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The Special Session: Thoughts from the House

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The special session of the New Mexico State Legislature started on Sept. 6.  
The session was prompted by a proclamation from Gov. Susana Martinez calling the legislature into session to address the decennial requirement of redistricting, and nine other items ranging from Driver’s Licenses for non-citizens to budgetary issues.  
On redistricting, the population of the state has grown and become more urban.  The resulting challenges are to create seventy House districts, each with a population of 29,400 people (+/- 5 percent) and reflecting the growth in urban population.   
The session began with a certain amount of acrimony, as both House and Senate Democratic leadership had requested Sept. 12 as a starting date, and had recommended that most, if not all, of the governor’s additional items should be addressed in the next regular session.  
The first part of the session has focused exclusively on redistricting.  
There had been considerable preparation before the session started.  
An outside consulting team developed eight different redistricting options and then an interim redistricting committee held hearings all over the state to consider the local impact of different options.
Late in the process Native American representatives submitted a plan to create additional Native American House districts.
Initially, bills were submitted in the House for 15 redistricting options: nine redistricting the House, three redistricting congressional districts, three redistricting the Public Regulation Commission (PRC), and one redistricting the Public Education Commission (PEC).  
A similar number of bills were submitted in the Senate.  
Note there is a tradition that the Senate accepts the bill passed by the House to redistrict the House, and, similarly, the House accepts the Senate’s bill redistricting itself without changes.  
Both Senate and House have to agree on congressional, PEC, and PRC redistricting.   
More recently other House redistricting bills have been submitted by individual members (Egoff and Maestas), the Republicans (two bills), the Democrats, and a partial plan by Rep. Begay.  All have been sent to the Voters and Elections Committee.
As of this point, the only bill that divides Los Alamos County into more than one House district has been the Egoff bill (HB21).  
This met with a strong response from a group of Los Alamos citizens when the bill came before the Voters and Elections Committee.  
Ron Selvage, vice-chair of the county council, Mike Wheeler, chair of the Democratic Party in Los Alamos, Judy Bjarke-McKenzie of the Los Alamos School Board, and Gene Schmidt, Superintendent of Schools were among those testifying against the bill.   
The committee tabled the bill.  
All other redistricting bills have maintained Los Alamos County as a community of interest in District 43, although the boundaries of the (new) District 43 have varied.   
At this point, no House redistricting bill has come out of Voters and Elections: all have been tabled.  However, this can change at almost any time.
One PRC bill has been voted out of the Voters and Elections Committee and approved by the House on a party line vote.  
This will have to be reconciled with the Senate Bill.
The only other bill of significance that has passed was a bill to move Medicaid money that would revert to the Federal government to a non-reverting account.  

Rep. Jim Hall
jhall@newmexico.com