Some counties are moving quickly to choose a replacement for former state senator Phil Griego after his resignation on Saturday. As New Mexico Political Report outlined on Saturday, each of the six counties will make a selection and Gov. Susana Martinez will choose which to appoint to fill out the remainder of Griego’s term. The person who Martinez chooses will finish this legislative session, represent District 39 throughout the interim and in the 2016 30-day legislative session. A spokesman for Martinez told the Albuquerque Journal that that the governor wants a replacement as quickly as possible. The 2015 legislative session ends on Saturday at noon, with just six pieces of legislation headed to the governor’s desk.
The Senate narrowly voted to pass legislation that would decrease the penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill squeaked by on a 21-20 roll call vote. Most Democrats supported the legislation and most Republicans opposed the legislation, though members of both parties were on each side of the vote. The version of the legislation that passed the Senate would make the penalty for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a ticket with a $50 fine instead of jail. Possession of 8 ounces or more would remain a felony.
Senator Phil Griego, D-San Jose, announced his resignation on Saturday. The resignation came after allegations of Griego improperly profiting from a sale of a state building. The allegations were first reported by the Santa Fe Reporter and the resignation came after rumors of a possible action had swirled through the Roundhouse. Below are the documents related to the investigation into the allegations. Included is the stipulation signed by Griego, exhibits related the investigation and Griego’s resignation letter.
The full Senate voted to stop the appointment of a former District Attorney to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents on Friday. The Senate voted to adopt an adverse committee report from the Senate Rules Committee on the nomination of Matt Chandler. Ahead of the vote, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, the president of the chamber, noted this would be rejecting the appointment. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Chandler in 2014. The vote was nearly on party-lines, with Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, voting against accepting the committee report.
The Senate approved a tribal gaming compact by vote of 35 to 7 on Wednesday evening. After an hour-long debate, Senators voted to send the proposed gaming compact to the House floor. The compact, which was negotiated between representatives of Gov. Susana Martinez’s office and five New Mexico tribes, would expire in 2037. See our primer on gaming compacts written before the session. Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, who is chairman of the Committee on Compacts, presented the compact in the form of a Joint Resolution.
An effort to bypass the committee process for right-to-work legislation failed on a party-line vote in the Senate on Thursday afternoon. Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle asked to move the right-to-work legislation to a committee of the whole instead of going through the traditional committee process and the three committees to which it was assigned. The bill was ultimately assigned to the Senate Public Affairs Committee, Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Republicans have complained that the right-to-work legislation has yet to be heard since passing the state House on a near-party-line vote. The chairman of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said that it would be heard on Sunday and invited all the Senators to attend.
A bill that would allow the growth of hemp for research and development purposes cleared the Senate on Monday afternoon. The legislation would allow researchers, most likely at New Mexico State University, to grow hemp for research purposes. The legislation would also provide for the commercial growth of hemp if it is deemed legal by the federal government. Hemp was previously outlawed on a federal level for all uses, but the most recent federal farm bill allowed the growth of hemp for research purposes. Much of the debate was spent on a floor amendment by Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, who said that the bill should not anticipate the federal legalization of commercial growth of hemp.
The state Senate voted 22 to 19 on Monday afternoon to approve the nomination of Hanna Skandera to the position of Secretary of the Public Education Department. All Republican members of the chamber voted to confirm along with five Democrats. One Democrat did not vote. Skandera was perhaps the most controversial pick by Susana Martinez to serve in her cabinet. Her nomination passed the Senate Rules Committee earlier in the day then passed the full Senate later in the afternoon.
Representatives and tribal leaders from around New Mexico addressed lawmakers on the Senate floor on Wednesday. Tribal members addressed their concerns about a working relationship with the state including ways to increase revenue. The groups were invited by the Senate in an effort to fix what Democrats said was a slight by Governor Susana Martinez last week. Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, called a committee of the whole Senate and invited members of the House to attend. Sanchez told New Mexico Political Report that he asked the groups to come back after it was apparent that they were not happy.
On January 20, Gov. Susana Martinez gave her State of the State address. New Mexico Political Report spoke with some lawmakers and the mayor of Albuquerque to get their thoughts. Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, also responded to Martinez’s outlined priorities. One of his criticisms of the governor’s speech was here repeated use of the word “courage”. “I ask the governor, then, if you have courage, governor, then why don’t you close the gunshow loophole?” Sanchez asked. “Why don’t you put locks on firearms at home?