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New Mexico House Democrats Achieve Landmark Policy Goals in Unprecedented Session

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Commentary: The 60-day, 2021 legislative session closed at 12 p.m. today, marking the end of a unique session in which legislators and the public participated virtually and some of the most transformative legislation in New Mexico’s history passed through the legislature. 

House Democrats succeeded in passing long-held priorities and created a budget that sets an active role for the state in economic recovery and makes sustained investments in education, health care, infrastructure, workforce development, job creation, and more. Although health concerns prevented the public from gathering in the Roundhouse, public participation reached record levels with more than 19,000 members of the public testifying during committee hearings over the past 60 days. 

“Facing the worst pandemic our country has seen in over a century, House Democrats showed up for the people of New Mexico this session. Our dedicated and resilient caucus members never missed a beat, fighting hard every day to advance vital legislation that supports New Mexicans through this difficult time and moves our state forward,” said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe). “Despite all odds, this session saw numerous long-fought battles to advance our state finally achieve victory. From transformative investments in our youngest children, to becoming the first state in the nation to hold all government bodies accountable for civil rights violations, to repealing an antiquated state statute and protecting the right to quality reproductive health care.”

“New Mexico has emerged from the 2021 session a better, stronger, fairer state. I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done this year, and look forward to continuing to build on the important progress we’ve made for New Mexico and the hardworking people of our state.” 

 

KEY LEGISLATION PASSED
 

 

COVID-19 Relief 

 

HB 11: GRT and Permanent Fund for LEDA Projects
Sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos) and Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Sante Fe)

  • Provides $200 million in direct financial support to small and mid-sized businesses. It makes grants available to cover things like rent and equipment that keep a business running. These grants can total up to $100,000 for each business and do not have to be paid back. It also provides more funding for Local Economic Development Act projects. 

 
SB 1: Restaurant GRT Deduction

Led by sponsors Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe), Senators Jacob Candelaria (D-Albuquerque) and Siah Correa Hemphill (D-Silver City), and Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque)

  • Provides a four-month tax holiday for restaurants and food service businesses who have been so hard hit by the pandemic. It also creates a $600 tax credit for New Mexicans who earn $31,200 or less, putting more money into local economies. 

 
SB 3: Small Business Stimulus Act

Led by sponsors Rep. Marian Matthews (D-Albuquerque) and Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Albuquerque)

  • Expands the Small Business Recovery Act, making very low-interest loans available to a wider range of businesses. 

 
Economy Opportunity & Supporting Working Families

 

HB 255: Alcohol Delivery

Led by sponsors Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque)Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque)Rep. Rod Montoya (R-Farmington), Rep. Joshua Hernandez (R-Rio Rancho)Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque)

  • Helps our struggling restaurants and hospitality businesses by opening up new revenue streams, including the delivery of alcohol and additional tastings. This bill also creates a new license for restaurants that allows them to serve spirits in addition to wine and beer, and provides tax relief to protect the investments of existing liquor license holders.

 
HB 291: Tax Changes 

Sponsored by Reps. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque), Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), and Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo)

  • Expands two proven poverty-reduction programs in the state: the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) and the Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate (LICTR), providing relief to low-income families and helping them keep more of their hard-earned dollars.

 
 

HB 20: Healthy Workplaces Act: Earned Sick Leave

Led by sponsors Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces), Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Daymon Ely (D-Corrales), Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque), and Rep. Linda Serrato (D-Santa Fe)

  • Guarantees the right for all New Mexico’s workers to earn sick leave for that can be used when they or a loved one falls ill. No one should have to choose between their health and not being able to pay their bills because they can’t afford to lose a day’s pay. Allowing workers to stay home when they are sick also protects public health.

 
HB 270: Autonomous Vehicles 

Led by sponsors Harry Garcia (D-Grants), Rep. Patty Lundstrom (D-Gallup), Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Joy Garratt (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Randal Crowder (R-Cloves), and Rep. Randall Pettigrew (R-Lovington)

  • Authorizes testing of self-driving vehicles in New Mexico, putting our state at the forefront of this emerging new industry and creating a new economic driver for our state.

 
HB 68: Space Flight Informed Consent Act Changes 

Sponsored by Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque)

  • Positioning New Mexico on the cutting-edge of space tourism by facilitating the uninterrupted operation and growth of the commercial space flight industry in our state. 

 
Infrastructure

HB 10: Broadband Development Division, “The Connect NM Act”
Led by sponsors Reps. Natalie Figueroa (D-Albuquerque), Joy Garratt (D-Albuquerque), Susan Herrera (D-Embudo), Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) and Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos)

  • Provides a centralized, comprehensive plan to deliver broadband internet to every home and business in our state. This legislation would establish a director of broadband for New Mexico and leverage federal and state resources to build this critical infrastructure. 

 
SB 93: Broadband Access & Expansion Act

Led by sponsors Senators Michael Padilla (D-Albuquerque) and Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D-Cerrillos)

  • Works in tandem with HB 10, establishing an office of broadband, resulting in a comprehensive broadband program in New Mexico. 

