December 9, 2015

2015 Recap: March sees Griego resign, session end

The Legislative session largely ended in shambles, with no capital outlay and a tax package pushed by Gov. Susana Martinez fell prey to a short filibuster.

Note: Each weekday from here through December 22, we will be looking back at the top stories from each month here at NM Political Report. These could be the most-read stories, some interesting stories that didn’t get much attention or just plain important stories.

Previous recaps: January. February.

The nameplate of Phil Griego before and after his resignation. Photo credit: Andy Lyman, Matthew Reichbach

The nameplate of Phil Griego before and after his resignation. Photo credit: Andy Lyman, Matthew Reichbach

Thanks to all of the news, the month was the one where NM Political Report wrote the most stories of any month this year. It was also one the site’s best months for traffic.

But the big news was the shock resignation of Sen. Phil Griego. The Democrat from San Jose resigned after admitting to violating the state constitution
(though even he didn’t know all the details). Rumors had been swirling about Griego for days, especially after Griego missed votes.

This set up a battle over his replacement and how quickly county commissions would have to name candidates for Martinez to choose from. Griego’s replacement ended up being named after the end of the session.

The day the session ended was one to remember. Martinez was incensed and lashed out at Democrats in the Senate, both publicly and privately, leading a Senator to say she was like “a dictator who had been thwarted.” The House, run for the first time in decades, pointed fingers at the Senate, while the Senate Majority Leader said the Senate passed the legislation it intended to.

The Legislature did, however, pass two things they absolutely needed; one is the budget, required annually, and the other a gaming compact.

Still, it all set the stage for post-session bickering over capital outlay that would eventually lead to a special session (one first predicted by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce even before the session ended).

While the Senate confirmed Hanna Skandera for Secretary of State, a different confirmation went down in flames. The Senate rejected the confirmation of Matt Chandler to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents following a rare do-not-pass recommendation from the Senate Rules Committee. Jamie Koch resigned from the board in protest (though later in the year, Gov. Susana Martinez reappointed him).

A landmark bill banning civil asset forfeiture passed the House; Martinez eventually signed it into law.

Right-to-work was one of those pieces of legislation that Republicans wanted more action on from Democrats, even going so far as attempting to blast the legislation out of committee—an extreme rarity in the Senate.Democrats held the line, saying they were supporting the committee process, and the effort failed. The Senate Public Affairs Committee first heard public comment and then voted to table the bill.

In the final weeks, what seems like an annual tradition took place, with the House and Senate pointing fingers at each other over the assignment of bills from the other chamber. That is one thing that hasn’t changed with a new party in control of the House.

We took a deeper look at what exactly was in the abortion legislation that made it way through the Legislature. As you would expect, emotions were high. Senate Republicans tried to change the committee assignments for the abortion legislation to no avail. The bill ultimately stalled in Senate committees.

Comments from a Democrat in the House on rape legislation prompted demands for an apology.

Changes to vaccine laws fell flat in the House Health Committee.

In non-session news, NM Political Report looked at New Mexico’s Religious Freedom law and how it differed from the controversial one in Indiana.

We were able to get confirmation (sort of) from Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, that he would not be the New Mexico Highlands University president.

We also tried to get answers from the Public Education Department on discrepancies on estimates of how many hours students spent on standardized tests, but kept hitting walls with the department.

We were able, however to get Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, and Sen. Bill Payne, R-Farmington, on camera talking about walkouts throughout the state in protest of the PARCC tests. Still, the governor said that the tests were here to stay.

One thing that will lead to a lot of debate in the next legislative session is just how much money the Legislature will have to allocate because of declining oil and gas prices. New Mexico began seeing the effects of this with job losses in the oil sector in March because of falling oil prices.