Legislative Newsletter: The race to 2024, so far

Want to get this in your email before it posts on the site? Sign up here. Hello fellow political junkies! The 2024 New Mexico General Election has heated up with more people announcing their candidacy for both federal and state offices. On Thursday, Greg Cunningham, R-Albuquerque, announced his intention for a rematch against District 29 incumbent Rep. Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque.

Problems with home visiting outlined during interim meeting

In a report presented at an interim committee Wednesday, Legislative Finance Committee staff recommended that the legislature consider allocating funds to study standards-based home visiting program outcomes for new parents. Providers of the home visiting program can choose which home visiting model they operate. State statute requires that home visiting programs be at least standards-based, which means the program must be grounded in empirically best practices and the program must rely on a curriculum linked to positive outcomes for children and families. But, the LFC report states that standards-based programs do not adhere to the same requirements as more rigorously evaluated evidence-based models. The programs do not specify the number of visits a month the parents receive, the expected length of the parent enrollment or workforce requirements.

Santa Fe Roundhouse

Rancher named to state senate

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham named rancher and former Eddy County Commissioner Steve McCutcheon II to fill the vacant State Senate District 42 seat. McCutcheon, R-Carlsbad, served as an Eddy County Commissioner from 2018-2022. McCutcheon fills the seat formerly held by Kernan who retired Aug. 1. McCutcheon’s term begins immediately and ends after the next general election.

Rep. Miguel Garcia

State Rep. challenges governor’s vetoes of tax omnibus

Near the end of the 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session, the legislature passed a tax omnibus bill that was eventually signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The tax omnibus bill, HB 547, took about a month to reach the final version that both the state House and state Senate agreed to send to Lujan Grisham for her consideration. 

Lujan Grisham approved the bill with heavy line-item vetoes. Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, filed for a writ of mandamus in the New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday. The filing stated that Lujan Grisham did not have the constitutional right to line item veto any of the tax omnibus bill since it did not include any appropriation. A writ of mandamus is a court order to a government official “compelling performance of a ministerial act that the law recognizes as an absolute duty… it is used only when all other judicial remedies have failed,” according to Barron’s Law Dictionary.

New Mexico Supreme Court sets date for oral arguments on anti-abortion ordinances 

The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear oral argument over the legality of anti-abortion ordinances some smaller jurisdictions passed last winter, creating a “patchwork” of abortion access in the state. The oral arguments will be heard at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 13 and the parties will argue the legality of those anti-abortion ordinances now that the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare law applies. The law, which prohibits public bodies from discriminating against reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare, passed the legislature in March. New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed an emergency petition for writ of mandamus and request for stay with the New Mexico Supreme Court in March regarding Lea and Roosevelt counties and the cities of Hobbs and Clovis because all four had passed anti-abortion ordinances during the winter despite the fact that abortion is legal in New Mexico. 

The legislature passed HB 7, the bill that prohibits public bodies from discriminating against abortion or gender-affirming care, in March.

Legislative Newsletter: LFC discusses wage gap, more

Note: This goes out to newsletter subscribers at the start of each week. We will post the first few on the website before it becomes a newsletter exclusive. Sign up here for free! Hello political junkies! This week the interim Legislative Finance Committee met to discuss, among other things, the state budget forecast.

More funding is needed in state conservation fund

While the state created its first ever dedicated recurring fund for conservation projects during the last legislative session, Brittany Fallon, a member of the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund Conservation Coalition, said more money is needed to prevent the fund from running out of money in fiscal year 2029. “It’s really important that we get the investment account, the permanent fund to $350 million before then or the Legacy Fund will have no more funding,” Fallon said. Fallon spoke to the interim Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday. The coalition consists of 37 organizations across the state that represent a variety of interests including conservation, agriculture, acequias, recreation, tribes and even fossil fuels. Fallon is a policy manager for Western Resource Advocates, a member of the coalition. 

“Until this bill passed, New Mexico was the only interior West state that did not have a dedicated source of funding and now we do,” she said.

Legislative Newsletter: Interim meeting preview

Editor’s note: This is a version of the legislative newsletter that went out earlier this morning. For future versions, sign up here. Hello fellow political junkies! This is the first edition of NM Political Report’s legislative newsletter. I am Nicole Maxwell and I cover the state legislature and other political news such as general political or elections-based rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Legislators hear update on project for wildlife corridors

New Mexico is a largely rural state which means long roads through forests and hills where wildlife of all sizes cross roads that humans use for travel. The interim Transportation Infrastructure Revenue Subcommittee heard about the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan’s progress by representatives from the New Mexico Department of Transportation. “(Wildlife corridors) are areas where you may have some wildlife-vehicle collisions within this area,” NMDOT Environment Department Acting Manager Trent Botkin said. “But it’s more notable that these are wildlife quarters or migratory paths for large mammals which have been cut off by our infrastructure and so these are less of a priority from a safety standpoint, but are important from wildlife corridors and ecological standpoint.”

The project that is furthest along is the first and second phases of a corridor on U.S. Highway 550 north of Cuba. The scoping report for that project was completed in July and the project is expected to be on the NMDOT Request for Proposals list this month.

Paid family and medical leave: Ramping up with new strategy to pass the legislature in 2024

The Southwest Women’s Law Center is holding its first of 11 town halls in Albuquerque this week to both discuss a proposed bill to provide paid family and medical leave that will be introduced in the 2024 legislature but also to ask the public to share stories about what this bill would mean to them if it becomes law. The proposal has been introduced in the legislature since 2019 with the exception of the 2022 session. That year, legislators passed a memorial instead that established a task force to bring various stakeholders to the table to arrive at a bill that addressed competing interests. Legislators introduced the bill, which would enable employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off for a new child or for a major health event, again in the 2023 legislative session. The bill passed the Senate, b died in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee when a few Democrats sided with Republicans and voted against it in the final week of the session.