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CYFD: Repeat maltreatment in decline, but higher than average

New Mexico has 360 more repeat child maltreatment cases annually than the national average. The interim Legislative Finance Committee heard a presentation by New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Acting Secretary Teresa Casados on the child protective services division within CYFD on Tuesday. The LFC and CYFD provided a report on repeat child maltreatment. New Mexico is higher than the national average. Casados said one goal of the department is to change that.

Former Congressowman Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, announced her candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District at a rally April 10, 2023.

Herrell announces candidacy to win back CD 2

The battleground 2nd Congressional District race has begun with Alamogordo Republican Yvette Herrell announcing her candidacy at an event Monday night at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. Herrell’s announcement comes mere months after she lost the seat in the 2022 general election to Las Cruces Democrat Gabe Vazquez. “We don’t have a seat at the table. We don’t have anybody watching out for our ranchers,” Herrell said. “We have got to work on every single level: county, state, federal, local.

Senate passes $9.57 billion budget amid accusations of backroom shenanigans

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New

The state Senate passed a nearly $9.6 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year Sunday amid accusations the proposed budget was hijacked at the eleventh hour. 

Discussion on the proposed budget, which would increase spending by almost 14%, or more than $1 billion, also came with a warning from the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: The level of spending is unsustainable. “New Mexico had better be prepared in our future for the plateauing of oil and gas, and that’s not too many years away,” said Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup. “We’ve increased our recurring expenses to the tune of about 30% over the last three years, and that’s pretty much an unsustainable number,” he said. The Senate voted 25-16 to approve House Bill 2, which heads back to the House for a concurrence vote. Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, joined all 15 Republican senators in voting against the proposed budget.

Reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare bill close to passing Legislature

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.

A bill to help expand rural healthcare services heads to Senate floor

A bill that provides grant funding to expand healthcare services in rural communities passed the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on an 8-to-1 vote. SB 7, Rural Healthcare Delivery Fund, is sponsored by state Sen. Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics, D-Los Cerrillos. Stefanics said bill is to enable rural healthcare providers the ability to expand new services as a way to try to improve health care deserts in rural communities. The New Mexico Department of Human Services would administer the program and provide grants to healthcare facilities that want to expand care but cannot due to the costs associated with doing so. HSD Acting Secretary Kari Armijo said that while HSD would provide grants based on anticipated projected losses, the department would do a “back end reconciliation” to ensure that the department did not provide too large a grant.

Paid Family and Medical Leave bill heads to Senate floor

A bill to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave passed the Senate Finance Committee by a 6 to 5 vote on Thursday. The committee held a larger hearing on Thursday to hear from members of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force, which worked out the bill over the last year, before the committee heard the bill. SB 11, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, requests $36.5 million in nonrecurring funds from the general fund over the next two years. Stewart said that the program, once it is up and running by January 1, 2026, would begin paying back the state the money and it is expected to take six years. The program would, if enacted, provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for an employee who has a new child,  is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking or has a serious medical illness or to care for a family member with a serious medical illness.

First bill of legislative session sparks division between Democrats and Republicans

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A routine budget bill to pay staff salaries and fund other operations of a legislative session usually sails through both chambers of the Legislature when lawmakers reconvene in Santa Fe every year. Not this year, though. The so-called feed bill, the first piece of legislation considered by both chambers, continued to sow division between Republicans and Democrats on Thursday over a $2.5 million special appropriation to fund a study on the feasibility of creating district offices for legislators with full-time staff. As it currently stands, New Mexico is one of only two states without full-time staff assigned to each legislator. Nevada is the other. Several Republicans said they aren’t opposed to the concept of having staffed offices in each of their districts, part of a larger effort to modernize the Legislature.

Bill to end life sentences without parole for youth pulled amid pushback

The so-called Second Chance bill will have no chance during this year’s legislative session. Sponsors of Senate Bill 43, which would’ve banned life without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder, have pulled the proposed piece of legislation from consideration. “In the final week of the session, it has been frustrating to watch a chorus of voices drowned out by a handful of District Attorneys and other parties who have misrepresented this issue to victims of tragedy across our state,” the sponsors wrote in a joint statement. “We negotiated in good faith but the goalposts kept moving, and we cannot accept changes that undermine the intent of the bill.” The sponsors plan to bring the bring the bill back next year.

Proposal to increase pay of governor and other elected officials clears legislative committee

A proposal to give the governor and other statewide elected officials hefty raises while state employees are poised to receive average 7 percent pay increases under New Mexico’s proposed budget touched off a spirited debate Sunday at the Capitol. The Senate Finance Committee advanced Senate Bill 202 on a 7-4 party-line vote with Republicans expressing concerns about the optics and the need to boost the pay of elective offices that typically have no shortage of candidates. Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, said she’d be open to supporting the proposed pay increases if “contingencies” were part of the deal. “So, we’re trying to bring the governor’s salary from 44th up to 19th” in national rankings, she said. “Can we make that contingent upon her bringing New Mexico’s CYFD (Children, Youth and Families Department) child welfare from 50th to 19th?

Senate passes bill to end life without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders

The New Mexico Senate  passed SB 43, which prohibits life without the possibility of parole for a juvenile offender, along party lines with a vote of 23 to 15. Sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, SB 43 allows a parole board to consider granting release after 15 years for juvenile offenders and prohibits life without parole for juvenile offenders. Currently there are no juvenile offenders serving a life without parole sentence, but Sedillo Lopez has said the judicial branch has asked that the Legislature weigh in on this potential sentence. Related: Bill to end life in prison without parole for juveniles clears committee

The bill, during the Senate floor debate, brought debate that fell along party lines with Republicans calling Democrats hypocritical because of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s comments during her State of the State address about her focus on crime during this Legislative session.  Republicans introduced several amendments to limit the bill but Sedillo Lopez called each amendment “unfriendly” and they all failed along party lines. Sedillo Lopez said the bill brings the possibility for “redemption” and said most perpetrators of violent crimes themselves have experienced trauma.