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.
While the official results are still not in, the New Mexico House races were mostly a win for Democrats.
About three dozen of the contested races Tuesday showed wins for Democrats, although some of them were extremely close and not all ballots were counted by the end of the night. But with the House already having a sizable majority of Democratic members, the party largely maintained its majority. Here are some notable races from election night, with all numbers as of 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday. House District 12
Brittney Barreras will be the first candidate to be elected without being tied to a political party. According to the Bernalillo County Clerk’s count, Barreras received about 70 percent of the vote compared to her write-in opponent, Democratic Rep. Art De La Cruz.
While De La Cruz is the incumbent, he was only recently appointed to the spot after former state Representative Patricio Ruiloba resigned.
On a quiet Saturday morning, just as an early morning rain had stopped and the clouds drifted away, a pile of inflatable rafts sat piled under a tree at La Llorona Park in Las Cruces. Soon, about a dozen teenagers trickled into the park, ready to float about 3 miles down the river with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján.
Luján’s district is about 300 miles north of the public park, named after a folklore character associated with rivers and children, that butts up against the Rio Grande. Luján wasn’t there on official business, but instead to engage with young people from other parts of the state not within his congressional district as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate.
Luján’s name is likely familiar to those who even casually follow political news. Earlier this year, he was tapped to become the assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest rank in Democratic leadership. His father, Ben Luján, served as the New Mexico Speaker of the House and many have speculated that if Ben Ray Luján stayed the course in Congress he might be in line to succeed U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
With less than two weeks to go before the beginning of the 2017 state legislative session, four lawmakers have already filed bills on a controversial reoccurring topic—guns. One bill from two prominent Democratic senators seeks to mandate background checks on gun owners who transfer firearms between each other. That bill, filed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and longtime Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, would exempt background checks for gun transfers between family members, licensed gun dealers and law enforcement officers and agencies. Opponents of the current process often call it the “gun show loophole,” since some of these background check-free firearm transfers occur at gun shows. State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, has also prefiled a similar bill in the state House of Representatives.
A woman who underwent an abortion at Southwestern Women’s Options is suing the Albuquerque clinic for allegedly not informing her and receiving permission before providing fetal tissue from her terminated pregnancy for research at the University of New Mexico. The lawsuit, filed late last month in district court in Albuquerque, also accuses the clinic’s director, Curtis Boyd, and physician, Carmen Landau, of negligence for not informing Jessica Duran the fetal tissue would be donated for medical research. Landau, according to the lawsuit, treated Duran when she underwent an abortion in October 2012. “Women are supposed to be informed, supposed to be given information about the nature of the research, the benefits of the research, and given the opportunity to decide what happens,” Elisa Martinez, executive director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, which supports the lawsuit but is not part of the legal proceeding, said in an interview. Related: GOP congressional panel wants abortion investigation in NM
Martinez described the lawsuit as “a result” of public records requests Alliance for Life made with UNM and a congressional panel’s investigation into the Albuquerque health clinic.
One of the key races that will decide the political control of the state House of Representatives pits an upstart against a Roundhouse veteran in southern New Mexico. The incumbent, Republican Andy Nuñez, has represented the district for most of the past decade and a half. He faces former Nathan Small, a Democrat who recently served two terms on the Las Cruces city council. NM Political Report will profile some key legislative races from now until election day. Nuñez, 80, is perhaps best known for switching his political affiliation multiple times over in the past few years, from Democrat to independent to Republican.
A candidate for the state House of Representatives will have to answer questions about one of her former employees who pleaded guilty to raping one child and molesting another, according to a ruling by a district judge. The ruling comes after Rebecca Dow, a Republican looking to win election to a House seat in Truth or Consequences, allegedly stonewalled the mother of one of the two child victims from seeking information about the employee who molested her child. That employee, Alejandro Hernandez, worked for the Sierra County chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. He is now serving a six-year prison sentence for harming both children. Dow is president and founder of Sierra County Boys and Girls Club as well as the president and CEO of AppleTree Educational Center in Truth or Consequences.
New Mexico lawmakers haven’t been in session for nearly seven months, but that didn’t stop the Majority Leader of the state House of Representatives from awarding more than $100,000 in contracts to his top staffer. But Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, defended the contracts of his de-facto chief of staff Ryan Gleason as “well worth the expenditure.”
Gentry snagged Gleason—an attorney who previously was a legislative assistant Sen. Pete Domenici, the New Mexico state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a research director for the state Taxation and Revenue Department—from state Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro. Gleason worked as Tripp’s full-time chief of staff from January 2015 through the end of this year’s general legislative session in February. Gentry’s position of majority leader is directly under Tripp in state House Republican leadership. Gleason’s switch from working for Tripp to working for Gentry reflects how the bulk of policy decisions in the House Republican leadership start with Gentry.
The House of Representatives Monday late afternoon voted 65-1 to concur with the Senate’s version of the driver’s license bill, bringing the heated issue to an end, at least for now. Only Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, voted against the measure, though she did not explain her vote on the floor. Debate was quick, lasting less than 10 minutes, and featured a few self-congratulatory remarks. “This is a victory for the people of New Mexico,” said House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. “Unquestionably it’s a victory for our immigrant community here in New Mexico.”
The bill allows immigrants who are not in the country legally who don’t already have driver’s licenses to qualify for driver’s privilege cards, which don’t work for identification purposes.
The House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would make it easier for states to deny funding to Planned Parenthood through federal Medicaid dollars. Congressman Steve Pearce of New Mexico was among the more than 200 members of the House who voted in favor of the Women’s Public Health and Safety Act earlier this week. The bill would allow individual states to decide whether organizations like Planned Parenthood can receive Medicaid funding. New Mexico’s other two members of the House, both Democrats, voted against the legislation. The bill has very little chance of clearing the Senate and, even then, would face a veto from President Barack Obama.