Gov. Martinez fills two legislative vacancies

Gov. Susana Martinez announced two appointments Friday to fill vacancies created by lawmakers who left the Legislature before the end of their terms.

Martinez appointed former State Rep. James White, an Albuquerque Republican, to fill the vacancy in Senate District 19. Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort announced her resignation earlier this year. The veteran Senator from Sandia Park previously announced that the 2016 regular legislative session would be her last. Martinez highlighted White’s nearly three decades as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. In the House, Martinez appointed a Democrat to fill the House seat of former Speaker of the House Ken Martinez.

BernCo Commission puts a stop to city ballot initiatives

The Bernalillo County Commission’s Thursday decision to vote down two ballot initiatives was seemingly based less on space and more on ownership. A majority of the commission spoke against adding two Albuquerque ballot initiatives, citing ballot space and saying the proposals should be on Albuquerque municipal ballots instead of county-managed ballots. Commissioner Wayne Johnson said he wasn’t comfortable with carrying city proposals on the county-managed ballot without an explicit process. “Until we have a process that is clear, it’s far smarter for us to just not place either items on the ballot,” Johnson said. At issue were two initiatives city councilors wanted to go before Albuquerque voters.

Former Speaker: Phil Griego pushed for real estate deal

The second morning in the preliminary hearing regarding the New Mexico Attorney General’s case against former Senator Phil Griego included testimony from a former Speaker of the House about a real estate deal that the AG’s office said broke state law. Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, took the stand on Wednesday morning and answered the prosecution’s questions about his knowledge of the real estate deal that ultimately lead to Griego’s resignation. According to his testimony, Martinez had at least one conversation with Griego about the now-infamous sale of a state-owned building. “It appeared to me that he wanted the deal done as quickly as possible,” Martinez told the court. In question was a meeting held after the 2014 legislative session aimed at putting final approval on the sale.

Legislators, others scheduled to testify in Griego corruption trial

Prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, a group of legislators, legislative support staff and one journalist are set to testify in the case against former New Mexico State Senator Phil Griego next week. According to a document filed by an attorney for the Legislative Council Service (LCS) earlier this week, 14 legislators and administrative staff who were called to testify are represented by Thomas Hnasko, counsel for LCS. Hnasko told NM Political Report that’s hard to say who if anyone he represents will decline to answer questions based on a speech and debate clause from state law that protects legislators from consequences on actions they make as legislators. He added that he doesn’t foresee many problems with lawmakers answering questions in court. “All legislators want to be as open as possible,” Hnasko said.

Bernco commissioner wants investigation into Santolina PAC donations

A Bernalillo County commissioner wants the county attorney to investigate donations to a political action committee supporting two candidates for county commission. New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC recently drew controversy for its donors’ affiliations with the Santolina planned development, a project on Albuquerque’s westside whose developers are  asking the county to approve 80 subsidies for the next several decades. The PAC sent mailers supporting District 2 candidates Steven Michael Quezada and Robert Chavez and has repeatedly targeted Adrián Pedroza, the candidate most outspokenly critical of Santolina. The PAC also funded billboards for Quezada touting his “Breaking Bad” credits. Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, a supporter of Pedroza, wants an investigation into whether certain donations to the PAC violate county campaign finance rules.

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.

Former Senator charged with felonies, defends self in interview

A former state senator who resigned last year after admitting to violating the state constitution now faces criminal penalties because of a real estate deal after the Attorney General’s office filed charges Monday in district court. Phil Griego faces charges of fraud, violating ethical principles of public service, bribery and solicitation, tampering with public records and violating the state Financial Disclosure Act. In all, the Democrat from San Jose faces nine charges, including multiple felonies

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information comes in. The investigation from the office of Attorney General Hector Balderas began a month after Griego resigned. Griego admitted at the time that he violated the New Mexico Constitution, a Senate Rule and the Senate Oath of Ethical Conduct.

Here are the legislators who are NOT running for reelection

Now that the legislative session is over and the dust is—mostly—settled, legislators now are turn their focus to the upcoming elections. While some candidates have announced their intention to take over the veterans that called it quits this year, the official count won’t be until after the deadline to file on March 8. Here’s who we know for sure is leaving this year, and a couple no one is sure about. House of Representatives
District 24 – Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque confirmed last year on social media that he would not run for reelection. He later endorsed Dr. Christina Hall, an Albuquerque chiropractor, as his replacement.

‘Dummy bills’ can create new, resurrect old bills

Wednesday was the deadline for members to introduce legislation, but there are still opportunities to get measures to the floor for debate even if they haven’t been introduced yet. Each legislative session a set number of empty bill templates are filed, then later amended. These bills are informally known as “dummy bills” and are sometimes used to create last-minute legislation or to save legislation that previously failed. These last-minute bills, commonly called “dummy bills,” are more officially referred to as “generic bills.” Note: This post was adapted from a 2015 post on the same subject.

First responders now included in Hate Crimes against cops bill

In addition to adding law enforcement officers as a protected class to the state Hate Crimes Act, a Republican-sponsored bill would now add first responders if it becomes law. The change came Tuesday afternoon in the House Judiciary Committee at the request of House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. Egolf first suggested firefighters as being added because of the danger their job entails. The suggestion led to little debate, with House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, and cosponsor of the original bill agreeing fairly quickly. The bill passed its second committee unanimously, with Democratic Reps.