A majority of New Mexico voters support legalizing recreational marijuana. And a governor who opposes the idea will leave office at the start of the year, giving hope to some supporters of the idea. But even if New Mexico’s next governor supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, a familiar obstacle would still stand in the way: the state Senate. State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino has sponsored legislation to legalize recreational marijuana since 2014. He’s tried with constitutional amendments in the past, but if Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supports legalization, wins office then the effort will go through regular statue.
Susana Martinez will be leaving office in three months, and she remains unpopular among New Mexico voters according to a recent poll. Meanwhile, the state’s two U.S. Senators still have more support than opposition, but their approval ratings remain under 50 percent. Martinez’s approval rating stand at 36 percent among registered New Mexico voters according to Morning Consult, while her disapproval rating is at 54 percent. This is barely changed from numbers released in July. The Republican governor’s disapproval rating remains sixth-highest among all governors.
An oil and gas bonanza in Southwestern states may be helping to drive the continuing national economic boom. The nation’s 4.2 percent growth in GDP, estimated last month by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, is the highest quarterly growth since 2014. State estimates aren’t due until mid-November, but many experts see oil and natural gas drilling, driven by higher prices, as a leading reason. “The states that contribute most might be the ones with strong increases in energy production,” including Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, said Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan and an economic analyst for the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. GDP measures gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services produced in a given period of time.
The race for New Mexico governor is tight, while the incumbent Democratic U.S. senator holds a sizeable lead over his two challengers, according to a new poll from Emerson College. The poll, conducted last week, via calls to landlines and online surveys and released Monday morning, shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham with a two point lead over Republican nominee Steve Pearce, 42 percent to 40 percent. The poll shows 18 percent of voters polled are still undecided. The poll is of registered voters. Both candidates are leaving their respective congressional seats to run for governor.
With less than six months left in her time in office, Gov. Susana Martinez remains unpopular among New Mexico voters. Morning Consult released approval ratings for all governors and U.S. Senators on Wednesday. The poll showed Martinez among the least popular governors in the nation, with 54 percent of voters disapproving of her job performance, compared to 35 percent who approve. Her disapproval rating is tied for the fifth-worst. The previous numbers, released in April, showed Martinez with 53 percent disapproval and 37 percent approval.
Albuquerque’s Melanie Stansbury decided this was the year to run for office. She filed as a candidate for state representative in Albuquerque, in House District 28 in the Northeast Heights. Republicans have held the seat for over a decade but the Democrat is running an energetic campaign and raising thousands of dollars in donations. Stansbury followed her sister’s lead, a county judge who almost a decade ago went through the Emerge New Mexico program, which trains Democratic woman to run for office. Stansbury joked that she and her sister are the only “Emerge sisters to actually be real sisters in New Mexico.”
In September, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will hold a sale on almost 200 drilling leases for 89,000 acres in Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties. About a dozen of those leases are within a mile of the boundary of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The National Parks Conservation Association hopes the BLM will defer the parcels nearest to the park, in critical cave and karst areas and in other places with environmental concerns or wilderness characteristics, said Ernie Atencio, the nonprofit’s New Mexico Program Manager. “They heard our request to that effect, and they might even agree and prepare the paperwork for it, but that’s another decision that has to come down from D.C. and no longer in the hands of local managers,” he said. Since 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge signed the executive order creating what was then called Carlsbad Cave National Monument, the region has been transformed, largely due to oil drilling in the Permian Basin.
The debate over enforcement of immigration law was front and center this week, with images of children separated from their parents and held in cages along the border in newspapers and TV news. The White House flip-flopped on its explanations and who was to blame, as shown by a damning video in the Washington Post. Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at stopping the same separations the White House said previously could only be ended by Congress. Even that didn’t stop the outcry, with critics pointing out that it would still allow family separations in some cases and that it would allow indefinite detention of families. While children would not be taken from their parents to be put in federal facilities, they would be held together with their respective families until immigration prosecution could take place.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision may open the door to the taxation of more internet sales in New Mexico. In a 5-4 decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court said states could tax sales on internet purchases from companies that do not have a physical presence in a state. The decision overturned a 1992 decision on catalogue-order companies that was later interpreted to include internet sales. The New Mexico Legislature passed a bill that would apply the state’s gross receipts tax to internet sales in 2017 as part of a suite of tax changes. That would bring in, by a conservative estimate, $20 million annually for the state.
It’s been a busy week, and we have plenty of news to share from around the state and region. -New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has filed the state’s counterclaims in Texas v. New Mexico & Colorado, the U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit over the waters of the Rio Grande. We’ve posted those pleadings on our site, if you want to read them for yourself. Want to get this in your inbox a day earlier? Sign up for the email list.