New Mexico governor to sign universal school meals into law

By: - March 27, 2023 5:00 am
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during her 2023 State of the State before the joint chambers of the New Mexico Legislature in Santa Fe. A large plaque that is the symbol for the state of New Mexico is behind her. Several people are also seated behind the governor. A bouquet of flowers sits to her left.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was expected to sign a universal school meals bill into law on Monday, March 26, 2023. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected today to sign into law Senate Bill 4, which would expand free meals to all public and charter school students in New Mexico.

It would also allow sovereign nations and private schools within the state to opt in to offer free, high quality meals regardless of income.

As of Monday, the free school meals bill was set to become the 25th proposal to get the governor’s go-ahead. Lawmakers passed more than 200 bills during the 2023 regular session, which ended earlier this month.

Lujan Grisham on Friday signed two anti-discrimination bills into law, including House Bill 207, which prohibits public entities and public contractors from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, pregnancy, serious medical condition or spousal affiliation.

Rep. Kristina Ortez (D-Taos), one of the bill’s six co-sponsors in the Legislature, said no one should be denied public services simply for being who they are.

“While hundreds of bills have been introduced across the country to restrict the rights of queer and trans people, New Mexico is committed to making our state a safer place for everyone by closing a loophole to ensure our taxpayer dollars cannot be used to discriminate against our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors,” Ortez said.

The governor also signed House Bill 31, which is meant to protect the privacy and safety of people who legally change their names by no longer requiring courts to notify parents or for the change to be published in local newspapers.

“Removing this antiquated publishing requirement protects New Mexicans’ privacy and allows them to safely move on with their lives,” said sponsor Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos).

One veto so far

Lujan Grisham on March 16 vetoed House Bill 125, which would have required state agencies and heads of school districts to appoint members of a Dual Credit Task Force to study dual credit courses and publish a report within six months.

The New Mexico Public Education Department already has a Dual Credit Council whose work “could easily be expanded to encompass the areas of study in HB 125,” Lujan Grisham wrote.

The bill did not set aside any money to accomplish these goals, Lujan Grisham wrote.

“This is too great a burden both financially and in terms of expenditure on staff resources,” Lujan Grisham wrote.

Laws without signature

Five bills passed by the Legislature in the 2023 regular session have become law without the governor’s signature, including a prohibition on cost-sharing by insurance companies for breast exams, creation of a renewable energy division in the State Land Office, salary bumps for educational assistants, money for public infrastructure, and loosening restrictions on college savings accounts.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.