Another year, another whirlwind 30-day legislative session in the books for New Mexico. To be frank, not a lot of priority legislation made it through which is frustrating for a state with a pretty sizable Democratic majority in all branches of government. Of the 641 bills that were fully introduced, only 17 passed both houses to be sent on to the Governor. That’s just 2.65% of all legislation.
Don’t get us wrong, some important things happened for sure, including the CEED Act, defeating an oil and gas bailout Hydrogen bill, funding for survivors of sexual assault, and putting a significant interest cap on predatory lending. But at some point we need to own up to the full constitutional changes our state needs in how to actually and functionally govern vis-à-vis the legislature. We need a professional, paid, and year round body that is less beholden to billionaire oil and gas companies and other special interest groups and less capable of utilizing parliamentary procedures to stall out any meaningful change; from both sides.
So let’s take a look at some of the missed opportunities, losses, and wins we encountered this year and try to put it all in perspective.
SB67- A bill introduced by Sen. Liz Stefanics, expands school-based health clinics. With an appropriation of two-million dollars, SB67 was meant to provide reproductive health services and additional resources for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
HB32- Rep. Christine Trujillo’s bill, HB32, eliminated sales tax to menstrual products, often called the “Pink Tax.” Even while it passed through several committees, it was ultimately tabled in the Senate Finance Committee. We hope one day folx across the country can access menstrual hygiene products without being taxed.
One of our biggest losses this year was climate. Literally we are in a daily scramble to lower emissions and thereby try and head off the worst of some seriously scary projections in the next 10-40 years. Every day we don’t pass comprehensive climate-focused policy at every single level of government is another nail in the proverbial coffin we’re sealing ourselves into. No one likes doom and gloom news – we know the statistics – but it’s so very hard to drive home how serious the issue is without getting a little exasperated.
New Mexico had an opportunity to take a step forward with HB6, the Clean Futures Act, but the bill seemed to lose support after being tabled and then revived in House Conservation. ProgressNow NM would like to fully acknowledge that the bill, even after revision and amendments, was NOT perfect and did not address some very serious issues that affect frontline and indigenous communities. It was heartening to see groups like YUCCA and Pueblo Action Alliance, amongst others, stand in opposition to the bill and demand more and better from our legislators. We saw many of our partner organizations join in calling for those changes as the bill progressed into its second committee, but it never did come to the floor for debate. New Mexico has done a lot in the la
st couple of years to address certain parts of emissions through administrative rule making but fundamental changes in the legal codes are needed if we’re going to strive to make this state a liveable place for our children.
Voting Rights Act (SB8 & SB144)
This year, the NM legislature had the opportunity to pass critical voting rights protections and set an example to the nation for what accessible, fair democracy and elections should look like in our country. NM had the chance to pass one of the most powerful voter rights bills in our state’s history with the introduction of SB8 which included critical protections such as restoration of rights for formerly incarcerated individuals, Native American voting protections, a permanent voter absentee list, back-end automatic voter registration and more.
A coalition of over 50 community based organizations supported the New Mexico Voting Rights Act and folx across the state sent thousands of emails, made hundreds of phone calls, and testified in support of the bill in each Senate and House Committee.
The New Mexico Voting Rights Act was introduced early in the legislative session as SB 8, and spent a number of weeks languishing in the Senate Rules Committee before making it through three committees, heavily amended. The near final nail in the coffin came through a procedural move by Republican Senators – the Call of the Senate – that ultimately blocked it from being heard on the Senate Floor. Despite this setback, the NM House was determined to give voting protections a fair and true hearing.
Critical provisions of SB8 were revived by Representative Daymon Ely in Senate Bill 144 and the House Floor voted to pass SB 144 by a vote of 39 – 30. The bill moved to the Senate for final vote with less than two hours left in the 30-day session and ultimately, was blocked once again, by Republican Senators, specifically Senator Sharer, who filibustered the remaining two hours of session.
The disappointment we felt at the blockage of equitable access to vote goes beyond just this bill and highlights the flawed system in which we have to work in to access basic constitutional rights. The fact that the minority party, Senate Republicans, can force their will simply by taking the floor and running down the clock is shameful. While we did not win this particular battle, the coalition and community will be back next year, and we will try and try again until we succeed.
The much maligned and hated hydrogen bill(s) all failed (mostly, we’ll come back to that) and that was in no small part to the resounding loud NO being shouted from every corner of the state by community members, chapter houses, youth groups, and every environmental organization big or little. Without going too far into the weeds (gaseous ether?), so-called “blue” hydrogen is a made-up term created so failing oil and gas companies can sell their filthy, fracked methane as a fuel source for energy companies to then turn into hydrogen, which in turn is used as a “clean” fuel for other industrial endeavors. No one argues that hydrogen itself is part of New Mexico’s clean energy economy, but sourcing that hydrogen on fracked gas is a non-starter. A huge shoutout to everyone who showed up and showed out OVER AND OVER again to kill this terrible bill, we hope that energy can be preserved to keep up the fight over the coming years, we most certainly haven’t seen the last of this idea.
And, on that note, the money which was appropriated for the Hydrogen Hub act originally is still part of the passed budget and will be used in someway to prop up some public-private partnerships in the state, which COULD still include Hydrogen production on some level, so please stay tuned if we have to jump into a middle-of-the-year campaign should that happen so we can again knock that down.
CEED Block Grants
House Bill 37, the Community Energy Efficiency Development (CEED) Act is a great thing for New Mexico. This bill wasn’t on our radar going into the session, but we saw pretty quickly how many of our partners were working on and supporting this one so it’s definitely worth lifting up as a big win. The grant provides $500 million over the next ten years to help low-income households become more energy efficient, saving occupants money and cutting down on emissions all in one go. Kudos to all the folks who got this one over the finish line!
Funding for Services for Sexual Assault Survivors
After last year’s phenomenal win with the passage and enactment of the Respect NM Women and Families Act, New Mexico has shored up access to abortion whatever happens with SCOTUS and Roe v. Wade this summer. This year, the most notable repro-centered win this legislative session came from sponsors Siah Correa Hemphill and Antoinette Cedilla Lopez who introduced SB 197, which allocated 3.8-million dollars to sexual assault service programs.
Knowing that New Mexico ranks seventh in the country for high rates of sexual violence, we know that these funds directed to sexual assault service programs will be a great benefit for our state.
Fourth Trimester Care Day
Sponsors introduced a House Memorial declaring September 23rd “Fourth Trimester Care Day” in New Mexico. This memorial addresses the fourth trimester of people who have recently birthed a child. The sponsors of the bill highlighted that health issues like chest feeding problems, physical exhaustion, infections and other problems are often undiagnosed. The memorial received a final Do Pass in the House with no one voting in the negative.
This is only a small window into this year’s legislation. Keep coming back for more on where we go from here on important legislation.