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.

No decision yet after NM Supreme Court hears redistricting case oral arguments

Oral arguments in the case that claimed Republicans were gerrymandered out of a congressional seat during the recent redistricting cycle went in front of the state Supreme Court Monday. The Republican Party of New Mexico and others filed the case against the State of New Mexico. Ninth Judicial District Judge Fred van Soelen filed a verified writ of superintending control against the state, prompting the high court to take the case. Both sides presented their cases to the state’s high court which adjourned shortly after the hearing without making a decision. “This is an issue of significant importance and we want to be deliberative,” Bacon said.” And because there is a stay in place and we’re a little ways out from the next electoral process, we don’t feel the need to act as quickly as we might otherwise.

NM special session ends with approval of Senate redistricting map

New Mexico’s latest special legislative session, mostly devoted to redistricting, came to an end on Friday after the state House approved two pieces of legislation. The state Senate adjourned the night before after approving its own new district map, a House redistricting proposal and a House bill that cleaned up language in the state’s medical malpractice law. 

On the House floor on Friday, representatives approved the Senate redistricting map on a 38-22, near-party-line vote and, through a concurrence vote, approved changes the Senate made the night before on a medical malpractice bill.  

Despite a traditionally unspoken agreement that each chamber does not make changes to each other’s map proposals, the House engaged in a three-hour debate over the Senate’s own map proposal. 

The debate mostly centered around ethnicity and whether or not all of the map proposals presented during the two-week-long special session were consistent with a newly formed independent redistricting committee. 

House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, used a Spanish phrase he said his family used to denote shameful or embarrassing actions. 

“I believe that the statement to this legislature and what we’ve done this year is sin vergüenza,” Montoya said. “Don’t we hold on to anything that was important to our forefathers? Is there anything that our parents taught us that is worth keeping hold of?”

The debate seemed to be a carryover from the Senate debate the night before and centered on the sentiment from Republicans in both the Senate and House that the redistricting process was tainted. 

This year, for the first time, a statutorily-created Citizen Redistricting Committee came up with about a dozen different recommended map concepts for the Legislature to consider. The law does not require the Legislature to adopt any of the suggestions from the redistricting committee and Democrats defended their map proposals as being based on the committee’s recommendations, albeit not verbatim copies of the committee’s proposals. 

Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Rio Rancho, who is now facing a major change to the district she represents, bluntly said she thought the new redistricting process “sucks.”

Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, dismissed previous claims that the proposed maps, particularly the Senate map, were pitting Hispanic and Latinos against Native Americans and called it “race-baiting.”

“There’s an obvious attempt to politically wedge people of color in this state, unfortunately, and I’m sorry to say that, but it’s obvious to me,” Lente said.

After heated debate over race, NM Senate approves its own redistricting map

The New Mexico state Senate approved a proposal to redraw its own districts on Thursday by a 25-13 vote. SB 2, sponsored by Sens. Linda Lopez and Daniel Ivey-Soto, both Albuquerque Democrats, would redraw the state Senate districts and also adopt a Native American consensus map that tribes and pueblos spent months crafting. 

Much of the contentious debate was carried over from the night before and focused on two Hispanic Republican incumbents that would be paired together in one district. After hours of inaction due to a call of the Senate that required all members to be present before any more substantive business continued, several Republican Senators accused Senate Democrats of being racist for pushing a map forward that would pair the two Hispanic Republicans in the same district. 

Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen and Sen. Joshua Sanchez, R-Veguita, the two senators in question, live about 10 miles, or a 15 to 20 minute drive from each other, according to financial disclosure information. But Baca and Sanchez represent two different districts.

NM Senate approves House map, heads to governor’s desk

The New Mexico state Senate approved a bill that would redraw state House maps on a 24-13 vote. HB 8 is one of four proposals that would draw state political districts in the current special legislative session. 

The Senate floor debate for HB 8 came just after the Senate spent hours debating its own political boundaries and was much shorter than that of the Senate map proposal. 

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, who presented the proposal, said the map met both deviation and population number requirements. 

While there is somewhat of an unspoken rule that the Senate and House do not make significant changes to each other’s maps, Republicans offered one amendment, presumably to make a point and discussed amendments they said they would like to make, but didn’t. 

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, offered up an amendment to pair Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe in the same district as Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, but he ultimately withdrew the amendment. 

“We just passed a set of Senate maps that left a couple members paired, and this would pair a couple members in the House,” Pirtle said before withdrawing his amendment. “So that way, we have some continuity between the bodies.”

HB 8 already pairs a number of incumbents together. 

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said he took issue with how the House redrew the boundaries for districts currently represented by Rep. Jane Powdrell Culbert, R-Rio Rancho. HB 8 proposes to shift much of that district into Corrales. Brandt said he took issue with House Democrats approving a map that significantly changes a district represented by an African American woman. 

“The people in her district respect her and she has served this state in a bipartisan way and has been a strong voice for minority communities in the state,” Brandt said. 

Brandt added that he had a floor amendment ready to go, but opted not to push it unless he saw there was widespread support for it. 

Ivey-Soto introduced a floor amendment that would reverse a previous amendment made during a previous committee hearing.

Senate Dems at odds with Native American governments over Senate redistricting

The New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-2 on Sunday to change a bill aimed at redrawing its own Senate districts, despite pleas from numerous Native American pueblos and tribes not to do so. 

The original proposal, SB 2, adopted a Native American consensus plan that was recommended to the Legislature by the state’s Citizen Redistricting Committee to create stronger Native American voting districts. 

The new version of the bill shifted district boundaries in order to protect six Republican senators from being paired with each other. Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, who brought the substitute forward, told the committee that the replacement bill was a result of working with Senate Republicans to avoid the pairing of Republicans who represent districts in the western and southeastern parts of the state. 

“In the Senate, we try very hard to be collaborative and to work as an entire body, not just one party,” Stewart said. “And so I was approached by the minority party with ideas.”

Earlier this year, a statewide Native American coalition presented a consensus map to the newly formed Citizen Redistricting Committee. That consensus map was included in SB 2. 

During Sunday’s committee meeting, many representatives from numerous tribal nations and pueblos spoke out against the substitute bill on the basis that they spent months of effort to come up with a map that was agreeable to them all. 

Conroy Chino, a registered lobbyist for the Pueblo of Taos, asked committee members to consider the amount of time and effort it took for the coalition to come to an agreement and urged them not to adopt the substitute bill. 

“You can only imagine the challenge of bringing together 22 sovereign governments and having them arrive at a consensus and an agreement,” Chino said. “It was quite challenging and required careful deliberation and meaningful discussion in order for them to arrive at an agreement on a map.”

Pueblo of Zia Governor Jerome Lucero expressed the importance of lawmakers honoring the wishes of Native governments and asked them to adopt a state Senate map that includes the result of the months of work from the coalition. 

“For many redistricting cycles throughout history, our voice was often ignored from this important democratic process,” Lucero said.

New congressional map heads to governor’s desk

The New Mexico state House advanced a proposal on Saturday that would redraw the state’s congressional districts to group a sizable portion of the urban Albuquerque area with rural areas in the south with a 44-24 along party lines. The map proposal now heads to the governor’s desk for approval.  

Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, SB 1 would also put a southwest section of Albuquerque into a district with southern cities including Las Cruces and Alamogordo and group a portion of Roswell and the towns of Lovington and Artesia with northern cities like Farmington and Santa Fe. Hours earlier, the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee approved the proposal on a 6-2 party-line vote

Louis told the committee that the bill, if passed, would ensure that all social, economic and political interests would be better served by members of Congress. 

“Really what we’re doing here is ensuring that our congressional folks now will have both rural and urban instead of making that rural urban split,” Louis said. “It also increases the Hispanic voter age population in the southern districts, and it’s really about giving voters the choice.”

Those who spoke during the public comment period of the committee meeting repeated sentiments of both support and opposition from previous hearings.

Congressional map proposal approved by NM Senate, heads to House

The New Mexico state Senate approved a proposal to redraw the state’s congressional districts by a 25-15 vote on Friday evening. All Republican members voted against the measure, with independent Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque joining Republicans. 

SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, would move congressional district boundaries to group southeastern cities like Artesia, Portales and Clovis with municipalities in the northwest corner of the state into the Third Congressional District. Most of the Albuquerque-metro area would be grouped with southern towns and villages like Carrizozo and Capitan into the First Congressional District. The state’s Second Congressional District would group southern cities like Alamogordo and Las Cruces with a southwestern part of Albuquerque. 

The proposal began as a reworking of one of the concepts recommended by the newly formed Citizen Redistricting Committee and hours before the floor debate, Cervantes convinced the Senate Judiciary to approve changes that brought it closer to the redistricting committee’s recommendation. The original recommendation, officially known as Congressional Concept H, but commonly referred to as “the people’s map” was crafted by a coalition of community advocacy groups.

NM Senate committees advance two redistricting maps

Two New Mexico state Senate committees advanced two redistricting maps on Thursday, one for Congress and one for the state Senate. A New Mexico Senate bill that would redraw the state’s congressional districts inched closer to a full Senate vote on Thursday after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill on a 6-3 party-line vote. 

SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, would make significant changes to the three congressional districts by grouping much of northern New Mexico with a portion of the southeast part of the state. The bill also suggests including rural areas like Carrizozo with much of the urban Albuquerque area. But more rural areas of Albuquerque would be included in the southern congressional district. 

The proposed map is similar to what is largely being referred to as the “people’s map” which was backed by a coalition of progressive advocacy groups. Proponents of “the people’s map” have also added their support of SB 1, arguing that it would group together large populations of Hispanic and Latino voters.

Debate, testimony over maps fills second day of session

The New Mexico House of Representatives spent much of the second day of the second 2021 special legislative session discussing the merits of proposed maps. The special session is largely focused on redrawing the state’s political boundaries for U.S congressional districts and state House and Senate districts and is expected to last 12 days. 

During a more-than three-hour presentation to the House, both Republicans and Democrats debated the merits of one congressional map concept in particular and whether a newly formed citizen led redistricting committee had presented the best map concepts for the Legislature to choose from. Later in the day, a House committee heard public testimony on a House map that is an amalgamation of three concepts from the citizen committee. 

During a House committee of the whole on Tuesday morning, a representative of the citizen committee along with members of the prominent New Mexico polling company Research and Polling fielded questions and sometimes criticism from members. 

Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, who is also vying for the Republican nomination for governor, questioned a congressional map concept put forward by advocacy group Center for Civic Policy and adopted by the redistricting committee. Known as el mapa de la gente, or the people’s map, the concept would drastically change the three congressional districts and group rural areas like Roswell and Carrizozo with the urban Albuquerque area. According to the Center for Civic Policy, the goal of the map is to create a strong Latino or Hispanic district.