New Mexico legislators are joining the conversation on drones and discussing the devices’ role in the state. The interim Science, Technology & Telecommunications Committee heard a presentation on Monday about the use of drones in New Mexico. Present at the meeting was Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park. McCamley, a supporter of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs, told New Mexico Political Report that he would like to see more legislation that outlines how and when drones can be used for personal use. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the commercial use of drones without an FAA approved pilot’s license.
A political consultant who previously ran for statewide office in New Mexico is now mulling a run for Congress in Texas. Bob Cornelius, CEO of 90 Degrees Agency, said he’s seriously considering a run against Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, in next year’s Republican Party primary. In an interview, Cornelius said Carter’s voting record isn’t conservative enough, citing votes to fund the health care overhaul, which he calls Obamacare, and military cuts in continuing budget resolutions. “I’ve traveled the district and spoken to leaders in the party,” he said. “I’ll make a final decision in the next couple of weeks.”
Cornelius describes himself as a “constitutionalist” who’s both socially and fiscally conservative.
House Democratic leaders say that they want to look into starting the process of impeaching Secretary of State Dianna Duran, that is if she doesn’t resign first. The leaders made the announcement that they want a discussion of how and when to start such proceedings in a news release on Monday afternoon. On Friday, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced 64 charges against Duran for funneling campaign funds to her own personal accounts. In all, Duran debited more than $400,000 at casinos in 2013 and 2014 according to the charges. “While we hope that Secretary Duran will choose to leave office, we in the House must be prepared to proceed in the event she does not,” House Minority Leader Brian Egolf said in a statement.
House Republicans say there is no deal for a special session, despite reports to the contrary, leaving millions of dollars of capital outlay projects in limbo. Senate Democrats agreed to what they called a compromise deal late Thursday night. Speaker of the House Don Tripp issued a statement saying that there was no deal on Friday morning. “It is stunning that the Senate Democrats would publicly trumpet ‘mission accomplished’ on a capital outlay deal by agreeing to their own proposal when no one else even knows the details of the proposal,” Tripp said in the statement. “It’s unfortunate that the Senate Democrats would rather govern by press releases than engage in good faith negotiations with the House and the Executive.
Two Senate Democrats spoke out against a decision by a House committee to remove $80 million from a capital outlay bill on Friday. Sens. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, told reporters that financial cuts made in the House Ways and Means Committee were fiscally irresponsible. Smith criticized the committees approval of cuts from senior centers and colleges across the state to instead fund roads. Smith said this process of funding roads is already a source of state debt.
A bill to allow the Public Regulation Commission to regulate ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, passed the House on Thursday after an hour-long debate. “What this bill does is it will set a framework that allows the PRC to promulgate rules,” Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, said. The bill referred to the companies as transportation network companies. “We look at the benefits of Uber and Lyft and other transportation network companies and they reduce DWIs across the state, create more jobs for independent contractors, provide more options for how people can get around our states,” Youngblood said. The bill passed on a 56-8 vote.
A bill that would change background checks for medical cannabis providers and caretakers was approved by a House committee and will now head to the House floor. The House Business and Employment Committee voted in favor of HB 527, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque by a 9 to 4 vote. Pacheco’s bill would allow the Department of Health to use a federal database to perform background checks on those who provide or deliver medical cannabis. The background checks would also apply to caretakers of medical cannabis patients. Pacheco said his intention is to protect the medical cannabis program from further scrutiny.
A lawmaker is demanding an apology from the House Majority Leader for allegedly passing around a picture with offensive writing. Rep. Stephanie Maez, D-Albuquerque, said she was told by another member of her caucus that Majority Floor Leader Nate Gentry had a printed picture of her with “xoxo” and “thanks for your vote Paul” written on it and was sharing it in the House Judiciary Committee. Maez told New Mexico Political Report that a member of the committee, who did not want to be named, told her of the picture that Gentry was passing around during a hearing. She said she was mainly upset because she doesn’t think the same thing would have happened to a male member of the legislature. “Representative Nate Gentry has shown blatant disrespect to me, to this institution, and to all women. His conduct is inappropriate, offensive, and should not be permitted in the New Mexico Legislature,” Maez said in a written statement.
A bill that would require lobbyists to disclose more information and require the information remain available on the website of the Secretary of State for a longer period of time passed the House unanimously on Saturday. The legislation passed unanimously through two committees and on the floor, though in a very different form than how it was originally introduced. The bill received a committee substitute in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee and it was that version that ended up passing the House. The bill would require more information on which issues lobbyists are advocating on behalf of or against, require a larger fee to register as a lobbyist to help pay for the increased disclosure and would require the Secretary of State to keep the reports public for ten years instead of the current two years. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, sponsored the legislation and said it would bring greater transparency for the public.
A bill that would limit exemptions for vaccinations stalled in a House committee on Saturday morning. The House Health Committee tabled HB 522 on a 5 to 4 party-line vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, would change the religious exemption for vaccinations. The changes would eliminate wording that allows an individual to personally sign an affidavit stating their religious objections to vaccinations. Instead, the affidavit would be required from “an officer of a recognized religious denomination” stating that a child’s parents “religious teaching requires reliance upon prayer or spiritual means alone for healing.”
Armstrong began her testimony by telling the committee that her bill may have some portions that violate the constitution.