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.

Technical delays, long debate over new House rules as session starts

If the world ends with a whimper rather than a bang, the House began Thursday with a sputter. For hours, Republicans in the state House debated new rules on whether lawmakers should be allowed to vote remotely — a debate that was delayed because of trouble with the webcast, in turn delaying committee hearings scheduled for that afternoon until after representatives’ 6 p.m. dinner. Complying with state rules on open meetings, lawmakers paused the debate for close to 30 minutes as the tech team scrambled to get the internet video feed back online before resuming. The resolution passed the House 43-24 along party lines. But not before prolonged debate about the rules within the resolution and other, tangentially-related topics.

For some, hand-shaking is on tap at special session

A House Republican said Tuesday he would likely shake hands with or hug fellow legislators from Southeastern New Mexico during the special session — prompting criticism from House Speaker Brian Egolf, who said he was worried such a practice could jeopardize the health of others later this week. Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said lawmakers from his part of the state plan to wear masks and use hand sanitizer during the upcoming meeting in Santa Fe and would keep their distance from legislators from other areas of New Mexico. But when it comes to interacting with members from his area of the state, Nibert said those representing the southeast intend to engage in physical contact with each other at the Capitol because their area of the state has not been heavily affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. “When I see David Gallegos for the first time, I can pretty well guarantee you he’s going to stick his hand out to shake my hand and probably give me a hug,” Nibert said, referring to the Republican legislator from Eunice. “I’m not going to be offended by it and he’s not going to be offended by it because in our community that’s where we’re at.”

The comments came as a House committee is set to debate proposed rules changes on Wednesday that would allow the chamber to take greater health precautions during the session, such as allowing members to participate virtually.

Human trafficking bill with broad support moves forward

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.

Bill to stop serial sexual harassers at work advanced Monday

A bill that advocates say would reduce serial sexual harassers in the workplace passed by a 9-3 vote along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee Monday, and at least one Republican legislator worried the bill goes too far. Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, opposed HB 21, which prohibits a private employer from enforcing a nondisclosure act when the employer settles a sexual harassment case with an employee. Nibert said he didn’t like the fact that the bill meant that the government is regulating private business, especially since the government is excluded from the bill. But Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, who is sponsoring the bill, said Sen. Sander Rue, D-Albuquerque, is carrying a bill that would address government employers. Nibert continued to express opposition to the bill.