through the Native American Voting Rights Act, enhances voter registration systems and voter data privacy, restores voting rights to formerly incarcerated felons, created a voluntary permanent absentee ballot list which allows voters who usually vote by absentee ballot to be on a list so they don’t have to reapply for each election, sets up automatic voter registration when updating address or presenting documents at Motor Vehicle Divisions and other state agencies and designates Election Day as a school holiday. Once signed, the bill goes into effect in annual phases beginning in July 2023. More: Voting rights expansion bill heads to governor’s desk
A bill similar to HB 4 passed on March 14.
New Mexico continues to rank at the bottom on child well being indexes, but the 2023 Legislature passed some bills that advocates say can make an impact on that low ranking. A child tax credit was included in the final omnibus tax package and it will help improve racial and gender equity, Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, told NM Political Report. HB 547, the omnibus tax bill, underwent multiple conference committees but the New Mexico Child Tax Credit survived the negotiations. It will, among other things, provide up to $600 per child annually as a child tax credit for families earning $25,000 or less a year. For households earning $25,000 to $50,000, the annual child tax credit will be $400 per child and for households earning $50,000 to $75,000, the annual child tax credit will be $200 per child if Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the bill into law.
The 2023 Legislature was a landmark session for LGBTQ bills, according to advocates. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said three bills passed in the 2023 Legislature that make this past session a watershed moment for the LGBTQ community: A bill to add discrimination protections to LGBTQ residents, a bill to protect those practicing and seeking gender-affirming care and a bill to end the requirement to publicize a name change in the newspaper. Martinez said the two bills that are especially unique are the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act and the Expansion of New Mexico Act. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare. Hobbs and Clovis and Roosevelt and Lincoln counties have passed ordinances that both make it harder for reproductive health clinics that provide abortions to apply for a business license and prohibit medication abortion prescriptions through the mail despite federal approval.
Legislators sought to start the process to change the state constitution with several pieces of legislation this year. The proposals sought to place constitutional amendments on the 2024 general election ballot.
Only two made it through the system: HJR 5, which would extend the property tax exemption for disabled veterans, and HJR 6, which would increase property tax exemptions for honorably discharged service members. HJR 5 extends the property tax exemption, currently only available for those veterans who are 100 percent disabled and their widows or widowers to allow those that are under 100 percent disabled and their widows or widowers to qualify for the exemption. “The amount of the exemption shall be in a percentage equal to the percentage of the veteran’s disability rating determined pursuant to federal law,” the legislation states. Similarly, HJR 6 would increase the property tax exemption for honorably discharged service members and their widows or widowers from $4,000 to $10,000 with an annual adjustment based on inflation.
The Legislature passed two major reproductive rights bills this legislative session, one of which went to the governor’s desk in the final days. Both bills increase protections in the state for both reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care. As of February 1, 2023, there are 17 states that have put some protections in place for abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham already signed HB 7, the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, into law. It prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare.
There are two towns, Clovis and Hobbs, and two counties, Lincoln and Roosevelt, that have passed ordinances that have placed barriers to clinics that provide abortions from obtaining a business license.
By Robert Nott and Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican
In the end, as Dean Martin liked to sing, everybody loves somebody — at least, sometime. That was true in the waning minutes of this year’s legislative session as lawmakers from opposing parties and with markedly different views of political philosophy bid goodbye to one another with hugs, handshakes and fare-thee-wells. Absent was any sense of partisan conflict as legislators, weary after 60 days of debates, decisions and defeats — as well as victories, of course — bid adieu to it all for another year at noon Saturday. In the House of Representatives, there was a more collegial feeling of mutual respect, even if the two parties’ respective legislative goals were often at odds.
After debating and voting on a broad omnibus tax package that had curved its way through the last week of the session like a hard-to-catch serpent, members of the House took on about six Senate bills, approving them rapidly in the last hours of the floor session. The House benefited from an influx of new vitality courtesy of over 15 new members in both major political parties as well as the energy of two new floor leaders — House Speaker Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and House Minority Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec.