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.

After U.S. Senator’s request, ISC releases previously-withheld data

Last month, NM Political Report wrote about how a one-sentence provision in state law emboldened an agency to keep one citizen from obtaining public information. In December, retired Interstate Stream Commission Director Norman Gaume asked his former agency for an unlocked copy of an Excel spreadsheet showing how much water is diverted from and used along the Gila River and its tributaries each year. The agency’s questionable actions against Gaume drew the attention of one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senator, and a state representative who introduced a bill to make a slight wording change to the state’s open records law. Over the past few years, Gaume has opposed the state’s plans to build a diversion along the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico. With an unlocked copy of the spreadsheet, he could examine the formulas and original data within the spreadsheet.

NM Dems file legislation to blunt Trump’s impact

A local legislator’s bill to bar New Mexico law enforcement from imposing federal immigration laws is getting attention as a measure to challenge President Trump’s expected crackdown on illegal immigration. “Given the repressive potential coming from the Trump administration, I wanted to make sure our immigrant community felt safe and protected,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, said in a recent interview. Hers is just one of several proposals sitting before the New Mexico Legislature directly reflect what’s happening as a result of 2016’s contentious campaign and the election of Donald Trump as president. State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, for example, is carrying a bill that would require New Mexico’s electors to cast their votes to reflect the national popular vote. State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, has a measure to eliminate “faithless” electors, or state electors who cast votes without abiding by their state’s vote totals.

House scales back cuts to school budgets

The state House of Representatives agreed Monday evening to soften the financial blow to New Mexico’s public schools. With little discussion, House members voted to scale back cuts for districts and charter schools from a total of $50 million to about $38 million during the next five months. The cuts would be a big part of balancing the state’s budget. Proposed by Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, the change ensures that each district or charter still has cash reserves of at least 4 percent of its budget. Those beneath 4 percent in reserves would not face cuts.

Egolf, Dems make changes after taking control of House

Brian Egolf, on his first night as speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, selected nine committee chairmen and chairwomen who will be in leadership jobs for the first time. Egolf, D-Santa Fe, on Tuesday also expanded the number of committees in the House from 13 to 14. Republicans, back in the minority after two years as the controlling party, objected to adding a committee but lost on a party-line vote of 38-29. Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said the additional committee would create the need for more staff. Egolf said that was not the case because the existing pool of legislative analysts would handle the workload for all committees.

Proposal aims to close campaign donation loophole

A legislator from Santa Fe County is proposing to close a loophole in the state’s campaign finance law that allows state lawmakers to accept campaign donations while they are in session. State law bans state representatives, senators and candidates for the Legislature from raising money from Jan. 1 until they adjourn. But the statute only prohibits soliciting contributions. It says nothing about legislators accepting money.

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.

House passes bills for stricter DWI laws

The House passed three bills on Thursday night that would increase penalties on crimes related to DWI. One would create a felony for those caught with a DWI while driving on a revoked license, another would add the fourth DWI penalty—which is the first DWI that qualifies as a felony—to the habitual offender statute and the third would increase penalties for the fourth through seventh DWI by a year and increases someone’s eighth DWI from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. The most-discussed bill involved creating a felony for a DWI while on a revoked license, though it was another smaller provision that was most controversial. Instead, it was the section that said anyone who knowingly permits someone on a revoked license will receive a felony that had many raising hypotheticals including those of a husband and wife who co-own a car. Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, said that the concerns were overblown.

Driver’s licenses, DWI penalties and ethics: A final look at House pre-filed legislation

Pre-filing of legislation ahead of the legislative session ended last Friday. In all, the House introduced over 200 bills, memorials and joint resolutions. We looked at the bills as of two weeks ago in both the House and Senate. Now, we take a final look at the House pre-filed legislation. A look at the Senate pre-filed legislation will come soon.

Dems push ethics bills after year of scandals

House Democrats gathered in Santa Fe to unveil a slate of ethics and transparency bills on Tuesday. The bills come after a year that saw a state Senator resign after violating the state constitution and the Secretary of State resigned after pleading guilty to six crimes, including two felonies. One bill that they included was instituting a state ethics commission, legislation that has been introduced in one form or another for over a decade without ever passing. New Mexico is one of just eight states that do not have an ethics commission. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, is the latest to attempt to bring the legislation to the governor’s desk.