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.
A House proposal to legalize and regulate cannabis passed the chamber on a 39-31 vote, with six Democrats breaking rank to vote against the measure.
HB 12, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, would fully legalize the sale and production of cannabis for adults, allow home cultivation and would expunge previous minor drug convictions. The bill would also implement an eight percent excise tax on the sale of cannabis and a local government tax up to four percent. Recreational-use cannabis would also be subject to gross receipts taxes, while medical-use cannabis would not.
Martínez said the three major tenets of the bill are to protect New Mexico’s current medical-use cannabis program, ensure an equitable and just industry and to create a regulated industry that will thrive.
Romero told her colleagues she shared the sentiments of her cosponsor and said cannabis has been used for various purposes for centuries, including in her own family.
Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo explained why he opposed the bill. He raised concerns about how a fully-legalized cannabis program might impact tribal governments in the state.
ByMarjorie Childress and Trip Jennings, New Mexico In Depth |
“As of today April 5th, the Pueblo of Zia has confirmed 11 Zia Tribal Members, potentially 20, infected by COVID-19(Coronavirus),” Acting Governor Floyd Toribio wrote Sunday in a memo to tribal members.
With eight days left in the legislative session, passing a cannabis legalization bill is looking more and more like a long-shot. But there are three other bills related to cannabis and hemp that have been moving through committee assignments, some with little to no debate or opposition.
The two cannabis legalization bills have stalled so far in both legislative chambers. The Senate version passed its first committee and is scheduled to be heard Wednesday afternoon in its second. The House version of legalization has yet to be heard in its first committee. Both bills are politically divisive and will likely be subjected to hours of public testimony and legislative debate.
A handful of Democrats joined with Republicans at the Legislature on Friday to quash a bill that would have allowed the state to charge higher royalty rates on some oil and gas production. The first committee hearing for House Bill 398 turned into a showdown between New Mexico’s influential oil industry and a newly elected Democratic land commissioner who came to office pledging to collect a greater share of revenue from oil produced on the millions of acres her office controls. Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard argued that raising royalty rates is strictly good business for a state rich in oil and gas but that has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country. But the oil and gas industry countered that it already generates a large share of the funds for New Mexico’s government through taxes and royalties. Raising royalty rates, representatives from the industry argued, would drive away business and ultimately hurt the state.
Retired National Park Service employees spoke with reporters today about the impacts of oil and gas development on some national parks—particularly from adjacent lands overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Coalition to Protect America’s Parks sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, expressing concern over the “alarming” number of oil and gas proposals near parks and what they see as overall efforts by the department to reduce protections for national parks in order to encourage oil and gas drilling. “As former land managers, we understand the need to balance competing priorities,” the former NPS employees wrote. “But we fear the pendulum is swinging too far to the side of development.”
The coalition represents 1,400 retired, former and current National Park Service employees. The letter to Zinke cites concerns about six parks in particular, including Chaco Culture National Historical Park in the energy-rich San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico.
Saturday night, freshman state Rep. Derrick Lente watched one of his first initiatives turn into a showdown on the House floor. Earlier in the session, Lente’s memorial to protect cultural and historical sites near Chaco Canyon received bipartisan support and passed through the House State Government, Indian and Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously. Something changed, though. By the time it reached the House floor, the Democrat’s memorial had triggered uncertainty and skepticism from Republicans. That’s because there was an elephant lurking in the room, said Lente, who is from the Pueblo of Sandia.
A House committee Tuesday declined to approve legislation to relax a state requirement that any wild animal that attacks a human be killed so it can be tested for rabies, citing testimony from health and wildlife officials who argued the change would pose a significant risk to public health and safety. The state requirement drew a harsh national spotlight last summer after a marathon runner was attacked by a black bear in the Valles Caldera National Preserve. State officials tracked the bear, which wore a collar as part of a study, and euthanized it, sending its brain to a lab for rabies testing, as required by a Health Department regulation. The tests were negative. The marathoner, Karen Williams, a nurse, was clawed and bitten.