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.
The House voted down a bill sought to modernize the Campaign Reporting Act. SB 42 sought to simplify campaign reporting compliance for some elected officials and to provide more sunshine on campaign finances. The bill failed on 33-36 vote. Legislators debate portions of the bill that would change the way loans to candidates from family members would be reported. There were questions about how the difference between a loan from a family member to help fix a home issue such as plumbing or roofing was different from a loan toward the candidates campaigning.
There was also discussion about the restricted times during legislative sessions when a legislator may receive a donation through the mail but not cash it until after the legislative session concluded.
The House Judiciary Committee tabled legislation that sought to change legislative session lengths to 45 days each year on a 5-4 vote on Monday.
HJR 14 sought to let voters decide to change the legislative session to 45 days each year and would have removed the restriction on presenting non-budgetary bills in even-numbered years. Currently, the Legislature can only hear bills related to the budget or those place on the call by the governor in even-numbered years. The legislative session in odd-numbered years is 60 days long, while those in even-numbered years are 30 days long. HJR 14 is similar to HJR 2 which seeks to let voters decide if the legislative session should be extended to 60 days. Committee members argued that the bill is not feasible since the current legislative session is past its 45th calendar day and committees are still hearing bills for the first time.
A bill that would prohibit discrimination in reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming healthcare passed the House by a 38 to 31 vote on Tuesday evening. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, will, if enacted, prohibit municipalities and counties from passing ordinances that directly or indirectly discriminate against either reproductive and gender-affirming care. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe. The bill seeks to enable the attorney general or district attorneys to sue an entity responsible for a violation. The court could apply remedies, including monetary damages.
A bill to ensure New Mexico children are taught affirmative consent – that affirmative consent is necessary before and during sexual activity – during their mandatory health class passed the House Chamber 49-12. HB 43, Affirmative Consent Policy in the Schools, will require the health class taught in either eighth grade or high school in New Mexico public and charter schools to include a discussion of affirmative consent. House Rep. Liz Thomson, a Democrat from Albuquerque, and one of the bill’s sponsors, said while presenting the bill that “yes means yes,” as a shorthand way of describing what the bill, if enacted, would require the health class to teach. There is also a section of the bill that would require institutions of higher education to include trauma-informed policies that meet an affirmative consent standard. Thomson said she’s heard from many adults, both men and women, who have said they wished they had heard this information years ago.
After a contentious, two-hour debate over what should go into the bill to fund 2021’s second special legislative session, the House voted 65 to 1 to approve the $1.6 million package. The new House Majority Floor leader, Democratic state Rep. Javier Martinez, of Albuquerque, introduced HB 1, known as the feed bill, which ensures that the 2021 second special session legislative session can pay for itself. The legislative session, as called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is focused on redrawing political maps and how to appropriate the rest of the $1.1 billion the state has received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act under Pres. Joe Biden. The bill originally included additional monies to go to the executive and judicial branches, to enable the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to prepare to spend the ARPA funds and money for the courts to pay for pretrial services. Martinez referred repeatedly to the crime problem in Albuquerque and that the DFA needed to get ready for the federal expenditures as reasons to pass a bill that was designed to allow the legislature to include the additional expenditures.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Friday that she will call the state Legislature back for a special session on Tuesday, March 30.
The special session will start just ten days after the end of the state’s regular, 60-day session. At the end of the regular session, Lujan Grisham said that she would call legislators into a special session soon to finish the effort. The governor cited precautions in place because of COVID-19 as one reason why legislation ran out of time. According to a statement from the governor’s office, the session will focus on recreational-use cannabis legalization and economic development through the state’s Local Economic Development Act (LEDA).
Lujan Grisham said in the statement that cannabis legalization and reforming economic development are important enough for the state to call a special session.
“The unique circumstances of the session, with public health safeguards in place, in my view prevented the measures on my call from crossing the finish line,” Lujan Grisham said. “While I applaud the Legislature and staff for their incredible perseverance and productivity during the 60-day in the face of these challenges, we must and we will forge ahead and finish the job on these initiatives together for the good of the people and future of our great state.”
During special sessions, legislators can only discuss legislation that the governor puts on the call.
The New Mexico House Judiciary Committee advanced on Saturday a proposal to change a fundamental piece of how the state Legislature operates, although some committee members signaled that it will likely die before Saturday when the session ends.
House Joint Resolution 13, is a bipartisan proposal that aims to change the dates and length of legislative sessions through a constitutional amendment.
House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, is the lead sponsor of the proposal, but 20 other legislators have also signed on to the resolution.
Montoya said there’s a need to revamp how and when the Legislature meets because the current system doesn’t work for the minority party during budget sessions. Montoya used former Gov. Susana Martinez as an example and said half of that time was devoted to budgetary issues or issues the governor saw fit to address.
“Many of you that are here, were under eight years of the [Susana] Martinez administration,” Montoya said. “For four years, unless somehow you snuck something in, you didn’t get a bill introduced during four of those eight years.”
Currently, the state constitution dictates that on even-numbered years the Legislature is required to meet for 30 days and can only take up financial issues and anything the governor adds to “the call.” Odd-numbered years are required to be 60 days and there is no restriction on what type of proposals can be introduced.
HJR 13, if approved by voters, would change the constitution to require that the Legislature meet for 45 days every year and would eliminate the constraints on bills that could be considered in even-numbered years
Nearly all members of the Judiciary Committee voiced their concern with the current system, but some said they thought 45 days still is not long enough to effectively legislate.
Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said he considered sponsoring a similar proposal, but ultimately decided against it after he saw new rules imposed in the House this year, a largely virtual session, that limited the number of bills introduced as well as morning floor sessions that have historically been devoted to pomp and circumstance.
“I don’t know what college someone’s intern wants to go to or what their favorite sport is, and things like that,” McQueen said. I appreciate the process of the legislature, but we spend way too much time on that stuff. Way too much time.”
McQueen was one of two committee members who voted against the resolution, but explained that he thinks 45 days is still “too limiting.”
House Judiciary Committee Chair Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, along with Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque both agreed that 45 days is not enough time to get through hundreds of pieces of legislation.
As J.R. Palermo sees it, the year has been bad enough for restaurants, bars and patrons. He’s none too happy with a proposed 2 percent excise tax the state could impose on alcohol sales as part of a sweeping liquor law reform bill. Palermo, the owner of Tiny’s Restaurant & Lounge, a fixture in Santa Fe since 1950, has been an outspoken critic of New Mexico legislators’ efforts to overhaul what many people call an outdated and cost-prohibitive liquor license system. He said House Bill 255 is “not friendly to the industry.” At the top of his many objections to the bill is a plan to allow restaurateurs to purchase new licenses to serve liquor at a fraction of the costs paid by longtime business operators.
A House proposal to legalize and regulate cannabis passed the chamber on a 39-31 vote, with six Democrats breaking rank to vote against the measure.
HB 12, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, would fully legalize the sale and production of cannabis for adults, allow home cultivation and would expunge previous minor drug convictions. The bill would also implement an eight percent excise tax on the sale of cannabis and a local government tax up to four percent. Recreational-use cannabis would also be subject to gross receipts taxes, while medical-use cannabis would not.
Martínez said the three major tenets of the bill are to protect New Mexico’s current medical-use cannabis program, ensure an equitable and just industry and to create a regulated industry that will thrive.
Romero told her colleagues she shared the sentiments of her cosponsor and said cannabis has been used for various purposes for centuries, including in her own family.
Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo explained why he opposed the bill. He raised concerns about how a fully-legalized cannabis program might impact tribal governments in the state.