Last Thursday was one of those days that makes me realize why I serve in the Legislature. It started with Governor Lujan Grisham signing the End-of-Life Options Act at a Zoom ceremony with legislative sponsors and advocates. There was mutual recognition among those present that this legislation was going to make a meaningful difference in the lives of many New Mexicans.
Later that day, I received word that the Governor signed Senate Bill 8, legislation I sponsored with Senator Linda Lopez and Representatives Christine Chandler and Nathan Small. It gives the Environment Department the ability to enact air and hazardous waste regulations more stringent than the federal government. This was a bill I introduced in my first legislative session in 2005, but until this session, was unable to pass.
Requiring New Mexico environmental standards to be “no more stringent than” federal standards made no sense back then. After watching the Trump environmental rollbacks, I knew it was time to try again. This year it passed. And, with the stroke of the Governor’s pen, New Mexico regulators now have a key tool to protect our air, land and water.
The extraordinary accomplishments of this session would never have happened without our seven new state Senators. Saying elections have consequences is an understatement. What a first session they had!
We worked long hours day after day double masked to protect against the coronavirus, an ever-present threat that could have stopped the process in its tracks. We sat alone in offices during committee meetings where our debate on bills was through a computer screen. In the Senate, we did meet in person. Still, it felt like there were few moments during the session to really take in the magnitude of what we were accomplishing.
The big three proposals all passed — abortion decriminalization, sending the voters a constitutional amendment to increase early childhood and education funding and adult-use cannabis legalization. But these bills were only the start.
Covid relief for essential workers and small businesses, paid sick leave, expanded low-income tax credits, new broadband programs, ending qualified immunity, impact aid funding to our tribal communities, extended school programs, capital outlay disclosure, de-funding the Gila diversion project, community solar and a ban on trapping are some of the highlights.
Working in a closed Capitol is something I hope we never do again. While day-to-day in person interactions were not possible, the public communication and advocacy we received using new technology platforms was critical. Thank you to all of you who participated.
Stay safe during these challenging times.