During an interim committee hearing, the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs asked for $5 million to be added for state budget consideration in the 2022 Legislature. Alexandria Taylor, deputy director of the coalition, said the state ranks seventh in the nation in rates of sexual violence and called the rates of sexual violence in New Mexico an “epidemic.” She asked that any crime package “prioritize” the crime of sexual violence. The $5 million request includes $2 million for sexual assault programs to increase services, address gaps across the state and focus on rural and underserved areas, including a 12-month wait list in some counties for services; $1 million to address sexual assault mental health programs to address that gap in services; $1.3 million to sustain satellite children advocacy centers in rural areas; $500,000 for operation of the statewide sexual assault hotline and $200,000 for Indigenous research and coordination of tribal services, Taylor said. She said 41 percent of reported assaults in New Mexico are children who are under the age of 18. She also said that while reports of sexual violence to law enforcement are trending downward, there has been an increase in requests for sexual assault services.
A bill that advocates said would increase accountability of peace officers who commit sexual crimes against people in their custody passed its first hurdle Tuesday. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee passed HB 156 along party lines with a 3 to 2 vote. House Rep. Brittany Barreras, an independent from Albuquerque who caucuses with Democrats, is sponsoring the bill. Barreras introduced the bill with a personal story about winding up in the hospital due to an officer’s arrest. The bill will, if it passes, amend the criminal code that governs criminal sexual penetration in the second degree.
A nondiscrimination bill to protect cultural hairstyles in the workplace and school settings received bipartisan support in the Senate Education Committee Friday. The No School Discrimination for Hair bill passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee Friday. More than one state senator expressed shock that discrimination around
cultural hair and hairstyles is still possible with impunity. “We should’ve been doing this decades ago,” state Sen. Michael Padilla, a Democrat from Albuquerque, said. Sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Harold Pope Jr., of Albuquerque, SB 80, protects children in public and charter schools and people in the workplace from discrimination based on cultural hair and hair styles, such as braids, locs, twists, and knots.
Albuquerque resident Kyana Sanchez said a teacher last year told her that her box braids might be a health code violation. Rio Rancho resident Niara Johnson said she has been petted, as if she were an animal. These were just a few of the personal stories that a group of African-American women who have formed the Central Organizing Committee for the CROWN Act in New Mexico told NM Political Report last week. The Central Organizing Committee gathered, through an online platform, for an organizational meeting as part of the group’s planning for a bill that would address discrimination of Black hair and hairstyles. The CROWN Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, is a national effort to pass legislation in all 50 states.
On Thursday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said racism is a “public health emergency” and that she would make examining government policies with institutionalized racism in mind “the center of my administration.”
She announced the formation of the Council for Racial Justice, which will be comprised of several African American community leaders, and she will appoint a racial justice czar. The council will include state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a Democrat from Albuquerque, NM Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs Director Alexandria Taylor and the Reverend Donna Maria Davis of the Grant Chapel AME Church, along with others. Lujan Grisham said during the live press conference that the nation has to “own what slavery did.”
“Until we own that sin…that disgrace, we don’t have the opportunity to move forward,” Lujan Grishan said. The press conference came after recent events that have gripped the nation. Video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on an African American man, George Floyd, for nearly nine minutes, killing him.