How the Legislature addressed child well being

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.

2023 legislative session a landmark one for the LGBTQ bills

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.

Guv signs bill to end life sentencing as a possibility for juveniles sentenced as adults

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that will eliminate the possibility of a life sentence for juveniles tried as adults for violent crimes. No Life Sentence for Juveniles, sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, will retroactively impact 79 individuals currently incarcerated for violent crimes committed as children. While no one is currently serving a life sentence, the legislation also allows for the possibility of parole within 15, 20 or 25 years, depending on the severity of the crime. There are some who committed violent crimes as children, sentenced as adults, and serving especially long sentences, Sedillo Lopez said when she presented the bill. The bill allows a person sentenced as an adult for a violent crime committed while under the age of 18 to go before a parole board after 15 years.

Bill to help with costs of STI treatment and prevention heads to Guv’s desk

A bill aimed at reducing the increase in sexually transmitted infection in New Mexico passed the House floor by a 42-23 vote Wednesday evening. SB 132, sponsored by state Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, would eliminate cost sharing for individuals with health insurance for STI prevention and treatment. The bill was previously amended to state that individuals with high deductible plans with health savings accounts would have to meet the deductible first. The bill generated some debate on the House floor. Both state Reps.

A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers heads to Guv’s desk

A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers into state statute passed the House floor by a 40-25 vote Wednesday night after hours of debate. SB 397, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The bill does not change anything about School-Based Health Centers which have already been in existence in New Mexico for the last 25 years. There are 79 School-Based Health Centers in the state and 54 of them are currently funded by the Department of Health. The bill generated considerable debate on the House floor with Republicans expressing concern over the right of young people to consent to their own healthcare.

Bill to protect reproductive health care providers, patients heads to House floor

With just days left before the end of the 2023 Legislative Session, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill to protect reproductive health care providers and patients in New Mexico. 

The committee passed the bill on y a 6 to 2, party line vote. SB 13, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, appeared to stall earlier in the session but now heads the House floor. The bill must be heard and pass the House before 12 p.m. Saturday to reach Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk this year. The bill would, if enacted, protect both providers providing reproductive healthcare and patients seeking it in New Mexico. The bill would codify Lujan Grisham’s executive order last year so that the protections currently in place will remain so regardless of who is governor.

Bill to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination heads to Guv desk

A bill to expand the New Mexico Human Rights Act to update its language and ensure public bodies cannot discriminate against LGBTQ individuals heads to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. HB 207, sponsored by state Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces, passed the state Senate by a vote of 26-10. 

The bill updates the language in the Human Rights Act, which was written in the 1970s. The updated language replaces the word “handicap” with “disability,” and updates the definition for sexual orientation and gender identity. It also ensures that public bodies, which receive public dollars, cannot discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. An individual who alleges discrimination would take their grievance to the state Human Rights Commission.

Bill to provide free menstrual products in schools heads to Guv’s desk

A bill to make menstrual products available for free in all public schools will now head to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisahm’s desk. HB 134 passed the Senate Tuesday night by a vote of 27-13. State Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, a bill sponsor, spoke of period poverty, which is when low-income women and girls struggle to afford menstrual products and the additional burden for individuals to purchase menstrual products. The bill passed after a small amount of debate. State Sen. Gregg Schmedes, R-Tijeras, questioned the part of the bill that requires that one boy’s bathroom in every elementary, middle and high school in the state will include a dispensary carrying the products.

Bill to abolish publication of a name change heads to Guv’s desk

A bill to abolish the requirement to publish a name change passed the state Senate by a vote of 35-5 on Tuesday. HB 31, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, will now head to the governor’s desk. 

State Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, presented the bill on the Senate floor and said it will help survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. The bill also protects transgender individuals. 

The current statute, written in 1889, requires the publication of a name change in a local newspaper for 14 consecutive days. HB 31 removes that requirement from the statute and allows a child under the age of 14 who undergoes a name change to have their records sealed. The bill also enables a person under the age of 18 to only need one parent’s consent on a name change in the event the child is not safe from both parents or legal guardians.

Bill to codify School-Based Health Centers heads to House floor

A bill codifying School-Based Health Centers passed by a 5-3 party line vote in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday. SB 397, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, would codify the School-Based Health Centers that already exist in the schools and have for 25 years into state law. The bill does not change parental notification or change the way the centers are run or the services they provide. Republicans have repeatedly expressed concern about children receiving reproductive health care services at the School-Based Health Centers without parental notification. State Rep. Harlan Vincent, R-Riudoso Downs, asked if a 14-year-old receives treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, if the center notifies the parent.