State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto stepped down from his position as the chair of a powerful Senate committee amid a scandal involving alleged sexual harassment. The Albuquerque Democrat chaired the Senate Rules Committee, which holds hearings for confirmations and is the first stop for proposed constitutional amendments, but announced he would leave the position in a letter to Senate leadership. Ivey-Soto will remain in his position as state senator. His term runs through the end of 2024. Ivey-Soto was accused of sexual harassment by a progressive lobbyist earlier this year, followed by similarly allegations from more women.
A New Mexico lobbyist and policy advocate in an open letter issued on Tuesday accused a Democratic state senator of sexual assault and harassment and has called for him to resign from the Legislature.
Marianna Anaya, who lobbied during the 2022 legislative session, including for a voting coalition made up of a number of organizations*, issued an open letter detailing instances where she said she received unwanted sexual comments and advances from Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.
“Over the last eight years, my advocacy work has focused on helping individuals and families gain access to what they need – from better working conditions and quality education to access to healthcare and expanded voting rights,” Anaya wrote. “Over the years, I have collaborated with legislators who share these values and honor their positions by doing good work for the people of our community. Unfortunately, several of my interactions with you have made it clear that you do not respect the authority you have as a legislator, but rather, abuse the position.”
According to Anaya’s letter, her first concerning encounter with Ivey-Soto was in 2015 when Anaya worked for then-congresswoman and current Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Anaya wrote that she and Ivey-Soto were separately attending a reception hosted by the National Education Association. When she and Ivey-Soto were alone at a cocktail table, Anaya said, Ivey-Soto allegedly “slid [his] hand across [her] side and disgustingly groped and pinched [her] buttocks.”
“I did not know what to do or what to say – I just hoped that it would not happen again,” she wrote.
Then, Anaya wrote, towards the beginning of the legislative session in January 2022, she and Ivey-Soto met to discuss a voting rights bill that Anaya was lobbying to pass.
The House Judiciary Committee passed an omnibus voting bill, SB 144, that includes provisions of two other voting bills, SB 8 and SB 6, on a party line vote of 9-3 Tuesday evening. After Senate Republicans blocked a Senate floor debate and vote on SB 8 over the weekend, House Democrats moved the provisions from that bill into another voting bill, SB 144. SB 144, sponsored by state Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, initially aimed to protect election workers from intimidation, threat or use of force or violence, damage or harm while carrying out their duties during an election. The penalty for the crime is a fourth degree felony. The bill also has already passed the Senate, removing a barrier with less than two days left in the session.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass a committee substitute to the Voters’ Rights Provisions bill that strikes back end automatic voter registration. The 6-3 vote came along party lines. The Democrats voted in favor of the SB 8’s committee substitute, introduced by state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque. The Republicans on the committee voted against it. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the bill.
The New Mexico Senate passed SB 43, which prohibits life without the possibility of parole for a juvenile offender, along party lines with a vote of 23 to 15. Sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, SB 43 allows a parole board to consider granting release after 15 years for juvenile offenders and prohibits life without parole for juvenile offenders. Currently there are no juvenile offenders serving a life without parole sentence, but Sedillo Lopez has said the judicial branch has asked that the Legislature weigh in on this potential sentence. Related: Bill to end life in prison without parole for juveniles clears committee
The bill, during the Senate floor debate, brought debate that fell along party lines with Republicans calling Democrats hypocritical because of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s comments during her State of the State address about her focus on crime during this Legislative session. Republicans introduced several amendments to limit the bill but Sedillo Lopez called each amendment “unfriendly” and they all failed along party lines. Sedillo Lopez said the bill brings the possibility for “redemption” and said most perpetrators of violent crimes themselves have experienced trauma.
The Voting Rights Provisions bill, which would expand voting rights and access in New Mexico, passed the Senate Rules Committee hearing by party line vote of 7-4 Monday morning after a contentious, nearly nine hour hearing on Friday. SB 8, sponsored by Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, would expand voting rights in a number of ways, including improving voting access for Native Americans and allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to vote upon release from prison. Currently, formerly incarcerated individuals can register to vote after they complete parole or probation but many face hurdles even after eligibility. Related: Advocates hopeful voting rights legislation will help break down barriers for the formerly incarcerated
The bill would also make voter registration automatic when an individual registers for a license with the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles. Anyone who would not wish to be registered could opt out, election officials have said.
Lawmakers spent 7½ hours Friday listening to testimony and debating a complex and controversial bill supporters say would expand voter access but opponents contend would lead to election fraud. The Senate Rules Committee approved an amendment striking a provision from Senate Bill 8 that would have allowed 16-year-olds to vote. The chairman, Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque, then abruptly ended the hearing before a final vote on the New Mexico Voting Rights Act. “It’s a long day, but this is an important bill,” Ivey-Soto said in an interview Friday night. “It deals with important rights and important issues [affecting voters].
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she is optimistic the bill aiming to expand voting rights will be passed and signed during this legislative session. SB 8, sponsored by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, would expand voting rights in the state in a number of ways, including by allowing 16- and 17-year-old individuals the right to vote in local and state elections, allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to be eligible to vote upon release from prison and allowing individuals to automatically be registered to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles with the option to opt out if they choose. Related: Advocates hopeful voting rights legislation will help break down barriers for the formerly incarcerated
“I’m extremely optimistic about SB 8 going through the legislative process,” Toulouse Oliver said during one of the two virtual rallies hosted by Progress Now New Mexico* on Wednesday to support the bill. “We’re in a really good position even in this late hour first hearing in committee.”
SB 8 was heard in the state Senate Rules Committee Wednesday. Toulouse Oliver gave an overview of changes to the language being introduced in a substitute bill that clarified language from the first bill.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two health-related bills Wednesday that will advance equity, advocates have said. Lujan Grisham signed the Healthy Workplaces Act.
HB 20, whose lead sponsor was Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Albuquerque, mandates that all private sector employers must provide up to 64 hours of paid sick leave a year. Starting July 1, 2022, employees will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The fine for noncompliance is $500. The bill sparked controversy when Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, continued a line of questioning to the Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, that some have called bullying during a Senate floor debate.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislators spoke about legislative successes and what they expect to happen with bills that didn’t cross the finish line, including a pending special session to pass recreational cannabis.
Lujan Grisham said she was proud of how much work was done in a session marred by a pandemic.
“It’s incredibly difficult and challenging, to debate, to draft, to engage in policy making,” she said. “It’s everything from economic relief, education and health care in an environment where you absolutely have to meet the COVID safe practices.”
Particularly, Lujan Grisham praised lawmakers for passing a liquor law reform, approving a proposed constitutional amendment to use state funds to pay for early childhood education and decriminalizing abortion.
Democratic House of Representatives leadership held a press conference a few minutes after adjourning sine die on the House chamber floor to discuss Democratic accomplishments for this session. Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, of Santa Fe, said the focus for this session was recovery.
The three-pronged approach to recovery, Egolf said, was education, health and the economy. Of the more than 170 pieces of legislation that passed this year, some of the bills highlighted during the press conference included passage of SB 10, the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which repealed the 1969 statute banning abortion, as well as HB 4 the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, which ends qualified immunity as a legal defense in the state and allows for financial remedy up to $2 million and the potential to recover attorney’s fees if a person’s constitutional rights have been violated. Lujan Grisham signed SB 10 into law in February.