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.

Health officials warn of nursing shortage

Nursing and hospital leaders repeatedly used the word “crisis” Thursday to describe New Mexico’s shortage of nurses. They spoke to the Senate Finance Committee to request additional money to train more nurses and expand nursing faculty positions at the state’s colleges and universities to accommodate more students. A University of New Mexico study determined at the end of 2020 the state had a shortage of more than 6,200 nurses. Although the shortage has been evident for years, experts said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed gaping holes in the system. Retirements, demand for home schooling of children and departures because of jobs lost by spouses have increased the shortages, said Lillian Montoya, CEO and president of Christus St.

In historic turn, state Senate passes abortion ban repeal

Two years after a group of conservative Democrats, along with  Republicans voted against  decriminalizing abortion care, the state Senate passed SB 10 Thursday, 25 to 17. SB 10, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is called the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act and has a mirror bill, HB 7, sponsored by Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla. The two bills remove three sections from the criminal code which, in 1969, banned abortion with some limited exceptions. The law has repeatedly been called archaic and advocates for its repeal said it included language contrary to how medicine is currently practiced. While the law is currently unenforceable, reproductive rights advocates have said that given the conservative bloc on the U.S. Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade could be gutted in the next few years.

2020 elections usher in a wave of ‘firsts’ for NM

New Mexico voters embraced candidates in the 2020 elections that have historically been underrepresented, including women, in elected office. The state saw a slew of “firsts” this year. 

For the first time in the state’s history, New Mexico’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be held by women of color. And both Yvette Herrell, who will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, and Deb Haaland, who won reelection to the state’s 1st Congressional District, are enrolled members of Indigenous nations. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo, and Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation, making New Mexico the first state in the U.S. to have two Indigenous Representatives. 

Teresa Leger Fernandez, who won New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, is Latina. 

Terrelene Massey, Diné (Navajo) and the executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said she’s really excited to see more representation from women, especially women of color and Native American women. “I think they’ll provide different perspectives on the different issues they’ll be working on,” Massey said.

State Senate shifts left with progressive wins

The state Senate has shifted to the left and progressive Democrats picked up one state Senate seat Tuesday night, according to unofficial results, and will likely pick up two more. All results cited are as of midnight on Wednesday. All results reported election night are unofficial until the Secretary of State announces the official results later this month. Progressive Democrat Siah Correa Hemphill beat Republican James Williams in state SD 28, which encompasses Grant, Catron and Socorro counties. Correa Hemphill led most of the night and won with 51 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting.

Candidate Neomi Martinez-Parra tells her personal story about abortion

When Neomi Martinez-Parra heard her doctor tell her she needed an abortion about 14 years ago, she went numb. Martinez-Parra, 51, talked to NM Political Report this week about the story of her pregnancy and her abortion because she feels it is important for her to talk about her experience. “I was so embarrassed and ashamed to talk about it,” she said. “Now I’m running for office and I’m talking to lots of women and victims and realize how important it is for women to speak out and speak up.”

Martinez-Parra beat long-time Democratic state Senator and Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith in the Democratic primary this June. Smith has held state Senate District 35 for 31 years.

Candidates talk about importance of abortion in state senate races

While reproductive rights activists worry about the future of abortion rights in the state, some candidates say voters are particularly focused on the issue. With the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18 and President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the high court, reproductive rights advocates’ efforts to repeal New Mexico’s 1969 law is now of even greater urgency for many. If the court overturns Roe v. Wade, New Mexico’s 1969 law, which criminalizes abortion, would again go into effect. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat running for State Senate District 28 in southern New Mexico, said she has received several phone calls and emails from constituents in her district in recent weeks asking about her position on abortion rights. “I know it’s on the mind of many people.

State Senators John Arthur Smith, Mary Kay Papen lose in primary

In a historic defeat, Neomi Martinez-Parra won Senate District 35, defeating state Senator Sen. John Arthur Smith who has held the seat for 32 years. Martinez-Parra’s win did not come as a surprise Wednesday. She pulled ahead of Smith in the Democratic primary late Tuesday night and appeared to be the presumptive winner. She won by 500 votes. She received 2,793 votes to Smith’s 2,293 in unofficial results.