Legislators discuss draft sexual harassment policy update

A panel of New Mexico legislators discussed a draft version of an updated sexual harassment policy Friday, a month ahead of the 2018 legislative session. This marks the first time the policy has been updated since 2008. Legislators have not undergone sexual harassment training since then, before many current legislators were even elected. The Legislative Council expects to vote on a final version on Jan. 15, the day before the start of the session.

Lobbyist says ex-legislator asked to trade sex for a vote

The New York Times reported a former state representative in New Mexico told a female lobbyist he would vote for a bill a client supported if she had sex with him, then kissed her. That was part of a story the newspaper wrote about lobbyists facing sexual harassment in state capitals around the nation. The allegation brought up by Vanessa Alarid, still a prominent lobbyist, accused former State Rep. Thomas A. Garcia of making the proposition and the unwanted kiss. Garcia was a member of the Legislature for three terms, from 2006 to 2012. The Democrat denied the allegation.

Legislative leadership announces steps toward updating sexual harassment plan

Legislative leadership in both chambers and of both parties announced a bipartisan group of legislators will address the state’s sexual harassment policy. The sexual harassment policy was last revised in 2008, which was also the last time legislators underwent sexual harassment training. The group of legislators will work with the Legislative Council Service as well as outside attorneys to review the existing policy and recommend an updated draft policy to the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council, which is made up of members of each chamber, will then vote on adoption of the new policy in January. Leadership announced that the working group will look at applying the policy to staff, contractors, lobbyists and outside vendors in addition to legislators as well as “clearly outlining terms of enforcement” and outlining protections for those reporting sexual harassment from any retaliation.

State Rep ‘witnessed instances of harassment’ in Roundhouse

One state representative says the Legislature needs to do more to address sexual harassment. Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, wrote a letter to leadership in both the House and Senate, saying there is an “anything-goes” culture in the Roundhouse. She described “deliberate, often serial, offensive actions intended to intimidate, humiliate, or coerce” in the Roundhouse. She said that she has “personally experienced harassment in her time as a legislator.”

“I have also witnessed instances of harassment where colleagues and lobbyists have been subject to repeated profane comments and innuendo,” Fajardo wrote. “I heard stories of sickening quid pro quo propositions where legislators offered political support in exchange for sexual favors.” Fajardo did not name who harassed her or others.

Minimum-wage hike to $9 heads to governor

The state minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour from $7.50 by April 2018 if Gov. Susana Martinez signs a bill that has been passed by both houses of the Legislature. The House of Representatives on Thursday night voted 41-27 to pass Senate Bill 386, sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants. The bill would increase New Mexico’s hourly minimum wage to $8.25 in October, then to $9 in April 2018. It also would allow employers to have an $8 training wage for employees for 60 days, which would go into effect in October. The minimum wage for tipped employees, currently $2.13 an hour, would rise to $2.38 in October, then to $2.63 in April 2018.

House passes bill criminalizing false reports on utilities’ water quality

Spurred by a Four Corners-area water company that for months provided phony information to state regulators, the state House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bill making it a crime for owners or operators of public water systems to knowingly give false reports to the Environment Department. House Bill 511, sponsored by House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, passed on a 66-0 vote Monday night and now goes to the Senate. There was virtually no discussion about the reason for the bill during a brief floor hearing. Complaints last year from customers of the Animas Valley Water Co. eventually prompted the state to order thousands of households to boil their water.

Republicans block bill criminalizing false water quality data

Cloudy, brown and rank water flowed from the taps of homes in the northwest corner of New Mexico. Some of those who drank it say they became nauseous. They complained of cramps, headaches and diarrhea. Thousands of people were told to boil their water to guard against illness. Farmington-area residents whose homes are hooked up to the Animas Valley Water system said the water also damaged their water heaters, washing machines and clothes.

Here are the key legislative races to watch

Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.

Ethics commission moves forward despite concerns

A bill that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission cleared its first hurdle on Friday on a unanimous vote. Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, sponsored the proposed constitutional amendment explained that he felt this was a very important piece of legislation to both the public and the Legislature. “There are many different places to go to try to get an opinion, which can vary,” Dines said. “It needs to be centralized.” “It can give us direction.

Independent redistricting commission needs more work

A proposed constitutional amendment on creating an independent redistricting commission had support but consensus that more work is needed in the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Monday. The committee is the first stop on the way for constitutional amendments that originate in the House. Constitutional amendments go to the voters for approval if they clear both the House and Senate; the governor does not get a say in them. Most of the discussion in the committee came on a proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, that would create an independent redistricting commission and take the process out of the hands of the Legislature. Trujillo echoed something that President Barack Obama said during the State of the State, “Politicians shouldn’t choose their voters, that voters should choose their politicians.”