SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Wednesday, lawmakers are taking on a wide range of bills in various committee meetings. Here are some of the bills of note to watch today.
School meals and school consent
Among the many bills up for discussion today, several deal with New Mexico schools. Senate Bill 4 aims to expand access to free school meals for New Mexico.
Sponsored by Senators Michael Padilla (D-Abq.) and Leo Jaramillo (D-Chama, Española & Los Alamos), the bill would expand the existing free meal program in many schools. The bill would offer free meals to all public and charter school students in schools currently hosting national school meal programs. Tribally controlled schools and private schools could opt in.
The bill essentially offers meals to students regardless of income. To help fund those meals, the bill would send $30 million to the state’s Public Education Department. The bill also aligns with Governor Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative, recommended in her budget. That initiative includes funds aimed at supplying food to New Mexicans in need.
Besides school meals, legislators will also consider a bill aimed at protecting university students from sexual and domestic violence. House Bill 43 – sponsored by Representatives Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Abq.), Gail Chasey (D-Abq.), Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe), Linda Serrato (D-Santa Fe), and Reena Szczepanski (D-Santa Fe) – would require schools to adopt affirmative consent policies.
The bill would require all public or private colleges and universities that receive state funds for student aid to have detailed policies in place to respond to allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, etc. At the heart of the bill is a requirement that there be a standard for determining if consent was given by all people involved in an incident.
Prescription drug costs
Introduced by Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-Abq.), House Bill 51 aims to keep prescription drugs affordable. Legislators in the House Health & Human Services Committee will consider the bill today.
The bill would create a “prescription drug affordability board” of elected and appointed officials. That board would be tasked with coming up with strategies to lower the cost of prescription drugs for consumers, healthcare providers, businesses, and the government.
House Bill 80 was introduced by Representatives Greg Nibert (R-Ruidoso), Randall T. Pettigrew (R-Hobbs), and Stefani Lord (R-Tijeras & Edgewood). It amends the All Hazard Emergency Management Act, one of the laws Governor Lujan Grisham used to institute statewide closure orders and mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill aims to limit the length of an emergency declaration to 90 days. To extend the declaration longer, if the bill passes, the governor would have to call the state legislature into a special session. In essence, the bill gives New Mexico’s legislators additional power to limit the use of emergency declarations.
In case you missed it: Water access, voting rights, and drinking ban
Yesterday, legislators considered a bill that aims to give rural communities greater access to water. Because many small communities don’t have the resources to operate big domestic water systems, Senate Bill 1 aims to let rural communities band together to share water and access public funds.
Yesterday, the New Mexico Voting Rights Act Coalition, and some lawmakers announced a bill aimed at expanding voting rights. Similar to a bill backed by the Governor last year, introduced, the bill aims to remove some barriers to voting in New Mexico.
Among other things, the bill would make Election Day a school holiday and adjust the Native American Voting Act.
And yesterday, Senator Harold Pope (D-Abq.) introduced a resolution to ban New Mexico senators from drinking alcohol before or during their committee work at the Roundhouse.
“The last thing we need is to have folks having drinks,” Pope said. For more info on the resolution, check out this KRQE News 13 story.