Governor signs bill repealing abortion ban into law: ‘a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body’

Called historic, New Mexico decriminalized abortion on Friday when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act into law, after years of efforts by abortion rights supporters. SB 10 repeals the 1969 statute that criminalized abortion by banning it with very few exceptions. 

Lujan Grisham said “a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body.”

“Anyone who seeks to violate bodily integrity, or to criminalize womanhood, is in the business of dehumanization,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “New Mexico is not in that business – not any more. Our state statutes now reflect this inviolable recognition of humanity and dignity. I am incredibly grateful to the tireless advocates and legislators who fought through relentless misinformation and fear-mongering to make this day a reality.

Bill to increase penalties for human trafficking passes House

A bill to increase the penalties for human trafficking and expand protections to victims of the crime advanced out of the House of Representatives Monday with a nearly unanimous vote. HB 56 passed 63 to 3 and now heads to the Senate. Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque and of the Acoma Pueblo, the bill increases the penalty for human trafficking from a third degree penalty to a second degree penalty for perpetrators if their victims are 18 or older. For human trafficking crimes that involve a victim under the age of 18, the penalty for the perpetrator would be increased to a first degree penalty. Louis said human trafficking is not limited to one type of victim.

Public ‘flying blind’ in New Mexico’s largely virtual legislative session

To hear House Speaker Brian Egolf tell it, public participation in this year’s largely virtual legislative session has been robust even if the doors of the state Capitol have been closed to everyday New Mexicans. In the second and third weeks of the 60-day session, more than 6,100 residents from 32 of the state’s 33 counties have voiced their opinions during committee hearings in the House of Representatives — up from the 2,400 who tuned in the first week. Egolf’s office touted the numbers Tuesday in a news release, declaring virtual participation “continues at a record-setting pace” in the House. But how many New Mexicans have been shut out? “It’s hard to quantify,” Egolf said.

Historic abortion ban repeal one signature away from becoming law after it passes House

The bill that would repeal a state statute that criminalizes abortion care in New Mexico is now headed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk after the House of Representatives passed it on a 40 to 30 vote. This is a priority bill for Lujan Grisham and she has indicated that she would sign it into law. 

The House of Representatives took up SB 10 instead of HB 7, which are mirror bills. SB 10 already passed the state Senate by a vote of 25 to 17 on February 12, and was amended to clarify the bill’s title. Each chamber must pass identical legislation before it can be sent to the governor. Related: In historic turn, state Senate passes abortion ban repeal

Just as during the Senate floor debate, Republicans in the House attempted to amend the bill and argued for hours over keeping the section of the law that is considered by some healthcare workers as a refusal clause.

Overloaded public defender’s office was years in the making

Decades worth of warnings about the danger of underfunding public defenders finally came to a climax last month, when a district court judge held Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur in contempt of court after Baur, the agency head, said he could not ethically take a handful of cases in rural New Mexico. New Mexico’s continued weak budget suggests that the state’s Law Offices of the Public Defender is unlikely to receive more resources any time soon. But according to leading criminal defense attorneys, public defenders were never a priority in the state budget even during better economic times. The recent flashpoint was when Baur showed up to the 5th Judicial District Court in Lovington to represent Michelle Sosa. Sosa was on probation for a previous aggravated battery conviction and tested positive for methamphetamines.

Open primary proposal moves forward

A proposal that would allow voters to decide whether or not those outside the two major political parties can participate in primary elections passed its first committee on Saturday. Right now, only Democrats can participate in Democratic primaries and only Republicans can participate in Republican primaries. The proposal brought forward by Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, would change that. The bill passed on a narrow 5-3 vote, with all four Democrats on the panel being joined by committee chair James Smith, R-Sandia Park.

Three strikes sponsor under scrutiny over committee testimony

Some lawmakers are raising questions about a House Republican placing the family of a high profile crime victim at the center of his bill. But the sponsor of the bill aimed at toughening the state’s three strikes law denies he is being anything but genuine. “I did not solicit them to testify,” state Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, said. “They have been active ever since those incidents occurred.”

During a House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee meeting last week, Pacheco presented his three strikes legislation and presented Alan and Veronica Garcia, the parents of Lilly, a four-year-old who was shot and killed after a road rage incident. Some Republican legislators are calling the bill “Lilly’s Law.”

Tony Torrez, the man charged with killing Lilly, has a criminal past, but was never convicted of  a violent offense that would have applied to either the state’s current three strikes law or the expanded list of crimes in Pacheco’s proposed expansion of that law.

House driver’s license bill passes committee, headed to floor debate

A House Republican driver’s license bill aimed at issuing driving privilege cards to immigrants without legal status passed along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the committee his legislation was an attempt to solve a long-time problem surrounded in debate in New Mexico. “We’ve been dealing and wrestling with this problem for as long as I’ve been in the House,” Pacheco said. On hand as an expert witness was Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla, who also said Pacheco’s bill would put to rest the debate on who gets driver’s licenses as well. “I believe the solution you have before you takes care of everyone’s needs,” Padilla told the panel.

Secretary of State wants AG to look into potential campaign finance violations

Secretary of State Dianna Duran wants the Attorney General to look into possible violations of campaign finance laws by an Albuquerque state represntative. KOB-TV first reported on the referral and New Mexico Political Report confirmed the referral with a spokesman for the Attorney General. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, responded by saying the Secretary of State went to the media before informing him of the referral. The referral is for a civil violation, not a criminal violation. At issue are campaign finance reports that did not show all of the donations to Maestas’ state representative campaign.

Mo’ money problems for Maestas

It turns out that $4,000 that a state Representative failed to report wasn’t the full amount. The Albuquerque Journal reported that Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, actually failed to report $11,170 in campaign contributions. The added on to the original report by KOB-TV last week on the campaign finance violations. The Journal said that Maestas found the additional unreported donations after the report by the TV station. From Friday’s Journal report:
In addition to adding 26 contributions to his campaign finance reports, Maestas amended reports to provide further detail for three separate $1,000 campaign expenditures.