The Senate Finance Committee tabled a bill request to spend $335 million of the $1.1 billion in America Rescue Plan Act money to the state on public health issues on a 6 to 1 vote, but committee members advised the bill sponsors to bring the bill back to the regular session. Sponsored by state Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, the bill, SB 9, would establish a school of public health at the University of New Mexico by appropriating $50 million to the UNM Board of Regents to build a school of public health facility at the UNM Health Sciences Center on campus. State Sen. Martin Hickey, D-Albuquerque, who is a co-sponsor, said a “center of excellence” school of public health would attract top researchers who would bring grant money with them and that, with student enrollment, would largely enable the school to pay for itself. Other money would go to pay for equipment to help with cancer treatment; expand behavioral health services statewide, expand nursing faculty and pay for the salaries and operational budget of the projected school of public health. An additional $10 million would go to the Department of Health to work with UNM on providing obstetric care in Las Vegas and Gallup.
Idalia Lechuga-Tena announced on Friday she is seeking appointment to House District 28 amidst a growing list of women interested in the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury. Bernalillo County Commissioners meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a special meeting to decide who will replace Stansbury. Bernalillo County Commissioners appointed Lechuga-Tena in 2015 to represent House District 21. At that time, she replaced state Sen. Mimi Stewart. But Lechuga-Tena moved into HD 21 just days before her appointment in 2015, though she owned another home in another district.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two health-related bills Wednesday that will advance equity, advocates have said. Lujan Grisham signed the Healthy Workplaces Act.
HB 20, whose lead sponsor was Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Albuquerque, mandates that all private sector employers must provide up to 64 hours of paid sick leave a year. Starting July 1, 2022, employees will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The fine for noncompliance is $500. The bill sparked controversy when Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, continued a line of questioning to the Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, that some have called bullying during a Senate floor debate.
Private employers in New Mexico may no longer get to decide whether paid sick leave is a benefit they want to offer their workers. A bill that would ensure employees in the state have access to paid time off when they’re sick cleared the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on a party-line 6-3 vote Sunday. “Access to paid sick leave protects workplaces, families, and communities statewide,” read a tweet sent from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s account minutes after the vote. “I appreciate so many key stakeholders being at the table for this important discussion and I look forward to signing this legislation when it gets to my desk.” Known as the Healthy Workplaces Act, House Bill 20 would require private employers in the state to provide workers at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, or 64 hours per year.
Reproductive rights advocates picked up six more votes in the state Senate. Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain Action Fund, called it “a really good night for abortion access in New Mexico.”
Democrats picked up three seats in the state Senate, according to unofficial results. Those seats are state SD 10, which Democrat Katy Duhigg won over Republican Candace Gould. State SD 20, which Democrat Martin Hickey took, defeating the Republican candidate and taking a seat formerly held by Republican William Payne. The Democrats also won state SD 23, with Democrat Harold Pope Jr., who took the seat when he defeated Republican incumbent Sander Rue.
The state Senate has shifted to the left and progressive Democrats picked up one state Senate seat Tuesday night, according to unofficial results, and will likely pick up two more. All results cited are as of midnight on Wednesday. All results reported election night are unofficial until the Secretary of State announces the official results later this month. Progressive Democrat Siah Correa Hemphill beat Republican James Williams in state SD 28, which encompasses Grant, Catron and Socorro counties. Correa Hemphill led most of the night and won with 51 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting.
While reproductive rights activists worry about the future of abortion rights in the state, some candidates say voters are particularly focused on the issue. With the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18 and President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the high court, reproductive rights advocates’ efforts to repeal New Mexico’s 1969 law is now of even greater urgency for many. If the court overturns Roe v. Wade, New Mexico’s 1969 law, which criminalizes abortion, would again go into effect. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat running for State Senate District 28 in southern New Mexico, said she has received several phone calls and emails from constituents in her district in recent weeks asking about her position on abortion rights. “I know it’s on the mind of many people.