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.

Bill aimed at preventing domestic terrorism advances

The state House Judiciary Committee on Monday approved legislation aimed at preventing domestic terrorism in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in August at an El Paso Walmart that targeted Hispanics. The panel also advanced legislation toughening the state’s cyberterrorism law. Supporters of House Bill 269, which resulted from discussions among New Mexico officials about how to guard the state against such an incident, argued it will offer prosecutors the proper legal tools in a case of domestic terrorism. The bill, which now advances to the House floor, defines the state crime of terrorism and would make it a second-degree felony to commit an act meant to intimidate or coerce the public, including mass violence in a public place, or an attempt to influence policy or politics using intimidation or coercion. Under the measure, it also would become a second-degree felony to make or possess a weapon “designed or intended to cause death or serious physical injury by the release, dissemination or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals” or biological or radioactive weapons.

Bill to protect pregnant workers passes House

HB 25, which advocates say protects pregnant workers from discrimination, passed the House unanimously on Thursday. There was very little debate around the bill on the House floor. House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, a Republican from Artesia, asked how the bill had changed since last year, when Rep. Gail Chasey, a Democrat from Albuquerque, brought a pregnant worker accommodation bill to the Legislature. Chasey said that she worked with the New Mexico Hospitality Association and New Mexico Counties so that the bill now falls under the Human Rights Act. The effect of that is that if a worker feels they have been discriminated against, they must take their case to the state’s Human Rights Commission before seeking a lawsuit.

Committee passes bill to eliminate NDAs for sexual harassment settlements

A bill to protect victims of sexual harassment in the workplace passed easily with a 5-0 vote in the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Tuesday. HB 21, sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, seeks to protect victims of sexual harassment in the workplace by allowing the victim to decide if she or he wants a nondisclosure agreement when the employee and employer settle. Hochman-Vigil said the bill had been amended to reflect that the bill would only apply to private employers because a different bill applies to public employers. There was no opposition to the bill. Expert witness Erika Anderson, an Albuquerque-based attorney, said most sexual harassment cases settle and that often the victim feels forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Bill to license massage therapy businesses aimed to stop ‘nefarious’ activities

A bill that looks innocuous – requiring massage parlor establishments to be licensed – could have big consequences. Although no one knows how many massage parlors are legitimate and how many are not, the ones that are not often serve as fronts for human trafficking, say authorities and sexual assault advocates. The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department estimates there are about 8,200 massage therapists in the state and there could be as many as 1,500 establishments that would need to apply for licensure if the bill passes. Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, is sponsoring HB 155. “We recognize there are thousands of fabulous massage therapists all over the state, but there are a few that are not in the business for massage therapy,” Trujillo told NM Political Report.

Bill for pregnant workers passes committee with support from all sides

A bill to support pregnant workers brought both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups together and passed unanimously 13-0 in the House Judiciary Committee Friday. HB 25, the Pregnant Worker Accommodation bill, aims to protect pregnant workers and allow new moms to be able to ask for “reasonable accommodations” from an employer while pregnant or newly parenting. Advocates of the bill say those accommodations include things like asking for a stool to sit on or more bathroom breaks, additional water to drink and the ability to refrain from heavy lifting. If an employer does not comply, the pregnant worker could file a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The bill passed the House Labor, Veteran, Military Affairs Committee earlier this week.

A bill to protect pregnant workers passes first hurdle

A bill that advocates say protects pregnant workers passed unanimously through its first committee Tuesday with no opposition. HB 25, called the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Bill, went before the House Labor, Veteran, Military Affairs Committee. This isn’t the first time House committee members have heard this bill. Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the bill in past sessions, but she said the bill introduced during the 2019 session went through negotiation with the Hospitality Association and New Mexico Counties, an association that represents all 33 counties, and that took ten days. It then died on the House floor.

Birth pains accompany creation of ethics commission

Lawmakers and open government proponents on Friday raised questions about transparency and possible conflicts with other investigative agencies as New Mexico legislators try to flesh out details of the long-discussed creation of a state ethics commission. House Bill 4 would create an independent state agency overseen by seven commissioners with power to investigate and enforce compliance with laws on governmental conduct, election campaigns, lobbyists, gifts and financial disclosures by state officers, employees and contractors, among others. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill Saturday. Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, who introduced the bill, presented it to the committee Friday but asked the members to give him another day to work on changes before voting on it. Ely said the bill’s goal is to “make sure we go after the bad people in this system and shine a light on these people.”

Full House to vote on medical aid in dying

A bill to allow medical aid in dying is headed for a vote in the New Mexico House of Representatives after a committee of lawmakers on Wednesday tweaked the legislation, requiring a physician to be included among the two health care professionals needed to sign off on a terminally ill patient’s decision to end their life. House Bill 90 has prompted some of the most emotional discussions of the legislative session, raising issues of life, death and the government’s role in deeply personal medical decisions. The bill also has prompted several rounds of amendments by lawmakers weighing exactly how the process should work for patients seeking such a choice. Under what is known as the End of Life Options Act, a terminally ill patient who is mentally competent and has only six months to live could ask a prescribing health care provider for drugs that would allow him to end his own life. The patient would have to speak with a health care provider about alternatives, such as further treatment, and make the request in writing with witnesses.

House gets bill to withhold names of victims

A bill to conceal the names of victims of certain violent crimes from public-records disclosure is headed to the New Mexico House of Representatives for consideration. Senate Bill 118 would create an exception regarding law enforcement records before charges are filed against any suspect. It would redact the names of victims and non-law enforcement witnesses from public records of crimes involving assault, stalking, rape and criminal sexual contact. The House Judiciary Committee voted 14-0 to support the bill, discussing it only briefly. The Senate approved the bill 41-0 last week.