NM Senate approves House map, heads to governor’s desk

The New Mexico state Senate approved a bill that would redraw state House maps on a 24-13 vote. HB 8 is one of four proposals that would draw state political districts in the current special legislative session. 

The Senate floor debate for HB 8 came just after the Senate spent hours debating its own political boundaries and was much shorter than that of the Senate map proposal. 

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, who presented the proposal, said the map met both deviation and population number requirements. 

While there is somewhat of an unspoken rule that the Senate and House do not make significant changes to each other’s maps, Republicans offered one amendment, presumably to make a point and discussed amendments they said they would like to make, but didn’t. 

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, offered up an amendment to pair Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe in the same district as Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, but he ultimately withdrew the amendment. 

“We just passed a set of Senate maps that left a couple members paired, and this would pair a couple members in the House,” Pirtle said before withdrawing his amendment. “So that way, we have some continuity between the bodies.”

HB 8 already pairs a number of incumbents together. 

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said he took issue with how the House redrew the boundaries for districts currently represented by Rep. Jane Powdrell Culbert, R-Rio Rancho. HB 8 proposes to shift much of that district into Corrales. Brandt said he took issue with House Democrats approving a map that significantly changes a district represented by an African American woman. 

“The people in her district respect her and she has served this state in a bipartisan way and has been a strong voice for minority communities in the state,” Brandt said. 

Brandt added that he had a floor amendment ready to go, but opted not to push it unless he saw there was widespread support for it. 

Ivey-Soto introduced a floor amendment that would reverse a previous amendment made during a previous committee hearing.

Multiple cannabis legalization bills expected during the NM Legislative session

New Mexico’s 2021 legislative session will surely be marked with debates over education issues, state finances and abortion rights. But the Legislature is also set to weigh the pros and cons of recreational-use cannabis. In recent years,  generally speaking, Democrats have pushed for legalization while Republicans have opposed it. This year, though, Democratic lawmakers expect to see multiple legalization bills, with some technical differences. 

Senate leadership, along with at least two expected sponsors of legalization proposals, told NM Political Report that the goal this year is collaboration and to avoid bogging down the process. 

In the House, all eyes are on Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque. 

Martínez has sponsored a bill aimed at legalization nearly every year he’s been in office. His 2019 attempt arguably saw the most progress.

Legislature passes COVID relief bill during quick special session

The New Mexico State Legislature passed a COVID-19 relief bill that would provide over $300 million in relief provided by the federal CARES Act in a very short special session that lasted less than eight hours. The bill included $194 million to provide $1,200 for those who qualify for unemployment and lost work because of the pandemic. It also would provide $100 million in grants to local small businesses and nonprofits, with smaller amounts to provide aid for rent and mortgage payments, money for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and vaccine rollout and money for households that did not receive federal stimulus money earlier this year. Update: Lujan Grisham signs COVID-19 relief package into law

The bill ultimately passed with widespread majorities in both the House and Senate, though many legislators voiced concern about the proposal and said they wished they had more input. Only one amendment to the introduced legislation passed, one that would include 501(c)8 organizations to be eligible for funds.

Which legislative races could decide the fate of marijuana legalization

It is unlikely that recreational-use cannabis legalization will be the sole deciding factor for New Mexico voters when they fill out their ballots this year. But Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a proponent of legalization and the state Legislature is expected to take up the issue next January. And according to a poll commissioned by the Albuquerque Journal this summer, a large majority of New Mexicans are in favor of legalization. At least two major medical cannabis producers contributed almost $35,000 collectively to Democratic candidates or Democratic political committees. 

With the entire Legislature up for election this year, it’s hard to pinpoint whether there will be enough votes to pass any legalization attempts. But, there are a handful of state Senate and House races that could be deciding factors.

Status of some bills still in limbo while special session looms

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.

A look at Gov. Martinez’s vetoes

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.

NM politicians backing Trump speak at Pence rally

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.”

Another moment of revelation?

Johnson: Three strikes does little to reduce crime

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.

ABQ Republican won’t seek reelection in swing seat

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.

Controversial choice sworn into state House seat

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.”