SOS rejects petition for referendum to reverse background check law

For the second time, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver rejected a petition to take a gun background check law to the voters. House Republican leaders hoped to use a voter referendum to overturn a law passed this year, requiring background checks for most gun sales in the state of New Mexico. New Mexico generally does not allow for voter referendums. But the state constitution allows, under limited circumstances, for voters to attempt to overturn a newly passed law. Toulouse Oliver said the current proposal does not meet those limited circumstances. She cites the state constitution in saying to determine if the referendum qualifies, it must “[bear] a valid, reasonable relationship to the preservation of public peace, health or safety.”

Toulouose Oliver said she “underwent the process of carefully examining the legislative history, the contemporaneous declarations of the legislature and the conditions sought to be remedied by [the law].”

In March, Toulouse Oliver also listed a number of technical objections to the Republican call for a referendum.

SOS rules against Republican petition aiming to overturn gun background check law

The New Mexico Secretary of State rejected the effort by House Republicans to overturn a new law requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases in New Mexico. The Republican House leader said they are prepared to take legal action over the decision. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced today that the petition submitted by Republicans doesn’t meet the state’s constitutional requirements to overturn a law. In a letter to House Minority Jim Townsend, who submitted the petition along with House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, Toulouse Oliver wrote that because Senate Bill 8, which was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month, relates to the public peace, health and safety, “it is not a law subject to referendum.”

While the state constitution allows for petitions to vote on overturning recently passed laws, it does not allow for the petitions to target laws related to the preservation of public peace, health or safety. In her letter, Toulouse Oliver quoted a press release from Lujan Grisham that says the law “improves public safety by expanding required background checks on firearm purchases to include private gun sales, closing loopholes for certain sales like those made online or at gun shows.”

Toulouse Oliver also outlined technical problems with the petition, from failing to suggest a popular name for the law they wish to overturn and failing to submit a petition in the form outlined by state law.

After difficult session, House GOP promises a comeback

With only minutes left on the clock on the last day of the legislative session, Republicans in the state House of Representatives didn’t even get one last chance to raise a ruckus. All they could do was raise a collective “Nay!” when asked if they approved a House-Senate compromise on a $7 billion state budget for fiscal year 2020. Outnumbered 46-24 by Democrats, the House Republicans were essentially muted as the session neared its close Saturday. And that’s how it had played out for most of the 60-day session.

Everytown for Gun Safety gave $400,000 to New Mexico Democrats

Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun-control advocacy group affiliated with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, contributed nearly $400,000 to New Mexico Democrats and Democrat-friendly political action committees in last year’s election. As the 2019 legislative session nears its end — marked by gun-control legislation that has incensed some New Mexicans, especially in rural areas — these big campaign bucks may play into gun-control opponents’ narrative about an out-of-state billionaire riding roughshod over gun owners by throwing money around. On the other side of this divisive issue, the National Rifle Association spent only a fraction of Everytown’s amount. According to the Institute on Money in Politics, the NRA gave slightly more than $21,000 to New Mexico candidates last year. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham a week ago signed Senate Bill 8, which requires background checks for most firearms purchasers.

Senate committee spikes lobbying disclosure bill

There are about 700 registered lobbyists bustling around the Capitol this year. What are they working on? They don’t have to say. A Senate committee shot down legislation on Wednesday that would have required lobbyists to report which bills they are working on. House Bill 131 also would have barred lobbyists from making any expenditures on legislators while they are in session.

House GOP wants to override gun bill by taking it to voters

Stung by the recent passage of legislation that would expand requirements for instant federal background checks on New Mexico firearms purchasers, House Republicans are looking for a way to override the bill. Their solution: Employ an arcane provision in the state constitution that would send the question directly to voters in the next statewide general election, scheduled for 2020. The House of Representatives earlier this week voted almost totally along party lines to approve Senate Bill 8, moving the legislation to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She has said she will support such gun-control measures. House Republican leaders on Thursday sent a letter to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, asking her to use the constitutional referendum provision to place the question on the 2020 ballot.

Are New Mexico voters ready for salaried legislators?

New Mexico legislators don’t get paid much. Some might argue that’s just as well. But the Legislature’s low pay is a bit closer to changing. The state House of Representatives elected on Wednesday to send voters a constitutional amendment that would repeal a prohibition on the Legislature paying its members a salary. It would also create a commission that would set the salaries for statewide elected officials, such as the governor, as well as legislators.

Bill would prevent lobbyists’ spending during session

It is hard to find even a bottle of water in the state Capitol that hasn’t been paid for by some special interest group. But that could change. At the very least, New Mexicans could get a much better idea of what all those groups are lobbying for at the state Capitol. The state House of Representatives voted 62-0 Sunday night to pass a bill that would ban lobbyists from making any expenditures on legislators while they are in session. House Bill 131, which now goes to the state Senate, was originally written to require lobbyists to report which pieces of legislation they worked on during a session, potentially expanding the public’s insight into dealmaking and conflicts of interest at the Capitol.

Full House to vote on medical aid in dying

A bill to allow medical aid in dying is headed for a vote in the New Mexico House of Representatives after a committee of lawmakers on Wednesday tweaked the legislation, requiring a physician to be included among the two health care professionals needed to sign off on a terminally ill patient’s decision to end their life. House Bill 90 has prompted some of the most emotional discussions of the legislative session, raising issues of life, death and the government’s role in deeply personal medical decisions. The bill also has prompted several rounds of amendments by lawmakers weighing exactly how the process should work for patients seeking such a choice. Under what is known as the End of Life Options Act, a terminally ill patient who is mentally competent and has only six months to live could ask a prescribing health care provider for drugs that would allow him to end his own life. The patient would have to speak with a health care provider about alternatives, such as further treatment, and make the request in writing with witnesses.

Minimum wage hike passes House with phased-in raise for tipped workers

The New Mexico House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to raise the statewide minimum wage to $10 an hour in July and increase it annually starting next year. But amid heavy opposition from the restaurant industry, lawmakers backed off immediately abolishing the lower minimum wage for tipped workers and instead elected to phase it out over the next few years. Democrats made boosting the minimum wage a central promise of last year’s campaign and argue House Bill 31 will amount to a raise for about 150,000 workers across the state. With a bigger Democratic majority in the House this year, legislation proposing an increase of several dollars per hour was bound to pass the chamber. But HB 31 is still likely to meet opposition in the state Senate, even from some Democrats, spurring what will likely be a round of negotiations over just how high legislators on both sides of the Capitol can agree to raise the minimum wage.