Here are the key legislative races to watch

Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.

Pension forfeiture for corrupt officials passes committee

A House committee passed a bill Thursday that would strip public officials of their pensions if they are convicted of some public corruption offenses. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, was originally aimed at taking all retirement funds from officials who violate public trust by breaking campaign finance or corruption laws. House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee Chairman Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said some committee members were concerned that the original bill would unfairly take money put into the pension from a previous stint in public service. Rehm introduced a committee substitute to address the issue. “In the original version once the violation occurs it would go back and erase other retirement,” Rehm said.

House actions on Senate bills draw condemnation

The State Senate slammed the House majority, accusing the House on Wednesday of “playing games” for taking an “unprecedented” move on legislation that passed the Senate. The friction comes over a disagreement between both bodies of what types of legislation are considered “germane,” or allowed to be discussed this year. The 2016 legislative session is a budget-only session, meaning in order to be considered germane, bills must be related to the state budget or must receive a message from the governor. The governor can call bills unrelated to the budget to the calendar if she so decides by issuing messages, which makes them germane. House Rules and Order of Business Committee is disputing bills deemed germane by the Senate, saying that they are not germane according to the state constitution.

House says yes to allowing youth curfews

A high-profile bill that would allow municipalities to impose limited curfews on some minors passed the state House Monday evening. The bill passed 44-21. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, sponsored the bill, saying it would help reduce crime and also protect youth in the cities. Gentry said that it would not allow municipalities or counties to impose criminal penalties on those out past curfew. He said it would allow municipalities to pass ordinances not beyond the limits in the state law, which would include curfew hours during school and between midnight and 5:00 a.m.

The bill would not impact those age sixteen or older and also had other exemptions.

Lobbyist, employer campaign contributions top $1 million

Republicans raised more than twice what Democrats took in when it comes to 2015 campaign contributions from lobbyists and their employers. Nearly half the total of $1.1 million in campaign contributions from lobbyists and their employers to New Mexico politicians and political action committees in 2015 came after Oct. 5, 2015. That’s the last date candidates and PACs had to report contributions in 2015. So the lobbyist and employer reporting paints a picture of donations leading up to the 30-day 2016 legislative session that started Tuesday.

Here’s who heckled governor during State of the State

It was a small part of the State of the State address; it warranted a throw-away line from our recap of the speech from Gov. Susana Martinez to a joint session of the Legislature and a sea of dignitaries and guests. Someone shouted “Shame on you!” at Martinez during her now-annual section on drivers’ licenses. KRQE-TV found out who it is: Rep. Christine Trujillo, a Democrat from Albuquerque. Trujillo is a retired educator and frequently clashed with the Martinez administration.

Driver’s license battle heads to pre-session deadline

Late in December, legislators and the governor received an early Christmas present: Democratic members of the congressional delegation said that there was still time for New Mexico to receive a REAL ID waiver. All they would have to do is make an agreement with the governor by January 10. After radio silence during the holidays, Democratic leadership in both chambers released a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez and Speaker of the House Don Tripp asking them to come to an agreement on the driver’s license issue. “Despite our past differences, we are confident that we can reach an agreement on REAL ID,” the letter said. “If we are successful, New Mexico will receive an extension of the waiver of the REAL ID requirements for one more year, more than enough time for us to resolve this policy once and for all.”

The letter was was signed by Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and House Minority Leader Brian Egolf.

Downfall: How the campaign finance enforcer became a law breaker

Minutes after pleading guilty to multiple felonies on Oct. 23, former Secretary of State Dianna Duran hardly acknowledged her wrongdoing to reporters outside the courtroom in Santa Fe. Note: This piece also appeared in the Nov. 4 edition of ABQ Free Press. Instead, she repeatedly emphasized how her criminal behavior—which included using campaign money to pay for personal use at casinos—had nothing to do with how she “preserved the integrity of the electoral process” in her five years as head of state elections.

Politicos say it’s time to move forward after Duran resignation

The news that former New  Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran resigned came early Friday morning, mostly through social media. After NMpolitics.net confirmed that Duran indeed resigned, many involved in New Mexico politics weighed in. The director for Common Cause New Mexico, a non-partisan non-profit group that advocates for more campaign disclosures and clean elections, also said Duran’s resignation is a step towards regaining public trust. “The 2016 elections are already upon us, and voters and candidates alike need to know that the office is functioning at the highest level possible,” Common Cause New Mexico’s director Viki Harrison said. “Our hope is that Governor Susana Martinez will quickly appoint a qualified person to serve the rest of Duran’s term so that the fundamental functions of our state’s democracy may be restored.”

Impeachment panel postponed after Duran’s resignation

Following the resignation of Dianna Duran the House Special Investigatory Committee looking into her impeachment will not meet on Tuesday as regularly scheduled. The panel was investigating whether or not the House should look into impeachment of Duran for the multiple charges she faced. Duran pleaded guilty to six charges, including two felonies, on Friday. Hours earlier, Duran resigned from office. Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, also issued a statement where he addressed the need for the panel—or lack thereof now that Duran is no longer in office.