The president pro tem of the New Mexico Senate on Wednesday called for the resignation of the five regents of New Mexico State University, saying they had arbitrarily stripped powers from Chancellor Garrey Carruthers. The regents voted Monday to prohibit Carruthers from hiring and firing people in executive or coaching positions at the main campus in Las Cruces and on NMSU’s branch campuses. This triggered a strong response from Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces. She stated in a letter of complaint to the regents that they had inappropriately and perhaps unlawfully delegated their responsibilities to one person while taking away authority from Carruthers. Papen’s reference was to regents board Chairwoman Debra Hicks, who was empowered by the rest of the board to make interim appointments.
At the end of every legislative session, there are dozens of bills that die on the House or Senate floor. When asked what happened, legislative leaders invariably shrug their shoulders and say, “We just ran out of time …” Which is true. But in the days and weeks that lead to the last moments of a session, lawmakers eat up untold hours — joking around, talking sports, engaging in ceremonial activities and spending time on legislation that doesn’t have the force of law. Call these activities “time bandits.”
Aubrey Dunn announced he will not run for reelection as state land commissioner and will instead run for congress in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. Dunn, a Republican, made the announcement Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, also a Republican, announced earlier he will forego a run for an eighth term in office and instead run for governor. Dunn is so far the second Republican to announce candidacy for the seat, following state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo. Other Republicans have said they are considering a run, including state Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell.
In a late-night surprise Wednesday in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who has missed most of the legislative session because of a heart operation, showed up to help pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would take an extra one percent of interest earnings from New Mexico’s $20 billion land grant permanent fund to help pay for early childhood education. The House voted 37-32, mostly along party lines, to pass House Joint Resolution 1, a vote which had been delayed for more than a week, partly because of the Santa Fe legislator’s absence. Trujillo, a long-time advocate of the proposal, received a standing ovation when he walked into the chamber immediately before the House ended a three-hour debate. Related: Education chiefs fail to appear at hearing
The measure now goes to the Senate, where the road is expected to be much rougher. The proposal is certain to meet resistance from the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, a longtime opponent of taking extra money out of the land grant fund.
Republicans and Democrats on Monday threw their support behind a proposal to collect gross receipts tax from major internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Legislators have considered several similar proposals in recent years, but backers of House Bill 202 hope that the state’s budget crisis, a changing legal landscape and bipartisan support will send this measure to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. She has steadfastly opposed all proposals to raise taxes. But other Republicans who have been similarly wary of anything that sounds like a tax increase said during a meeting of the House Business and Industry Committee that they see the bill as ensuring fairness for small businesses competing with internet companies that do not have to pay the state’s 5 percent gross receipts or local taxes. “It’s really just closing a loophole,” said Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.
A proposal to boost New Mexico’s maximum annual payout of tax incentives for film and television productions moved forward Friday afternoon with a do-pass recommendation from the House Business and Industry Committee, despite legislators’ vexation over a mathematical error in the bill’s text. Legislators of both parties expressed support for New Mexico’s growing film industry, though some cautioned against the perception that the state might prioritize these incentives while lawmakers struggle with pressing budget concerns. “We just cut education twice — in the special session, we just cut it a few weeks ago, and we’re getting ready to cut it again,” said Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Sandoval. “Three times. My constituents are like, ‘Can we at least freeze the film industry in these difficult times?'”
However, backers of the bill characterized the proposed increase as an investment by the state and an adjustment for inflation.
With the state wracked by successive corruption scandals involving top officials, several lawmakers seem to agree that this is the year for ethics reform in New Mexico. A committee of the state House of Representatives gave a boost to those hopes Thursday by advancing a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent ethics commission through a constitutional amendment. The commission would have the power to investigate complaints of misconduct by public officials, candidates, lobbyists and contractors. The complaints would be public, and the commission’s opinions could be appealed to the state courts. Campaign finance reform advocates and good government groups have fought for years to create such a body.
Web pages with salacious images that are part of the personal website of a District Attorney candidate in Doña Ana County caused at least three prominent elected Republicans to withdraw their names as co-hosts of an upcoming fundraiser. The homepage to Brad Cates’ website—www.bradcates.com—shows a picture of the smiling candidate next to bulletpoints of his lawyerly credentials. But certain pages on Cates’ website—like one showing a picture of a seductive-looking blonde woman next to the words “Russia House” and another showing multiple photos of scantily clad women falling across the screen like a slot machine—are causing controversy. The pages have been passed around in certain Republican circles in recent days. Cates is a Republican hoping to replace Doña Ana District Attorney Mark D’Antonio, a Democrat, this fall.
Lawmakers are poised to debate another contentious topic halfway through an already-polarized legislative session. Thursday morning, the House Health Committee is scheduled to hear a bill aimed at addressing late-term abortions. Specifically, the measure would require emergency medical care for any infant born showing any sign of life, which would include breathing, a heartbeat, a pulse in an umbilical cord or muscle movement. Update: Public comment on the bill took so long that the committee delayed discussion and voting on the legislation until a future hearing. Story continues as originally written below.
—In an apparent protest to a memorial highlighting fair pay for women, two House Republicans left the floor during a vote on the legislation. Memorials do not enact any law, but are generally used to draw attention to a person or organization. House Memorial 39, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, declared today Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Day in honor of Lilly Ledbetter, a women’s equality activist and namesake of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. After Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, introduced the memorial in Chasey’s absence, Armstrong requested the House vote unanimously on the memorial, a common occurrence for this type of legislation. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, objected to voting unanimously and requested a roll-call vote, most likely to show who did or did not vote.