BernCo commission votes State Rep. Maestas to fill state senate vacancy

The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint New Mexico State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas to the state Senate seat recently vacated by Jacob Candelaria Tuesday night. Maestas was one of seven applicants for the seat. Other applicants included Julie Radoslovich, Steve Gallegos and Em Ward. “I want to thank every member of the public that came both in-person and on Zoom to participate in both tonight’s regular meeting and the appointment for Senate District 26,” Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa said. “We received hundreds of emails about this and public participation is a crucial part of a healthy democracy.”

Barboa said that the County received 66 emails supporting Radoslovich, who was principal at South Valley Academy, 46 emails supporting Maestas and 14 supporting Ward with a few other emails supporting the other contenders. 

The commission approved Maestas on a 3-to-2 vote with Barboa and Debbie O’Malley as the votes against.

Bernalillo County seeks applicants for vacant state senate seat

The Bernalillo County Commission is looking for applicants for the vacant District 26 New Mexico State Senate seat. The Bernalillo County Manager’s Office will accept applications through noon Nov. 10. The Commission is expected to discuss and possibly make a decision for who to appoint for the District 26 Senate seat at its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15.

Bernalillo County Commission fight over when to fill state senate vacancy

Jacob Candelaria left an open seat when he resigned his position in the State Senate on Oct. 19. The district, 26, is completely within Bernalillo County, which means that the task of replacing Candelaria falls to the Bernalillo County Commission. During a discussion of upcoming meetings at its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Bernalillo County Commission fell into heated discussion about the timing of naming a replacement for Candelaria. 

No decisions were made at the meeting. Initially, Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa suggested Nov.

UNM Law students help land grants, colonias and acequias with legal assistance

The Community Governance Attorney Program, established in 2019, helps colonias, acequias and land grants when they need legal assistance by partnering them with law students. Elisabeth Gutierrez of Las Cruces and Victoria Lovato of Ojo Caliente are third-year University of New Mexico School of Law students participating in the Community Governance Attorney Program. Participants in the program presented the Community Governance Attorney Program’s progress at the Land Grant Committee meeting on Oct. 20 in Chilili. “Today is a very special day because this is a program that took years of work by the (Land Grant Committee) to make this come to fruition,” Mark Edwards of the New Mexico Legislative Council Service said.

Candelaria resigns from NM Senate

State Senator Jacob Candelaria, DTS-Albuquerque, announced that he resigned his position in the state senate effective at noon on Wednesday. “There is a time for all things under heaven,” Candelaria posted to his Twitter account. “Public service is a great blessing, but now is the time for me and my family to open a new and exciting chapter of life. My heart is full, and I feel a great sense of joy and accomplishment.”

Candelaria served in the state Senate since 2013. He was a registered Democrat until 2021 when he changed his registration to Decline to State, or DTS.  He was the only decline to state member of the Senate.

Biden expands LGTBQIA+ rights in sweeping executive order

President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this month to expand equality for LGBTQIA+ individuals. The order is sweeping and involves several different federal agencies. It says that while the U.S. has advanced LGBTQIA+ rights in significant ways, much still needs to be done, particularly for transgender individuals and LGBTQIA+ individuals of color. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said this is the “first time a sitting president has made such clear statements about queer and trans people.”

“It’s definitely a refreshing break from what we’ve been hearing and seeing so much of,” Martinez said. There has been an uptick of anti-trans bills introduced into state legislatures in recent years, according to LGTBQIA+ advocates.

With limited funding, New Mexico sexual assault programming looks ahead 

With federal funding cuts expected by the next fiscal year, New Mexico sexual assault programming is considering how the shortage could impact the future. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission receives $4 million in recurring funding from the state to provide money to local sexual assault services. This year, the commission and the New Mexico Coalition for Sexual Assault Programs asked for $5 million in additional funding from the Legislature to fill gaps in services, improve salaries and prepare for the anticipated loss in federal dollars. But, the coalition did not receive all the money it asked for from the New Mexico legislature. In addition to the recurring $4 million, the legislature appropriated about $3.8 million in funding.

State treasurer says COVID-19 relief money should be governed by Legislature

The New Mexico state treasurer agrees that federal COVID-19 relief funds should be handled by the state Legislature and not the governor, according to a response filed on Tuesday by his attorney. 

Treasurer Tim Eichenberg was named as a party of interest in a case filed last month by state Sens. Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat, and Greg Baca, a Republican. Candelaria and Baca asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to order Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to stop appropriating any more money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and to leave the rest of the spending decisions to the state Legislature. 

In a response on behalf of Eichenberg, his attorney wrote that while the ARPA funds can be spent legally on a variety of different issues, the Legislature should decide where it would be best spent. 

“The Treasurer respectfully submits that the question of whether some or all funds should be used for any or all of these areas requires considerations of public policy and public priorities that must be conducted in the open with opportunity for public participation, which can and will only happen in a legislative process,” the response reads. 

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers tried to include spending of the federal money in the state budget. Lujan Grisham line-item vetoed that appropriation on the grounds that a previous state supreme court case ruled that the spending of certain federal funds is the responsibility of the governor, not the legislature.  

In their initial petition to the state supreme court, Candelaria and Baca argued that the case Lujan Grisham cited in her veto message was narrowly focused on federal funds specifically designated for higher education. In this case, the two senators argued, the federal funds had a wide range of acceptable uses. 

Eichenberg’s lawyer also argued that Congress approved the relief money to be used in a wide variety of ways, “according to needs assessments made by state decision-makers, driven by state considerations, and priorities.”

And those decision-makers, Echineberg’s lawyer argued, are legislators. 

“Legislative action—the power to make law and appropriate money from the State Treasury—rests exclusively with the Legislature,” the response reads.

Commission set to vote on redistricting proposals

For the first time ever, the political redistricting process in New Mexico will start with recommendations from a citizen redistricting committee. While the final say ultimately lies with the state Legislature, the newly formed citizen committee is set to finalize their suggestions this week. 

After a long series of meetings throughout the state where committee members heard testimony from the public, the committee will be tasked with deciding which of more than a dozen maps will best account for population change, while also considering tribal communities. 

The maps that were presented to the public during the committee’s meetings vary, but the ultimate goal is to draw political districts to better represent changes in populations in the last ten years. 

Ideally, each district will have the same number of residents. In some cases, it seems likely that some counties that are currently split between districts might get their own district. In other cases, cities and counties that are not currently split up may see some new divisions. 

Lea County, for example, is currently split between two state House districts, but in nearly every concept the redistricting committee is considering, Lea County would have at least one full district within its boundaries because of its population growth. 

The redistricting committee will choose from a number of options for state Senate, state House, congressional and state Public Education Districts. All of those categories have a handful of proposals, some from community advocacy groups.

NM Supreme Court denies stay, asks for response in relief money case

The New Mexico Supreme Court denied a request by two state senators to stop Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham from further spending federal COVID-19 relief funds. But the high court also gave the governor and the state treasurer until Oct. 15 to respond to the original petition. 

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, filed a petition last month asking the state supreme court to issue an order to stop Lujan Grisham from further appropriating money that New Mexico received as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The two senators also asked the court to issue a stay in order to stop any further spending until the court case is settled. 

State Republicans have largely been critical of Lujan Grisham’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Candelaria, although a member of the same political party as Lujan Grisham has often criticized the governor as well as Democratic Senate leadership.