Bill requiring police to wear body cams while on duty heads to governor

Amid calls for increased scrutiny of law enforcement, the House of Representatives voted 44-26 to approve a measure that would require all New Mexico police officers to wear body cameras. 

The legislation, passed by the House two days after the state Senate concluded its business and departed a special session that focused on shoring up the state budget, now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. Lujan Grisham praised the work of the Legislature during the special session, but noted it is only the start as New Mexico looks to the 60-day session in January amid a severe economic downturn brought on by falling oil prices and the COVID-19 crisis. “Let me be clear: The work of rebuilding our state economy has only begun,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “But we will, I have no doubt, construct a more robust and inclusive economy than ever before as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with everything we’ve got. “And the work we’ve begun on civil rights and public safety reform and election accessibility and small business relief will remain a chief priority of my administration,” she added.

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.

House approves state health insurance exchange changes

The House voted 44-23, along party lines, to move a bill giving the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange more autonomy in helping impoverished and uninsured residents gain access to health insurance. The bill, House Bill 100, now moves to the Senate for consideration. 

On the surface, the bill, sponsored by state Reps. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, and Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, might appear as just another administrative action in the sometimes complex world of health insurance. But Cadena and others say it is a necessary move to ensure New Mexico’s exchange survives as the Trump administration chips away at many provisions of the Affordable Care Act. 

Cadena, who argued for the bill’s passage on the House floor against several attempts to amend it by Republican lawmakers, said after its passage that it will “decouple” the state’s nonprofit Health Insurance Exchange from the federal system. “This will allow New Mexico to administer our own exchange,” she said. 

Jeffery Bustamante, chief executive officer of the exchange, also known as beWellnm, said the bill will help “protect New Mexico in the event the Trump administration does something drastic in terms of the [federal] exchange.”

Three Dem legislators lose in primaries

Three incumbent Democratic state House members lost in their primaries Tuesday according to unofficial numbers. In a Santa Fe area district, Carl Trujillo was perhaps the most embattled incumbent. A lobbyist accused him of sexual harassment last month, though Trujillo denied the allegations. He now faces an investigation by the state Legislature in accordance with the state’s new sexual harassment rules. Trujillo was beat out by former Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Executive Director Andrea Romero.