Civil rights bill passes Senate but must return to House (Updated)

The New Mexico Civil Rights bill passed the state Senate 26 to 15 but with only three-and-a-half days until the end of the legislative session, the bill must return to the House floor for concurrence because the Senate amended the bill. Update: On Wednesday afternoon, the House concurred with the Senate changes on a 41-26 vote and sent it to the governor’s desk. This story continues as originally written below. HB 4 would end qualified immunity as a defense in state civil courts and allows individuals whose civil rights have been violated to bring a case for remedy in state court. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who is the lead sponsor for the bill in the Senate, amended the bill to make attorney’s fees subject to judicial review and added that a claimant suing law enforcement must notify the police of the lawsuit within one year after an alleged event occurs.

Working to get the word out from the New Mexico Senate

Chris Nordstrum was in third or fourth grade when he was called to the Governor’s Office for the first time. 

He wasn’t in trouble. He had won a school poster contest through the Secretary of State’s Office and went to the Roundhouse to claim his award. 

“I remember being in complete awe of this place and the grandeur of that office,” said Nordstrum, a 50-year-old Santa Fe native who serves as communications director for the New Mexico Senate Democrats. 

His office is located behind a nondescript door off one of the main hallways on the ground floor of the Capitol. A long window panel allows him to look down at the Senate floor while a couple of computer screens give him access to Senate committee hearings. 

You may see him walking through the building, but he does not have the high-profile physical presence of a lawmaker. He — like his counterpart in the Senate Republican caucus — is one of those people who helps drive the inner engine of the machine known as the state Legislature. 

As communication directors, their jobs go beyond just coordinating interviews with the press and making sure websites are updated and brimming with fresh news about legislative successes. They are messengers who have a story to tell. 

Nordstrum’s background includes 20 years in marketing and advertising for Cisco Systems in the San Francisco Bay Area and some work in linguistics, which is what he majored in at Pomona College.

Environment protections bill passes New Mexico Senate

A bill that would allow the state of New Mexico to adopt air quality and hazardous waste rules more stringent than federal regulations survived a challenge Friday from Senate Republicans, who had previously stalled the measure with a procedural maneuver that kept it in limbo for days. Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, the bill would amend the Air Quality Control Act and the Hazardous Waste Act to allow rules more rigid than federal standards. “In each case … there must be substantial evidence that the proposed state rules are more protective of public health and the environment,” said Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat. The bill passed along a mostly party-line 23-15 vote. Democrat George Muñoz of Gallup sided with Republicans in opposing the measure, which goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration. 

Wirth argued that Senate Bill 8 would provide what he called consistent, New Mexico-focused environmental oversight.

Senate Republicans stall environmental protections

A bill that would allow the state and certain local authorities to enact environmental protections more stringent than federal regulations stalled Monday when Republicans pulled a legislative maneuver that requires every member of the chamber to be physically present in the Roundhouse. “We’re gonna roll over this bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. “At this point, it doesn’t make sense to have us just standing in place.” Wirth, who is sponsoring Senate Bill 8, said the “call of the Senate” will remain on the measure. He noted that “this little procedural maneuver is certainly part of the rules.”

Tempers flare in New Mexico Senate after lawmaker stalls bill

Tensions boiled over on the normally cordial Senate floor Monday after an Albuquerque Democrat used a legislative maneuver to stall a bill he opposes. Sen. Jacob Candelaria said his move prompted the typically mild-mannered majority leader Peter Wirth to drop an F-bomb. Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat known for his easygoing demeanor, confronted Candelaria at his chair after the third-term senator asked for “a call of the Senate” — a procedural move that requires every member of the chamber to be physically present in the Roundhouse, Candelaria said. He said Wirth, who was furious he had forced debate on Senate Bill 71, which would create the Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act, asked, “Why don’t you just [expletive] off and put an amendment on like the rest of us?” Candelaria contends that as the bill is written, it wouldn’t provide protections for the poor.

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.

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.

Speaker: House will debate abortion ban repeal Friday

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham could have the bill that decriminalizes abortion care on her desk as early as late Friday, House Speaker Brian Egolf said during a Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico event. Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, an arm of Planned Parenthood, held a remote event called “Toast of the Town” Wednesday evening. The Santa Fe Democrat was one of several speakers, including Lujan Grisham as the keynote speaker. Most of the talk during the hour-long event was about HB 7 and SB 10, mirror bills that would repeal the 1969 statute that bans abortion with few exceptions. SB 10 passed the state Senate in a historic win of 25 to 17 on February 12.

Bill to repeal old abortion ban headed to House floor

The bill to repeal the antiquated abortion ban is now one step from heading to the governor’s desk. SB 10, which was amended in the Senate, passed along party lines in an 8 to 4 vote Monday in the House Judiciary Committee. State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, amended the bill on the Senate floor Thursday to add the names of the sections the bill would repeal for clarity. Related: In historic turn, state Senate passes abortion ban repeal

Otherwise, SB 10 is a mirror bill to HB 7, which is already on the House floor agenda. The House convenes again Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Daniel Marzec, communications director for the Office of the Speaker Brian Egolf, said by email Monday that the House would not hear HB 7 on Tuesday, the next day that the House is scheduled to meet on the House floor.

In historic turn, state Senate passes abortion ban repeal

Two years after a group of conservative Democrats, along with  Republicans voted against  decriminalizing abortion care, the state Senate passed SB 10 Thursday, 25 to 17. SB 10, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is called the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act and has a mirror bill, HB 7, sponsored by Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla. The two bills remove three sections from the criminal code which, in 1969, banned abortion with some limited exceptions. The law has repeatedly been called archaic and advocates for its repeal said it included language contrary to how medicine is currently practiced. While the law is currently unenforceable, reproductive rights advocates have said that given the conservative bloc on the U.S. Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade could be gutted in the next few years.