A bill to prohibit public bodies from discriminating against reproductive healthcare or gender-affirming health care passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee by 6-to-3 party line vote on Wednesday. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Albuquerque. The bill would enable the attorney general or a district attorney to sue an entity responsible for blocking access to reproductive health or gender-affirming care. The court could apply remedies, including monetary damages. The court can also apply a $5,000 civil penalty or actual damages against the entity responsible for the discrimination.
When newly-elected State Auditor Joseph Maestas took office, he found himself in charge of a budget he had no say in developing. This led to one bill proposal for appropriations that otherwise would have been included in the State Auditor’s Office budget. SB 323 seeks to replace the SAO’s current fraud complaint management system. “We get anonymous complaints of fraud, waste and abuse, by telephone, by email through our website, through various means,” Maestas said. “Intake averages about 300 cases a year.
A bill to protect abortion and gender-affirming care providers from out-of-state forces passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee by a 5-3 party vote on Wednesday. SB 13, seeks to protect abortion providers and gender-affirming care providers in New Mexico from civil or criminal liability and from discrimination by licensing boards and from other states where reproductive care or gender-affirming care are not protected. State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is the bill’s primary sponsor. This is the second of two reproductive rights bills introduced into the Legislature this session. The first one to go through committee hearings, HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, passed the House floor Tuesday evening by a vote of 38 to 31.
A bill that will, if enacted, eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in child sexual abuse incidences passed a Senate committee unanimously. SB 126, Child Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations, is sponsored by state Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque. She said the current law gives the victim until their 24th birthday or three years after they disclose during treatment to file a civil case against the perpetrator. “This allows folks to get to the courthouse door. We know from extensive studies, trauma can last a long time.
A bill that will make orders of protection easier for survivors to obtain passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee with no opposition. SB 18, Rename Family Violence Act, cleared the committee on an 8-0 vote. It will head to the Senate Judiciary Committee next. SB 18, sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, significantly rewrites the Family Violence Protection Act to improve victims’ ability to request an order of protection and to expand the list of reasons an order can be obtained. If the bill becomes law a survivor will be able to request an order for protection in the event of kidnapping, false imprisonment, interference with communication, threats to disclose immigration status, harm or threats to harm animals to intimidate, threaten or harass a person and unauthorized distribution of sensitive images.
With relatively few reproductive healthcare bills before the 2022 legislative session, only one made it through intact. HB 32, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, which eliminates gross receipts tax, sometimes referred to as a sales tax, on feminine hygiene products, was grafted into HB 2, the general appropriation bill. The elimination of the GRT effectively, in layman’s terms, eliminates any sales tax to the products, which Trujillo sees in broader terms of civic engagement and political access. Trujillo said she wants to see poor and young girls to “start becoming more empowered and maybe this bill will help.”
“I want young girls to recognize that if they have that need for those necessities, they should not be shy about asking for them, and also start getting involved and engaged,” she told NM Political Report. The bill unanimously passed the House Health and Human Services Committee but the House Taxation and Revenue Committee tabled the bill. The House Taxation and Revenue Committee later amended a tax changes bill, HB 163, sponsored by Christine Chandler, D-Albuquerque, to include tax deductions for gross receipts tax for feminine hygiene products.
A key “tough-on-crime” initiative supported by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham hit a roadblock Monday. Members of the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted 5-3 to table Senate Bill 189, which would make a major change to the state’s pretrial detention process for defendants suspected of certain violent crimes. Under the measure, a defendant would have to prove to a judge they are not at risk of committing further violence if they are allowed to remain free until their trial. It is one of the most contentious bills in this year’s legislative session, despite its bipartisan support. Republicans have long pushed for similar legislation, arguing the current system, in which prosecutors must show evidence a defendant poses too great a danger to be released, has led to some heinous crimes by repeat offenders.
By a vote of 7-0, the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee unanimously passed SB 197, which, if passed and signed by the governor, would provide the full $5 million request for sexual assault services across the state which advocates have said is crucial. State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City, is sponsoring SB 197. State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is a co-sponsor and spoke during the committee hearing about the importance of the request because some federal funding for sexual assault services is expected to no longer be available as of Fiscal Year 2023. Alexandria Taylor, director of Sexual Assault Services for the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said that HB 2, the General Appropriations Act of 2022, provides $2.6 million to New Mexico Crime Victim Reparation Commission. “We’re asking for the remaining $2.4 million to be put in,” Taylor said of SB 197.
The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee, with some members absent, voted 5-to-1 to pass SB 43, which would eliminate the possibility of a child being sentenced to life in prison without parole. Republican state Sen. Gregg Schemedes of Tijeras voted against the bill. State Sens. Jacob Candelaria, I-Albuquerque, David Gallegos, R-Eunice and Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, were not present for the vote. All the Democratic members of the committee voted in favor.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, a Democrat from Albuquerque, said the courts have asked the legislative branch to clarify this particular part of the law, which if passed would prevent a child from receiving a life sentence without parole and would allow a parole hearing after 15 years of time served.
A bill that would end qualified immunity as a defense in civil rights cases advanced from the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee. HB 4, known as the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, passed without recommendation in a 5 to 3 vote along party lines. State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, amended the bill to remove acequias, land grants and other small units of government from the definition of a public body, said Daniel Marzec, communications director for House Speaker Brian Egolf’s office. Egolf is a co-sponsor of the bill. The lead sponsor is Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque.