A Democratic-majority House committee voted along party lines Thursday afternoon to remove pre-Roe v. Wade language in state statute that criminalizes abortion practices. The original state law, passed in New Mexico in 1968, makes “criminal abortion” subject to a fourth-degree felony. It defines “criminal abortion” as any action or attempt at an “untimely termination” of a pregnancy that is not “medically justified.” A medically justified abortion, according to state law, is limited to abortions in cases of pregnancy from rape, incest or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. The landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in most cases across the country, made state laws like this obsolete. Related story: House committee stalls another round of abortion bills
But proponents of the bill to strike the old state statute argue that the state language would go right back into law should the U.S. Supreme Court change Roe v. Wade in the future.
A panel of state lawmakers spent five hours Sunday hearing and debating two bills that would have restricted abortion access in New Mexico before tabling them on party lines. At one point, state Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, bemoaned the predictability of the situation. “I was going to ask some questions, but it’s futile,” he said to the sponsors of a bill to ban abortions after 20 or more weeks of pregnancy. “We all know how this committee is going to vote. This bill is going to die on a 3-2 vote.”
On controversial abortion bills, Democratic legislators have had a tendency this year to hear prolonged, passionate testimonies and debates—then quickly vote to table the bills. That happened again Thursday afternoon, when the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee devoted two hours to a controversial bill on what anti-abortion advocates call “born alive” infants. Several people testified in both support and opposition to the bill. Soon, Reps. Bob Wooley and Monica Youngblood, Republicans from Roswell and Albuquerque, respectively, asked lengthy questions of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington.
No issue in the 2017 New Mexico Legislature has drawn citizens to the Roundhouse like the push to expand mandatory background checks on gun sales. People on both sides of the issue have shown up in droves to committee hearings in both the House and Senate to testify about two bills that would require more gun buyers to go through background checks. And lobbyists for out-of-state organizations on both sides of the issue have spent thousands of dollars to push their positions. In fact, according to lobbyist expense reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, the biggest expenditure since the session began in mid-January was $44,377 spent by Tara Reilly-Mica, the Texas-based lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Reilly-Mica’s report, filed Feb.
A state House of Representatives panel approved a bill to bar local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico from enforcing federal immigration laws. The bill, which according to a fiscal analysis would prohibit state resources from being used against anyone “whose only violation is being in the United States illegally,” passed on a party line 3-2 vote in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. The two “no” votes came from state Reps. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque and Bob Wooley of Roswell. Both are Republicans.
A House committee on Saturday advanced a bill that would expand required background checks to include most gun purchases in New Mexico. After a hearing that lasted more than three hours, the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-1 along party lines in favor of House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos. The committee’s action mirrored that of a Senate panel that last week approved an identical proposal, Senate Bill 48. While the New Mexico Legislature is moving toward expanding mandatory background checks, Congress is heading in the other direction. The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted 235-180 to scuttle an Obama-era rule requiring background checks for gun purchases by some Social Security recipients with mental disabilities.
The issue of teen curfews set up a firestorm of back and forth between supporters and opponents of a bill addressing the issue Monday afternoon. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, presented a bill that would allow municipalities and counties to set their own curfew rules for minors. During his presentation to the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee, Gentry said that the bill would not have major impact, saying that the term “curfew” is “a bit misleading.”
“All this bill does is during school hours and from midnight until five, law enforcement can contact minors,” he said. Gentry said the bill defines minors as people who are 16 years old and under. Still, the bill drew opposition from many, including some fellow lawmakers in committee.
A bill that would allow judges to deny bail on certain offenders has passed its first House committee on party lines. Sponsored by state Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, the measure would allow voters to approve or reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would let judges deny bail to offenders to “protect the safety of any other person or the community.”
The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee passed the bill on a 4-3 vote. Jeff Clayton, a policy director for the American Bail Coalition, said the bill would only affect the “worst of the worst.”
“We’re talking about somebody who is dangerous who is going to flee and be dangerous,” Clayton said. Among supporters of the bill were members of the bail bond industry, the state Department of Public Safety and Julie Benner, widow of Rio Rancho officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner. Most who opposed the bill mentioned their support of a similar measure by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
As most years, the 2016 Legislative session began with pomp and circumstance. Arguably one of the most crowded days at the capitol building, New Mexico lawmakers and politicos packed the House chambers to hear Gov. Martinez’ State of the State address.
While Republican lawmakers mostly applauded Martinez’ legislative goals, Democratic leaders were busy taking notes.
When Martinez wrapped up her speech, many lawmakers made their way through the chambers, meeting with the many guests, including Congressional delegates.
Before the State of the State Address, Representatives and Senators introduced their respective special guests.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]COMMON CAUSE NM is the state affiliate of Common Cause, the citizens lobbying organization that works for open, honest, and accountable government. Common Cause NM is currently working on campaigns to limit the influence of money in politics and make voting free, fair, and accessible to all eligible voters.[/box]
Governor Susana Martinez signed the Online Voter Registration Bill, SB 643 sponsored by Senator Lisa Torraco (R-Bernalillo). This has been a long time priority for Common Cause New Mexico as well as our numerous partner organizations we work with in our Election Administration Coalition. We so appreciate the hard work so many folks put into making this a reality, and a special thanks to Governor Martinez for signing it! Online Voter Registration modernizes our Election System for all New Mexicans:The traditional voter registration update methods are increasingly out-of-step with 21st century advancements.