The Trump administration lifted federal guidelines last week that protect transgender students' rights to use public school bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity. New Mexico Public Education Department officials say it's up to the individual school districts to decide their own policy in regards to transgender bathroom use. In a prepared statement, Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta expressed concerns over President Trump's wording of the announced removal of federal protections. “The Obama mandate was issued for all public schools, while President Trump’s communication states that the issue should be decided at the local level,” Armenta said. “Until we have clear guidance as to what ‘local level’ means, we will continue to follow our current policy ...” The policy, which was enacted in June of last year, allows transgender students to dress and be addressed as their chosen gender identity. It also allows transgender students to join the sports teams of their chosen gender identity. The district's decision to retain the policy for now has received praise from local advocates.
Bill to Classify Nuclear Power as Renewable Tabled
A bill that would label nuclear energy as a “renewable” source was tabled last week after a tied vote from the New Mexico House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. The bill, HB 406, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would have altered the state's Renewable Energy Act to include nuclear energy on its list of renewable sources. The Renewable Energy Act requires energy companies to get a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources. The law was made to encourage the use of alternate energy sources. Because of the split vote, HB 406 will be left stalled in committee for the time being.
Election Consolidation Bill Passed By House
The N.M. House of Representatives approved legislation aimed at improving voter turnout by consolidating most local elections into a single election. The new plan would hold the consolidated election on a Tuesday in November, on odd-numbered years. If it becomes law, HB 174 will combine the elections for cities, school districts, special hospital districts, community college districts, technical and vocational institute districts, learning center districts, arroyo flood control districts, special zoning districts, soil and water conservation districts, and water and sanitation districts beginning in 2019. It would also add conservancy districts in 2023. Officials with the Las Cruces Public Schools and New Mexico State University oppose the bill, citing financial reasons including the higher fees required from the state and the increased advertising costs that will be needed to compete with other government agencies attempting to pass bonds at the same time. The bill passed with a House vote of 38-29. It will now move on to the Senate.