Dueling bail reform amendments advance

Two competing proposals for reforming New Mexico’s bail process moved forward on Monday, setting up an inevitable clash as they move towards the floors of the House and Senate. The Senate version has two components: It would allow judges to deny release of those awaiting trial if they are deemed a danger to the public and it would allow judges to not impose bond if the only thing keeping someone accused of a non-violent crime in jail is a lack of ability to pay bond. The House version only has the first part, on allowing judges to keep those deemed dangerous in jail until trial. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, presented his version along with New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels. Wirth said the legislation was “narrowed dramatically” since he started the vetting process through interim committees last year.

Committee advances proposal to pay legislators

New Mexico is the only state in the nation that does not pay its legislators a salary. However, a proposed constitutional amendment would change that and allow for legislators to be paid up to the state’s median income advanced from a committee on Saturday afternoon. Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, brought the proposal forward the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee sent it to the House Judiciary Committee with no recommendation. “Most of us, if not all of us are dependent on an outside stream of income,” McMillan said while explaining why he brought forward the bill. These outside funds could be a retirement fund, business interests or otherwise.

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.

Ferrary confirms she will run for state House again

If Terry McMillan is willing, Joanne Ferrary is up for the trilogy in a House race in the Las Cruces area. She confirmed the news on Monday afternoon. After losing a heartbreaker that included a recount and an eight-vote margin in 2012, Ferrary again had a relatively close race in 2014 but in the Republican wave, lost again, this time by just over 400 votes. Now, an email to supporters forwarded to NM Political Report indicates she is in for a third race for the seat held by McMillan. We once again came very close to winning, in mid term election standards, and I strongly believe that we can WIN this seat in 2016!

A look at McCleskey’s money as FBI investigates

New Mexico candidates and political action committees have paid more than $7 million in consulting fees and media buys to Jay McCleskey and his company since early 2011, an analysis of state campaign finance records shows. McCleskey, Gov. Susana Martinez’s top political adviser and viewed as the mastermind of her 2010 election and 2014 re-election, received another $110,000 in 2014 from a top GOP group Martinez is set to lead next year. It is no secret what McCleskey has pulled down in recent years as a top political consultant, but the money now appears to be under the microscope of an ongoing federal investigation. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Friday night that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into money the Martinez campaign spent on McCleskey’s services. The influential GOP consultant created McCleskey Media Strategies in 2011 after Martinez took office. Using a database from the Secretary of State’s office, New Mexico In Depth analyzed campaign and political action committee dollars paid to McCleskey, his firm and his wife’s firm since 2011.

Changes to vaccine exemption tabled in committee

A bill that would limit exemptions for vaccinations stalled in a House committee on Saturday morning. The House Health Committee tabled HB 522 on a 5 to 4 party-line vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, would change the religious exemption for vaccinations. The changes would eliminate wording that allows an individual to personally sign an affidavit stating their religious objections to vaccinations. Instead, the affidavit would be required from “an officer of a recognized religious denomination” stating that a child’s parents “religious teaching requires reliance upon prayer or spiritual means alone for healing.”

Armstrong began her testimony by telling the committee that her bill may have some portions that violate the constitution.

Fate of Democrat’s pregnant worker protections uncertain

A tie vote has put into limbo a Democrat-sponsored bill meant to enact a range of new protections for pregnant workers in New Mexico. Members of the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee split 3 to 3 along party lines today after about an hour of discussion on HB 37, Rep. Gail Chasey’s Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act. Chasey’s expert witness, Southwest Women’s Law Center Executive Director Pamelya Herndon, said that because more than half of New Mexico’s population consists of women, special safeguards for pregnant employees are necessary to help ensure the state’s economic viability. Rep. James E. Smith, R-Sandia Park, said he was concerned about how the measure could affect small mom-and-pop businesses. Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, who presented the bill in Chasey’s stead today, responded that “any burden on businesses can be taken into account.”

Armstrong added that the legislation’s requirements that businesses provide reasonable accommodations for workers facing physical hardships related to pregnancy or childbirth are balanced against other provisions designed to safeguard employers’ financial bottom line.

Bills seek to aid, protect pregnant workers

In line with trends nationwide, the number of New Mexico families with women responsible for sole or primary financial support has grown dramatically. According to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data, 106,993 households in the state are headed by females. If a woman who’s the head of a household gets pregnant, it can put the economic stability of her family at risk. Two pieces of legislation seek to address that issue, but a close examination of both reveals stark differences. Pamelya Herndon, an attorney and executive director of the Southwest Women’s Law Center, has seen the hard choices female heads of households face if their employers aren’t responsive to the challenges that accompany pregnancy or related complications.