The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint New Mexico State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas to the state Senate seat recently vacated by Jacob Candelaria Tuesday night. Maestas was one of seven applicants for the seat. Other applicants included Julie Radoslovich, Steve Gallegos and Em Ward. “I want to thank every member of the public that came both in-person and on Zoom to participate in both tonight’s regular meeting and the appointment for Senate District 26,” Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa said. “We received hundreds of emails about this and public participation is a crucial part of a healthy democracy.”
Barboa said that the County received 66 emails supporting Radoslovich, who was principal at South Valley Academy, 46 emails supporting Maestas and 14 supporting Ward with a few other emails supporting the other contenders.
The commission approved Maestas on a 3-to-2 vote with Barboa and Debbie O’Malley as the votes against.
Jacob Candelaria left an open seat when he resigned his position in the State Senate on Oct. 19. The district, 26, is completely within Bernalillo County, which means that the task of replacing Candelaria falls to the Bernalillo County Commission. During a discussion of upcoming meetings at its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Bernalillo County Commission fell into heated discussion about the timing of naming a replacement for Candelaria.
No decisions were made at the meeting. Initially, Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa suggested Nov.
State Senator Jacob Candelaria, DTS-Albuquerque, announced that he resigned his position in the state senate effective at noon on Wednesday. “There is a time for all things under heaven,” Candelaria posted to his Twitter account. “Public service is a great blessing, but now is the time for me and my family to open a new and exciting chapter of life. My heart is full, and I feel a great sense of joy and accomplishment.”
Candelaria served in the state Senate since 2013. He was a registered Democrat until 2021 when he changed his registration to Decline to State, or DTS. He was the only decline to state member of the Senate.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an omnibus crime bill into law on Wednesday, which officials say will reduce crime. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, pushed a “tough on crime” agenda during the 2022 Legislative session. Lawmakers rolled several crime bills into one to create the omnibus bill, which increases penalties for violent offenders. State House Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Santa Fe, sponsored HB 68. The new law will also eliminate “gay panic” defense in criminal cases.
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.
A key “tough-on-crime” initiative supported by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham hit a roadblock Monday. Members of the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted 5-3 to table Senate Bill 189, which would make a major change to the state’s pretrial detention process for defendants suspected of certain violent crimes. Under the measure, a defendant would have to prove to a judge they are not at risk of committing further violence if they are allowed to remain free until their trial. It is one of the most contentious bills in this year’s legislative session, despite its bipartisan support. Republicans have long pushed for similar legislation, arguing the current system, in which prosecutors must show evidence a defendant poses too great a danger to be released, has led to some heinous crimes by repeat offenders.
The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee, with some members absent, voted 5-to-1 to pass SB 43, which would eliminate the possibility of a child being sentenced to life in prison without parole. Republican state Sen. Gregg Schemedes of Tijeras voted against the bill. State Sens. Jacob Candelaria, I-Albuquerque, David Gallegos, R-Eunice and Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, were not present for the vote. All the Democratic members of the committee voted in favor.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, a Democrat from Albuquerque, said the courts have asked the legislative branch to clarify this particular part of the law, which if passed would prevent a child from receiving a life sentence without parole and would allow a parole hearing after 15 years of time served.
Updated: The House concurred on HB 2 as amended by the state Senate by a voice vote on Thursday. This sends the legislation to the Governor’s desk for signature. HB 2 appropriates $478 million of the ARPA funds into various projects, such as road work, broadband expansion and conservation projects. The Legislative Finance Committee staff put the spending bill together based on requests from state agencies made during interim legislative committee hearings. The spending for some of the money, such as $10 million for smaller airports around the state, has not been appropriated in specific terms and will be left up to the agencies, in this case the Department of Transportation, to make the final decisions on the best use of the funds.
The Senate Finance Committee approved an amended version of a bill to allocate some of the American Rescue Plan Act immediately to various agencies. The amendment to HB 2, which passed unanimously, removed $26 million appropriated for broadband and reduced the overall funding package to about $478 million. The vote of approval for the amended bill was unanimous and bipartisan. State Sens. Jacob Candelaria, I-Albuquerque, and Bobby Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, were absent.
The state Senate Finance Committee heard from two departments that will receive one-time funds of $35 million total if HB 2 passes. The state Senate Finance Committee did not take action on HB 2, as the bill still sits in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee which originally intended to meet Wednesday to vote on the bill. But state Rep. and HAFC Chair Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, said during the House floor meeting Wednesday that HAFC would not meet that day. Lundstrom said on Tuesday that HB 2 needed some language cleanup, and appeared to be willing to consider a new appropriation to help the state’s chile farmers with the red chile harvest. HB 2 appropriates the federal American Rescue Plan Act money of $1.1 billion into a contingency fund of the state’s general fund.