Senate Republicans kill omnibus voting rights bill in final hours of session

The omnibus voting rights bill, SB 144, which would have expanded voting rights to many formerly disenfranchised and given protections to election workers passed the House in the final hours of the legislature but the bill ultimately failed after a filibuster by Senate Republicans . After a nearly 24-hour House debate on various bills, the House turned to the omnibus voting bill SB 144 around 7 a.m. Thursday in the final hours of the Legislature. 

SB 144 began as a two-page bill ensuring the safety of election workers from intimidation. It had broad bipartisan support, receiving a unanimous due pass in the Senate chamber earlier this month. But state House Rep. Daymon Ely, of Corrales, and state Sen. Katy Duhigg, of Albuquerque, both Democrats, amended SB 144 to include measures from two other election bills, SB 6, which cleaned up and modernized language in the election code and SB 8, the Voters’ Rights Provisions bill, which expanded voting rights to many who have historically been disenfranchised and would have made voting easier and more streamlined for many. 

The grafting of the three bills led to complaints from Republicans about “log rolling,” which is combining more than one unrelated bill together and is unconstitutional.  Another complaint, made by state House Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, that the bill, once amended with provisions from SB 6 and SB 8, had not been vetted. Related: House committee passes ‘comprehensive’ voting bill that includes voting rights provisions

Grafting the three bills together was similar in process, Ely said on the House floor Thursday morning, to the omnibus crime bill which the House just sent to the governor by concurring with Senate changes.

House committee passes ‘comprehensive’ voting bill that includes voting rights provisions

The House Judiciary Committee passed an omnibus voting bill, SB 144, that includes provisions of two other voting bills, SB 8 and SB 6, on a party line vote of 9-3 Tuesday evening. After Senate Republicans blocked a Senate floor debate and vote on SB 8 over the weekend, House Democrats moved the provisions from that bill into another voting bill, SB 144. SB 144, sponsored by state Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, initially aimed to protect election workers from intimidation, threat or use of force or violence, damage or harm while carrying out their duties during an election. The penalty for the crime is a fourth degree felony. The bill also has already passed the Senate, removing a barrier with less than two days left in the session.

Redistricting legislation gets first hearing

A proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the New Mexico Legislature from the controversial process of drawing new election districts for legislative and congressional seats wasn’t quite ready for its first vote, lawmakers decided Wednesday. Some members of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee sought changes to House Joint Resolution 9 to strengthen its ability to ensure a nonpartisan redistricting process every 10 years. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Natalie Figueroa, D-Albuquerque, proposes appointing people to an independent redistricting commission who have been away from the political process for at least five years, and in some cases 10. But Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said that wasn’t enough. “I think we can remove in a much stronger fashion the partisan influence from this commission by choosing who’s capable of serving on that commission,” he said.

Bill would require state departments to help those who don’t speak English

Advocates for New Mexicans who know little to no English say a bill passed by a committee Friday is needed help such residents access medical aid, child welfare services and other resources. Lawmakers on the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee approved House Bill 22 on a 6-3 vote. It now heads to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. The legislation provides a one-time appropriation of $50,000 to the state Department of Finance and Administration. The money is aimed at helping state agencies assess whether they need to implement departmental language access plans to ensure people with limited English skills can access their services. 

Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, D-Albuquerque, one of the sponsors of the bill, said it will help ensure New Mexico complies with federal language-access laws.

Legislation to curb governor’s power during emergency moves forward

Legislation that would let voters decide whether to curb the governor’s authority over emergency orders slipped past its second hurdle Wednesday when the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted to move it forward. Committee members, who were divided on House Joint Resolution 6, initially stalled it on a 4-4 vote. However, at the urging of a sponsor, Democratic Rep. Daymon Ely of Albuquerque, the committee then voted 7-1 to move it to the House Judiciary Committee with no recommendation for approval. Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, the committee’s chairwoman, cast the lone vote against the move. Under HJR 6, voters would decide whether they want to add a new section to the state constitution to set limits on the length of time a governor’s emergency order can remain in effect without legislative approval.

Paid sick leave bill heads to House floor next

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.

Paid Family and Medical Leave bill clears House Judiciary Committee

The Paid Family and Medical Leave bill passed the House Judiciary Committee along party lines in an 8 to 2 vote Saturday. HB 38, sponsored by House Representatives Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos and Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, was amended by committee to clean up some of the language. The amendment also exempted railroad employees because of a federal law and inserted language that would prevent counties and municipalities from enacting their own paid family and medical leave ordinances, Chandler said. Chandler said she had many meetings with the business community and chambers of commerce to understand their concerns about the bill and the amendment reflected those conversations. Despite that, many business groups spoke in opposition to the bill during public comment.

A bill to end hospital discrimination against immigrants heads to House floor

A bill that would end hospital discrimination based on immigration status advanced Wednesday when it passed unanimously in the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee. HB 112 would enable all counties and hospitals in the state that offer indigent care to extend that program to all migrants, regardless of their legal immigration status. Bill sponsor Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said during the committee hearing that most New Mexico counties and hospitals are already providing indigent care to people regardless of immigration status. But, because of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA), passed in 1996 by the U.S. Congress, there are a few counties and hospitals that take a “narrow view” of that law and “discriminate against people who are noncitizens,” Martinez said. According to the Fiscal Impact Report, the PRWORA allows indigent funds to be used only for certain indigent people, but generally not to many classes of immigrants.

New Mexico Civil Rights Act passes House

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.

Bill to repeal old abortion ban headed to House floor

The bill to repeal the antiquated abortion ban is now one step from heading to the governor’s desk. SB 10, which was amended in the Senate, passed along party lines in an 8 to 4 vote Monday in the House Judiciary Committee. State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, amended the bill on the Senate floor Thursday to add the names of the sections the bill would repeal for clarity. Related: In historic turn, state Senate passes abortion ban repeal

Otherwise, SB 10 is a mirror bill to HB 7, which is already on the House floor agenda. The House convenes again Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Daniel Marzec, communications director for the Office of the Speaker Brian Egolf, said by email Monday that the House would not hear HB 7 on Tuesday, the next day that the House is scheduled to meet on the House floor.