The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would revise the state constitution via a commission. Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan, was the sole vote against the bill, which passed 8-1. “This bill addresses the constitutional revision commission as one of the three ways by which we can amend our constitution,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces said. “Most of us are very familiar with the amendment process by which we put the issues on the ballot and the voters vote on constitutional limits. Another way of the three is a constitutional convention.
A bill about seeking civil action against a perpetrator of sexual assault cleared the House Judiciary Committee Saturday. HB 172, Abatement of Assault and Battery, would enable victims of sexual assault to continue a civil lawsuit if the alleged perpetrator of the assault should die before the court case reaches its conclusion. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe.
Expert witness Linda Hemphill, a Santa Fe attorney, said she represents childhood victims of sexual assault and a “loophole” in New Mexico statute enables district court judges to decide to abate a civil suit if the alleged perpetrator dies before the conclusion of the case. She said that during the pandemic, a school administrator already convicted and in prison was reportedly ill with COVID-19 and his victims were not sure if their civil case against him would proceed if he died. Hemphill said the man survived but it placed the victims in the uneasy position of having to pray for the health of the man who had sexually assaulted them.
A bill to ensure New Mexico children are taught affirmative consent – that affirmative consent is necessary before and during sexual activity – during their mandatory health class passed the House Chamber 49-12. HB 43, Affirmative Consent Policy in the Schools, will require the health class taught in either eighth grade or high school in New Mexico public and charter schools to include a discussion of affirmative consent. House Rep. Liz Thomson, a Democrat from Albuquerque, and one of the bill’s sponsors, said while presenting the bill that “yes means yes,” as a shorthand way of describing what the bill, if enacted, would require the health class to teach. There is also a section of the bill that would require institutions of higher education to include trauma-informed policies that meet an affirmative consent standard. Thomson said she’s heard from many adults, both men and women, who have said they wished they had heard this information years ago.
After a contentious, two-hour debate over what should go into the bill to fund 2021’s second special legislative session, the House voted 65 to 1 to approve the $1.6 million package. The new House Majority Floor leader, Democratic state Rep. Javier Martinez, of Albuquerque, introduced HB 1, known as the feed bill, which ensures that the 2021 second special session legislative session can pay for itself. The legislative session, as called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is focused on redrawing political maps and how to appropriate the rest of the $1.1 billion the state has received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act under Pres. Joe Biden. The bill originally included additional monies to go to the executive and judicial branches, to enable the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to prepare to spend the ARPA funds and money for the courts to pay for pretrial services. Martinez referred repeatedly to the crime problem in Albuquerque and that the DFA needed to get ready for the federal expenditures as reasons to pass a bill that was designed to allow the legislature to include the additional expenditures.
After another lengthy and contentious debate around, the Healthy Workplaces, HB 20, bill passed the House Judiciary Committee along party lines. With a vote of 7 to 4, the Healthy Workplaces bill will now move to the House . All of the Republicans in the committee opposed the bill and provided lengthy debate around it.
Members of the business community also spoke in opposition to the bill during public comment while workers stood in support, telling stories of going in to work with COVID-19 during the pandemic due to a lack of sick leave policy provided by their employers. Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan, said he heard repeatedly that businesses weren’t able to participate in the crafting of the bill but said many businesses don’t provide sick leave so “it’s up to us legislators…to take care of people who work for business.”
“We should have had a sick leave policy 15 years ago,” Alcon said. Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said that a person his wife hires to pet sit the family dog on occasion will, because of the bill’s language, be able to accrue sick leave and call in sick.
A lively debate in the House Judiciary Committee around a proposal for New Mexico to stop renewing contracts with private detention centers ended with one Democrat voting against the bill, along with all Republicans, but it passed 7 to 5. HB 40, the Private Detention Moratorium Act, would phase out the state’s reliance on private companies to house its prison population within 3 to 5 years. New Mexico incarcerates more people per capita than any other state and, disproportionately, the people housed are Black and Latino, advocates for the bill have said. But House Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, a Democrat from Milan and a former magistrate judge, voted against the bill. He said he used to work in the state prison system and he questioned whether people housed in public detention centers are really better off.
After four hours of testimony on two bills that address paid sick leave, House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs asked the sponsors of both bills to work to roll them into one. The two bills, HB 20 and HB 37, both mandate that employers in the state offer paid sick leave that employees would accrue over a 12-month period, but HB 20 would establish a tiered system of paid time off based on the amount of workers an employer has. For example, employees at a business or organization with fewer than 10 workers would be allowed to earn up to 40 hours of earned sick leave. But employees who work for an employer with 10 or more workers could accrue up to 64 hours of earned sick leave within a 12-month timeframe. State Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Las Alamos, is the lead sponsor of HB 20.
Nearly two-thirds of the 155 severance tax bond projects vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez were sponsored solely by Democrats, while only 14 projects sponsored solely by Republicans got the ax. On Wednesday, Martinez’s veto pen eliminated dollars meant to pay for capital appropriations for zoo animals, golf courses, rugby equipment, a dog park, a bicycle recycling program and more. In a sharply worded veto message, the governor explained her vetoes by slamming the Legislature for continuing the practice of earmarking dollars for pork-barrel projects while defeating proposed reforms of the system during the just-ended 30-day legislative session. Her vetoes totaled almost $8.2 million in a bill that now allocates $157.8 million in infrastructure projects around the state. Her vetoes included 17 projects of less than $10,000 and 15 projects funded at $10,000.