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Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – As part of a bill-signing flurry, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday made New Mexico the third state in the nation to ban coyote-killing contests.
Critics have long described the contests – also called coyote-calling contests – as cruel and immoral, and have pushed for years for legislation making it a crime to organize or take part in such an event.
The bill, Senate Bill 76, narrowly passed both the House and Senate during the 60-day session that ended March 16, and Lujan Grisham signed it into law Tuesday.
When it takes effect July 1, New Mexico will join California and Vermont as states with active bans on coyote-killing contests.
“This law makes New Mexico a leader in following sound science in its treatment of wild carnivores,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City. “We celebrate for coyotes, for endangered wolves that might have been mistakenly killed and for our children learning that humane values are New Mexico values.”
Wildlife advocates say 20 to 30 coyote-killing derbies are typically organized across New Mexico every year, with participants using calling devices to lure coyotes onto the killing grounds. Such contests often award prize money or new firearms for the most coyotes killed or the biggest coyote killed.
Defenders of the contests have argued the ban would make it difficult for rural New Mexicans to control coyote populations, saying the contests are a form of predator control that benefit farmers and ranchers.
“It won’t work for my area,” Sen. Gregg Fulfer, R-Jal, said during the Senate floor debate on the bill in February. “Think about how these bills are changing New Mexico’s culture.”
The first-term Democratic governor also signed measures creating an outdoor recreation division within state government and officially scrubbing Columbus Day from state law – and renaming the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Lujan Grisham also signed a bill aimed at guaranteeing medical coverage for firefighters who endure post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by their work.
The measure, House Bill 324, adds PTSD to the list of conditions presumed to have been caused by their jobs as firefighters and requiring employers to provide medical treatment for it. A variety of cancers, for example, are among the conditions already covered.
Lujan Grisham joined Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and other elected officials to sign the bill in front of firefighters at the city’s West Side fire academy.
The governor spoke about receiving quick help decades ago from a firefighter trained as a paramedic when her 2-year-old daughter stopped breathing. It’s one example, she said, of the kinds of life-and-death work firefighters handle routinely on the job.
“These kinds of stresses are real,” Lujan Grisham said.
Another bill Lujan Grisham signed into law will prohibit health insurance plans from refusing to cover autism services for adults.
The governor approved that measure during a ceremony outside the University of New Mexico Center for Development and Disability in Albuquerque, alongside Rep. Elizabeth Thomson and Sen. Linda Lopez, both of whom are Albuquerque Democrats who have sons with autism.
Lujan Grisham said that as a child she saw her own parents fight for disability services for her sister, underscoring the importance of the new law.
Thomson said Tuesday that the legislation, House Bill 322, will make it clear that Medicaid and other health plans can’t limit autism services to children. Some families have had trouble getting services after their children became adults, she said.
“Autism doesn’t go away at 19,” Thomson said.
The legislation prohibits insurance companies and health plans from denying treatment for autism spectrum disorder on the basis of the person’s age.
Other measures signed Tuesday included:
• Senate Bill 278 – Streamlining the approval process for applicants who want the less stringent option offered under New Mexico’s two-tiered driver’s license system. The second option is now called a driving authorization card but will be renamed the “standard driver’s license” under the legislation.
• Senate Bill 264 – Creating a state endowment fund to help rural libraries.
• House Bill 256 – Adding e-cigarettes to the Clean Indoor Air Act, prohibiting their use in most workplaces and other areas where smoking is banned.
In all, Lujan Grisham signed 60 bills into law Tuesday. She still has 133 bills to act on before a Friday deadline for bills passed during the final days of this year’s legislative session.