This year’s 60-day session was a marathon—from GOP Senator Greg Baca making racist remarks in the confirmation hearing of Veterans Services Secretary Sonya Smith to a nail-biting night of watching the cannabis legalization bill never making it to the Senate floor in the wee hours of the final day of the session. The governor’s office has signaled she will call a special session that will likely take place in the next few weeks to deal with adult recreational cannabis legislation. Lujan Grisham has already signed a handful of bills and will be looking at the rest of the legislation, including the most important one—the state budget—waiting for her approval. Here are just a few awaiting her signature.
Budget: State economists projected a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1 after the start of the pandemic. After an infusion of federal pandemic relief money and optimistic revenue projections from the oil and gas industry, the state government will increase spending by 4.8 percent, or $373 million. The proposed $7.4 billion budget passed both chambers and hit the governor’s desk last Friday.
Pandemic relief: The governor has already signed into law Senate Bill 3, which benefits those businesses hit the hardest by the pandemic in the state. SB 3 offers long-term, low-interest loans up to $150,000 to eligible businesses and nonprofits.
Abortion rights: Governor Lujan Grisham made history when she signed Senate Bill 10, striking a 1969 law from the books that made it a crime to perform an abortion. Arguably the most emotionally charged bill of the session, people on both sides of the argument spoke up as abortion-rights advocates feared a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court might weaken or overturn the historic Roe v. Wade ruling.
Aid in dying: House Bill 47, allowing terminally ill patients of sound mind to ask a physician to prescribe drugs to help them die, garnered condemnation from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Proponents said people should have the right to a peaceful and dignified death, while opponents said life should be respected and raised concerns about misuse and suicide assistance. Lujan Grisham has said she will sign it.
Early childhood education funding: Democratic lawmakers were intent on using money from a multibillion-dollar state land grant endowment to boost education services for young children. The state has made significant strides in early childhood education since establishing state-funded early pre-K and pre-K programs. Legislators finally prevailed in passing House Joint Resolution 1, which allows voters to decide on the issue of where the funding for the program will come from. After reaching a compromise, the resolution states some of the new money would go into the state’s K-12 public school system. The question will be on the ballot for voters in 2022.
Civil rights: House Bill 4, giving New Mexicans the right to sue government agencies over civil rights violations, came after a year of nationwide calls for law enforcement accountability. The legislation sparked concerns about skyrocketing costs for local governments. Still, the bill made it through the House and Senate. A spokesperson said Lujan Grisham probably would sign it into law.
Liquor licenses: An initial push to legalize home delivery of alcohol became an effort to overhaul the state’s decades-old liquor license laws to end what some call a monopoly system. House Bill 255 had wide support from both sides. At the last minute, a 2 percent booze tax was eliminated. The governor has signed the bill.
Paid sick leave: A highly charged Senate debate over a bill requiring the state’s private employers to provide their workers paid sick leave left some lawmakers feeling nauseous. But House Bill 20, also known as the Healthy Workplaces Act, passed and is likely to be signed by the governor. Workers would get at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
Broadband Internet: Senate Bill 93 and House Bill 10 would together create a central state agency to develop and upgrade New Mexico’s broadband system. Despite investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, access to broadband services has remained spotty for many New Mexicans. The bills are on the governor’s desk.
School Impact Aid: Legislation that would redirect federal Impact Aid money to schools was passed by both chambers. Around three-quarters of that federal aid currently goes into a pool of funds for all of the state’s public schools. House Bill 6 would ensure the money goes to schools that need it the most, including many that primarily serve Native American students.
Opportunity Scholarship: Lawmakers on both sides agreed to continue funding the Opportunity Scholarship, infusing it with $18 million. The scholarship provides tuition assistance for thousands of New Mexico students pursuing degrees at two-year colleges. The legislature gave $10.5 million to the Legislative Lottery Scholarship, which covers 90 percent of college tuition costs, making parents breathe a sigh of relief.
No hair or headdress discrimination: Supporters of an effort to prohibit discipline or discrimination based on a student’s race or culture because of a hairstyle or headdress scored a victory after Senate Bill 80 passed both chambers. Modeled after the CROWN Act, the bill bans discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle.
Trapping ban: Animal rights advocates around the state celebrated the passage of Roxy’s Law, named after a dog killed by a poacher’s snare at Santa Cruz Lake in 2018. Senate Bill 32 outlaws the use of traps, snares and wildlife poison on public land, with a few exceptions.
What didn’t pass: A host of bills brought by both the House and Senate never made it to the finish line. A few of the most publicized were; legalization of adult-use cannabis, a bill to open up primaries to voters not affiliated with a major political party, clean fuel standards that proponents argued would lead to a smaller carbon footprint, private prison reform, daylight saving change and red flag gun laws.
The governor has said this legislative session was about the health and future of the state. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers felt that little was accomplished and that the legislature was pressured into passing an agenda.