On the final full day of the 2023 legislative session, the second major piece of reproductive and gender-affirming rights legislation passed the House by a 38-30 vote. SB 13, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Protection Act protects providers and patients from other states’ efforts to subpoena for provider or patient information as part of an investigation into reproductive or gender-affirming care where that activity is not protected. The bill seeks to protect reproductive and gender-affirming care patients and providers from civil or criminal liability and to protect reproductive healthcare providers from discrimination by professional licensing boards. SB 13 is one of two reproductive and gender-affirming rights bills introduced in this legislative session.
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.
A bill to expand the scope of the New Mexico Human Rights Act to include protections for the LGBTQ community passed the House by 47-to-20. HB 207, Expand the Human Rights Act Scope, is sponsored by state Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos. It updates language in the state Human Rights Act to better reflect current language for the LGBTQ community and for the disabled community. The words “handicap” would be replaced with “disability” and the bill includes words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It would also define the words “sex” and “gender.”
The bill would also expand the scope of current statute to prohibit public bodies and government contractors who receive public funding from discriminating against LGBTQ individuals. The New Mexico Human Rights Act was written in 1971 and updated in 2003, Ortez said.
A bill about seeking civil action against a perpetrator of sexual assault cleared the House Judiciary Committee Saturday. HB 172, Abatement of Assault and Battery, would enable victims of sexual assault to continue a civil lawsuit if the alleged perpetrator of the assault should die before the court case reaches its conclusion. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe.
Expert witness Linda Hemphill, a Santa Fe attorney, said she represents childhood victims of sexual assault and a “loophole” in New Mexico statute enables district court judges to decide to abate a civil suit if the alleged perpetrator dies before the conclusion of the case. She said that during the pandemic, a school administrator already convicted and in prison was reportedly ill with COVID-19 and his victims were not sure if their civil case against him would proceed if he died. Hemphill said the man survived but it placed the victims in the uneasy position of having to pray for the health of the man who had sexually assaulted them.
With the New Mexico Supreme Court’s pandemic-era inspired moratorium on evictions about to end, the court announced it will phase-in a statewide program to help tenants access money starting in April. But family advocates have said that approximately 80,000 renter households are at risk in the state for eviction. Divya Shiv, a research and policy analyst for New Mexico Voices for Children, told NM Political Report that the 43 percent of residents in the state reporting a high likelihood of eviction or foreclosure because they are not current on their rent or mortgage is higher than the national average, which is 35 percent. With the moratorium ending on evictions for tenants with unpaid rent, this could lead to a crisis of unhoused families in New Mexico, Shiv said. “Evictions are really harmful and it’s incredibly destabilizing for families and children,” she said.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday signed two bills that, together, legalize the use and possession of cannabis and expunge previous cannabis related criminal records.
“This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better – our workforce, our economy, our future. We’re ready to break new ground. We’re ready to invest in ourselves and the limitless potential of New Mexicans. And we’re ready to get to work in making this industry a successful one.”
The New Mexico Legislature passed HB 2 and SB 2 last month during a special session.
New Mexico is slated to be the 18th state to legalize recreational-use cannabis and the fifth state to do so legislatively.
HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Albuquerque and three other legislators, sped through multiple committee hearings and Senate and House Floor debates in less than two days. The rushed effort was part of the special legislative session called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, just days after the regular 60-day session.
Lujan Grisham, in a statement on Wednesday, praised the bill’s sponsors and called the passage of legalization a “breakthrough.”
“As New Mexicans know, I have advocated and pushed and negotiated for this measure, and I am immensely proud and humbled to have seen it through,” Lujan Grisham said. “But that feeling is dwarfed by the gratitude I feel for the well-informed advocates, to the community members from all across the state–urban and rural, from every region–who have been committed to lobbying for this, to the leaders in the Legislature who helped us cross this major threshold.”
The new law will allow adults 21 and older to personally possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract or 800 milligrams of edibles. A person can have more than that, but it must be locked in a safe place at home. Adults 21 and older can also grow up to six mature plants. Licensed sales will begin no later than April 2022 and the state will begin issuing business licenses by January 2022.
A cannabis legalization bill passed two committees, one on Tuesday afternoon and the other during the early hours of Wednesday morning. It’s slated for a floor debate next
HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, along with three other lawmakers, first passed the House Taxation and Revenue Committee Tuesday evening on a 8-4 vote. Then the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee early Tuesday morning by a 7-4 vote. Both votes were along party lines, with no Republicans voting for the bill and all Democrats voting in favor.
HB 2 is an altered version of a previous bill Martínez and Romero sponsored during the regular 60-day session and much of the debate and comments were also similar.
During the first hearing, Martínez took a moment to point out that this proposal has been in the works for years and has seen hours of debate.
“The bill before you, Madam Chairman, members of the committee, has been written and rewritten and amended and subbed out for many, many years,” said during the tax committee debate.
One of the more significant changes made since the regular session is a compromise of sorts on plant limits for cannabis producers. Originally, the bill proposed during the regular session specifically barred the state from implementing production limits.
After a series of successful and attempted amendments and three hours of debate, a House-backed legalization effort passed its last Senate committee by a 5-4 vote and is now headed to the chamber’s floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee debate started Wednesday night and ended early Thursday morning, though Chairman Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, reiterated his belief that HB 12 was still not ready for the Senate floor.
HB 12, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, went through a number of changes that include prohibiting cannabis producers from stacking licenses, an adjustment to how production is monitored and limited, a prohibition on cannabis producers testing their own products for potency and contaminants, and a change to how the cannabis excise tax would be structured.
But even after an extensive debate and detailed amendments, Cervantes said the bill was riddled with errors and ambiguity.
After Cervantes went through each section and pointed out numerous instances that he said would be problematic, Romero said she and Martínez would be willing to go through them and make changes during the meeting. But Cervantes said making those changes would take too long.
“There are a number of things in the bill that should be of great concern to you that, frankly in many cases, are just contrary to law,” Cervantes said. Cervantes voted, along with the three Republican committee members, against the measure
Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, who sponsored a legalization attempt in 2019 agreed that the bill was not ready and called the current version “half-baked.” Moores criticized proponents of the bill for not working with him to come up with an agreeable bill.
“My phone has been silent from the advocates on this for three years now,” Moores said. “It doesn’t seem like they wanted to get it right and there were agendas there.”
Senate Minority Floor Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, praised the committee for meticulously going through the bill, but said there were still “glaring issues.”
Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, did not offer any comments on the final bill that passed the committee, but he also sponsored a legalization bill this year. His bill, though, would still need to pass another Senate committee and the Senate floor before going through the process again in the House.
The chairman of a New Mexico Senate committee that is key to getting a House-backed cannabis legalization effort to the Senate floor said he is still waiting on expected changes before scheduling a hearing.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Cervantes said he was told by Senate leadership that HB 12, a bill sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, was undergoing changes before its final committee before the Senate floor.
“I haven’t even heard from the bill sponsor,” Cervantes, a Democrat from Las Cruces, said. “My understanding is there’s a Senate Judiciary Committee sub that is in the works. That’s the only thing I’ve been told.”
A spokesman for the Senate Democratic leadership confirmed that Cervantes was indeed told there are changes being made to the bill.
Martínez did not respond to an inquiry about what parts of his bill are being changed. And while legalization proponents may be anxiously wondering if there is still enough time in the last days of the session to get a cannabis legalization bill to the governor’s desk before the session ends on Saturday at noon, Cervantes said the bigger concern should be whether changes to the bill will be approved by the Judiciary Committee.
“The issue will be the caliber of the bill as it gets amended,” Cervantes said. “The bill in its present form is not ready to become a law.”
Cervantes did not specify which parts of the bill he thinks should be changed or how.