Lawmakers want to help rural New Mexicans adapt to extreme weather events
On the heels of extreme weather events, like New Mexico’s devastating 2022 fire season, lawmakers are aiming to establish a public health program and climate resiliency fund to address health related issues in rural communities.
This week, that bill has cleared its first hurdle in the Roundhouse.
Not only would House Bill 42 address wildfire smoke, but also the fires themselves, drought, erosion, rising temperatures, and many other consequences of the climate crisis.
It would establish a statewide public health and climate program in the Department of Health with $1.1 million from the state’s general fund. On top of that, another $5 million would create a public health and climate resiliency fund.
Local and tribal governments would be able to access that fund starting in 2024 through 2028 to help frontline communities adapt to climate change.
Dr. Heidi Honegger Rogers showed up on Zoom to support the bill. She’s a family nurse practitioner.
“As nurses and as health care professionals across the state working in communities with our patients, it [the bill] will give us a place and a way to gather and communicate," Honneger Rogers said. "The state of New Mexico has a really great opportunity to lead in this work.”
Opponents included the New Mexico Business Coalition and lobbyists from the agricultural industry.
Bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Kristina Ortez of Taos said the goal is to raise the equity of climate preparedness, because some tribes and counties are better prepared than others.
HB42 passed on a 7-2 vote and goes to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.