One of the biggest winners in the just concluded 60-day session of the New Mexico Legislature was a man who never set foot in the Roundhouse and, in fact, never came close to crossing the state border. His name is Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States. Republican Trump lost New Mexico in November by 8 percentage points, and Democrats control both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Even so, several pieces of legislation aimed at Trump failed to get traction in the Legislature. Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, would have required presidential candidates to disclose five years of personal income taxes to get on the general election ballot in New Mexico.
In an extraordinary maneuver, state senators killed a bill Saturday that they had approved four days earlier after one of them said he had misled his colleagues about connections between Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and real estate developers who stood to benefit from the legislation. Democrats charged that the bill, which would have extended a building lease for state offices in Albuquerque, had turned into an example of pay-to-play politics, while members of Martinez’s administration maintained they had made an honest mistake based on incomplete information. For her part, Martinez said through a spokesman that neither she nor her staff ever discussed with campaign donors the leases addressed in the measure. At issue was an unusual and late-breaking piece of legislation, Senate Bill 430, that met with skepticism at just about every step of its journey through the Capitol until its sudden death Saturday. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Neville, R-Aztec, the bill would have carved out an exception to state rules on renting property.
The second morning in the preliminary hearing regarding the New Mexico Attorney General’s case against former Senator Phil Griego included testimony from a former Speaker of the House about a real estate deal that the AG’s office said broke state law. Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, took the stand on Wednesday morning and answered the prosecution’s questions about his knowledge of the real estate deal that ultimately lead to Griego’s resignation. According to his testimony, Martinez had at least one conversation with Griego about the now-infamous sale of a state-owned building. “It appeared to me that he wanted the deal done as quickly as possible,” Martinez told the court. In question was a meeting held after the 2014 legislative session aimed at putting final approval on the sale.