SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s politicians made a lot of moves in the latest legislative session to try to get new laws on the books. In total, they passed more than 200 bills in 2023. But which ones will truly become law of the land?
Here are some of the key changes that have already been signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The Governor has until April 7 to sign or veto legislation (roughly 150 bills) that aren’t included on this list. Keep in mind, this isn’t a complete list, but it does cover some of the bills likely to impact New Mexicans.
Note, different laws will go into effect at different times, but all of the following will soon become official. For a continued look at all of the bills the Governor has signed, visit this link to the Governor’s website.
Firearm access, other crime laws
The addressing the misuse of firearms became one of the central topics of the 2023 session. In an effort to address when guns get into hands of untrained and unsupervised minors, lawmakers passed a bill to penalize some adults who negligently store their guns.
Under the new law, if an adult negligently allows their gun to fall into the hands of a child – and the child causes serious harm or kills someone with the guns – the gunowner could be charged with a fourth-degree felony. Supporters say the law is aimed at ensuring that guns are properly stored via locked in a gun safe, locked with a trigger lock, etc.
Another change in New Mexico is that courts can no longer put a child between the ages of 14 and 18 in jail for life without the possibility of parole. Under the new law, even the most serious youthful offenders must receive a parole hearing after a certain period of time in jail. That doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be granted parole, but they will get to try to make their case for release.
And a new law on the books will allow New Mexicans to keep their driver’s license when they fail to appear in court. Before the change, the Motor Vehicle Division could revoke someone’s driver’s license if they failed to appear in magistrate court, for example. Now, even those who fail to appear will still be able to keep their license.
Nuclear waste negotiations, environmental laws
During this year’s lawmaking session, there was a big focus on the environment. And one bill that became law looks to give New Mexico more say in how radioactive waste is stored.
Currently, there are thousands upon thousands of containers of transuranic waste stored in New Mexico. Under the new law, an existing state task force is being given more power to negotiate with the federal government over radioactive waste. For more details on the topic, check out this KRQE News 13 story.
Another environment-related bill signed into law this year could allow small New Mexico communities to better access water. The idea is that the new law allows small communities to come together and operate a shared water utility, basically allowing them to pool resources to purchase, operate, and maintain water infrastructure. For more info on how that might work, check out this story.
Educational assistant pay, other education changes
Last year, lawmakers made a big push to boost minimum pay for teachers. This year, they followed up with a boost for educational assistants.
Under the new law, the minimum wage for educational assistants has been boosted from $12,000 per year to $25,000 per year. Such a pay boost could help fill vacancies across the state: New Mexico State University’s 2022 report on educators showed a need for more educational assistants around New Mexico.
This year, lawmakers also made some changes to the state’s funding of schools (in particular, putting more money towards some school districts that offer additional school days). And lawmakers passed a law to require the Early Childhood Education and Care Department to coordinate with tribal communities that want early childhood programs.
It’s also worth mentioning another widely reported bill that aims to offer free school lunches in New Mexico public and charter schools. The Governor has announced her support for the legislation, but has yet to technically sign the bill.
New Mexico’s politicians made some changes to healthcare-related laws this session. Some of the changes stirred heated debate in the Roundhouse, but the Governor has signed them into law nonetheless.
For example, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill that prohibits public bodies, such as local governments, from discriminating against New Mexicans who want reproductive healthcare, including abortion. In effect, the law seems intended to prevent local politicians and political entities from intimating locals for their healthcare choices. It also could prevent local governments from passing local ordinances that restrict healthcare access. For more details on the bill, check out this KRQE News 13 story.
A new law could also make it easier for New Mexicans to get breast exams. Governor Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill to limit how much some insurance providers can charge their customers for breast exams. In effect, the bill removes deductible charges for breast exams from some health plans.