Legislative Roundup: 14 Days Remain In 2023 Session

Teacher of The Year: The House of Representatives voted unanimously Friday to honor New Mexico Teacher of the Year Tara Hughes of the Nye Early Childhood Center in Santa Fe with House Memorial 77. 

Hughes told The New Mexican in October 2022 before becoming a teacher she worked as a carpenter and welder running the Santa Fe Opera stage crew. She taught stage operations and construction, gaining a passion for education.

While studying special education at New Mexico Highlands University, she worked as a student teacher in an autism-specific preschool and became more interested in ensuring classrooms became more inclusive for students with special needs and making sure they spent time with their classmates.

Student lobbyists: Students from Eldorado High School in Albuquerque took a field trip to lobby at the state Capitol on Friday in an effort to learn more about how their political power goes beyond casting a ballot.

Sean Thomas, who teaches government and civics at the school, said the lobbyist component of the class teaches students to “exercise their voice in the police process.”

Myra Lacy, a senior, said the class “teaches me that I have a voice and that voice matters.” She said she and other students worked with Rep. Pamelya Herndon, D-Albuquerque, to helped shape House Bill 112.

HB 112 would develop wellness rooms in public schools where students dealing with behavioral, mental or emotional health issues can go for comfort and support. The bill is awaiting a hearing on the House floor.

Dem AGs praise New Mexico abortion push: The Democratic attorneys general of six states put out a statement Friday supporting New Mexico for pushing back on Eastern New Mexico municipalities that are seeking to restrict abortion.

“We applaud the State of New Mexico for taking swift action to push back against localities attempting to cut off access to abortion,” they said. “Since the reversal of Roe v. Wade, New Mexico has become a safe haven for people from neighboring states that have banned or restricted abortion. Localities trying to independently ban abortion are jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of millions.”

Signing onto the statement were the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan and Minnesota. They went on to say it is “critical that New Mexico continue to ensure abortion is protected across the state so it can remain a safe haven for all those in need of care.”

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez is challenging the local anti-abortion ordinances in a few Eastern New Mexico cities and counties in court, arguing they violate the state constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. House Bill 7, which also would override these local ordinances, passed the House in late February and is working its way through the Senate; it received a do-pass recommendation from Senate Health and Public Affairs on Thursday.

Human rights expansion: Following a roughly three-hour debate on the House floor, members voted 47-20 to approve House Bill 207, which would expand the scope of the state’s 1969 Human Rights Act to all government agencies, including local municipalities, as among those who cannot discriminate against a person based on a wide variety of personal characteristics.

“Gender identity and gender are among those factors,” the bill’s fiscal impact reports. 

Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, who co-sponsored the bill, told the House the legislation “ensures our tax dollars are not discriminatory.”

Some Republican lawmakers tried without success to introduce amendments that would exempt religious organizations or — when it comes to access to locker rooms for people who are transitioning from one gender to another — schools. 

HB 207 now goes to the Senate for consideration. 

Governor nominates regents: Two days after announcing five people had been appointed regents at public colleges and universities, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced three additional nominees for six-year regent terms:

  • Ray Birmingham to Eastern New Mexico University.
  • Phelps Anderson to the New Mexico Military Institute.
  • Deborah K. Romero to New Mexico State University.

They must be confirmed by the state Senate.

Birmingham retired from the University of New Mexico in 2021 after serving as head baseball coach since 2007.

Anderson was born and raised in Roswell and is a former state representative, serving from 1977 to 1980 and again from 2019 until his retirement from the Legislature in 2022. Prior to entering politics, Anderson worked as a businessman, managing his family’s investment in oil and real estate.

Romero retired as Cabinet secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration in 2022 following a nearly 50-year career in New Mexico state government. Romero succeeds Arsenio Romero, who vacated his position as a regent to serve as Cabinet secretary of the Public Education Department.

Quotes of the day: “I gotta go grab some food. Let me get some blood sugar and then let’s talk.” —Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, when asked why the Senate Rules Committee, which she chairs, canceled confirmation hearings Friday for three Cabinet secretaries.

“Don’t run over anybody — they’re not going to invite us here again.” —A woman talking to a child who, while clowning around in one of the state Capitol’s hallways, nearly ran into a passerby.


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