Bills That Make You Go, “Hmm ... ”
The 2011 Legislature has convened and is moving sluggishly forward. It’s the 60-day version this year, which usually means that more than the budget gets passed. This is the time when controversial policy issues take center stage.
But there’s talk of adjourning the session before its slated March 19 end date, talk that Gov. Susana Martinez supports—as long as her favorite bills get their time in the spotlight.
With new Republican leadership in the governor’s mansion, there seems to be a lot of conservative measures making their way through the session. As of press time, none of these had yet gone to vote.
2011 sees legislation on the roster would define marriage as exclusively between one of each: man, woman.
In early January, Attorney General Gary King issued an opinion that same-sex marriages from other states should be respected in New Mexico. Forty states in the union ban such recognition, but the Land of Enchantment isn't one of them.
If Rep. Chavez has his way, New Mexico will be No. 41. In addition to his genital-specific nuptial resolution, he's introduced a bill that says same-sex marriages and civil unions are void here.
Drugs Are Bad
Before you receive public assistance, says Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell (R-Roswell), you should undergo a drug test. And if you test positive for illegal substances, you should have to undergo treatment to receive your public assistance. Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Texico) would like to make sure those under the influence of alcohol or drugs don't receive workers' compensation, regardless of whether intoxication caused the injury. And Sen. Tim Jennings (D-Roswell) introduced a bill that would deny unemployment benefits to those who can't pass a drug test.
During the 2010 election cycle, then-Sen. Dianna Duran, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, promised that requiring voter ID was at the top of her agenda. This would help prevent voter fraud and could stop illegal immigrants from voting, she said. (Her opponent, then-Secretary of State Mary Herrera, pointed out there was little evidence to suggest that was a problem.) Twin measures are making their way through the state House and Senate that require photo ID at the polls. They're sponsored by Rep. Dianne Miller Hamilton (R-Silver City) and Sen. Steven Neville (R-Aztec).
In a move that might make PNM happy, Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort (R-Sandia Park) has introduced a bill that waters down environmental responsibility standards. Public utilities would not be required to obtain renewable energy—solar, hydro, wind, for example—if it costs too much.
Abortion Rights Opponents Get Busy
Never mind the fight in Congress—there's a pile of bills about human reproduction in Santa Fe. Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington) is advancing three. One would prohibit late-term abortion, defining it as "an abortion performed after a physician has determined the fetus to be viable." And "viable" here means the fetus can survive outside the womb, even on life-support systems.
Sharer is also asking the Legislature to pass a law prohibiting abortion clinic staff from contacting a person against his or her wishes for anything not related to health care or payment.
The senator is sponsoring another measure based on the idea that unborn children feel pain 20 weeks after fertilization. Therefore, he says, it should be illegal to abort fetuses older than that. The legislation also requires that physicians report procedures in detail to the Department of Health. A twin measure is being introduced in the House by Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Texico).
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-Los Lunas) filed a bill requesting that parents are notified when their under-18 daughter seeks an abortion. There would be a few exceptions: emancipated minors, military members and married women. An abortion could not be performed on most minors until 48 hours after written notice has been delivered. If the young woman doesn't want to inform her parent or guardian, a judge could determine that she's mature enough to have an abortion.
Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque) is seeking to stop school-based health clinics from offering "advice or health care related to contraception, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases or reproductive processes and functions."
Intelligent Design ... and Other Stuff
Pro-science groups say a bill from Rep. Thomas Anderson (R-Albuquerque) aims to put creationism in classrooms. Anderson says that’s not his goal. His legislation would protect teachers who choose to teach "controversial scientific topics," which includes origins, evolution, climate change and human cloning, according to the measure. The bill specifies this can cover information that's in step with religious tenants, but does not include ideas extracted from religious writings.
The Executioner Part II
Gov. Susana Martinez isn't the only one looking to reinstate the death penalty. Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell) has introduced legislation to revive it. Capital felonies would be punishable by life in prison or death. Gov. Bill Richardson signed a death penalty repeal into law in March 2009.