Bill to expand LGBTQ protections clears first committee

A bill to expand the New Mexico Human Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ individuals passed its first committee hearing by a party line vote of 5-3. HB 207, the Expand the Human Rights Act Scope, would, if enacted, update some of the language in the New Mexico Civil Rights Act and it will close a loophole in the current law so public entities, such as public schools, cannot discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. State Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, is the primary sponsor and presented the bill to the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Saturday. If enacted, the bill will replace the word “handicap” with “disability,” update the language in the bill to include the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It will also include definitions for the words “sex” and “gender,” Ortez told the committee during the hearing. The three Republicans on the committee spoke during the question period on the bill.

Legislation to modernize Legislature, expand sessions clear first committee

A House committee heard two proposals that would put constitutional amendments on the ballot that would modernize the state legislature. The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee passed HJR 2 with amendments on a 6-to-3 vote along party lines on Monday. The legislation allows bills not voted on to roll over to the next session for consideration. Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, gave his reasons for voting against the bill. “I’ve been a victim of legislation dying on the Senate calendar, we all have,” Rehm said.

Weather station network intended to provide some security for farmers, ranchers

Government programs provide insurance for ranchers if they lose their forage crops due to lack of rain, but the scarcity of rain gauges in New Mexico has limited the usefulness of this insurance, according to legislators who secured funding to build a network of weather stations throughout the state. State Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, told NM Political Report about a rancher in Santa Rosa who bought this insurance. When the rain didn’t come, this rancher filed a claim. But the closest weather station was in Ruidoso, where the gauge showed that there had been precipitation. This insurance isn’t cheap.

Bill funding statewide weather station network moves forward

Weather stations in New Mexico tend to be located at airports, which leaves some rural parts of the state without good weather monitoring. That impacts agricultural producers who need weather data to apply for federal disaster relief through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies. House Bill 108, sponsored by Rep. Martin Zamora, R-Clovis, and Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, would change that by appropriating $2.578 million from the state’s general fund to New Mexico State University. This would allow the office of the state climatologist to expand the network of weather stations throughout the state. The House Agriculture, Acequias and Water Resources Committee unanimously gave the bill a do pass recommendation on Thursday.

Bill would require state departments to help those who don’t speak English

Advocates for New Mexicans who know little to no English say a bill passed by a committee Friday is needed help such residents access medical aid, child welfare services and other resources. Lawmakers on the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee approved House Bill 22 on a 6-3 vote. It now heads to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. The legislation provides a one-time appropriation of $50,000 to the state Department of Finance and Administration. The money is aimed at helping state agencies assess whether they need to implement departmental language access plans to ensure people with limited English skills can access their services. 

Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, D-Albuquerque, one of the sponsors of the bill, said it will help ensure New Mexico complies with federal language-access laws.

Minimum wage fight continues as session nears end

The state House of Representatives and the Senate may be on a collision course when it comes to how best to reset New Mexico’s minimum wage law, a priority issue for Democrats in this year’s legislative session. That’s because the House on Wednesday night refused to budge on its proposal to the raise the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hours by Jan. 1, 2022 and then increase it in future years with a cost-of-living bump. The Senate, however, has approved a more modest proposal designed to increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour by Jan. 1, 2022, without any further cost-of-living increases.

House committee passes some voting bills, while another awaits action

The process is taking longer than Democrats would hope, but bills to expand voting rights are moving through the state legislature. Democrats advanced two voting bills—one, to automatically restore voting rights to felons and another to expand automatic voter registration—out of the House Local Government, Elections and Land Grants Committee on party-line votes Friday. But a bill to allow same-day voter registration failed to come up for a vote, with a visibly frustrated committee chair saying they’ll  meet again on Saturday. The debate on the bill to allow felons to vote began Wednesday, including substantial public comment. Felon enfranchisement

In its current form, HB 57 would remove a felony conviction from the list of reasons why the Secretary of State could cancel a voter’s registration.