Assault weapon ban bill dies: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to table a bill that would prohibit the manufacture, sale, trade or ownership of automatic weapons Monday. Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, said after the hearing for Senate Bill 171 lawmakers on the committee raised issues about whether it is constitutional to ban such weapons in the wake of last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to expand the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.
“There are issues with whether it is constitutional or not with the most recent Supreme Court rulings,” Soules said in an interview. “I am by no means an expert of that sort. It didn’t surprise me with the recent Supreme Court ruling. I knew it was a longshot.”
The vote to table the bill ran along bipartisan lines, with Democratic senators Bill O’Neill and Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque and Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces joining Republican senators Greg Baca of Belen, Mark Moores of Albuquerque and Cliff Pirtle of Roswell to table the measure.
In a news release issued by the Senate Republicans, Baca said, “Like most of the gun bills being considered this Session, Senate Bill 171 needlessly targets law-abiding citizens and threatens them with a felony for exercising their Second Amendment right.”
In a legislative session in which fighting crime and enacting gun safety laws have become priorities, it’s unclear if the committee’s decision signals difficulty for a similar bill, House Bill 101, working its way through the House of Representatives. The bill is scheduled to be heard next in the House Judiciary Committee.
“Vulnerable newborns”: A bill designed to ensure the state Children, Youth and Families Department keeps a close eye on “vulnerable newborns” with fetal alcohol syndrome or exposure to other substances passed the Senate Monday with bipartisan support.
Senate Bill 150 requires CYFD to conduct a family assessment when a family or caregiver fails to comply with a so-called plan of care after a substance-exposed infant is born, said the sponsor, Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs.
CYFD also would be required to provide referrals for substance abuse treatment, counseling and other services aimed at addressing underlying factors that may jeopardize the safety or well-being of the baby, she said.
“Children born with drug addictions are in need of special attention as early as possible,” Kernan said in a statement. “As it stands, these high-need, high-risk babies born into inherently dubious situations have no follow-up on their essential plan of care. This bill simply ensures that these difficult cases do not become tomorrow’s front-page tragedy.”
The bill heads next to the House of Representatives.
STI prevention and treatment: Senate Bill 132, which would eliminate copays for preventive care and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, passed the Senate along party lines Monday.
“Rates of sexually transmitted infections have dramatically increased locally and nationally in recent years,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, who is one of the sponsors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2021 “that 26 million new STIs diagnosed in 2018 are estimated to drive $16 billion in direct lifetime medical costs,” she said.
Sometimes, the infections are asymptomatic, so people don’t know they have them, she said.
“It really impacts newborns,” she said. “When newborns are born with syphilis, it just creates huge medical problems.”
Protecting ballot workers: Members of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee unanimously voted to approve Senate Bill 43, which would amend the election code relating to the crime of intimidation. The legislation includes acts against employees of the Secretary of State and county and municipal clerk offices. The bill makes intimidation a fourth-degree felony and next goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice reported a recent rise in threats to election workers. The department started a task force to investigate the issue and reported last August it had looked into 1,000 events involving hostile or harassment of election workers. The bill’s fiscal impact report says the Brennan Center for Justice found “about 17 percent of local election officials have experienced threats, and more than half those cases were not reported to law enforcement.”
Oh, Say, Can You Sing: Katjanna Lujan brought legislators to their feet at the start of Monday’s House floor session with a rendition of the national anthem. The 17-year-old New Mexico School for the Arts student, who said she began singing in the seventh grade, said she was nervous before she began performing the anthem.
Afterward, it all seemed a breeze. “The song is becoming special to me,” she said after leaving the House chamber. “I’ve done it so many times. It’s not becoming a part of me yet — but maybe a little.”
Lujan plans to study social and behavioral science at Arizona State University after she graduates.
Maybe you should take the stairs: The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee unanimously voted 10-0 to OK House Bill 299, which requires inspections and registration of elevators and new licenses for constructing, installing, servicing, testing and repairing elevators.
Rep. Ambrose Castellano, D-Las Vegas, said in an interview New Mexico has no law mandating elevator safety. Rather, he said, individual building owners and landlords are responsible for elevator safety and maintenance. The bill’s fiscal impact report says it is unclear how many elevators there are in New Mexico.
The bill next goes to the floor of the House for consideration.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary for elevator and escalator installation and repair workers in New Mexico ranges from the $91,200 to $96,200.
Legislative summaries are provided to this paper through a partnership with the Santa Fe New Mexican.