Democrats say Otero County official threatened House speaker

Democrats in the House of Representatives voiced outrage over an email from an Otero County official they claim contains a threat against Speaker Brian Egolf. Democrats contend Otero County Assessor Steve Boyd, who also serves as president of New Mexico Counties, a group that advocates for counties’ needs statewide, wrote an email about a recent Albuquerque Journal story on Egolf’s Santa Fe-based law firm settling 10 legal cases against state agencies for more than $2 million over the past five years. According to the email, Boyd wrote: “Another Democrat getting rich off of the people rather than serving them. This is why New Mexico fights an uphill battle all the time. “If I had a list, he would be on it.”

Historic abortion ban repeal one signature away from becoming law after it passes House

The bill that would repeal a state statute that criminalizes abortion care in New Mexico is now headed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk after the House of Representatives passed it on a 40 to 30 vote. This is a priority bill for Lujan Grisham and she has indicated that she would sign it into law. 

The House of Representatives took up SB 10 instead of HB 7, which are mirror bills. SB 10 already passed the state Senate by a vote of 25 to 17 on February 12, and was amended to clarify the bill’s title. Each chamber must pass identical legislation before it can be sent to the governor. Related: In historic turn, state Senate passes abortion ban repeal

Just as during the Senate floor debate, Republicans in the House attempted to amend the bill and argued for hours over keeping the section of the law that is considered by some healthcare workers as a refusal clause.

Bill on filling vacant congressional seat advances in narrow vote

A bipartisan bill that would create new procedures to fill a vacant congressional position in New Mexico — perhaps soon enough to apply to the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland — cleared its first committee Monday. The Senate Rules Committee, on a 6-5 vote, advanced Senate Bill 254, sponsored by Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, and Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque. The measure would add a special primary election and special general election to fill a congressional vacancy. Under existing state law, the New Mexico secretary of state calls for a special election after a vacancy occurs, and then each major political party’s central committee nominates a candidate. The bill was born out of the possible vacancy that would be created in the 1st Congressional District if the U.S. Senate confirms Haaland to serve as President Joe Biden’s interior secretary.

House committee delays vote on bill to expand state’s ‘red flag’ law

Opponents of a gun control bill that would expand a controversial new law in New Mexico argue the measure would give police too much power — enough to seize their firearms even if they have committed no crime. 

About 15 people testified Thursday against House Bill 193, which would amend New Mexico’s Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act by adding law enforcement officers to the list of people who could seek a court order to temporarily take firearms from a person considered a threat. Under current law, police officers can only seek a court order if it is requested by a family member, a school official, an employer or someone who has had a “continuing personal relationship” with a person considered a threat to themselves or others. The new legislation would allow an officer to seek a court order based on his or her own observations. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee allowed public testimony on the proposal but postponed a vote on whether to endorse it until the panel’s next hearing, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Few issues stir emotions as much as gun control.

Bipartisan redistricting plan moves forward in New Mexico

A House committee on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would allow the state to prepare for the major task of redrawing legislative districts based on population data from the 2020 census. 

Among other measures, House Bill 211, co-sponsored by Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives, creates a seven-member redistricting commission, lays out requirements for choosing those members, initiates a series of public meetings and gives the panel the responsibility of coming up with a number of options for redistricting. 

“By creating new rules and processes, this makes the process more engaging … with the public,” said Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences and one of the sponsors of the legislation. The bill, if signed into law, would allow the commission to adopt three to five district plans for four elected bodies — the state House and Senate, congressional districts, and the Public Education Commission. The commission then would deliver those plans to the Legislature, which would act on redistricting during a special session later this year. The Legislature could select one plan without amendment and present it to the governor for approval. If the Legislature does not select a district plan from any one set of plans, it will be required by law to select the plan the commission says best satisfies the requirements of the Redistricting Act.

Lawmakers to consider gun legislation

Gun legislation is a surefire way to rile people on both sides of the aisle. Get ready for a spirited debate, New Mexico, because the first two measures pertaining to firearms in this year’s 60-day legislative session will be considered Tuesday by the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. 

“Look, in all of these gun bills, there’s always going to be objections that they go too far,” Rep. Daymon Ely, a Corrales Democrat who is sponsoring one of the measures, said Monday. “When you step back from it, gun owners should be in favor of what I’m doing,” he added. “Nobody should want a gun in the hands of someone who is an imminent threat to themselves or others.” But Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, said Democrats tend to craft gun bills that “literally miss the mark.”

GOP leaders in New Mexico House sue over rule changes

Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives filed a lawsuit Saturday with the New Mexico Supreme Court, charging rules changes adopted early in the 2021 session are unconstitutional. House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, and Reps. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, and Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, filed the lawsuit. It names House Speaker Brian Egolf and the Legislative Council as defendants. The lawsuit asks the Supreme Court to issue a stay prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the rules until a final decision is rendered.

Parties clash in House rules debate

It took members of the House Rules and Order of Business Committee about four hours Friday to lay out the rules for how the House of Representatives will run this year’s legislative session. But it only took 90 minutes for Republicans and Democrats to accuse each other of launching attacks. 

The final 11-5 vote went along party lines, with Democrats voting to approve House Rule 1 and Republicans voting against it. The rules set up new procedures for working virtually in the age of COVID-19. The conflict began when Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, questioned why Democrats want to require everyone participating in House floor debates to communicate via Zoom on computers, even if they are sitting in their chairs on the floor. 

Townsend said it was because the majority party is concerned about viewers at home watching the event and seeing Republicans on-site in the Capitol debating while Democrats take part virtually from their offices or homes — which is what happened, to a large degree, during last year’s brief special sessions. “The majority is hesitant for the public to see the optics of the minority on the House floor doing what they were elected to do and the other side of the chamber empty,” Townsend said.

Technical delays, long debate over new House rules as session starts

If the world ends with a whimper rather than a bang, the House began Thursday with a sputter. For hours, Republicans in the state House debated new rules on whether lawmakers should be allowed to vote remotely — a debate that was delayed because of trouble with the webcast, in turn delaying committee hearings scheduled for that afternoon until after representatives’ 6 p.m. dinner. Complying with state rules on open meetings, lawmakers paused the debate for close to 30 minutes as the tech team scrambled to get the internet video feed back online before resuming. The resolution passed the House 43-24 along party lines. But not before prolonged debate about the rules within the resolution and other, tangentially-related topics.

Offensive phone calls disrupt House rules committee meeting

A House committee charged with creating rules for running the special session got an earful Wednesday when some telephone callers into the meeting criticized social protests and uttered racial epithets. The scene, legislators on both sides of the aisle said, pointed to the challenge of running a nontraditional session of the Legislature. Members of both political parties expressed outrage at the calls, which effectively ended any effort to take public comment by phone during Wednesday’s meeting of the House Rules and Order of Business Committee at the Roundhouse. “What we just heard is pretty disgusting,” said House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. Rep. Jim Townsend, the minority leader in the House, agreed. 

“I am the strongest proponent of public involvement that there is, but when I hear comments like that … that’s uncalled for,” said Townsend, R-Artesia.