New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she is optimistic the bill aiming to expand voting rights will be passed and signed during this legislative session. SB 8, sponsored by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, would expand voting rights in the state in a number of ways, including by allowing 16- and 17-year-old individuals the right to vote in local and state elections, allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to be eligible to vote upon release from prison and allowing individuals to automatically be registered to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles with the option to opt out if they choose. Related: Advocates hopeful voting rights legislation will help break down barriers for the formerly incarcerated
“I’m extremely optimistic about SB 8 going through the legislative process,” Toulouse Oliver said during one of the two virtual rallies hosted by Progress Now New Mexico* on Wednesday to support the bill. “We’re in a really good position even in this late hour first hearing in committee.”
SB 8 was heard in the state Senate Rules Committee Wednesday. Toulouse Oliver gave an overview of changes to the language being introduced in a substitute bill that clarified language from the first bill.
The New Mexico State Legislature approved $170,000 for menstrual products for some New Mexico public and charter schools for Fiscal Year 2021. But because of the recent state budget crisis, the legislature trimmed the state budget for menstrual products in the schools to $141,190 during the recent special legislative session, said Deborah Martinez, media relations coordinator for New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED). This will affect 57 schools and school districts in the state. The grant awards vary, ranging from $500 allocated to the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy to $26,963 provided to Rio Rancho Public Schools. Martinez said NMPED hasn’t sent out the new award notifications yet to the schools affected.
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education called on school districts around the country to include transgender students in Title IX policies in a letter sent Friday. The eight page letter outlines how school districts should address issues surrounding transgender students, including in bathroom and athletic facilities. “A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” the letter read. “A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”
The letter also said that schools can provide other options for students who prefer to use a separate facility for extra privacy. Representatives from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Public Schools did not respond to messages from NM Political Report before press time, but a spokeswoman for Las Cruces Public Schools said they have not received the letter from the federal government.
Some school districts are still facing a shortage of teachers just days before the start of the new school year. Both Rio Rancho Public Schools and Albuquerque Public Schools have had a deficit of teachers in general as well as special education. Teacher’s unions as well as a representative of APS admitted that part of the problem may stem from a higher demand on teachers and inadequate compensation. With most schools in the state preparing to begin classes in a matter of days, New Mexico Political Report reached out to three large school districts in New Mexico to find out how many positions are still vacant. Last month APS held a job fair in order to fill teacher positions.