Gov. Lujan Grisham announces special session for redistricting, appropriating COVID relief funds will be next week

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham officially announced on Wednesday that she will call the state Legislature into a special session next week to approve new legislative, congressional and Public Education Commission districts. In addition to redistricting, lawmakers will also be called to appropriate federal COVID-19 relief funds. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Lujan Grisham said she is confident the Legislature will work collaboratively and diligently to finalize new district maps so that all New Mexicans are fairly represented. 

“A fundamental part of our American democracy is ensuring that all voters are represented, and the redistricting effort will make sure that the right of all New Mexicans to vote is complemented by fair representation through their elected officials,” Lujan Grisham said. “I look forward to a productive and collegial session and know lawmakers and legislative leadership will as always carry out the people’s business thoughtfully and respectfully, in a way that honors this important work.” 

Updating district maps is a process that takes place every ten years, on the heels of the federal census. This year, thanks to a new law, the redistricting process began with a citizen redistricting committee that approved several different recommendations for the Legislature to consider. But, the Legislature is not required to accept any of those recommendations.

Redistricting commission advances state House maps

On Wednesday, New Mexico’s newly formed Citizen Redistricting Committee finalized its its recommended maps for the Legislature’s consideration. 

Wednesday’s meeting was solely focused on advancing three map concepts for state House Districts. 

The first map the committee approved was a modified version of a map submitted by the advocacy group Center for Civic Policy. The intention of the map, according to commentary submitted by CCP, was to “help consolidate Hispanic neighborhoods” in a southern district and to “better allow majority-Hispanic voters to elect a candidate of their choice.”

Discussion of that map, which is referred to as Map Concept E, revealed likely partisan disputes when the proposal gets to the Legislature sometime later this year in a special session. 

Related: Commission votes to send proposed redistricting maps to Legislature

Committee member Lisa Curtis, who is an Albuquerque-based lawyer and a former legislator, said she moved the CCP map for consideration because maps that are generally regarded as “status-quo” tend to “perpetuate disenfranchisement for voters.”

“I’m proposing Concept E, to stop the disenfranchisement of the minority-majority of voters in this state,” Curtis said. 

While the citizen committee did not take partisan data into consideration, one member said the districts in Concept E seemed to hint at gerrymandering in favor of Democrats. 

Member Ryan Cangiolosi, who is the former chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico, said that while he had not looked into the political make-up of each proposed district in Concept E, many of the districts looked “snake-like” to him.  

“The thing that I can say with all assurance is that I know that our CRC maps were drawn without partisan or performance data being considered,” Cangiolosi said. “Now I cannot say with a surety that that was done, that the people who drew those maps didn’t use partisan or performance data when creating those maps.”

Committee member and former state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said he liked the concept because it would protect minority voters. 

“This map, to me, protects our Hispanic population, probably not as much as I would like,” Sanchez said. “It definitely protects the Native American population. Again, possibly not as much as I would like.”

The committee also approved what is referred to as the Pueblo Consensus map or the modified version of Map Concept I. According to the redistricting committee’s website, the pueblo consensus map would create five “strong Native American districts” but is also “status-quo oriented.” 

Sanchez’s voting record on the committee leans towards making changes to districts and shying away from status quo maps.

Governor signs cannabis legalization into law

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday signed two bills that, together, legalize the use and possession of cannabis and expunge previous cannabis related criminal records. 

“This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better – our workforce, our economy, our future. We’re ready to break new ground. We’re ready to invest in ourselves and the limitless potential of New Mexicans. And we’re ready to get to work in making this industry a successful one.”  

The New Mexico Legislature passed HB 2 and SB 2 last month during a special session.

New Mexico approves landmark recreational-use cannabis bill

New Mexico is slated to be the 18th state to legalize recreational-use cannabis and the fifth state to do so legislatively. 

HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Albuquerque and three other legislators, sped through multiple committee hearings and Senate and House Floor debates in less than two days. The rushed effort was part of the special legislative session called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, just days after the regular 60-day session. 

Lujan Grisham, in a statement on Wednesday, praised the bill’s sponsors and called the passage of legalization a “breakthrough.”

“As New Mexicans know, I have advocated and pushed and negotiated for this measure, and I am immensely proud and humbled to have seen it through,” Lujan Grisham said. “But that feeling is dwarfed by the gratitude I feel for the well-informed advocates, to the community members from all across the state–urban and rural, from every region–who have been committed to lobbying for this, to the leaders in the Legislature who helped us cross this major threshold.”

The new law will allow adults 21 and older to personally possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract or 800 milligrams of edibles. A person can have more than that, but it must be locked in a safe place at home. Adults 21 and older can also grow up to six mature plants. Licensed sales will begin no later than April 2022 and the state will begin issuing business licenses by January 2022.

