When Santa Barbara lawyer-turned-activist Ady Barkan settled in to watch the second round of the Democratic presidential primary debates late last month, he had no idea his story would be part of the heated discussion. Barkan, 35, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, watched from his wheelchair as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren described how he and his family had to raise money online to help pay for roughly $9,000 a month in health care costs not covered by his private health insurance. https://twitter.com/AdyBarkan/status/1156365277749305344
“The basic profit model of an insurance company is taking as much money as you can in premiums and pay out as little as possible in health care coverage,” Warren said. “That is not working for Americans.”
But for Barkan, the moment was not about him. “Elizabeth Warren’s point wasn’t just to mention my name, it was to call attention to the ways our broken health care system is hurting people across the country,” he said in an email interview.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Tuesday that he supports Medicare-for-all. The Assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership in the chamber, made the announcement as he seeks the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. His opponent in the primary, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, supports Medicare-for-all. Luján told NM Political Report between votes on Wednesday that he supports the legislation because it emphasizes “that healthcare is a fundamental right, not a privilege for the few.”
Toulouse Oliver said on Twitter she is glad that Luján “has come on board with the latest issue I’ve supported from Day 1.” Luján signed onto the bill sponsored by Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal.
Finding a polling place. Waiting in line. Filling out a ballot. Most New Mexico voters don’t seem to have many complaints about that part of Election Day. But while a new survey has found plenty of confidence in the democratic process as it plays out at the polling place, it also found plenty of concerns about the sanctity of New Mexico’s elections, whether it is the specter of hackers, the influence of big-spending campaign donors or a news media that many view as biased.
Very different visions for legalizing cannabis in New Mexico are a bit closer to becoming reality after legislative hearings on Saturday. A bill that would legalize recreational cannabis for adults over 21 and task the state with licensing retailers to sell the product is headed to a vote of the full House of Representatives after winning the approval of a key committee. Just a few hours later, a Senate committee backed a Republican-sponsored proposal to legalize cannabis and allow for sales from state-owned stores. It remains unclear whether the full Senate would approve either bill this year, making the campaign to legalize cannabis something of a long shot as the legislative session nears its end March 16. But with a new governor who has said she would sign a bill legalizing marijuana with the right provisions in place, both pieces of legislation have stirred a debate that was hypothetical a year ago.
A handful of Democrats joined with Republicans at the Legislature on Friday to quash a bill that would have allowed the state to charge higher royalty rates on some oil and gas production. The first committee hearing for House Bill 398 turned into a showdown between New Mexico’s influential oil industry and a newly elected Democratic land commissioner who came to office pledging to collect a greater share of revenue from oil produced on the millions of acres her office controls. Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard argued that raising royalty rates is strictly good business for a state rich in oil and gas but that has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country. But the oil and gas industry countered that it already generates a large share of the funds for New Mexico’s government through taxes and royalties. Raising royalty rates, representatives from the industry argued, would drive away business and ultimately hurt the state.
The abortion debate is headed to the state Senate. If passed, House Bill 51 would repeal a 1969 state statute which made both receiving and performing abortions a fourth-degree felony in most cases. The effort passed the state House on a 40-29 vote Wednesday night. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, and Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, would repeal the 1969 law, which is not enforceable because of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision.
If you wanted to run for governor as an independent last year, you would have needed to get more than 15,000 registered voters to sign a petition to get your name on the ballot. It was a nearly impossible goal. New Mexico law sets a high bar for independent candidates to even qualify for an election. A new state legislator wants to make it easier for independents to run for office by drastically slashing the number of signatures they need to file with election officials. While the Legislature has consistently shot down past proposals to loosen up New Mexico’s notoriously tight ballot access laws, one top Democrat appears to be on board with the idea.
A bill to allow voters to register on the same day they vote cleared its first House committee Wednesday. The House, State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee advanced the proposal on a party-line vote. The bill aims to let voters register or update their voter registration during early voting or on Election Day, and vote on the same day. Currently, voters must register four weeks before the election to be eligible to vote. One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque, said the legislation “is the ultimate access bill to allow voters to access the electoral process as openly as possible.”
The bill would allow new voters to register on Election Day and those already registered to change their address.
New Mexico took a small step towards removing a currently unenforceable state law criminalizing abortion Saturday. House Bill 51 (HB 51) — which repeals a 1969 statute that made receiving and performing abortion a fourth-degree felony — passed the the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee by a 3-2 vote along party lines. New Mexico is one of nine states with a statute criminalizing abortion. The landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision made the state law unenforceable. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee started just after 8:30 a.m. The hearing was moved to the House floor due to interest in the bill, and public comment lasted for over three hours.
Recreational marijuana would become legal for people 21 or older in New Mexico and the state could tax marijuana sold in licensed stores under a bill introduced Thursday by state Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque. House Bill 356 would establish a licensing system that supporters say favors small businesses and institute a 9 percent tax on marijuana for buyers who are not patients in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program. The revenue would go for research and education as well as community grants for workforce training, substance misuse treatment, mental health treatment, and youth drug-education and prevention programs.
Cities and counties would be allowed to opt out of allowing retail marijuana sales. “It’s time to be smart about the war on drugs,” Martínez told The New Mexican in an interview last week. He called the decades-long state and federal anti-marijuana policies a failure.
Among the first things Democrats did after officially taking control of the House was to express support for efforts to appeal a Texas district court decision declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.