A bill that would increase penalties for human trafficking received bipartisan support in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. HB 237, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Georgene Louis and Liz Thomson, both of Albuquerque, passed 10-1. Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, voted against it. Louis and Thomson invited victims of trafficking to speak on behalf of the bill.
Democrats in the state Senate say they still don’t have enough votes to repeal an old, unenforceable abortion ban that remains in New Mexico law. They believe a failed effort in the 2019 legislative session — when a handful of conservative Democrats joined Republicans to block it — could see the same results in this year’s 30-day session. But with the U.S. Supreme Court poised to hear a Louisiana case that is expected to test the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, Senate Democrats and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham say they are prepared to hold a special legislative session to protect abortion rights in the state if the ruling is overturned. “I think we’d be back in a heartbeat,” Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said Wednesday, the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. While some Democratic senators remain staunchly opposed to repealing the state’s old ban, Wirth said some of those votes might change if the state actually criminalized abortion.
Eight Senate Democrats joined with Republicans Thursday evening to defeat a measure that would have removed a currently non-enforceable ban on abortion. State Representatives Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, and Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, sponsored House Bill 51. which would repeal a 1969 state law which made both performing and receiving an abortion fourth-degree felonies, except with special permissions. The law is currently unenforceable because of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which federally recognized the right to have an abortion. “We’re terribly disappointed,” Ferrary said.
State Rep. Georgene Louis, who grew up in Acoma Pueblo, said she and other Native Americans often were told, “Your vote doesn’t matter.” She believes a lot of people in America feel that way, she said Wednesday to other members of the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, particularly during presidential elections when the Electoral College trumps the popular vote. That’s why Louis, an Albuquerque Democrat, said she joined fellow Democrats on the committee to vote 6-3 in favor of a bill to elect the U.S. president by popular vote. Rep. Gail Chasey, also a Democrat from Albuquerque and one of the sponsors of House Bill 55, told the committee members: “Every vote should count equally. Period.”
Some New Mexico Democrats gathered Monday to express support for regulations to limit methane emissions from natural gas flaring and leaks, even as congressional Republicans are planning to repeal the rule on a federal level. Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, called such a proposal a “triple win,” saying it would help businesses waste less methane that they could instead sell, cut pollution and benefit the state budget. The Santa Fe Democrat said that other states, like Colorado and Wyoming were already seeing benefits from methane capture rules. Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, noted that under questioning by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, “the American Petroleum Institute was unable to provide senators with a single shred of data that found smart methane regulations had any negative impacts on oil and gas jobs.”
State Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, echoed the two Representatives and brought up health impacts of natural gas leaks. “When I go visit my constituents at the various chapters of the Navajo communities, what they have to live with, not only the flaring, but the smell and the things you can’t see that impact their lives and that’s important for us to realize and understand the environment,” Shendo said.
A legislative committee on Tuesday effectively killed a bill that would have required all presidential candidates to release their tax returns to be listed on New Mexico’s ballot, a measure jabbing at President Donald Trump. The bill failed when a Democrat, Rep. Debbie Rodella of Española, joined with Republicans to bottle up the measure. It stalled on a 3-3 vote in the House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee. Rodella told The New Mexican after the meeting that she was concerned about whether the measure was constitutional. Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the proposal, House Bill 204.
Brian Egolf, on his first night as speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, selected nine committee chairmen and chairwomen who will be in leadership jobs for the first time. Egolf, D-Santa Fe, on Tuesday also expanded the number of committees in the House from 13 to 14. Republicans, back in the minority after two years as the controlling party, objected to adding a committee but lost on a party-line vote of 38-29. Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said the additional committee would create the need for more staff. Egolf said that was not the case because the existing pool of legislative analysts would handle the workload for all committees.
Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.
A House Republican driver’s license bill aimed at issuing driving privilege cards to immigrants without legal status passed along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the committee his legislation was an attempt to solve a long-time problem surrounded in debate in New Mexico. “We’ve been dealing and wrestling with this problem for as long as I’ve been in the House,” Pacheco said. On hand as an expert witness was Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla, who also said Pacheco’s bill would put to rest the debate on who gets driver’s licenses as well. “I believe the solution you have before you takes care of everyone’s needs,” Padilla told the panel.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]STATE SEN. BENNY SHENDO represents New Mexico Senate District 22 and STATE REP. GEORGENE LOUIS represents New Mexico House District 26, both are Democrats.[/box]
Working together is tough, and learning to trust one another when facing big decisions can be even tougher. This is especially true when government agencies are trying to balance oil and gas development with the needs of communities, industry, and other stakeholders. Just because issues don’t have easy solutions, doesn’t mean we should shy away from finding common ground. This is especially true if we want to preserve the amazing beauty of our western landscapes and protect the health of our communities living with nearby oil and gas development. No other place embodies this conflict more than the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwest New Mexico.