House panel passes bill to block use of state land for border wall

A State House committee voted to pass a bill that would halt the state from aiding in the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico by stopping the sale or use of state land for such a wall. The bill passed the House State Government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee on a party-line vote, with all five Democrats voting in favor and all four Republicans voting against. Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, was one of the bill’s sponsors and said the wall would not prevent undocumented immigration. “If the purpose of this wall is to eliminate illegal immigration from Mexico, keep in mind that over 40 percent of those in this country illegally actually entered with a valid visa,” Martinez said. “So they arrived at an airport or arrived at a checkpoint with proper documentation and simply overstayed that documentation.”

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said that the legislation would also send a signal to Mexico, a key trade partner.

Legislator gets letter telling him to ‘Go back to Mexico’

A Hispanic legislator born in El Paso received an anonymous letter in the mail telling him to “Go back to Mexico.”

State Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, received the letter in the mail Wednesday, after returning from the Roundhouse. The unsigned letter just read, “Go back to Mexico! You do not represent us!”

The Albuquerque Democrat is one of the sponsors of legislation aiming to stop the federal government from building a border wall in New Mexico and has been a harsh critic of rhetoric from President Donald Trump. “I think the president has elevated hateful rhetoric across the country to such a degree that it’s emboldening certain people to come out and say those types of things,” Martínez told NM Political Report, adding that he is not surprised by the letter. Still, he says that recent news on immigration keeps the letter in perspective.

Early childhood education bill faces uphill climb

Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would take about $112 million a year from the state’s land grant endowment to pay for early childhood education say a new study shows that the need for such programs actually exceeds $400 million annually. “This is an alarm,” Allen Sánchez, president of CHI St. Joseph’s Children, said Tuesday of the report commissioned by his organization. Sánchez is among the most vocal supporters of House Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Democratic state Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestes and Javier Martinez, both of Albuquerque.

Papen asks committee to table bill creating early ed endowment

The Senate Education Committee has unanimously tabled a bill that would have established a new endowment for early childhood programs in the state using revenues from federal mineral rights leases on public lands — assuming Congress approved a proposal by State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn to share the funding. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, asked the committee to table the measure Wednesday, saying, “It is clear to me now … that the bill suffers from problems in its construction.” In conversations with legislators, educators, Dunn and others, she said, she discovered “this entire approach has little support from the public.” Opponents of Senate Bill 182, including the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said one of its faults is that it assumes the federal government would agree to share proceeds with the state from leasing 6.6 million acres of mineral rights on private land.

White House anti-immigration stance has broad reach in NM, nation

As the White House’s anti-immigration stance stokes fears along the border, it’s also highlighting the relationship between Mexico and New Mexico—and exposing how vulnerable the rest of the United States may be to increased security and surveillance. Earlier this week, a coalition of state legislators introduced a bill to prevent the federal government from constructing a new border wall or fence across New Mexico state lands. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Javier Martínez, a Democrat, today represents Albuquerque. But he was born in El Paso and grew up in Ciudad Juárez. When President Donald Trump talks about building walls and criminalizing immigration, that speaks to Martínez’s personal experience of growing up along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Dems advance latest plan to tap New Mexico land grant fund

State legislators split along party lines Monday in advancing a proposed constitutional amendment that would use some of the $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to help pay for early childhood education and other public education programs.

The House Education Committee voted 7-6 for a plan to fund pre-K programs with an extra 1 percent from the endowment. Democrats supported the measure and Republicans opposed it. “Fifteen-billion-plus dollars — that’s almost richer than Donald Trump,” said Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, in voicing her support for the measure. Groups such as New Mexico Voices for Children have urged lawmakers for years to use a larger share of the money that flows into the $15 billion investment account from oil, gas and mineral extraction on state lands. The proposal, if approved by lawmakers this year and then by voters in the 2018 general election, would supply $39 million for early childhood education and another $91 million for K-12 public schools in 2020.

Democrats propose amendment calling for automatic voter registration

All eligible voters in New Mexico should be registered, and the government should do it for them automatically, three Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday in announcing a proposal to enshrine new election law in the state constitution. The legislators said their proposal for automatic voter registration would reduce costs and create a more accurate system. Another likely benefit would be more people voting and holding government accountable for policy decisions, said Rep. Liz Thomson, one of the measure’s sponsors. “The more voices we hear, the better we can represent them,” Thomson said. She is teaming on the proposed constitutional amendment with Rep. Javier Martinez and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Here’s who’s considering running to replace Lujan Grisham in Congress

Many Albuquerque-area political figures are rumored to be gearing up for a congressional campaign after New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she plans to leave the seat and run for Governor. There are still no definitive announcements or declared candidates, but the handful of people NM Political Report spoke to this week gave similar answers—that they have been encouraged to run and are giving it serious consideration. Some said they don’t want to run for family reasons, in particular because of the amount of travel that comes with the job. The state’s congressional members often travel back and forth from Washington D.C. and New Mexico. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s family, for example, lived in Albuquerque while he served in the U.S. House before Lujan Grisham.

Clinton political director comes on NM, talks down-ballot races

A Democratic National Convention bus tour took a break from hitting swing states to drive into New Mexico for a couple of quick rallies Friday, and the focus was clear: Democrats want not only to elect Hillary Clinton, but also win down-ballot races. Clinton campaign Political Director Amanda Renteria told NM Political Report that state- and local-level races are very important. “One of the big lessons of the Obama administration is that he would enact stuff and it would go to the state and it gets torn apart,” she said. “Some people actually didn’t buy into the Affordable Care Act, as you see some of his policies on climate change get unraveled on the state level.”

When asked why the bus tour, which has already hit 20 states, came to New Mexico which most agree is a safe state for Clinton, Renteria specifically mentioned the state House. “One of the things the secretary has been focused on from the very beginning is not just winning the White House but making sure she has a team across the country,” she said.

House sends death penalty reinstatement to the Senate

After a three hour debate before the sun rose on Thursday morning, the House voted to bring the death penalty back to New Mexico on a narrow vote. The 36-30 party-line vote came after emotional testimony and debate, largely from Democrats. The proposal now heads to the Senate, though it appears very unlikely that the chamber will take up the effort before the end of the special session. Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, introduced her bill by listing the five police officers who were killed while on duty in the last 18 months, then listing some of the children who were murdered in recent months. Her proposal would only apply, Youngblood said, “When a child is murdered, when a law enforcement officer is murdered or a corrections officer is murdered.”

The debate came after two hours of debate on an appeal by Democrats that the public was not given enough time ahead of time to be told the House would consider the bill.