Democrats pick Stansbury as candidate for CD1 race

Albuquerque State Rep. Melanie Stansbury emerged from a two-day, two-round process to become the Democratic nominee for the 1st Congressional District special election in June. Stansbury narrowly defeated State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, also from Albuquerque, in the second round, with 103 votes from the party’s central committee members in the 1st Congressional District to Sedillo Lopez’s 97 votes. One member abstained. Sedillo Lopez had the most votes in the first round, but failed to reach 50 percent. The party then went to a runoff between the candidates with the fewest number of candidates to reach 50 percent of votes—in this case, two.

Legislature sends expungement bill to governor’s desk

A bill to expunge cannabis-related criminal offenses that would no longer be illegal if cannabis is legalized is headed to the governor’s desk. The effort began with 11 amendments in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, which the committee later adopted as a committee substitute, and another on the Senate floor, a speedy move through the special legislative session. The Senate passed the bill on a 23-13 vote after about one hour of discussion early Wednesday afternoon. The House later passed the bill on a 41-28 vote after over an hour and a half of debate. The bill aims to automatically expunge the criminal offenses, under the state’s expungement law, that would no longer be illegal under cannabis legalization which was being debated by the Senate.

House cannabis legalization bill passes two committees, heads to the floor

A cannabis legalization bill passed two committees, one on Tuesday afternoon and the other during the early hours of Wednesday morning. It’s slated for a floor debate next 

HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, along with three other lawmakers, first passed the House Taxation and Revenue Committee Tuesday evening on a 8-4 vote. Then the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee early Tuesday morning by a 7-4 vote. Both votes were along party lines, with no Republicans voting for the bill and all Democrats voting in favor. 

HB 2 is an altered version of a previous bill Martínez and Romero sponsored during the regular 60-day session and much of the debate and comments were also similar. 

During the first hearing, Martínez took a moment to point out that this proposal has been in the works for years and has seen hours of debate.    

“The bill before you, Madam Chairman, members of the committee, has been written and rewritten and amended and subbed out for many, many years,” said during the tax committee debate. 

One of the more significant changes made since the regular session is a compromise of sorts on plant limits for cannabis producers. Originally, the bill proposed during the regular session specifically barred the state from implementing production limits.

Expungement bill passes Senate committee

A Senate committee passed a heavily amended piece of legislation to expunge the criminal records of those convicted of cannabis-related crimes that would no longer be crimes under the proposed cannabis legalization bill working its way through the special session. The bill would provide for automatic expungement of cannabis related offenses that would no longer be illegal under the new law. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to pass the bill after hours of technical discussion on language and a series of amendments to clarify the law. “I think a critical part of our state moving forward with the cannabis legislation is making sure that folks who have been convicted or arrested or dealt with the fallout of offenses that were based on actions that in the cannabis regulation act passes will no longer be crimes aren’t suffering the negative impacts of that,” Sen. Katy Duhigg, an Albuquerque Democrat who is one of five sponsors of the bill, said. Among the numerous amendments adopted in the committee were to remove the role of the Attorney General in reviewing cases of those incarcerated to have the cannabis-related portions of their convictions removed from their conviction and one that would clarify that only the portions of records related to cannabis would be removed from the record.

More contentious debates over cannabis legalization expected during the special session

The New Mexico Legislature is slated to start a special session Tuesday to address economic development and full cannabis legalization. But there is still a question of how much support cannabis legalization will garner from both Republicans and Democrats. 

About an hour after the regular 2021 legislative session ended, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, flanked by Democratic legislative leaders in a news conference, announced that she would call legislators back for a special session to pick up where they left off with recreational-use cannabis legalization. The session started out with five legalization bills, but by the last week there was only one proposal: HB 12. Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, HB 12 quickly became the favored bill for many Democrats, but hit a rough patch as it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Special session for cannabis legalization to start March 30

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Friday that she will call the state Legislature back for a special session on Tuesday, March 30. 

The special session will start just ten days after the end of the state’s regular, 60-day session. At the end of the regular session, Lujan Grisham said that she would call legislators into a special session soon to finish the effort. The governor cited precautions in place because of COVID-19 as one reason why legislation ran out of time. According to a statement from the governor’s office, the session will focus on recreational-use cannabis legalization and economic development through the state’s Local Economic Development Act (LEDA). 

Lujan Grisham said in the statement that cannabis legalization and reforming economic development are important enough for the state to call a special session. 

“The unique circumstances of the session, with public health safeguards in place, in my view prevented the measures on my call from crossing the finish line,” Lujan Grisham said. “While I applaud the Legislature and staff for their incredible perseverance and productivity during the 60-day in the face of these challenges, we must and we will forge ahead and finish the job on these initiatives together for the good of the people and future of our great state.”

During special sessions, legislators can only discuss legislation that the governor puts on the call.