March 8, 2023

Bill to set up procedures for filling legislative vacancies passes first committee

Matthew Reichbach

A bill aspiring to update the statute on procedures for filling legislative vacancies was unanimously approved in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

HB 538 is sponsored by committee chairwoman D. Wonda Johnson, a Democrat from Albuquerque.

The bill was presented by Rep. Janelle Anyononu, D-Albuquerque and state Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, presented the bill.

“This essentially codifies what is done 90 percent of the time. It does not apply to rural counties. It only applies to counties that envelop an entire legislative district,” Maestas said. 

Maestas was appointed to Jacob Candelaria’s seat after the latter resigned last fall. Maestas represented House District 16 which was filled by kindergarten teacher Marsella Duarte who was chosen to fill the seat until the end of the term on Dec. 31 by the Bernalillo County Commission.  The commission   chose Yanira Gurrola to fill the vacancy. Both Duarte and Gurrola are Albuquerque Democrats.

More: BernCo commission votes State Rep. Maestas to fill state senate vacancy

The bill sets forth that county commissions that need to fill a legislative vacancy must immediately begin seeking and accepting applications for the position, hold a special meeting within three weeks of the vacancy to fill the vacancy and announce the date of the meeting within two days of the vacancy, the bill states.

If the vacancy happens during a legislative session, the timeline for filling the vacancy is five days after the seat becomes vacant.

The bill was amended in the committee to remove the requirement to use ranked choice voting when making a legislative appointment and to make the ballots publicly available.

Correction: This story originally identified Janelle Anyanonu as D. Wonda Johnson. This has been corrected.