This story appears in both The Paper and the Santa Fe New Mexican through a partnership to bring our readers the best in reporting from the legislature.
Making history: New Mexico’s first Black state senator, Air Force veteran Harold Pope Jr., appeared in a one-page color spread in the spring issue of Black EOE Journal, which describes itself as America’s leading African American business and career magazine. The publication recognized the Albuquerque Democrat for his history-making win in November, when he defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Sander Rue.
“I just want to set the example and take a lot of pride in it,” Pope, who represents Northwest Albuquerque’s District 23, told the magazine. “But because I am the first, I don’t want to be the last. I just want to be that voice and have that seat at the table.” The magazine featured Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to serve as the nation’s vice president, on its cover.
Abortion repeal heads to both chambers: A contentious proposal to repeal a half-century-old law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion in New Mexico will soon head to both chambers for a vote. House Bill 7 is scheduled to be considered by the full House of Representatives on Thursday. A similar bill — Senate Bill 10 — cleared its second Senate committee Wednesday and will move forward to the full Senate for consideration. The measure has generated strong opinions and emotional testimony from supporters and opponents alike.
“We’re lacking one very important party and one very important opinion, and that important party and important opinion comes from the individual who isn’t equipped to speak or isn’t equipped to plead their case and really has nobody there to plead that case,” Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which endorsed the bill on a 6-3 party-line vote. “That voice is just muted and silenced.”
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, shared a personal story about dealing with an unexpected pregnancy with his ex-girlfriend when he was a young man. “In the end, we decided to do an adoption, and for us, that was the correct choice. But … that’s not the right choice for everybody and what was important was that we were able to make that choice.” Ivey-Soto also said “the weight of these decisions falls grossly disproportionately on women.”
Outdoor learning: A memorial to establish a task force that would make recommendations about how to expand and improve outdoor classrooms in New Mexico received unanimous approval from the Senate Rules Committee. Senate Memorial 1, sponsored by Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City, also requests the governor declare an “Outdoor Learning Day” in the state this year.
Outdoor classrooms can improve learning and student well-being, as well as provide a safe and distanced classroom during a pandemic, the memorial states. Approval came after several youngsters in the Wild Friends civics education program spoke in support of the measure.
“I personally believe that outdoor classrooms would be beneficial to students like me who would want to learn in person during a pandemic,” a ninth-grader from New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe told senators. “Furthermore, I think it’s important to introduce outdoor classrooms to New Mexico because other states have already done so and with great success.” Lawmakers said they were impressed with the students, who testified virtually from different parts of the state. “I’d like to recruit your experts to come [testify] on a couple of my bills — might give some of them a chance to get through,” quipped Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
Bail reform bill stalls: Rep. William “Bill” Rehm, R-Albuquerque, introduced House Joint Resolution 4, which would have left it up to voters to decide to approve a constitutional amendment to set new conditions for courts to deny bail to defendants. Rehm, a former law enforcement official, said the resolution will help stop the “revolving door” of catch-and-release policies, in which violent or repeat offenders who are not detained while they await trial commit new crimes. Some Democrats on the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committed questioned whether the legislation would do what Rehm intended and whether it could hurt people who committed misdemeanors. Members of the Democrat-dominated committee voted 6-3, along party lines, to table it.
Quote of the day: “I hope after 60 days I can tell the difference between ‘mute’ and ‘unmute.'” — Rep. Marian Matthews, D-Albuquerque, after she spoke while muted during a virtual session of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.