A handful of bills passed by both the state Senate and House of Representatives continue to sit in limbo. Normally, those bills would be signed or vetoed by the governor. Instead, their fate likely lies with the judicial branch. The head of the Legislative Council Service (LCS), the nonpartisan administrative arm of the state Legislature, said he and his staff suggested to lawmakers and the secretary of state that some vetoed bills should actually be chaptered. Chaptering, or printing, the bills is typically the first step to writing them into state statute.
Gov. Susana Martinez is getting attention, to say the least, for her onslaught of vetoes as the legislative session nears a potentially messy end. But the tension between Martinez and state lawmakers started with her early veto of the bill to fund the operations of the Legislature during the session and the interim. It continued towards the end of January, when she vetoed a much-publicized bill to allow for industrial research of hemp. February came and went with no bills headed to Martinez’s desk. But at the end of the first week of March, she rejected a measure to allow teachers to use all of their allotted sick days without absences making a negative impact on their statewide evaluation.
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spent his Tuesday Albuquerque town hall defending the character of his party’s controversial presidential nominee in wake of constant negative headlines. So did a few other local Republicans who spoke at the event, including Congressman Steve Pearce and State House Majority Whip Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas. Pearce said he was won over during the Republican National Convention with a few “dramatic revelations of the character of Donald Trump.”
Among them was Trump’s “disarming and revealing” words about his evangelical Christian supporters. “He said, ‘I’m getting support from the evangelicals and I’m not sure I deserve it,’” Pearce said. “That’s what I am looking for in politicians who will be transparent.”
During a Senate floor session, a Democratic lawmaker read a statement by former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, criticizing a proposed three strikes bill. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, took a moment to read the statement on the Senate floor. Johnson, who is seeking a presidential nomination as a Libertarian, told NM Political Report the piece was intended as an editorial for the Albuquerque Journal.Wirth said Johnson sent it to the Senate to be read on aloud on the floor. Johnson wrote specifically about a House bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, that would expand the scope of the already-existing three strikes law. While Johnson specifically addressed Pacheco’s bill, he also wrote about the national trend of leaning toward more judicial discretion.
Conrad James, an Albuquerque Republican in his second term in the state House of Representatives, announced Wednesday on Facebook that he would not seek reelection next year. “Friends – I want to thank each and every one of you for the support you have provided me during my two terms as the New Mexico State Representative for District 24, and I am deeply honored to have served in this role,” James wrote. “But it is time for me to move on, so I will not be running for re-election next year.”
James did not elaborate on what “moving on” may entail. NM Political Report left a voicemail with James Wednesday morning and will update this post if he responds. James has been mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office.
The New Mexico House of Representatives again has 70 members after an appointee was sworn in Wednesday, according to the House Democratic caucus. Idalia Lechuga-Tena was sworn in by Court of Appeals Judge Michael D. Bustamante to fill the vacancy in House District 21. Lechuga-Tena replaces Stephanie Maez, who resigned earlier this month. “I am humbled to have the opportunity to represent the neighborhood where I grew up as a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives,” Lechuga-Tena said in a statement. “I would also like to recognize all of the legislators who have served in this role for our district before me for their hard work and dedication.”
Bernalillo County Commissioners will decide who will replace Stephanie Maez in House District 21. The commission is expected to make a decision Tuesday night, according to the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting. Maez resigned from the position in October. Bernalillo County provided NM Political Report with the six applications for the position. Update: The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint Lechuga-Tena during Tuesday night’s meeting. Idalia Lechuga-Tena could be the most high profile, and controversial, of those seeking the position.
The special committee tasked with looking into a possible impeachment of Secretary of State Dianna Duran will meet for the first time next week. Whether anything substantial will happen at this meeting is a good question—one we are still trying to find an answer to. State Reps. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque are the co-chairs of the bipartisan special investigatory committee. Neither returned our calls and emails left for them Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.