With limited funding, New Mexico sexual assault programming looks ahead 

With federal funding cuts expected by the next fiscal year, New Mexico sexual assault programming is considering how the shortage could impact the future. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission receives $4 million in recurring funding from the state to provide money to local sexual assault services. This year, the commission and the New Mexico Coalition for Sexual Assault Programs asked for $5 million in additional funding from the Legislature to fill gaps in services, improve salaries and prepare for the anticipated loss in federal dollars. But, the coalition did not receive all the money it asked for from the New Mexico legislature. In addition to the recurring $4 million, the legislature appropriated about $3.8 million in funding.

Legislators, coalition seek funding to address ‘crisis’ of sexual assault

The New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs announced its support for Affirmative Consent legislation and the need for $5 million in funding on Monday. State Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring HB 44, Affirmative Consent Policies in Schools. Alexandria Taylor, deputy director of New Mexico Sexual Assault Programs, said in a press conference the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that New Mexico ranks seventh in the nation for sexual assault and rape based on reported crimes. Taylor said one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual violence prior to their 18th birthday in New Mexico. She said two-thirds never report the crime but seek sexual assault services.

Debate, testimony over maps fills second day of session

The New Mexico House of Representatives spent much of the second day of the second 2021 special legislative session discussing the merits of proposed maps. The special session is largely focused on redrawing the state’s political boundaries for U.S congressional districts and state House and Senate districts and is expected to last 12 days. 

During a more-than three-hour presentation to the House, both Republicans and Democrats debated the merits of one congressional map concept in particular and whether a newly formed citizen led redistricting committee had presented the best map concepts for the Legislature to choose from. Later in the day, a House committee heard public testimony on a House map that is an amalgamation of three concepts from the citizen committee. 

During a House committee of the whole on Tuesday morning, a representative of the citizen committee along with members of the prominent New Mexico polling company Research and Polling fielded questions and sometimes criticism from members. 

Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, who is also vying for the Republican nomination for governor, questioned a congressional map concept put forward by advocacy group Center for Civic Policy and adopted by the redistricting committee. Known as el mapa de la gente, or the people’s map, the concept would drastically change the three congressional districts and group rural areas like Roswell and Carrizozo with the urban Albuquerque area. According to the Center for Civic Policy, the goal of the map is to create a strong Latino or Hispanic district.

Bill to provide ombud for parents of special education students passes committee

State Rep. Liz Thomson spoke from experience Monday as she discussed House Bill 222. Thomson, a Democratic state representative from Albuquerque, talked about the struggles her family faced in advocating for the special education plans and services her son needed as he attended public school in Albuquerque. Those travails, she told the House Education Committee, led her to craft the bill, which would create an Office of the State Special Education Ombud. The ombud would serve as an independent advocate for public school students seeking special education services and provide comprehensive support for families navigating that system, according to the bill. Thomson said it was the kind of assistance she and many other parents of special education students needed.

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 raise penalty for school threats blocked

The divide over how best to punish those who threaten to commit violence in schools widened Thursday, as a panel of Democrats blocked a bill to make the crime a fourth-degree felony. Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, said he introduced House Bill 115 to create a specific crime for leveling terrorist threats at a school or other public building. He said it would be a means of deterring juveniles and adults alike from feeling emboldened in targeting schools. Democrats countered that his bill was so broad it could turn teens who do something stupid into felons for life. More important, a legislative staff analysis of Crowder’s proposal found that the state already has other laws that can be used to prosecute people who make threats.

Bill repealing pre-Roe law criminalizing abortion clears first committee

New Mexico took a small step towards removing a currently unenforceable state law criminalizing abortion Saturday. House Bill 51 (HB 51) — which repeals a 1969 statute that made receiving and performing abortion a fourth-degree felony — passed the the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee by a 3-2 vote along party lines. New Mexico is one of nine states with a statute criminalizing abortion. The landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision made the state law unenforceable. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee started just after 8:30 a.m. The hearing was moved to the House floor due to interest in the bill, and public comment lasted for over three hours.

Making progress for women’s equality at the Roundhouse

This past year across the country, we heard about countless stories of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. From the entertainment industry to big corporations – and yes, even in our own Roundhouse – this was a moment of reckoning for many. But for most women, this was nothing new. For too long, workplaces have protected those who have committed these acts through processes that don’t protect victims and further embolden the “that’s how it’s always been” culture. This year at the legislature, our voices ranged from #MeToo to #TimesUp, and together, we’ve changed the narrative.

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.

Committee blocks Gorge Bridge anti-suicide proposal

The idea of assigning state police officers to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to prevent suicidal people from jumping met with a quick defeat Tuesday at the state Capitol. Members of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee unanimously blocked a bill to allocate $156,000 a year to help pay for the suicide prevention squad. “I can’t see how it’s going to work,” said Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, who led opposition to the proposal, House Bill 166. The measure called for three state police officers to be assigned to the bridge, presumably in different shifts. But Thomson pointed out that the cost of salaries, benefits and equipment for three officers would run $288,000 a year, or nearly double the amount sought in the bill.