Republican and Democratic legislators voiced their thoughts on the 2023 legislative session shortly after it ended on Saturday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham held a press conference with Democratic leadership from both the House and Senate. Lujan Grisham opened the conference with a note on bipartisanship and the sometimes prickly interactions between the legislative and executive branches. “This is not easy. Solutions take each of our areas of expertise and our priorities and passions and put it together,” Lujan Grisham said.
A bill to eliminate life in prison without the possibility of parole for juveniles sentenced as adults passed the House in the early hours of Sunday morning by a 37-25 vote. State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, sponsored SB 64. House Majority Leader Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, a cosponsor, presented the bill to the House. The bill would, if enacted, retroactively impact 70 adults out of a prison population of about 7,000 individuals in New Mexico and it will end the possibility of a child sentenced as an adult of being given the sentence of life without the chance of parole. It would not automatically grant parole.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that expands voting rights on a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday. HB 4, if enacted, would expand automatic voter registration, restore released convicted felons’ right to vote, create a voluntary permanent absentee voter list and enact the Native American Voting Rights Act. “For this bill, I think it’s a really solid step forward in improving access to the electoral system for as many people as possible,” House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Christine Chandler said. “And the other one is this issue of felons and they’re released from prison and… they’re on some conditions of parole and what do we want for those folks? We want them integrated in our society..
The House Judiciary Committee passed the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care bill with two amendments by a party line vote of 7 to 4. HB 7 will, if enacted, ensure that all individuals in the state can access reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care and that if an individual is discriminated against in seeking that care, the individual can seek legal remedy. Rep. Linda Serrato, a Democrat from Santa Fe, sponsored the bill and has said frequently that the bill will, if enacted, prevent a patchwork of healthcare across the state. The cities of Clovis and Hobbs and Lea and Roosevelt counties have passed anti-abortion ordinances that impact abortion clinics’ ability to apply for licenses in those political subdivisions and also place restrictions on medication abortion. Clovis Mayor Mike Morris spoke during public comment on the bill and said the bill “takes away home rule.”
He asked that the committee, if unable to vote no on the bill, “preserve our local authority to reflect the values of the citizens,” he said.
A bill that will require New Mexico health classes to include instruction on affirmative consent before and during sexual activity passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously, 9 to 0, on Monday. HB 43, Affirmative Consent Policy in Schools, sponsored by House Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, will, if enacted, require affirmative consent to be taught across all New Mexico public and charter schools in either middle or high school health class. The bill also requires higher educational institutions to implement trauma-informed policies that meet an affirmative consent standard. The bill, which has received broad bipartisan support in previous years, received very little discussion among committee members. House Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, asked questions around if a higher education institution would initiate a criminal prosecution if the institution failed to meet the standard.