The bill that would end qualified immunity as a defense for police officers who infringe on a victim’s civil rights passed the House of Representatives Tuesday. HB 4, the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, passed 39 to 29 after a three-hour debate on the House floor. The bill sponsor, Democrat Georgene Louis, of Albuquerque and Acoma, said the bill has been amended as it made its way through the legislative process to address some concerns of those opposed to the bill. The bill does two things. It allows individuals in the state whose civil rights have been violated to sue a governmental body, whether municipality, county or the state, in state district court for monetary damages up to $2 million.
One of the recurring arguments raised by opponents decriminalizing abortion in the state is that healthcare providers might leave out of fear they will be forced to perform an abortion. But that’s not the case, advocates say. HB 7 and SB 10 would remove three sections of the criminal code, ensuring medical workers would not be penalized with a fourth-degree felony for providing an abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned. Lawmakers criminalized abortion in 1969 and though it has been federally legal since 1973, the state law has remained on the books. Legal and health experts have repeatedly said in committee hearings that there are protections in place in various state and federal laws that allow a health care provider to refuse treatment based on personal conviction.
A bill to keep Native children within their tribe or pueblo when the state separates them from their parents passed the House State Government and Indian Affairs Committee unanimously on Monday. Sponsored by state Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque and of the Acoma Pueblo, HB 209 has overwhelming support from various organizations and Tribal and pueblo governments in the state.
If it becomes law, the bill would codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which was passed in the 1970s but is poorly enforced, according to experts. The bill would guide the state Children, Youth and Families Department to notify tribes and pueblos when a child removal occurs and to work with the Tribal community to place a Native child with extended family or friends or foster families within their own sovereign nation. Related: Bill to codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into state law an important step, say advocates
Keeping a Native child within the world of their language, culture and traditions helps with the healing process, advocates of the bill have said. “They have the potential to lose their language, culture and ties to their family.
A virtual reproductive-justice rally to underscore the importance of repealing the 1969 abortion ban in the state took place Monday. Because of the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Respect New Mexico Women, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reproductive justice, held the rally virtually to ensure safety during the pandemic. An assortment of advocates, experts, supporters and lawmakers spoke from their individual locations to talk about why repealing the 1969 ban that would outlaw abortion in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court guts or overturns Roe v. Wade is crucial to healthcare. Related: New Mexico’s 1969 abortion law was one in a long line of laws restricting access
There were calls to action and two Albuquerque Democratic legislators, state Sen. Linda Lopez and state state Rep. Georgene Louis, of the Acoma Pueblo, spoke about why they are sponsoring the Senate and House bills. Lopez said “every pregnancy is unique and complex.”’
“Making a decision not to continue a pregnancy is very difficult and very personal,” she said.
The swift-moving bill to decriminalize abortion care heads next to the House floor after passing the House Judiciary Committee 8 to 4 Friday. HB 7, sponsored by state Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, passed along party lines after a three-hour long committee meeting devoted solely to the bill. State representatives on both sides of the aisle repeatedly thanked one another for a respectful debate despite ideological differences on the issue. The arguments both for and against the bill that will, if passed, repeal a statute that banned abortion in 1969 except under very special circumstances, have remained the same throughout the process. HB 7 will not change the way abortion care is performed currently but many members of the public who are against the bill continue to express fear that medical care providers will be forced to perform abortions despite their personal moral convictions.
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.