Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two LGBTQ bills into law on Friday. HB 207 extends the scope of the New Mexico Human Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ individuals. Now, a public body cannot discriminate against an individual based on the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. HB 31 eliminates an antiquated statute requiring publication of a name change. The New Mexico Human Rights Act, which was written into statute in 1969 and updated in 2003 banned a public school district from discriminating against a potential employee because the person identifies as LGBTQ but did not address whether a teacher could discriminate against a student.
All New Mexico public school students will receive free meals after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law on Monday. This makes New Mexico just the fourth state to guarantee free meals to all public school students. “Today, New Mexico is leading the nation by not only providing free healthy school meals to every student in our state, but we’re also making sure those meals are nutritious foods that kids want to eat,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “When we feed our children, we’re feeding our future – these investments today will yield benefits tomorrow through generations of healthier New Mexicans.”
States throughout the country had universal free school meals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through federal waivers. The federal COVID-19 emergency declarations will end later this year.
New Mexico continues to rank at the bottom on child well being indexes, but the 2023 Legislature passed some bills that advocates say can make an impact on that low ranking. A child tax credit was included in the final omnibus tax package and it will help improve racial and gender equity, Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, told NM Political Report. HB 547, the omnibus tax bill, underwent multiple conference committees but the New Mexico Child Tax Credit survived the negotiations. It will, among other things, provide up to $600 per child annually as a child tax credit for families earning $25,000 or less a year. For households earning $25,000 to $50,000, the annual child tax credit will be $400 per child and for households earning $50,000 to $75,000, the annual child tax credit will be $200 per child if Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the bill into law.
The 2023 Legislature was a landmark session for LGBTQ bills, according to advocates. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said three bills passed in the 2023 Legislature that make this past session a watershed moment for the LGBTQ community: A bill to add discrimination protections to LGBTQ residents, a bill to protect those practicing and seeking gender-affirming care and a bill to end the requirement to publicize a name change in the newspaper. Martinez said the two bills that are especially unique are the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act and the Expansion of New Mexico Act. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare. Hobbs and Clovis and Roosevelt and Lincoln counties have passed ordinances that both make it harder for reproductive health clinics that provide abortions to apply for a business license and prohibit medication abortion prescriptions through the mail despite federal approval.
The Legislature passed two major reproductive rights bills this legislative session, one of which went to the governor’s desk in the final days. Both bills increase protections in the state for both reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care. As of February 1, 2023, there are 17 states that have put some protections in place for abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham already signed HB 7, the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, into law. It prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare.
There are two towns, Clovis and Hobbs, and two counties, Lincoln and Roosevelt, that have passed ordinances that have placed barriers to clinics that provide abortions from obtaining a business license.
Republican and Democratic legislators voiced their thoughts on the 2023 legislative session shortly after it ended on Saturday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham held a press conference with Democratic leadership from both the House and Senate. Lujan Grisham opened the conference with a note on bipartisanship and the sometimes prickly interactions between the legislative and executive branches. “This is not easy. Solutions take each of our areas of expertise and our priorities and passions and put it together,” Lujan Grisham said.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that will eliminate the possibility of a life sentence for juveniles tried as adults for violent crimes. No Life Sentence for Juveniles, sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, will retroactively impact 79 individuals currently incarcerated for violent crimes committed as children. While no one is currently serving a life sentence, the legislation also allows for the possibility of parole within 15, 20 or 25 years, depending on the severity of the crime. There are some who committed violent crimes as children, sentenced as adults, and serving especially long sentences, Sedillo Lopez said when she presented the bill. The bill allows a person sentenced as an adult for a violent crime committed while under the age of 18 to go before a parole board after 15 years.
On the final full day of the 2023 legislative session, the second major piece of reproductive and gender-affirming rights legislation passed the House by a 38-30 vote. SB 13, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Protection Act protects providers and patients from other states’ efforts to subpoena for provider or patient information as part of an investigation into reproductive or gender-affirming care where that activity is not protected. The bill seeks to protect reproductive and gender-affirming care patients and providers from civil or criminal liability and to protect reproductive healthcare providers from discrimination by professional licensing boards. SB 13 is one of two reproductive and gender-affirming rights bills introduced in this legislative session.
By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican
Supporters of a proposal to establish a paid family and medical leave program in New Mexico gathered Thursday in the Capitol’s Rotunda to deliver a message about its failure. They’re bringing it back next year with backing from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “We have come closer to the finish line than we ever have,” said Rep. Christine Chandler, a Los Alamos Democrat who has been pushing for paid family and medical leave since taking office in 2019. “We all know in this Rotunda that transformational change is difficult, but it can happen, and it will happen,” she said. “We plan on pursuing it next year as vigorously as we did this year, and we will continue to do so until this becomes the public policy of the state of New Mexico.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to protect reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare into law on Thursday. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, which prohibits public bodies from discriminating against reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare, is one of two significant reproductive rights bills before the Legislature this year. This was the first to pass the Legislature and be signed into law. The other bill, the Reproductive Health Provider Protections, is currently waiting to be heard on the House floor. “New Mexicans in every corner of our state deserve protections for their bodily autonomy and right to health care,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement after signing it into law.