KUNM's Chris Boros chatted with Gwyneth Doland on recent news from the state legislature as part of our People, Power and Democrayc reporting project. Our partners are New Mexico In Depth and New Mexico PBS.
KUNM: Let’s start with the two bills that would restrict abortions. One would ban abortions later in pregnancy and another would require teens to notify their parents. The Catholic bishops are pushing this hard and so are groups that oppose abortions who tried for the ban in Albuquerque last year.
Doland: That’s right. These bills have already passed the House, which is controlled by Republicans this year for the first time in a long time. They probably won’t do as well in the Senate. Just this afternoon, Senate Democrats were completely unified in fighting back when the Republicans tried to send these bills to friendlier committees. They said they felt like these bills would be tabled and never seen again. Every Democrat said no. So, it doesn’t look good for those supporting them.
KUNM: A so-called right-to-work bill passed the Republican-controlled House 37-30 late last month. It would prevent employees from having to pay any kind of fee to a union in order to get a job. That’s even though they might benefit from what the union has negotiated for them. Most New Mexicans support it. Is this going to happen?
Doland: I think we are expecting to see this in a hearing tonight. I was just watching on Twitter before I came and looking at the webcast, I think it is going to come up tonight. Very few New Mexicans would be affected by this, only 7 percent of workers are even represented by a union and an even smaller number are being required to pay fees because they’re not dues-paying union members. Democrats say this is pure politics by Republicans. So, they are sending it down a long, hard road of committees. They’ve already fought off an effort by Republicans to bypass that process and bring it straight to the floor. They say they’re united on this and and it’s going to go nowhere.
KUNM: What else is happening?
Doland: We may get a little more information about how much healthcare costs. On Friday, the Senate unanimously (26-0) passed a compromise bill that would give us information about how much services cost at hospitals and how safe and how high- or low-quality they are. They would have to put that information on the Sunshine Portal by January 1, 2018. That’s going to the House now.
And the revolving door may slow down a little. A bipartisan bill that would require lawmakers to wait two years before becoming paid lobbyists—dozens of former lawmakers are paid lobbyists now--that passed the House 57 to 10. But today the Senate sent it to two really tough committees.
KUNM: It’s sometimes hard to keep track of all that goes on at the Roundhouse. You can watch the proceedings live on the legislature’s webcasts, but if you miss a debate there’s no way to catch up on it later.
Doland: Yeah, I was just at the dog park, I’ll admit, watching the webcast on my phone and caught some really important stuff which is handy, but they don’t archive those videos. So, one House Representative wants the House, at least, to start archiving. His proposal has one more committee to go and it just has to hit the House floor. The Senate would have to make its own rule in order to do that and it doesn’t look like they’re going to do that this year.
This story is part of a reporting partnership between New Mexico In Depth, KUNM and NMPBS, People, Power and Democracy, that attempts to pull back the curtain on how the New Mexico Legislature works and, in some cases, doesn’t. It's funded by the Thornburg Foundation and the Loeks Family Fund.