A national conversation about criminal justice reform and employing convicted criminals is making its way back to New Mexico. After an unsuccessful attempt to pass legislation that would prohibit asking applicants about past criminal convictions, Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, brought the discussion to an interim legislative committee on Tuesday. O’Neill and Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, fielded questions and concerns from the committee. Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, said he was concerned about the hiring of teachers and faculty who might be working with children. He cited the recent Albuquerque Public School scandal involving a former deputy superintendent.
Two bills drafted to impede access to certain abortion procedures were set aside on Sunday by Democrats in the state Senate Public Affairs Committee, a move that likely signals the end of both measures during this session. Party-line votes tabled both HB 390, sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, and HB 391, which was carried by Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas. While the drafters worked in close collaboration, the bills would impact the provision of abortion services in markedly different ways. HB 390 proposed a ban on abortions of pregnancies at 20 or more weeks gestation and included language Herrell said made exceptions for “physical harm if the woman’s health is in jeopardy” or if a woman asserts the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or sexual abuse. Described by some supporters as a “parents’ rights” measure, HB 391 would require the formal notification of a parent or legal guardian of any minor female seeking an abortion.
More than six hours of bitter debate on the House floor Friday night culminated in the approval of two bills that, if enacted, will place limitations on abortion services and potentially affect the provision of medications such as emergency contraception. Representatives voted 42 to 26 to pass HB 390, the Late-Term Abortion Ban sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, on to the Senate. That bill would bar abortions after 20 weeks except in certain cases, such as if the pregnancy was due to rape or incest. Another Republican-heavy margin, 39 to 28, sent HB 391, a bill from Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, to the Senate for further consideration. Baldonado’s bill requires abortion providers to notify the parent or legal guardian of any minor female seeking a procedure.
Two bills seeking limits on abortion are poised for debate in New Mexico’s House of Representatives. A look back at weeks of charged discussions on the issue indicates that under a superficial veneer of two opposing “sides” lies a spectrum of experiences and beliefs, all of which could all play into the ultimate fate of the proposals. Anti-abortion legislation has been proposed session after session in Santa Fe since the passage of Roe v. Wade, but this year, the momentum feels markedly different. After a new Republican majority took the helm in the House for the first time since the 1950s, anti-abortion activists vowed to hold lawmakers’ feet to the fire. Conservative legislators have expressed confidence they can squeeze votes they need from the Democratic-controlled Senate to send abortion restrictions to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk for her signature.
Two pieces of legislation that would place restrictions on abortions passed a House committee after hours of debate on Friday. The measures will now head to the House floor. The House Judiciary Committee passed a ban on abortions for pregnancies at 20 weeks or more as well as a bill mandating notification of the parents of minors who seek an abortion. The controversial legislation passed on party-line votes, with Republicans voting to advance the measures and Democrats voting against them. The bill to ban late-term abortions was sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo.
A New Mexico lawmaker introduced a bill that would establish a commission charged with creating a multi-use trail that would reach across most of the state. The proposed legislation, HB 563, would establish the Rio Grande Trail Commission with the purpose of overseeing the creation of the Rio Grande Trail. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said the trail would be modeled after other trails like the Appalachian Trail. According to the bill, the trail would stretch from the border with Colorado to the Southern border of New Mexico. In a press conference on Thursday, Steinborn told reporters that the idea for the trail goes back more than a decade.
A debate on the House floor ended with the entire Democratic caucus walking out in protest on Tuesday night. After more than three hours of debate, mostly by Democrats, an amendment was introduced by a Republican. Following the introduction of the amendment, House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, moved to close debate. Debate can be stopped by a majority vote after three hours on a bill according to House rules. Democrats said they were not given the proper amount of time to debate the new amendment and wanted an additional three hours on each proposed change to the bill.
It was snowing and cold on Tuesday around lunch time at Santa Fe Plaza. Despite the wet weather, a group of anti-abortion demonstrators walked from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to the Santa Fe Plaza and finally to the State Capitol Building. Inside the Roundhouse, demonstrators listened to advocates encourage lawmakers to pass legislation related to abortion. The speakers included Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, House Majority whip Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas and Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington.