From left to right: Senate Floor Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales at a press conference in the Governor's Office Cabinet Room March 18, 2023.

Governor, legislators look back at the 2023 session

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.

Bill to protect reproductive health care patients, providers heads to Guv’s desk

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.

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.

Campaign Finance Reporting Act update clears first House committee

A bill proposing to amend Campaign Reporting Act to simplify campaign reporting compliance for certain elected officials passed its first House committee hearing. “This bill reacts to gaps that we have seen in the statute we passed in 2019 and attempts to close those gaps,” bill co-sponsor Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Peter Wirth said. The bill was approved by the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on an 8-1 vote with Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, as the sole vote against SB 42. “I think there’s a huge loophole where you could have a PAC, and you could be running a lot of money through that PAC that’s not affiliated during the session. So I think if we could maybe extend to more than just directly type entities that might clear it up a little bit,” Block said.

Legislation to modernize Legislature, expand sessions clear first committee

A House committee heard two proposals that would put constitutional amendments on the ballot that would modernize the state legislature. The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee passed HJR 2 with amendments on a 6-to-3 vote along party lines on Monday. The legislation allows bills not voted on to roll over to the next session for consideration. Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, gave his reasons for voting against the bill. “I’ve been a victim of legislation dying on the Senate calendar, we all have,” Rehm said.

Two Republican lawmakers seek to increase fentanyl possession penalties, which some opponents say is wrong move

By Phaedra Haywood, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Stronger, more addictive and cheaper to manufacture than many other drugs, the synthetic opioid fentanyl has ravaged the country in recent years — becoming one of leading causes of death among adults ages 18 to 45. New Mexico is no exception. The rate of fentanyl overdose deaths in the state has increased nearly sevenfold since 2016, according to state Department of Health data, jumping from 2.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2016 to 16 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020. The drug has caused the death of nearly 600 people in New Mexico since 2016. Trafficking and overdose cases involving fentanyl “are surpassing all other drugs combined,” in the First Judicial District, chief Deputy District Attorney Anthony Long said in an interview Friday.

Lujan Grisham gets a victory for tough-on-crime agenda

In many ways, it felt like high noon on the House floor for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lawmakers on Friday debated one of the governor’s favored pieces of legislation — a crime reform bill that would do away with the six-year statute of limitations on second-degree murder charges. Moving the bill forward from the House of Representatives to the Senate with less than a week left to this year’s 30-day legislative session would provide a breakthrough — or at least movement — in what had been a succession of stalled measures. Fortunately for the governor, the drama was dispensed with quickly: It took the House less than 20 minutes to discuss and vote to approve House Bill 79, which now heads to the Senate for consideration. For Lujan Grisham, who has been pushing for tougher penalties for violent offenders and tighter pretrial release standards to keep those defendants behind bars, Friday’s action was a small victory.

Frustrations rise for some as ‘tough on crime’ measures stall

Less than a month after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham held a news conference to say she was going to push a “tough on crime” agenda in this year’s legislative session, district attorneys, Republican lawmakers and crime victims held their own gathering Wednesday to deliver a very different message. 

The governor’s crime reform platform, they said, is going nowhere. 

“We were promised it would be a tough-on-crime year,” said Nicole Chavez, whose teenage son, Jaydon Chavez-Silver, was killed in a shooting in Albuquerque in 2015. “That’s not what is happening,” Chavez said while standing outside the state Capitol. “Every single crime bill has been stopped or tabled.” One piece of legislation that did clear the Senate this week, a “second chance” bill which bans life without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder, outraged the parents of homicide victims and some Republican lawmakers. The passage of Senate Bill 43 along party lines, with Republicans opposing it, led to Wednesday’s news conference by some of the governor’s critics.

Bill would require state departments to help those who don’t speak English

Advocates for New Mexicans who know little to no English say a bill passed by a committee Friday is needed help such residents access medical aid, child welfare services and other resources. Lawmakers on the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee approved House Bill 22 on a 6-3 vote. It now heads to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. The legislation provides a one-time appropriation of $50,000 to the state Department of Finance and Administration. The money is aimed at helping state agencies assess whether they need to implement departmental language access plans to ensure people with limited English skills can access their services. 

Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, D-Albuquerque, one of the sponsors of the bill, said it will help ensure New Mexico complies with federal language-access laws.

State House map backed by tribal governments heads to House floor

A bill to draw new lines for state House districts statewide passed two committees on Wednesday and is now headed to the House floor. On Wednesday evening, the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 7-4, party-line vote. 

During the hearing, a number of representatives of sovereign nations, pueblos and tribes expressed their unified support for the map put forward by Daymon Ely, D-Corrales. “This has not been an easy process trying to reach a consensus among sovereign governments,” Pueblo of Acoma Governor Brian Vallo said. 

He and others said that Native governments worked for months to find a preferred map that would allow for representation in the Legislature. And others said that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated chronic undercounting during the 2020 census, which led to why the districts had a lower number of residents than other districts, particularly those in northwestern New Mexico. Republicans on the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee had expressed concern over the “deviation” of the different districts, or how much each district differs from the ideal equal population.