Opinion: These New Mexico Laws Are Going into Effect on May 18, 2022

Daniella Cressman

Aside from the fact that horse racing will likely continue for quite some time—lawmakers extended the repeal of the act—New Mexicans have a lot to look forward to starting on the 18th of this month.

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1. UPDATED SUBSTANCE ABUSE HARM REDUCTION LAWS

It's sad to see how much of a problem overdosing is in this state: We end up losing so many incredible people every year.

The new law comes as statistics show New Mexico has a relatively high overdose rate. In 2019, there were nearly 600 overdose deaths in New Mexico — that was nearly 40% higher than the nationwide average, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Legislative Finance Committee. —Curtis Segarra

Thankfully, officials are making efforts to improve the situation.

Previously, the Harm Reduction Act was primarily focused on syringe and needle exchanges. The new changes expand the act to focus on the larger goal of reducing deaths and illness. The changes add new “safe injection supplies” to the list of things the state can provide people going through substance abuse. This includes supplies to consume drugs in a safer and cleaner manner as well as supplies to test drugs for adulterants — potentially deadly substances mixed in. — Curtis Segarra

It is anything but easy to overcome an addiction, but, hopefully, these adjustments will provide individuals who are struggling with more support to lean on as they are recovering.

2. CHARTER SCHOOL CHANGES

A lot of schools in our state need help: Buildings could be improved and more resources would be immensely helpful to the teachers. As of right now, these funds are specifically for building improvements, which is a good start.

Under a new law, charter schools will have greater access to public, funds for capital improvements. In particular, the changes are designed to help charter schools get funding for building improvements. Under the new law, school districts are required to offer unused land to charter schools for lease. In addition, the new law creates a revolving fund to help schools finance buildings via loans from the state. —Curtis Segarra

Hopefully, more resources will be sent to schools in New Mexico so that they can go towards better supplies and improved curriculums. I have seen too many teachers scraping by on their salary pay for classroom supplies out of their own pocket. That being said, the raises for many of our educators will likely be immensely beneficial!

3. RAISES FOR NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGE TEACHERS

New Mexico still has pockets that are rich with Native American culture and heritage. Unfortunately, this demographic continues to be dismissed, oppressed, and discriminated against by many in our community: Sometimes, it truly is due to well-meaning ingorance. Other times, it's due to intolerance, prejudice, hatred, and entitlement. Either way, the only way to bridge the gap is by understanding one another to the best of our ability, and that includes learning the Native American languages that are spoken in New Mexico.

It's heartening to know that certified Native American Language teachers will be receiving raises.

In the 2022 legislative session, public school teachers got a pay boost. And they aren’t the only educators seeing a raise. A new law going into effect will also raise pay for certified Native American language instructors. There are around 100 Native American language certified teachers working in the state, according to the Public Education Department. An additional 180 or so Native American language teachers are certified but not working, according to the department. Pay for the certified language and culture instructors formerly depended on the district they taught in. In the Gallup McKinley School District, for example, certified instructors generally make somewhere between$34,600 per year and $40,700 per year, according to statistics compiled by the Legislative Finance Committee. Under the new law, they will now make a minimum of $50,000 per year — the same as entry-level licensed teachers in New Mexico. —Curtis Segarra

We still have a long way to go, but this is a powerful step in the right direction.

4. INCREASED REPRESENTATION FOR ABUSED AND NEGLECTED YOUTH

Unfortunately, abuse has occurred for many in this state. It's even harder for young children who are growing up with people who are suffering from their own issues, such as alcohol abuse.

The state wants to help.

A new law going into effect on May 15 will create the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy. The office will be in charge of helping families involved in abuse and neglect cases find legal representation. The office will be overseen by a newly created independent 13-member Family Representation and Advocacy Commission. There will be five regional offices across the state to serve families. —Curtis Segarra

This is certainly a necessary change and one that I hope will help those who are struggling.

5. EASY HEALTHCARE ENROLLMENT

Thankfully, New Mexico is helping those who are uninsured receive health insurance.

The state is preparing to launch a program to help uninsured New Mexicans receive health insurance. The “Easy Enrollment Program” will help the state identify uninsured people in taxpaying households and, if they consent, provide them with information on healthcare eligibility. The streamlined identification and enrollment process is aimed at helping the state’s uninsured in Medicaid or other insurance. As of 2019, there were roughly 187,000 uninsured people in New Mexico, according to a study from the Urban Institute. After accounting for people who might be eligible for insurance, around 100,000 New Mexicans could benefit from the program, according to an analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. —Curtis Segarra

In my eyes, this is a welcome change.

6. MORE VETERINARIANS?

Believe it or not, New Mexico is actually pretty short on veterinarians.

"Starting May 15, the state will allow out-of-state veterinarians to practice in New Mexico under a temporary permit. The permit would be good for six months and the veterinarians would have to practice at a zoo or aquarium." —Curtis Segarra

The drawback is that there is still a lot of uncertainty about how many veterinarians will actually want to move to New Mexico. We'll see.

7. URANIUM MINE CLEANUP

This seems like a great plan.

Under a new law going into effect, the state’s Environmental Department is tasked with leading the cleanup of old uranium mines. The new law also aims to establish uranium mine cleanup and reclamation as an industry to develop job opportunities and grow the economy.It’s worth noting that many of the states old mines are already being cleaned up. Some are under federal cleanup programs, according to the Legislative Finance Committee.The program will use existing state funds as well as federal funding to operate. Additionally, the law allows the office to receive gifts and donations to do its work. —Curtis Segarra

Hopefully, this will pave the way for more environmental conservation efforts: Many scientists are claiming that these intense fires are a result of climate change. I'm pretty sure they're right, so we really need to make the necessary changes as quickly as possible!

8. MORE TIME FOR BUSINESS RECOVERY LOANS

Small businesses can take out recovery loans until December 31, 2022.

The state’s Small Business Recovery Loan program is being extended. Thanks to legislation passed earlier this year, the window for applying for small business loans is extended for seven additional months. The deadline for applications now ends December 31, 2022.More than $95 million in loans have already been approved, according to numbers from the New Mexico Finance Authority. The state launched the loan program in August 2020. It uses money the state collected from taxes on the oil and gas industry to help New Mexico businesses and nonprofits that struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. —Curtis Segarra

This financial assistance is helpful for those who have struggled intensely during the pandemic. Just remember you will have to pay them back eventually!

9. HORSE RACING CONTINUES

Before you sit back on your porch and cherish the horse racing "tradition" of the Wild West, you might want to think about just how much these poor and magnificent creatures are suffering during such events.

"Racing exposes horses to significant risk of injury and sometimes, catastrophic injury and death through trauma (e.g. broken neck) or emergency euthanasia. The odds are stacked against horses in the racing industry." —World Animal Project

In short, if you care about animals—and horses in particular—this is a really harmful activity for them.

Unfortunately, it will continue for a while since lawmakers extended the repeal of the act: Before this, it was set to end in July of 2022.

If you want to be a voice of reason, stopping horse racing nationwide, you can sign here.

Overall, most of these updates seem like welcome changes to the Land of Enchantment. I've always loved horses though even though I haven't ridden them all that much: I just treat them like enormous dogs!

I hope that they can be treated in a more humane manner, especially since they are such an innate element of Western culture: They deserve the utmost respect from their owners, and too many power-hungry people abuse these magnificent creatures!

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM
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