Bill limiting governor’s powers dies in committee

Senators tabled a bill that would put more power in the hands of legislators in when it comes to emergency declarations and public health orders on a 5-4 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday. The bill, SB 65, was more than about limiting executive branch powers and more about giving some power back to the legislature. “The bill allows, essentially, a review of a public health order under certain conditions,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Gregory Baca, R-Belen, said. “It allows for 90 days for a health order to stay in effect as issued by the executive and upon the expiration of 90 days, it would either have to be reviewed by the legislative body– if we’re in session, we would simply do a majority or or majority vote on the health order– otherwise, it would be given to (legislative) council, where it would be reviewed by a portion of our members and it would be voted on at that point.”

The committee seemed to agree that the legislature should find a way to get some of their powers back but not the way SB 65 proposes. “We have very equal branches of government here and we are by far the weakest and so anytime, in general.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, addresses a bipartisan group of legislators, media, community organizers and law enforcement in the cabinet meeting room in the Governor’s Office January 25, 2023.

Lujan Grisham proposes ‘public safety investment strategy’

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed a package of legislation that would promote public safety statewide, if approved. She said that public safety has always been a legislative priority for as long as she could remember. “The details of that shift and the issues that we are called to address change. That is awesome,” Lujan Grisham said during a Wednesday press conference. “This administration has been working on mostly but not entirely, making sure that the criminal enhancements, that the high risk criminal aspects get dealt with in our public safety effort, but they’re doing all of these upfront investments to make sure that we have healthier, stronger, resilient families and we’re dealing with making sure that poverty isn’t our enemy as we look to gain ground in public safety.” 

There was also discussion about how the root causes of crime, such as abject poverty, can be handled from a legislative perspective.

Lujan Grisham in State of the State: ‘It’s a great day to be New Mexican’

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham discussed economics, education, healthcare, public safety and clean energy during her State of the State Address to a joint session of the state legislature on Tuesday. “It’s such a pleasure to be alongside so many dedicated public officials, devoted community leaders, and quite frankly, so many good friends and it is always my honor to address my fellow New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said. “Now, just over four years ago, I began my governorship with a simple idea that we have the power to decide who and what we become, that our past didn’t have to dictate our future.”

The address included Lujan Grisham boasting about the oil boom’s positive effect on the state’s budget and her requests for how to spend the new revenue, including a proposed economic relief tax rebate like the ones issued in recent years to offset the COVID-19 recession’s effect on New Mexican taxpayers. These rebates would be $750 for individual taxpayers and $1,500 for those who filed jointly. Other topics discussed were universal childcare, Extended Learning Time, revamping Special Education, the New Mexico Healthcare Authority, an assault rifle ban as a means of curbing gun violence and $100 million for Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire relief.

Recounts certified in state House races, no change from election night results

The two state legislature recounts were completed earlier this month and showed no change to the outcomes. The state canvassing board met Wednesday morning where it certified the recount results for State House districts 32 and 68. “There were, importantly, no changes in the outcome of the contests from our original certification,” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said at the state canvassing board meeting. 

The certifications mean Democrats will hold a 45-25 advantage in the chamber in the 2023 legislative session next month. The recounts were for State House District 32 between Democratic incumbent Candie Sweetser and Republican challenger Jennifer Marie Jones and State Rep. Dist. 68 between Republican candidate Robert Henry Moss and Democratic candidate Charlotte L. Little. 

Jones won the District 32 house seat with 3,789 votes to Sweetser’s 3,743 votes and the District 68 house seat went to Little with 5,651 votes to Moss’ 5,616.

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

2022 General Election certified, two recounts upcoming

The New Mexico State Canvassing Board certified the 2022 General Election at their Nov. 29 meeting. The election results were certified after a third-party auditor declared no findings and the election results were sent to the canvassing board for certification. “Our office worked closely with our county clerks across the state of both political parties to ensure we all had the information and the tools necessary to conduct a successful election,” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver said. “This was absolutely a team effort.”

The Nov.

FiveThirtyEight predicts Lujan Grisham, Herrell favored to win reelection

The two biggest races in the 2022 General Election are the governor’s race and Congressional District 2. Poll analysis website FiveThirtyEight predicts that incumbents Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican, will win reelection Nov. 8. FiveThirtyEight has an election breakdown of when to expect election results and a forecasting model that shows based on polls how contenders may do once ballots are counted. The Deluxe version “simulates the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often,” Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejía say in the FiveThirtyEight project.

Contentious House debate over bill to fund special session

After a contentious, two-hour debate over what should go into the bill to fund 2021’s second special legislative session, the House voted 65 to 1 to approve the $1.6 million package. The new House Majority Floor leader, Democratic state Rep. Javier Martinez, of Albuquerque, introduced HB 1, known as the feed bill, which ensures that the 2021 second special session legislative session can pay for itself. The legislative session, as called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is focused on redrawing political maps and how to appropriate the rest of the $1.1 billion the state has received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act under Pres. Joe Biden. The bill originally included additional monies to go to the executive and judicial branches, to enable the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to prepare to spend the ARPA funds and money for the courts to pay for pretrial services. Martinez referred repeatedly to the crime problem in Albuquerque and that the DFA needed to get ready for the federal expenditures as reasons to pass a bill that was designed to allow the legislature to include the additional expenditures.

Guv quietly looks to expand export markets for natural gas

In July 2020, Gov.  Michelle Lujan Grisham signed onto a letter of support for a natural gas export facility being proposed in Baja California, Mexico. The letter, which was addressed to Mexico’s Energy Secretary Nahle Garcia, touted the facility as a potential “major North American west coast energy export hub” of natural gas to Asian Markets. 

“Energy demand is soaring in Asia, led by China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India due to manufacturing and economic growth,” the letter reads. “All of these countries are using natural gas as a way to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions.”

The letter was signed by two other governors and the chairman of the Ute tribe in Colorado, on behalf of the Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative (WSTN). New Mexico joined the group in late 2019, with little media attention, when the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WSTN. A few months after sending the letter, the facility was approved by Mexico’s regulators and Baja California joined WTSN.

Guv signs bill protecting pregnant workers

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into law Friday that protects working mothers and new moms from discrimination in the workplace. HB 25, or the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Bill, amends the state’s Human Rights Act to make pregnancy, childbirth and conditions related to either a protected class from employment discrimination. “It’s good to sign a bill that does what is so obviously the right thing to do,” Lujan Grisham said through a written statement. “There is no world I can imagine in which it would be right or fair to discriminate against a woman for becoming a mother.”

The bill allows a pregnant person or new mom to ask for “reasonable accommodations” such as a stool, extra bathroom breaks, or time to make prenatal visits. The new law prohibits an employer from forcing a pregnant worker or new mom to take time off because of their condition unless requested by the employee.

Only a few reproductive justice bills pass in the 2020 legislative session

Of the 12 reproductive justice bills prefiled or introduced in this year’s legislative session, only two made it to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. HB 25 enables pregnant workers and new moms to seek “reasonable accommodations,” to perform their jobs while pregnant or if they’ve recently given birth. It passed both the House and the Senate. The other bill, HB 21, is one that protects victims of sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination in the workplace. Bill backers say it enables greater parity when the victim is negotiating a settlement with the former employer.