 
HM 33: Rural Opportunity Interim Committee
Sponsored by Reps. Roger E. Montoya (D-Española) and Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena)

  • Establishes the interim Rural Opportunity Committee, composed of legislators from each house and other relevant interim committees, to address issues affecting rural areas of New Mexico, including barriers to economic and educational opportunities, project funding, tax policies, and access to basic infrastructure. 

 
Health Care

SB 317: No Behavioral Health Cost Sharing
Sponsored by Senators Martin Hickey (D-Albuquerque) and Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces), and Rep. Deborah Armstrong (D - Albuquerque)

  • Lowers health care premiums and deductibles, and expand coverage to an estimated 

23,000 uninsured New Mexicans, by establishing a Health Care Affordability Fund and bringing in over $115 million in revenue by replacing the federal health insurance premium surtax that was recently repealed with a state surtax on the same insurance companies who received the tax break. The bill also prohibits the imposition of cost-sharing by health insurers on behavioral health services covered by an individual or group health insurance policy, health care plan, or certificate of health insurance. 
 

SB 10: Repeal Abortion Ban

Led by sponsors Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe), and Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Mesilla), Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces)Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe)Rep. Deborah Armstrong (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque)

  • Repeals the antiquated ban on abortions that was in state law and unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade, keeping reproductive health care safe and legal in our state no matter what happens in Washington. These personal and complex decisions should remain between a woman, her family, and her doctor. 

 
HB 47: End-of-Life Options
Sponsored by Rep. Debbie Armstrong (D-Albuquerque), Senator Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D-Cerrillos), Senator Bill O’Neill (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque), and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque)

  • Provides terminally ill, mentally competent adults in New Mexico, who are given six or fewer months to live, with the option to obtain medication allowing them to pass away peacefully. The bill contains strict eligibility requirements and extensive safeguards to protect patients and regulate the practice.

HB 112: Health Benefits for Certain Non-Citizens
Sponsored by Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque)

  • Requires hospitals providing indigent care to treat all non-citizens equally regardless of immigration status, prohibiting discrimination based on immigration status to ensure everyone can receive access to vital health care. 

 
HB 23: Med School Licensure Requirements

Sponsored by House Democratic Majority Whip Rep. Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces)

  • Implements needed reforms to the state’s medical school licensure system, building quality residency programs within the state, so that homegrown doctors can complete their training and begin their careers serving our communities in New Mexico.

 
 

Education

 

HJR 1: Early Childhood Permanent Fund
Led by sponsors Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque), Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque), Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Albuquerque), and Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), and Senator Pete Campos (D-Las Vegas)

  • HJR 1 is a transformative investment in the education and support of New Mexico’s youngest. It provides millions in sustained funding for early childhood education and care programs, as well as K-12 education, by tapping 1.25% of the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund, currently valued at roughly $22 million. Improving programs for youth during their most formative years is an investment in the future of our state. The measure now goes to voters for approval. 

 
HB 6:  State Equalization Guarantee Distributions, Correcting Impact Aid Distributions
Sponsored by Rep. Patty Lundstrom (D-Gallup), Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), Rep. Harry Garcia (D-Grants), and Rep. D. Wonda Johnson (D-Church Rock)

  • HB 6 corrects decades of improper education funding distribution that has deprived Native schools and other historically underserved communities. Millions of dollars in Federal Impact Aid funding is intended to reach these schools, but is currently diverted to the State Equalization Guarantee, which distributes the funding to all schools in the state. This bill would correct that discrepancy, finally distributing this education funding to its intended recipients. This is a key step to addressing the deficiencies highlighted in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit.

 
HB 128: School Personnel Background & Training

Sponsored by Reps. Debra M. Sariñana (D-Albuquerque)Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque), Susan Herrera (D-Embudo)Joy Garratt (D-Albuquerque), and Rep. Marian Matthews (D-Albuquerque)

  • Protects students in New Mexico from sexual and ethical misconduct by teachers and school employees by enacting an extensive set of both preventative and responsive measures to address ethical and sexual misconduct. Currently, public school employees who commit these heinous acts are able to move from school to school without disclosing their background. HB 128 closes this loophole, and implements other training and reporting policies to protect our children. 

 
HB 43: Black Education Act 
Sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque) and Senator Harold Pope, Jr. (D-Albuquerque)

  • Addresses educational gaps and seeks to improve educational outcomes and experiences for Black students in New Mexico by establishing a Black Education Advisory Council and Black Education Liaison, tasked with implementing programs related to the education of Black students and incorporating Black culture and anti-racism into curricula. The bill also requires anti-racism, racial awareness, and sensitivity training by all school personnel, and creation of a hotline for reporting racially-charged incidents.

