This year’s 30-day legislative session ended with a surprise. Or, more accurately, a series of bombshells. As the Legislature concluded its business at noon Thursday, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe — considered a key architect of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing and one of its most influential players — announced he is not seeking reelection this year. That was one one of the day’s rapid-fire shockers, as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced only an hour or so later she was rescinding New Mexico’s indoor mask mandate. Though most legislators seemed wrung out by a difficult month, punctuated by a nearly daylong marathon in the House of Representatives, the session’s conclusion was anything but anticlimactic.
State Rep. Georgene Louis, a prominent Democrat from Albuquerque, is the latest lawmaker to face drunken-driving allegations in recent years. She was booked into the Santa Fe County jail early Monday morning on suspicion of aggravated DWI and other charges. Louis, who has been a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives since 2013, chairs the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, which canceled its meeting at 8:30 a.m.
She issued a remorseful statement late Monday through her attorney, Kitren Fischer. “I am sorry and I deeply regret my lapse in judgment,” Louis’ statement said. “I know I let so many people down.
The Clean Future Act moved out of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Saturday after lengthy discussions that began the previous day. The committee voted 6-3 to pass a committee substitute for HB 6. The vote fell on party lines after Chairwoman Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, limited the amount of time the three Republicans had to ask questions. The Clean Future Act will now move to the House floor and Louis told the Republicans that they can ask the sponsor, Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, questions about the bill on their own time. The bill coincides with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s efforts to address climate change and calls for reducing emissions across all sectors in the state with the goal of reaching net-zero emissions based on 2005 emissions levels.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Wednesday that will make it easier for the public to access environmental data. HB 51, the Environmental Database Act, will lead to the creation of a map-based database hosted and managed by Natural Heritage New Mexico, which is a division of the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico. The information that will be included in the database is already available through seven New Mexico agencies. However, the database will put all the information in a single user-friendly location. Related: Environmental Database Act aims to increase transparency for publicly-available state data
This includes information about waterways, the location of oil and gas wells and rates of childhood asthma.
A transparency bill that would make it easier for the public to access environmental data is awaiting the governor’s signature. HB 51, the Environmental Database Act, aims to make data that is already available through state agencies easily accessible at a single location. While the information that would be included in the database is already publicly available, Judy Calman, New Mexico Director of Policy for Audubon Southwest, said there is a difference between available and accessible. Calman drafted the bill, which was sponsored by state Representatives Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque.. The bill would create a central map-based database where the public could freely view the information.
A bill that would end qualified immunity as a defense for claims under the state’s Civil Rights Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday night with a tie-breaking vote from the chairman of the committee. Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, broke the tie on HB 4, the New Mexico Civil Rights bill, when he voted in favor. All three Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, as did Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, who said after the vote that he supports the aims of the bill but has concerns with the fact that the bill nearly aligns with the federal civil rights law “and yet there are differences.”
“I think we need to listen to some of the concerns of people who’ve tried to offer constructive commentary about the bill,” Ivey-Soto said. Testimony from the opposition came largely from county officials who continued to argue that counties will not be able to qualify for liability insurance. The bill allows lawsuits to be brought against a governmental agency if a plaintiff’s constitutional rights, as defined by the New Mexico bill of rights, has been violated.
Legislation that would let voters decide whether to curb the governor’s authority over emergency orders slipped past its second hurdle Wednesday when the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted to move it forward. Committee members, who were divided on House Joint Resolution 6, initially stalled it on a 4-4 vote. However, at the urging of a sponsor, Democratic Rep. Daymon Ely of Albuquerque, the committee then voted 7-1 to move it to the House Judiciary Committee with no recommendation for approval. Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, the committee’s chairwoman, cast the lone vote against the move. Under HJR 6, voters would decide whether they want to add a new section to the state constitution to set limits on the length of time a governor’s emergency order can remain in effect without legislative approval.
A bill that would end qualified immunity as a defense in civil rights cases advanced from the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee. HB 4, known as the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, passed without recommendation in a 5 to 3 vote along party lines. State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, amended the bill to remove acequias, land grants and other small units of government from the definition of a public body, said Daniel Marzec, communications director for House Speaker Brian Egolf’s office. Egolf is a co-sponsor of the bill. The lead sponsor is Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque.
A bill to increase the penalties for human trafficking and expand protections to victims of the crime advanced out of the House of Representatives Monday with a nearly unanimous vote. HB 56 passed 63 to 3 and now heads to the Senate. Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque and of the Acoma Pueblo, the bill increases the penalty for human trafficking from a third degree penalty to a second degree penalty for perpetrators if their victims are 18 or older. For human trafficking crimes that involve a victim under the age of 18, the penalty for the perpetrator would be increased to a first degree penalty. Louis said human trafficking is not limited to one type of victim.
As retired Judge Sandra Price watched the state House of Representatives debate a bill that would allow people to sue government agencies over civil rights violations, one particular moment grabbed her attention. It was when Rep. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, rose to ask the bill’s sponsors — House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque — to accept a substitute bill.
The amended legislation would have required any lawmakers who work as attorneys to agree not to represent clients in complaints that might fall under the proposed New Mexico Civil Rights Act. Lane, Louis and Egolf are all attorneys.
Just days before Tuesday’s debate on the House floor, Price had filed a complaint against Egolf with the State Ethics Commission, claiming he stands to benefit if the bill is passed into law. She argued he should have disclosed that at least 20 percent of his business concerns civil rights litigation. Watching Lane — an attorney who, Price said, knew nothing about her claim — argue the point on the chamber floor made her “almost fall out of my chair.”