The legislators (so far) who aren’t running for reelection

All 112 legislators are up for reelection this year. As of Monday, seven had already said they would not seek reelection. More could decide not to run before the March 10 deadline for major party candidates to make the primary ballot. Write-in candidates can file to run on March 17. Retiring House members

Rep. Abbas Akhil, New Mexico’s first Muslim legislator, announced last year that he would not seek a second term.

Legislature OKs bill to merge various local elections

Vote early and vote less often. At least, that is the hope behind a bill that was headed to the governor’s desk on Thursday to consolidate various local elections in New Mexico. Under a compromise hashed out between the Senate and House of Representatives during the last couple hours of this year’s 30-day legislative session, election day for most cities, towns and villages — including Santa Fe — would not change from the usual date in March. Conversely, the state’s largest city, Albuquerque, would have to move its elections for mayor and city council. The bipartisan legislation’s backers say the goal is to boost turnout in local elections that often draw little attention and relatively few voters.

Bills earmark funds for school security

As gunshots rang out in Aztec High School one morning last December, a substitute teacher was left to improvise. She did not have a key to lock the door to her classroom, but ushered her students into a neighboring room and barricaded the door with a couch. The gunman entered the classroom the students had just left and fired several rounds through the wall that stood between them. The bullets did not hit any of the students, and the substitute teacher’s swift thinking was credited with saving lives. The shooting left two students dead elsewhere on campus, and the gunman — who did not attend the school — killed himself.

Legislature advances budget-balancing, tax measures

A House panel passed a bill to restore funding vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez for next year for higher education, courts and the state Legislature Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, tax packages that would increase taxes on things like internet sales and gasoline also moved forward. The budget vote came mostly on party lines save for state Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, who joined Democrats in supporting it. Maestas Barnes was also the lone Republican to vote for a failed override attempt of Martinez’s budget vetoes earlier in the day. In total, the bill appropriates roughly $765 million—$745 million for higher education and $19 million for legislative offices—for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

House OKs campaign finance reform

After six years of trying to require “dark money” organizations and other independent-expenditure groups to report their political backers, supporters of campaign-finance reform got their bill through the state House of Representatives on Monday night. The House on Monday passed Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Jim Smith, D-Sandia Park. The bipartisan vote was 41 to 24. Six Republicans joined with the 35 Democrats to vote for the bill. The Senate had already passed the bill, but it will have to go back there for consideration of House amendments.

House actions on Senate bills draw condemnation

The State Senate slammed the House majority, accusing the House on Wednesday of “playing games” for taking an “unprecedented” move on legislation that passed the Senate. The friction comes over a disagreement between both bodies of what types of legislation are considered “germane,” or allowed to be discussed this year. The 2016 legislative session is a budget-only session, meaning in order to be considered germane, bills must be related to the state budget or must receive a message from the governor. The governor can call bills unrelated to the budget to the calendar if she so decides by issuing messages, which makes them germane. House Rules and Order of Business Committee is disputing bills deemed germane by the Senate, saying that they are not germane according to the state constitution.

House passes $6.3 billion budget, depends on transfers

The House of Representatives passed the state’s $6.32 billion budget Saturday morning amid falling oil prices. The bill passed on a 38-31 vote, with two Democrats joining the Republican bloc in voting on the bill. “We did the best we could with the revenues that are there,” House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chair Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said when presenting the bill. Larrañaga said Medicaid, education, public safety, corrections and early childhood funding marked the top priorities. “Almost all of the increases are in five particular areas in this budget,” he said.

Proposal to take politics out of redistricting moves forward

A stripped down proposal that seeks to take partisanship and politics out of the redistricting process, as much as possible, passed its first test. The proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Carl Trujillo cleared the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a unanimous vote on Wednesday. The committee heard the bill for a second time, but in a very different form. Last week, members of the committee felt that the language was too detailed for the constitution. They instead preferred that specifics be left for “enabling legislation” that is in statute and not in the constitution.

Driver’s licenses, DWI penalties and ethics: A final look at House pre-filed legislation

Pre-filing of legislation ahead of the legislative session ended last Friday. In all, the House introduced over 200 bills, memorials and joint resolutions. We looked at the bills as of two weeks ago in both the House and Senate. Now, we take a final look at the House pre-filed legislation. A look at the Senate pre-filed legislation will come soon.

$1 billion for projects sits unspent, lawmakers told

Hundreds of projects around New Mexico sit uncompleted as $1 billion in state funding meant to pay for them remains unspent, legislative staff told the New Mexico Legislature’s budget arm Wednesday. About one-fourth of that is for local projects in New Mexico’s cities, towns and communities, staff told the Legislative Finance Committee. Eleven New Mexico counties, including San Juan and Taos, haven’t spent 90 percent or more of the state dollars set aside for them between 2012 and 2014, according to Wednesday’s report on lawmaker-sponsored projects. The $1 billion unspent includes dollars earmarked or brick-and-mortar projects, also known as capital outlay, infrastructure for tribal communities and water and colonias projects. Lawmakers expressed concern about the unspent money, but some noted that many projects are in the planning process and the money eventually should be spent.