State Sen, AG step back from solicitation case amid media attention

A Republican State Senator and criminal defense attorney withdrew from a criminal case last month, citing media attention. She says the attention was solicited by the state Attorney General’s office. In her motion to withdraw, Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, wrote that Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office “made false statements to the media” that interfered with her clients right to a fair trial. “The Office of the Attorney General has successfully made Ms. Torraco’s representation of the defendant a media centerpiece and it is impairing the defendant’s opportunity for a fair trial,” Torraco wrote. About a week after Torraco withdrew from the case, the AG’s office itself stepped aside and appointed special prosecutor Mark Drebing, former deputy for Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg (a Democrat).

Lawmaker says AG is retaliating by trying to kick her off case

A New Mexico state lawmaker is going head to head with the state Attorney General in her private capacity as an attorney. And she thinks it relates back to something from the most recent state legislative session. The Attorney General’s office sought to remove State Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, from a case in 2nd Judicial District Court. Torraco represents Tyler Danzer in a case where Attorney General Hector Balderas charged Danzer with child solicitation and tampering with evidence. The Attorney General’s office filed a motion last week to remove Torraco from the case, arguing she has a conflict of interest after she advised Danzer to close his email account.

Woman fights ABQ after city takes her car based on son’s arrest

In April, the city of Albuquerque seized Arlene Harjo’s car after police charged her son for driving under the influence of alcohol. Harjo said she lent the car to her son after he asked to use it to go to the gym. Instead, he went to visit his girlfriend in Texas and was pulled over and arrested by police on his way back. To get her car back, the city told Harjo she had to pay $4,000. Plus, city law enforcement would keep a boot on her car for a year and half before she could drive it again.

Gary Johnson to hold NM rally this week

Less than a week before Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence is scheduled to headline a fundraiser in New Mexico, the Libertarian Party ticket will hold a public rally in Albuquerque. The Gary Johnson campaign told NM Political Report that Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld will appear at the Albuquerque Convention Center this Thursday, the first such rally by Johnson in New Mexico since he became the Libertarian Party presidential nominee. Many in New Mexico still remember Johnson from his two terms as governor. Often referred to as “Governor No,” Johnson takes pride in the high number of bills he vetoed while in office. Weld is a former two-term governor of Massachusetts.

GOP state senator backs Johnson over Trump

A State Senator who helped lead criminal justice reform efforts in New Mexico is backing Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson for president and announced her role as the state chairwoman for the Johnson campaign. Lisa Torraco, a Republican from Albuquerque, issued a press release Wednesday announcing the news. Torraco previously announced on Twitter she backed Johnson. Johnson served two terms as governor in New Mexico, though he was a Republican at the time. “As a New Mexican, I am proud to see that our state could play a pivotal role in deciding this election,” Torraco said in her statement.

How a child porn penalty bill led to high drama

One of the session’s most scrutinized measures came to an unlikely topic—child pornography. The bill, carried primarily by Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, soared through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives fairly quickly. That version allowed charges for possession of each individual photo, with a maximum of 18 months for each charge. Some argued this could result in charges of harsher penalties for possessing the images or videos than the creation of the images or videos. But things got heated in the Democratic-controlled Senate as disputes over the bill arose on bipartisan levels.

Former AG disagrees with Balderas staffer walkout

A former New Mexico Attorney General said she disagreed with the way representatives from the current AG’s office reacted to an amendment to a bill aimed at increasing penalties for distributing, possessing and manufacturing child pornography. Former Attorney General Patricia Madrid told NM Political Report she isn’t in the business of criticizing other elected officials but that she doesn’t agree with how members of the office abruptly left a legislative committee hearing earlier this week. “I don’t think the answer is to storm out of a meeting,” Madrid said. At issue was a bill sponsored by Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, and supported by Attorney General Hector Balderas. The bill would increase penalties for making, having and distributing child pornography.

Bill to increase child porn penalties heads to governor

A highly charged and emotional Senate passed legislation increasing penalties for possession, manufacturing and distribution of child pornography Wednesday night. Update: Early Thursday morning the House voted to pass the Senate version and sent the legislation to the governor. While the bill itself passed unanimously and without any debate, the major flash point came after a proposed amendment by Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque. Moores requested unanimous consent to allow two expert witnesses on the floor, something that happens extremely frequently. This time, however, Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, objected.

Gov to decide if 17 year olds should vote in primaries

The Senate approved a bill that would allow some 17 year olds to participate in primary elections, sending it to the governor’s desk. The proposal passed 24-16. It would only apply to those who turn 18 between the primary elections and the general elections. New Mexico’s primary elections are currently in June, so it would only apply to those who turn 18 in that five month period between June and November. Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, co-sponsored the legislation and said it would help create more involvement in politics by young voters.

Marijuana legalization headed to Senate floor

A proposal that would allow voters to weigh in on legalizing recreational marijuana passed its second test and will now advance to the Senate floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment on party lines, marking the first time marijuana legalization legislation has ever made it to the floor of either chamber in the New Mexico Legislature. Related Story: Marijuana legalization proposal dies on Senate floor

“The vote tonight made history because it’s never passed through two committees,” Emily Kaltenbach, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, said following the vote. “It’s a really important step and it shows just the momentum of the discussion and the will of the people have finally been listened to.”

The legislation passed the Senate Rules Committee earlier this week. When the legislation passed the Rules Committee in 2015, it was the first time such legislation had ever passed one committee.