HB 22: Grow Your Own Teachers Act Expansion
Sponsored by Rep. Joy Garratt (D-Albuquerque), Sen. Michael Padilla (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Raymundo “Ray” Lara (D-Chamberino), and Rep. Natalie Figueroa (D-Albuquerque)

  • Addresses the state’s teacher shortage by expanding the Grow Your Own Teachers Act, which currently awards scholarships for educational assistants to pursue teaching degrees. This bill’s expansion would make these scholarships available to any school employee who has worked with students for at least two years.

 
Civil Rights

 

HB 4: Civil Rights Act
Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), and Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces)

  • Makes the New Mexico Bill of Rights a living document. Right now, if a New Mexican has their civil rights violated by a government actor, they are unable to seek justice in our state courts. And in Federal court, there are so many barriers to bringing a successful case, victims almost never receive justice. This bill allows New Mexicans to bring a government body to court and pursue justice. If we are going to rebuild trust between government agencies and the communities they serve, we need accountability. 

 
HB 29: The CROWN Act
Sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque)

  • Prevents schools from punishing or otherwise discriminating against students for their hairstyle or headdress. New Mexico should always celebrate the diversity of cultures and religions in our state.

HB 234: Strengthen Guardianship Provider Oversight
Sponsored by Rep. Marian Matthews (D-Albuquerque) 

  • Creates new oversight over professional guardians and conservators. Professional guardians are trusted with incredible power over the person who they become responsible for, yet right now there is no way to monitor their activity outside of court. Without proper oversight, serious financial and elder abuse can take place. This legislation requires guardians to get a license from the state and it creates an oversight board where complaints against guardians can be heard and investigated.

 
HB 231: Native Polling Place Protections

Sponsored by Reps. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), D. Wonda Johnson (D-Church Rock), Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo), and Anthony Allison (D-Fruitland), and Sen. Benny Shendo (D-Jemez Pueblo)

  • Enacts new regulations protecting the voting rights of Native Americans in New Mexico, following recent issues surrounding ballot access during the pandemic and recognizing the historic suppression of Native voters. The bill specifies that a polling place located on an Indian nation, tribal land, or pueblo land cannot be eliminated or consolidated with other polling locations without the written agreement of the tribal government, requires at least one polling location within each Indian nation, tribe, or pueblo, and allows tribes and pueblos to request additional polling locations up to 100 days before an election.

Energy and Environment

 

HB 51: The Environmental Database Act
Sponsored by Rep. Joanne J. Ferrary (D-Las Cruces), Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Debbie Armstrong (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Eliseo Alcon (D-Milan) and Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque)

  • Creates a powerful environmental resource map that will allow the public, government agencies, and industry to make smart and informed decisions regarding water and land usage. As we work to better manage and protect our state’s environment and natural beauty, having this data easily accessible in one consolidated location will be key. The database will include locations and data on parks, natural resources, waterways, plant and wildlife, energy projects, and public health data.

 
HB 15: Sustainable Building Tax Credit
Sponsored by Reps. Kristina Ortez (D-Taos), Tara Lujan (D-Santa Fe)Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque), and Linda Serrato (D-Santa Fe), and Senator Martin Hickey (D-Albuquerque)

  • Expands the tax credit available for sustainable building and retrofitting to encourage the use of energy efficient practices and products, and make these changes more affordable for everyday families and homeowners, as well as landlords and builders. This will address the building inefficiencies that heavily contribute to energy usage and carbon pollution and help New Mexico hit our carbon reduction goals, 

 
HB 57: Prescribed Burning
Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo)Rep. Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena)Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) and Sen. Pat Woods (R-Broadview)

  • Address the high risk of wildfire by allowing private landowners to conduct prescribed forest burns. Controlled burns have historically been a key part of forest management, but current law has discouraged landowners from pursuing this technique. HB 57 reinstates these burns as a tool to keep our forests and rangelands healthy and protect the thousands of acres of forest currently at risk of severe wildfires. 

 
SB 8: Local Government Air Quality Regulations 

Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) and Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque), and Reps. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) and Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos)

  • Gives the state and local governments the freedom to adopt more ambitious environmental standards more stringent than federal regulations, if they so choose, to cut down on harmful pollutants and greenhouse gasses. These changes are critical to mitigating regional and statewide air pollution, accomplishing the emission reductions required by the governor’s Executive Order, implementing regulations in a timely manner as needs arise.

 
SB 32: Wildlife Conservation & Public Safety Act, also known as Roxy’s Law”
Sponsored by Senators Bobby Gonzales, (D-Ranchos de Taos) and Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales), and Reps. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo) and Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos)

  • Prohibits the use of traps, snares, or wildlife poison on public land, protecting endangered species, domestic animals, public safety, and outdoor tourism, while ensuring wild animals aren’t subjected to unnecessary cruelty. 

 
SB 84: Community Solar Act
Led by sponsors Senators Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D-Cerrillos) and Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque), and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque)

  • Provides for the development and operation of community solar facilities. This will expand access to this renewable energy source for businesses and individuals who can’t install their own solar panels, and work toward New Mexico’s clean energy goals.