Bill to protect those seeking abortion or gender-affirming care from discrimination advances

A bill to prevent discrimination for individuals seeking abortion care or gender-affirming care in New Mexico cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee by 7-3 on Friday. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care, is intended to protect individuals who seek abortion care and gender-affirming care from discrimination by any public body.  Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor of the bill. The bill will head to the House Judiciary Committee next. The bill generated considerable public comment and committee debate. Questions came from three Republicans on the committee, Jenifer Jones of Deming, Stefani Lord of Sandia Park and Harlan Vincent of Ruidoso Downs.

Name change bill clears House Judiciary Committee

A bill that will eliminate the requirement to give public notice when changing a name passed the House Judiciary Committee by 10 to 0 on Friday. Sponsored by House Rep. Christine Chandler, a Democrat from Albuquerque, HB 31 will, if enacted, eliminate from statute the requirement to place a public notice for 14 days in the local newspaper when a person seeks to change their name. The Legislature put the requirement into law decades ago and it was intended to prevent individuals from evading creditors. The law is now antiquated and it puts transgender individuals and survivors of domestic violence, assault and stalking in danger, advocates of the bill have said. Chandler said the bill removes the requirement that both parents be notified of a name change of a minor.

Bill to eliminate copays for STI treatment clears Senate committee

A bill to eliminate co-pays and cost sharing for sexually transmitted infection testing, treatment and prevention cleared the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee by a 5-2 vote on Friday. SB 132, STI Prevention and Treatment, will, if enacted, help to stem the increased rates of sexually transmitted disease, Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart said. Stewart, a Democrat from Albuquerque, sponsored the bill and said the rates of STI  have increased both in New Mexico and nationally since 2020. Kayla Herring, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Rocky Mountains, said “treatment is prevention because it is passed through sexual contact.”

“It increases the likelihood a patient will seek STI testing so they won’t have the fear that if they are positive, they will then have to make a large payment for medication. We need to reduce the rates of STI’s in New Mexico and we believe this will do it,” Herring, who acted as an expert witness, said.

A court decision expected soon on medication abortion could have wide implication

A pending federal lawsuit could impact the use of medication abortion for patients nationwide, including New Mexico. A religious group filed a complaint in November in a district in Texas where the likely federal district judge to consider the case is a Trump appointee with long standing connections to politically active religious groups, the Center for Reproductive Rights has said. The suit asks the court to overturn the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone in 2000, claiming that the FDA approved the drug through its accelerated drug approval authority. The complaint states that the FDA “never studied the safety of the drug” that it approved as safe for abortion care 22 years ago. Mifepristone is one part of the two-drug regime for medication abortion.

Bill to give tax rebates to New Mexicans clears Senate committee

A bill that would provide rebates to tax filers in 2023 passed its first Senate committee on a 10-0 vote on Thursday. SB 10, Additional 2021 Tax Rebates, faced no opposition in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee from the public or in committee vote. State Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Pueblo, is the primary sponsor of the bill. The bill, if enacted, would provide $750 in tax rebate to single filers and $1,500 in tax rebate to joint filers, head of household and surviving spouse filers who filed tax returns for tax year 2021. The estimated cost for the state is $1 billion for Fiscal Year 2023 and $10 million in Fiscal Year 2024. The funds are nonrecurring and would take advantage of the state’s oil and gas revenue surplus.

A bill to fill service gaps in sexual assault programming passes first committee

A bill that will help fill gaps created by reduced federal funding for sexual assault services in New Mexico passed the House Health and Human Services Committee with no opposition on Wednesday. HB 133, Recruit Sexual Assault Service Providers, will, if enacted, provide $2 million from the general fund for Fiscal Year 2024 to New Mexico to recruit and retain sexual assault service providers in New Mexico. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission would receive the funding. Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor of the bill but Rep. Liz Thomson, also a Democrat from Albuquerque, presented the bill before the committee on Trujillo’s behalf. “This is a very simple bill,” Thomson said.

Bill to eliminate statute of limitations in civil cases for child sexual abuse clears first committee

A bill that will, if enacted, eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in child sexual abuse incidences passed a Senate committee unanimously. SB 126, Child Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations, is sponsored by state Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque. She said the current law gives the victim until their 24th birthday or three years after they disclose during treatment to file a civil case against the perpetrator. “This allows folks to get to the courthouse door. We know from extensive studies, trauma can last a long time.

Bill to make obtaining orders of protection easier passes Senate committee

A bill that will make orders of protection easier for survivors to obtain passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee with no opposition. SB 18, Rename Family Violence Act, cleared the committee on an 8-0 vote. It will head to the Senate Judiciary Committee next. SB 18, sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, significantly rewrites the Family Violence Protection Act to improve victims’ ability to request an order of protection and to expand the list of reasons an order can be obtained. If the bill becomes law a survivor will be able to request an order for protection in the event of kidnapping, false imprisonment, interference with communication, threats to disclose immigration status, harm or threats to harm animals to intimidate, threaten or harass a person and unauthorized distribution of sensitive images.

Bill to provide free menstrual products at schools passes committee

The House Education Committee unanimously passed a bill that will, if enacted, make menstrual products free in the public and charter schools in New Mexico. HB 134, sponsored by House Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, appropriates $3 million from the general fund to the New Mexico Public Education Department to provide free menstrual products in the public schools and charter schools. The funds will be recurring but the Fiscal Impact Report states that the biggest cost would be the dispensers placed in the bathrooms, rather than the products. Once schools have bought and installed the dispensers, the program might require less money over time, the report says. The FIR also says that while 20 percent of teenagers, nationally, have difficulty affording menstrual products, that number rises to 25 percent for Hispanic teenagers.

Affirmative consent heads to House chamber next

A bill that will require New Mexico health classes to include instruction on affirmative consent before and during sexual activity passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously, 9 to 0, on Monday. HB 43, Affirmative Consent Policy in Schools, sponsored by House Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, will, if enacted, require affirmative consent to be taught across all New Mexico public and charter schools in either middle or high school health class. The bill also requires higher educational institutions to implement trauma-informed policies that meet an affirmative consent standard. The bill, which has received broad bipartisan support in previous years, received very little discussion among committee members. House Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, asked questions around if a higher education institution would initiate a criminal prosecution if the institution failed to meet the standard.