Two competing proposals for reforming New Mexico’s bail process moved forward on Monday, setting up an inevitable clash as they move towards the floors of the House and Senate. The Senate version has two components: It would allow judges to deny release of those awaiting trial if they are deemed a danger to the public and it would allow judges to not impose bond if the only thing keeping someone accused of a non-violent crime in jail is a lack of ability to pay bond. The House version only has the first part, on allowing judges to keep those deemed dangerous in jail until trial. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, presented his version along with New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels. Wirth said the legislation was “narrowed dramatically” since he started the vetting process through interim committees last year.
The House panel that deals with elections issues passed a bill that supporters say would modernize the campaign finance reporting system. The unanimous vote in the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee came after months of media attention on scandals involving campaign finance, some of which was caused by a confusing and outdated system of campaign finance reporting. Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, said that with the current system “most of the information is reported in what’s called PDF format, which is a non-searchable report. We can’t follow the money very well, is how I would put it.” He said this bill came from work on how to make the process more transparent, which involved working with the Secretary of State’s office.
New Mexico is the only state in the nation that does not pay its legislators a salary. However, a proposed constitutional amendment would change that and allow for legislators to be paid up to the state’s median income advanced from a committee on Saturday afternoon. Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, brought the proposal forward the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee sent it to the House Judiciary Committee with no recommendation. “Most of us, if not all of us are dependent on an outside stream of income,” McMillan said while explaining why he brought forward the bill. These outside funds could be a retirement fund, business interests or otherwise.
A proposal that would allow voters to decide whether or not those outside the two major political parties can participate in primary elections passed its first committee on Saturday. Right now, only Democrats can participate in Democratic primaries and only Republicans can participate in Republican primaries. The proposal brought forward by Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, would change that. The bill passed on a narrow 5-3 vote, with all four Democrats on the panel being joined by committee chair James Smith, R-Sandia Park.
-The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee shot down a bill to raise tax rates on the richest 2 percent of the state. – The House Judiciary Committee met for more than four hours before voting to pass Rep. Paul Pacheco’s Driver’s License bill. A majority of the debate focused on a line by line, compare and contrast session by Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants. By the end of his comments, Martinez digressed to stories of him taking a test to get his motorcycle license. -Not only did Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, see his driver’s licence bill pass the committee today, but it was also his birthday.
A House Republican driver’s license bill aimed at issuing driving privilege cards to immigrants without legal status passed along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the committee his legislation was an attempt to solve a long-time problem surrounded in debate in New Mexico. “We’ve been dealing and wrestling with this problem for as long as I’ve been in the House,” Pacheco said. On hand as an expert witness was Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla, who also said Pacheco’s bill would put to rest the debate on who gets driver’s licenses as well. “I believe the solution you have before you takes care of everyone’s needs,” Padilla told the panel.
Former Speaker of the House Ken Martinez will not run for reelection in 2016 after taking a position with Bernalillo County on Friday. While Martinez will leave the Legislature, he will not exactly be retiring. The Bernalillo County Commission voted to offer Martinez the job of county attorney, which he accepted. Martinez, however, will not resign, which means Gov. Susana Martinez will not be able to pick a replacement ahead of this year’s legislative session. “After much prayer, consideration, and family consultation—especially with my granddaughter—I have decided not to run for reelection to another term of service in the New Mexico House of Representatives,” Martinez said in a statement on Friday. “I couldn’t be prouder of the opportunity I’ve had to serve the people of New Mexico alongside my dear friends in the House Democratic Caucus.”
One of the biggest criticisms following the aftermath of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s plea deal and resignation was that it looks like she will keep her government pension. This week, Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Milan Simonich lamented that Duran “gets a pension for violating the voters’ trust” while the newspaper’s editorial board urged Santa Fe District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington to reject the plea deal for being “too soft.”
State law allows judges to fine public officials convicted of felonies “the value of the salary and fringe benefits paid to the offender … after the commission of the first act that was a basis for the felony conviction.”
No state official has had their pension removed using the law. The anti-corruption statute, which passed during the 2012 Legislative session and became law that year, was carried by state Sen. Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque. Payne didn’t return phone calls from NM Political Report for this story, but we did reach state Rep. W. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, who carried the corruption bill in the New Mexico House of Representatives that year. While similar anti-corruption bills that specified taking away the offender’s government pension failed to pass the Legislature multiple times, Martinez said that he and Payne intended “fringe benefits” to include pensions in their successful bill.
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.
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.