State announces a chile license plate

Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill to create a speciality chile license plate—but chile lovers will still be able to get a license plate featuring chile without the extra cost of a specialty plate. The new black license plate says in yellow lettering “Chile capital of the world” and has yellow license plate numbers. It also features a green chile pepper in front of a red chile pepper. “With the creation of this license plate, we are sending a strong message that New Mexico is the only chile capital of the world,” Gov. Martinez said in announcing the new license plate. “Not only does chile play a significant role in our state’s culture – it is one of our state’s greatest treasures, and this license plate will let the world know.”

This came after Martinez vetoed legislation that would have created a specialty chile license plate whose funds would have went to educational programs with the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.

‘The race is on’ between NM, CO for chile specialty license plate

Colorado continues trying to steal New Mexico’s thunder when it comes to chile, for some reason. This time, legislators in New Mexico’s neighbor to the north want to create a special license plate in Colorado for chile growers. The proposal cleared the Colorado House on a voice vote Tuesday. New Mexico’s effort cleared its first committee Wednesday morning. “The Pueblo chile is Colorado’s chile,” Colorado state Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, said on the floor according to a press release.“Our local growers deserve recognition of their outstanding chiles.”

New Mexico state Rep. Cathrynn Brown’s proposal to have a green chile license plate cleared the Taxation and Revenue Committee on a unanimous vote Wednesday morning.

Bill to label nuclear energy as renewable stalls

A bill aimed at classifying nuclear power as a renewable energy source in New Mexico stalled Thursday afternoon in committee on a tie vote. House Bill 406, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would have amended the state’s Renewable Energy Act, which requires energy companies provide a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources. Brown told the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee she didn’t know of any definite plans to bring nuclear power plants to the state, but that she wanted to broaden the options for a “baseload power” to replace coal or gas. Currently, Brown argued, wind and solar energy can only serve as “intermittent” power. “Unless we can get the wind to blow 24 hours a day and the sun to shine day and night, we’re still going to have those intermittent sources,” Brown said.

NRA tops lobbyist spending with $44K online ad

No issue in the 2017 New Mexico Legislature has drawn citizens to the Roundhouse like the push to expand mandatory background checks on gun sales. People on both sides of the issue have shown up in droves to committee hearings in both the House and Senate to testify about two bills that would require more gun buyers to go through background checks. And lobbyists for out-of-state organizations on both sides of the issue have spent thousands of dollars to push their positions. In fact, according to lobbyist expense reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, the biggest expenditure since the session began in mid-January was $44,377 spent by Tara Reilly-Mica, the Texas-based lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Reilly-Mica’s report, filed Feb.

Ethics complaints get attention as elections near

During the legislative session earlier this year, something very typical happened: an attempt to create an independent ethics commission failed to pass the Senate. NM Political Report wrote about the history of this happening over the last decade. This year’s version was pushed by Rep. Jim Dines, an Albuquerque Republican. Dines’ legislation would have put the question to voters to decide if such a commission should be created under the state constitution. One issue that received pushback was how the ethics commission in Dines’ proposal would have published all of the ethics complaints, even those deemed frivolous, after a review by the commission.

Independent ethics committee legislation heads to Senate

Legislation to create an independent ethics commission passed the House on a bipartisan vote late Tuesday night. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, HJR 5 would create an independent commission to field and take action on complaints made about state officials. Since it is a proposed constitutional amendment, if  both the House and the Senate pass the legislation, the issue would go to the voters in November for approval. Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, raised a number of concerns, one of which was how to fund it. “My concern is this could balloon into significant money,” Brown said.

Despite concerns, ethics commission heads to House floor

A measure to give New Mexico an independent ethics commission passed its second test unanimously Tuesday afternoon, but not without long debate. The bill, carried by Rep Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, establishes a body of nine people charged with weighing ethics complaints submitted to them against state government officials, employees and government contractors. Dines, a retired lawyer who in his second year as a legislator, said he supported such a commission long before he became a lawmaker. But he added that his short experience in the Roundhouse also helped shape his bill. “What I’ve learned is, I really think we need this for ourselves,” Dines told committee.

Two Democrats help send teen curfew bill to House floor

A bill to allow local governments to impose curfews on minors jumped through its second House committee, this time with some Democratic support. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, joined with seven Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee to vote yes on the bill. Maestas had been previously public about his support. “I’m stuck on this one,” Maestas said at committee. “I lean towards local control.”

The bill allows cities and counties to set up their own curfews for minors under 16 years of age.

Voter ID bill passes the House

The House voted to approve a voter ID bill after three hours of debate, the latest in a long line of Republican priorities that have passed this session. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would require voters to present a form of identification when voting in person or by mail. The legislation passed on a 37-29 vote. While presenting the bill Brown said her aim was to prevent voter fraud no matter how prevalent it is. She argued that if laws were written based on how often crimes are committed, many current laws would be non-existent.

House committee votes to advance voter ID legislation

A panel with a Republican majority split along party lines on Friday to approve a bill requiring voters to present photo identification before casting election ballots. Similar requirements enacted in other states have ignited controversy and costly court battles; critics contend voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters from low-income and minority communities. The legislation now heads to the House floor. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, said HB 340 was drafted to safeguard the integrity of the elections process while also passing constitutional muster. “I like to think of this more as voter authentication,” Brown told members of the House Judiciary Committee.