Here are the key legislative races to watch

Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.

Ethics commission moves forward despite concerns

A bill that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission cleared its first hurdle on Friday on a unanimous vote. Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, sponsored the proposed constitutional amendment explained that he felt this was a very important piece of legislation to both the public and the Legislature. “There are many different places to go to try to get an opinion, which can vary,” Dines said. “It needs to be centralized.” “It can give us direction.

Independent redistricting commission needs more work

A proposed constitutional amendment on creating an independent redistricting commission had support but consensus that more work is needed in the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Monday. The committee is the first stop on the way for constitutional amendments that originate in the House. Constitutional amendments go to the voters for approval if they clear both the House and Senate; the governor does not get a say in them. Most of the discussion in the committee came on a proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, that would create an independent redistricting commission and take the process out of the hands of the Legislature. Trujillo echoed something that President Barack Obama said during the State of the State, “Politicians shouldn’t choose their voters, that voters should choose their politicians.”

A look at crime bills coming this year

Next week marks the beginning of this year’s legislative session. This is a short session which means the main focus will be on budgetary issues—along with what Gov. Susana Martinez deems important enough to be discussed. If the legislation that has been prefiled is any indication, this session will also see a number of crime bills, both in reform and increased penalty efforts. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, told NM Political Report that lawmakers need to to take a look at laws that can put an end to repeat offenders. “What concerns me are those individuals who show a propensity to violence again and again,” Gentry said.

Three strikes, ethics and pot: A look at pre-filed legislation

When the legislative session begins on Tuesday, Jan. 19, NM Political Report will be on hand for wall-to-wall coverage through adjournment at noon on Feb. 18. And, actually, legislation is already starting to be introduced. Pre-filing of legislation began on Dec.

Duran’s out—here’s what will happen next

Secretary of State Dianna Duran decided to do what many had been calling her to do for nearly two months: resign. This means some big, potentially unprecedented, changes are coming. Duran could be the first Secretary of State in history to leave in the middle of a term. Related Story: Dianna Duran pleaded guilty to six charges as part of plea deal. So here is what happens next, at least when it comes to the position of Secretary of State.

Speaker names panel to examine impeachment of Duran

The leader of the House of Representatives named ten members to a panel that will look into the possible impeachment of Secretary of State Dianna Duran. Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, named five Democrats and five Republicans to the panel tasked with examining evidence against Duran and examine possible impeachment. Duran is facing possible impeachment, which in turn could lead to removal from office, for allegations that she moved campaign funds into personal accounts. The 64 charges from Attorney General Hector Balderas were filed in late August. The ten names on the committee are:

Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque
Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque
Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso
Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque
Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen
Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque
Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque
Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque
Tomás Salazar, D-Las Vegas
Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces

Chasey and Cook will be the co-chairs of the panel.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Who will replace Dianna Duran if she leaves office?

With calls for Secretary of State Dianna Duran to resign growing by the day, the talk is already starting to shift to who will next fill one of the most important elected statewide offices. Duran is facing 64 counts of criminal charges filed last week by Attorney General Hector Balderas for using campaign money for personal use. On Wednesday night, Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said the State House members will explore impeachment proceedings even as many high-profile state Republicans, including Gov. Susana Martinez, are seemingly distancing themselves from Duran. New Mexico’s two largest newspapers also urged Duran to resign in editorials this week. As New Mexico Political Report previously reported, if Duran resigns or is impeached by the state Legislature, Martinez will have to appoint someone to fill the role.

Medical cannabis research bill passes second committee

A bill that would create a medical cannabis fund for research purposes passed through its second of three House committee assignments on Saturday morning. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, would create an appropriation for research on medical cannabis to be conducted through the Department of Health. Most of the Republicans on the committee told Armstrong they would not support her HB 466 both because of objections to medical cannabis and because of the appropriation. House Majority Caucus Chair Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, told the sponsor that she had similar concerns as other members, but that she also understands why people might use medical cannabis. She said that when her mother was dying she would have done almost anything to help her.

Comment on rape draws demand for apology

Comments made about rape during a committee hearing last week are now drawing demands for an apology from a Republican lawmaker. The Santa Fe New Mexican wrote a story about Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Albuquerque, demanding an apology from Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, over what he said in the House Judiciary Committee on legislation to take parental rights away from rapists. “Rape is defined in many ways, and some of it is just drunken college sex,” Martinez said according to the New Mexican. From the New Mexican:
“It is simply inexcusable that Rep. Kenny Martinez dismissed a serious crime as nothing more than a night of ‘drunken college sex,’ “Fajardo said in a news release. “His comments are belittling to anyone who has ever been a victim and survivor of sexual abuse, and I hope that he will apologize.”