A day after salacious allegations of a domestic disturbance involving Sen. Cliff Pirtle became public, it seemed to be business at usual Tuesday in the Senate. Pirtle, R-Roswell, who was the subject of an investigation by Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies Sunday stemming from a verbal fight with his wife, attended the Senate’s afternoon and evening floor sessions, as well as committee hearings. The day before, Pirtle kept a low profile and missed most of the floor session as a story about the confrontation with his wife was about to become public. Pirtle’s wife told deputies she caught her husband in bed with another woman in a home he is renting in the 1900 block of Goodrich Plaza Drive in Agua Fría village, igniting a verbal confrontation that turned physical for a moment when she shoved him in the shoulder, according to law enforcement documents. Though no lawmakers brought up the incident in public and Pirtle went about his day, the dispute dominated the talk in the hallways of the Roundhouse.
Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies investigated a domestic disturbance Sunday morning involving Sen. Cliff Pirtle, a leading Republican from Roswell, whose wife alleged she found him in a rented Santa Fe home with another woman, according to law enforcement documents. Pirtle, who was largely missing from Monday’s Senate floor session, said in a brief interview it was a “personal matter.” “I would appreciate privacy for my family as we work through this,” said Pirtle, who appeared emotionally distraught. Just after 10 a.m. Sunday, a Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to a home in the 1900 block of Goodrich Plaza Drive in Agua Fría village after receiving a report of a couple yelling outside. The caller reported two women had driven off in a white Suburban after the incident.
A bill to prohibit public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare passed the state Senate on a 23 to 15 vote on Tuesday after a contentious debate. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care, is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe. State Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, who worked on the bill ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, led the debate on the Senate floor. The bill generated a nearly three-hour debate over issues various Republicans have brought up previously in committee hearings: parental consent, the gender-affirming healthcare model, conscientious objections by medical providers and the definition of the term “perinatal.”
The bill prohibits public bodies and individuals acting on behalf of a public body from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare. This includes abortion.
The state Senate passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill that would enable employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off for health emergencies and certain other claims.
SB 11, sponsored primarily by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, seeks to allow an employee to take paid time off for a major health issue, to care for a family member with a major health issue, to care for a new child and in the event of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.
The bill passed the Senate on a 23 to 15 vote. The state Department of Workforce Solutions would administer the program. Employees would pay $5 for every $1,000 of income and employers with five or more employees would pay $4 for every $1,000 of income. When taking the paid leave, the employee who makes more than minimum wage would not receive their entire salary but a percentage of it. Stewart said this creates an incentive for the employee to get healthy and get back to work as quickly as possible.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to protection abortion and gender-affirming health care rights by a 6-to-3 party line vote after a tense tie-breaking vote to amend the bill on Saturday. HB 7 is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe. She said the bill “ensures we’re not adding fear so that people don’t seek life-saving healthcare.”
“It prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare,” she said. The bill prevents public bodies, such as municipalities and counties, from passing or enforcing anti-abortion ordinances. Clovis, Hobbs, Lea and Roosevelt counties have passed such ordinances in recent months.
One of the overall themes of the 2023 legislative session is modernization. One of the ways some legislators want to modernize the state government is to create a commission to review the state constitution and offer amendments. The state Senate passed SB 308 on a 26-14 vote. The bill would establish a 21-member constitutional revision commission made up of 15 voting members appointed by the governor and five non-voting members from each congressional district.
The nonvoting members would include two members from the state House of Representatives, two members from the state Senate, the chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court and the state attorney general, the bill states. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, with Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
The state Senate Rules Committee passed a joint resolution that would allow voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to change the anti-donation clause. The state’s anti-donation clause prevents governmental agencies from city councils and school districts to the state legislature from giving funding to individuals or private entities. SJR 9 seeks to amend the clause to allow for exceptions such as disaster relief, supporting affordable housing and helping with economic development by providing land, buildings or other infrastructure. The Senate Rules Committee approved the legislation Friday on a 4-2 vote. Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, were the two votes against.
A bill that would end life sentencing for children who are sentenced as adults for violent crimes passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. SB 64, No Life Sentence for Juveniles, is sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque. She said the bill this year is different from previous versions. It would end life without parole as a sentencing potential and create early parole eligibility for long sentencing. “It brings New Mexico in line with national best practices and what every parent knows.
The Voting Rights Provisions bill, which would expand voting rights and access in New Mexico, passed the Senate Rules Committee hearing by party line vote of 7-4 Monday morning after a contentious, nearly nine hour hearing on Friday. SB 8, sponsored by Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, would expand voting rights in a number of ways, including improving voting access for Native Americans and allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to vote upon release from prison. Currently, formerly incarcerated individuals can register to vote after they complete parole or probation but many face hurdles even after eligibility. Related: Advocates hopeful voting rights legislation will help break down barriers for the formerly incarcerated
The bill would also make voter registration automatic when an individual registers for a license with the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles. Anyone who would not wish to be registered could opt out, election officials have said.
The New Mexico Legislature is slated to start a special session Tuesday to address economic development and full cannabis legalization. But there is still a question of how much support cannabis legalization will garner from both Republicans and Democrats.
About an hour after the regular 2021 legislative session ended, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, flanked by Democratic legislative leaders in a news conference, announced that she would call legislators back for a special session to pick up where they left off with recreational-use cannabis legalization. The session started out with five legalization bills, but by the last week there was only one proposal: HB 12. Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, HB 12 quickly became the favored bill for many Democrats, but hit a rough patch as it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.