Sen. Craig Brandt talks about Glory's Law during a press conference. Other speakers included, from left to right, Glory's mother Christy Sellers, UNM Head Football Coach Danny Gonzales and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales.

Law to ban discrimination against organ donor recipients has support

Three legislators filed a bill to prevent patients from being denied an organ donation due to mental or physical disability from happening in New Mexico, dubbed Glory’s Law. Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, Rep. Jenifer Jones, R-Deming, and Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque are the sponsors of  SB 71. Glory’s Law is named for Christy Sellers’ youngest daughter, Glory, who is almost completely deaf, has Down Syndrome and other issues affecting her heart and lungs. “I heard about a story in another state where a baby was denied a kidney transplant solely based on that child having Down Syndrome,” Sellers said at a press conference about Glory’s Law Thursday. “Right now, (New Mexico) doesn’t have any laws in place to protect people with disabilities should they need a transplant, they could be denied solely based on having Down Syndrome solely based on things that don’t affect their quality of life, or make them any less worthy.” 

Seller and her family have adopted three disabled children including Glory.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, addresses a bipartisan group of legislators, media, community organizers and law enforcement in the cabinet meeting room in the Governor’s Office January 25, 2023.

Lujan Grisham proposes ‘public safety investment strategy’

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed a package of legislation that would promote public safety statewide, if approved. She said that public safety has always been a legislative priority for as long as she could remember. “The details of that shift and the issues that we are called to address change. That is awesome,” Lujan Grisham said during a Wednesday press conference. “This administration has been working on mostly but not entirely, making sure that the criminal enhancements, that the high risk criminal aspects get dealt with in our public safety effort, but they’re doing all of these upfront investments to make sure that we have healthier, stronger, resilient families and we’re dealing with making sure that poverty isn’t our enemy as we look to gain ground in public safety.” 

There was also discussion about how the root causes of crime, such as abject poverty, can be handled from a legislative perspective.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon approaches the lectern in the state house chamber to deliver the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature Tuesday, January 24, 2022.

Supreme Court Chief Justice talks virtual hearings, criminal justice reform

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Bacon addressed the Legislature during a joint legislative session on Tuesday. This was the first time in four years a State of the Judiciary Address has been delivered in New Mexico. “The Judiciary is battered and bruised, strong, resilient, creative, committed, and caring. I hope through my words today, this will be evident,” Bacon said. Bacon discussed four issues including the judiciary’s efforts through the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting programs that help the community, criminal justice reform and the judiciary’s legislative requests.

Peña sent to pre-trial detention in case of shooting at politicians’ houses

The former Republican candidate who allegedly masterminded the shooting of four houses of Democrats  was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention during a hearing in Second Judicial District Court on Monday. Judge Brett Loveless granted prosecutors’ motion to keep Solomon Peña, 39, in pre-trial detention for a charge of receipt, transportation or possession of a firearm or destructive device by certain persons. Peña remains incarcerated at Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque. The charge is among 15 charges against Peña in the case of four drive-by shootings at Democratic politician’s homes in December and January. Peña was charged on four counts each of shooting at a dwelling or occupied building, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and conspiracy to shoot at a dwelling or occupied building.

APD investigating alleged political shooting mastermind’s campaign finances

Albuquerque Police detectives found what they think may be illegally obtained campaign contributions while investigating Solomon Peña and the shootings he allegedly masterminded. “APD detectives learned through witness interviews related to the shooting investigation that Peña identified individuals to funnel contributions from an unknown source to his legislative campaign,” an APD news release states. “Detectives are working with other law enforcement agencies to determine whether the money for the campaign contributions was generated from narcotics trafficking and whether campaign laws were violated.”

Campaign finances are regulated under the Campaign Reporting Act, or CRA, which is under the State Ethics Commission’s purview. “Presently, our office is reviewing the matter for CRA violations,” State Ethics Commission spokeswoman Suha Musa said via email. “If the Commission takes action in this matter, it will do so at a public meeting.”

The Campaign Reporting Act dictates how campaign funding can be used.

Modernizing the Legislature to be discussed during this year’s session

In some ways, the New Mexico Legislature operates the same way it did at statehood more than a century ago. The legislative session itself is the shortest in the nation and New Mexican legislators are the only ones not paid for the job of to producing, debating and approving legislation. One of the organizations behind the movement to update the legislative session for modern times is Common Cause, which hopes to have a state constitutional amendment placed on the ballot that would extend the session and add a five day recess after 30 days that would not count against the session’s active days. Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Mario Jimenez, III spoke to New Mexico Political Report about this and other issues the organization is pursuing. “We often see legislation that is hastily run, and we often have to come back and fix those in future legislation because of a few things that the legislature may have missed over some conflicts within other sections of law or sections of the Constitution,” Jimenez said.

State Rep. Javier Martinez addresses the media prior to being named Speaker of the House on Jan. 17, 2023.

Speaker Martinez comments on shooting of his house

Speaker of the House Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, opened up about the recent shootings of houses owned by Democratic politicians in Albuquerque, including his own. Martinez held a press briefing prior to the opening of the legislative session on Tuesday. “It’s long overdue, that we lower the temperature,” Martinez said. “These are the things that can happen when rhetoric gets out of hand. I am incredibly grateful to the Albuquerque Police Department, to (Albuquerque) Mayor (Tim) Keller and to all of those who played a role in protecting our safety and ensuring that our democracy remains intact.”

Martinez expressed alarm that the shootings occurred.

Lujan Grisham in State of the State: ‘It’s a great day to be New Mexican’

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham discussed economics, education, healthcare, public safety and clean energy during her State of the State Address to a joint session of the state legislature on Tuesday. “It’s such a pleasure to be alongside so many dedicated public officials, devoted community leaders, and quite frankly, so many good friends and it is always my honor to address my fellow New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said. “Now, just over four years ago, I began my governorship with a simple idea that we have the power to decide who and what we become, that our past didn’t have to dictate our future.”

The address included Lujan Grisham boasting about the oil boom’s positive effect on the state’s budget and her requests for how to spend the new revenue, including a proposed economic relief tax rebate like the ones issued in recent years to offset the COVID-19 recession’s effect on New Mexican taxpayers. These rebates would be $750 for individual taxpayers and $1,500 for those who filed jointly. Other topics discussed were universal childcare, Extended Learning Time, revamping Special Education, the New Mexico Healthcare Authority, an assault rifle ban as a means of curbing gun violence and $100 million for Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire relief.

State Rep. Javier Martinez addresses the media prior to being named Speaker of the House on Jan. 17, 2023.

Martinez elected Speaker of the House: ‘Let’s go to work’

State Representatives elected Javier Martinez as Speaker of the House on Tuesday. Republicans nominated state Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell. Martinez won the Speaker of the House with 45 votes to Ezzell’s 25 votes. In Martinez’s speech, he mentioned that the New Mexico Legislature needs to be modernized and that this is a nonpartisan endeavor. “We have a 19th century legislative system for a 21st century society and economy,” Martinez said. 

Martinez said that he takes his role as Speaker of the House and as a state representative seriously as do other members of the House.

2023 session will include no COVID-19 mandates, regular security

The regular New Mexico Legislative Session begins Tuesday and public and politicians alike can expect to see regular security and no COVID-19 restrictions. Masking and social distancing are requested but not mandated. The New Mexico Legislative Council met Monday for its regular pre-session meeting to discuss the legislative session. COVID testing will be available for those who wish it from paramedics near the north door on the second floor ground level, New Mexico Legislative Council Service Director Raúl Burciaga said. As to security measures, two metal detectors will be at the Roundhouse’s main entrance on the east and west side from whence most of the public enter.