2020 elections usher in a wave of ‘firsts’ for NM

New Mexico voters embraced candidates in the 2020 elections that have historically been underrepresented, including women, in elected office. The state saw a slew of “firsts” this year. 

For the first time in the state’s history, New Mexico’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be held by women of color. And both Yvette Herrell, who will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, and Deb Haaland, who won reelection to the state’s 1st Congressional District, are enrolled members of Indigenous nations. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo, and Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation, making New Mexico the first state in the U.S. to have two Indigenous Representatives. 

Teresa Leger Fernandez, who won New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, is Latina. 

Terrelene Massey, Diné (Navajo) and the executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said she’s really excited to see more representation from women, especially women of color and Native American women. “I think they’ll provide different perspectives on the different issues they’ll be working on,” Massey said.

Tribes in NM under intense pressure to complete census count by new deadline

With three weeks to go before the US Census is scheduled to end, 19 percent of Navajo people have responded to the U.S. Census, a much lower rate than for New Mexico and the U.S. overall, and lags behind all other tribes located within the state other than Jicarilla Apache.The once-a-decade head count of the U.S. population helps determine federal funding for healthcare, housing, roads, and a range of other important services and robust responses by tribal members ensure that their communities receive an equitable share of federal resources. 

This story was first published by New Mexico In Depth and is republished here with permission. But the census deadline looms ominously following the Trump administration’s decision in early August to abruptly move it from the end of October to September 30. Earlier this month the Navajo Nation and the Gila River Indian Community joined a lawsuit filed last month by several nonprofits, including the National Urban League and the League of Women Voters, as well as cities and counties in a number of states, to keep the census deadline at the end of October. 

There is no guarantee the court fight will end in an extended deadline, however. Over the past month, the Navajo Nation, which is one of the largest tribes in the U.S. and dwarfs other tribes in New Mexico by size, has nudged upward the number of people who have responded to the census, with responses rising from 10 percent in late July to 19 percent  this week. But that’s significantly lower than its 53.6 percent goal, presented on the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department website.

Jeff pays fine, will be on primary ballot

Former state Rep. Sandra Jeff will make it on the ballot for state Senate this upcoming primary election in June after all. Jeff came to an agreement with the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday—nearly three weeks after that office disqualified her from the ballot for not paying a fine for filing a late campaign finance report from an earlier campaign. Jeff, a Democrat, is challenging Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, for the party nomination this year. Her attorney Zach Cook told NM Political Report that she agreed to pay “a nominal amount” of roughly $100 to the Secretary of State’s Office to get on the ballot. Part of the deal involves Jeff not having to concede that the fine was legitimate.

Gov. Martinez signs gaming compact

Gov. Susana Martinez signed a gaming compact between the state of New Mexico and five tribal governments on Monday. The compact, which will last until 2037, outlines the agreement between the state and tribal governments regarding gaming facilities. In a written statement, Martinez said the compact will benefit all parties involved. “I’m pleased that we were able to come together to secure this compact,” Martinez said. “It preserves the stability and predictability of gaming in New Mexico while addressing key priorities of the State and each individual tribal government.”

The compact adjusted the amount of revenue shared by tribes to the state.

Gaming compact passes House

The gaming compact that outlines the agreement between five Native American tribes and the state of New Mexico was approved by the House by to 60 to 5 vote. The new compact would allow tribes to operate gaming facilities 24 hours a day, extend lines of credit to those gambling and compensate food and drink. The agreement also defines the amount of net winnings tribes would pay the state in exchange for gaming exclusivity. Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, presented the compact in the form of the a joint resolution and told the body how important the compact is to both the state and tribes. “The needs of the five tribes and the state have been protected,” Clahchischilliage said.

Gaming compact passes Senate, heads to House

The Senate approved a tribal gaming compact by vote of 35 to 7 on Wednesday evening. After an hour-long debate, Senators voted to send the proposed gaming compact to the House floor. The compact, which was negotiated between representatives of Gov. Susana Martinez’s office and five New Mexico tribes, would expire in 2037. See our primer on gaming compacts written before the session. Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, who is chairman of the Committee on Compacts, presented the compact in the form of a Joint Resolution.

Gaming compact heads to Senate for approval

The Committee on Compacts met on Saturday and sent a proposed gaming compact between the state and tribes to the Senate on a 15 to 1 vote. Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, was the only member to cast a dissenting vote. He said he thought there are already too many casinos in the state. The five tribes that negotiated with Gov. Susana Martinez’s office urged the committee to approve the proposed compact. Each tribe representative had different talking points, but they all stressed that the compact should  to be approved soon to keep casino doors open and keep money flowing into the state’s coffers.

Committee gets first look at gaming compact

A legislative committee tasked with approving a gaming agreement between Native American tribes and New Mexico met for the first time on Tuesday. The Committee on Compacts heard from a representative of the governor’s office, and later asked questions, about the proposed gaming compact. The committee did not hear from the public or tribal officials but will at a future hearing. Jessica Hernandez, deputy chief-of-staff and general counsel for Gov. Susana Martinez, briefed the committee made up of Senators and Representatives about the proposed agreement between the state and five tribes. Some of the differences she highlighted were revenue sharing percentages and player credit lines.

Legislative tennis: How gaming compacts are made

The process of approving gaming compacts in New Mexico can be hard to understand. There is an interim legislative committee assigned to compacts, but it does not operate like traditional committees in the state legislature. Instead the Compact Negotiation Act outlines a process that can resemble legislative tennis. Gaming compacts are agreements between tribal and state governments regarding casino gaming. For New Mexico, gaming compacts outline rules, regulations and how much of a tribes net winnings are paid to the state.