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CYFD advisory council’s held first public meeting as part of agency’s reform

The Children, Youth and Family Department Advisory Council met with the public and press on Thursday to highlight how the department and the council intend to meet the mandates of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order intended to improve the department. In her February executive order, Lujan Grisham called CYFD a “system that is fundamentally broken.” After scandals rocked the department in recent years, Lujan Grisham named retired New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Vigil to head the department in 2021. But Vigil stepped down this spring after repeated allegations came to light of significant child abuse under CYFD’s watch. Vigil is now on the advisory council along with a group of five others and CYFD Interim Secretary Teresa Casados, who is Lujan Grisham’s chief operating officer. Casados is filling that role while the department conducts a national search to replace Vigil.

Legislature expected to consider Paid Family & Medical Leave bill in 2023

A bill likely to come before the New Mexico Legislature next session will be another run at passing a state-run Paid Family and Medical Leave program into law but in 2023, the program will have some concessions to businesses as well as new expansions. Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, said a bill is expected to be introduced in  the 2023 legislative session. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill failed in the 2020 and 2021 Legislatures. The 2022 Legislature passed a Senate Memorial to create a task force that would deliver a report on the issue and arrive at some compromises with the business community. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill would provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for employees who request it for a serious medical condition, caring for a family member with a serious medical condition or welcoming a new child.

Lottery scholarship bill deadlocks in committee

The state lottery’s luck may have run out at the Legislature. A House committee on Wednesday tabled a bill that would end a requirement that the New Mexico Lottery turn over 30 percent of the gross revenue of ticket sales for the state’s college scholarship program. The lottery argues that scrapping the revenue requirement would allow it to boost prizes, in turn raising ticket sales and providing even more money for scholarships, which helped defray expenses for some 26,000 students last year. Critics contend the bill would amount to a blank check for the state lottery and mean less money for students. The 8-8 vote by the Appropriations and Finance Committee did not kill House Bill 147.

House panel passes bill to remove pre Roe v. Wade law criminalizing abortion

A Democratic-majority House committee voted along party lines Thursday afternoon to remove pre-Roe v. Wade language in state statute that criminalizes abortion practices. The original state law, passed in New Mexico in 1968, makes “criminal abortion” subject to a fourth-degree felony. It defines “criminal abortion” as any action or attempt at an “untimely termination” of a pregnancy that is not “medically justified.” A medically justified abortion, according to state law, is limited to abortions in cases of pregnancy from rape, incest or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. The landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in most cases across the country, made state laws like this obsolete. Related story: House committee stalls another round of abortion bills

But proponents of the bill to strike the old state statute argue that the state language would go right back into law should the U.S. Supreme Court change Roe v. Wade in the future.

Special session off to a testy start

Even before the House and Senate are scheduled to meet at noon Friday, the high tensions between the two parties was evident, previewing what promises to be a bare-knuckle brawl of a special session. The special session is necessary to fix a budget deficit of over $500 million between the current fiscal year and the already-ended fiscal year. The special session will also feature a handful of high profile crime bills. It was these bills that drew the ire of House Democrats, especially since the bills would be heard in committee hour half an hour after the floor session. “The first thing that this House seeks to do is seek reinstatement of the death penalty.

Gov. Martinez fills two legislative vacancies

Gov. Susana Martinez announced two appointments Friday to fill vacancies created by lawmakers who left the Legislature before the end of their terms.

Martinez appointed former State Rep. James White, an Albuquerque Republican, to fill the vacancy in Senate District 19. Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort announced her resignation earlier this year. The veteran Senator from Sandia Park previously announced that the 2016 regular legislative session would be her last. Martinez highlighted White’s nearly three decades as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. In the House, Martinez appointed a Democrat to fill the House seat of former Speaker of the House Ken Martinez.