Sine Die: Budget Cuts, Election Laws, and Moving Forward

Sine Die: Budget Cuts, Election Laws, and Moving Forward

At the beginning of our 54th Legislative Session, Common Cause New Mexico set our top priority to secure the funding needed for our newly created State Ethics Commission. We also supported legislation to modernize and improve our legislative structure, to reduce conflicts of interests by sending an amendment to the voters to allow for a professional and paid legislature and to increase our lowest-in-the-country judicial salaries and while some of these bills weren’t successful this session, we will keep them moving through the interim committee process to introduce again next year.

After fighting tooth and nail to secure adequate funding for the SEC, the Senate Finance Committee was forced to make budget cuts to the budget that was nearly $130 million over when it was sent over from the House. With several new expenses that came directly as priorities from the 4th floor, many smaller appropriations and departments were put on the chopping block, which included the full budget request for the SEC.

The Senate approved $200,000 of supplemental funding for FY 2020 in addition to the LFC Recommendation for FY2021 with $985,600. This still leaves the SEC short of their full budget request and we anticipate that they will need to seek supplemental operational funding in the coming year. 

Our HUGE THANKS to: NM Ethics Watch, The League of Women Voters, NM First, NM Association of Commerce & Industry, and NMFOG for their vocal and strong support of this funding throughout the legislative session. Leadership from each of these advocacy groups came to every committee hearing to speak on behalf of their members for good ethics legislation.


HJR8, Terms of Non-Statewide Elected Officers, CA, sponsored by Sen. Ivey-Soto. HJR 8 amends our state’s constitution to change our state’s election dates for certain non-statewide offices, including judicial offices, which allows for the staggering of judges. 

If passed by the voters this November, this measure will greatly reduce the number of non-statewide elected officers on the ballot every year by staggering terms for certain offices to every two years. HJR8 was a recommended reform from the NM Supreme Court to decrease the numbers of offices that would appear on a ballot, which this year, will include a total of 94 district court judicial races. 

SJR 2, Allow Photography in Senate Committees, sponsored by Sen. Steinborn. This new rule passed the Senate on Saturday, Feb. 15th and will allow photography and video in Senate Committee hearings without requiring permission from the committee chair. This bill is critical to the public for maximum transparency into our legislative processes. Our thanks to the Senators who voted in support of this rule!   

SB185, Additional Judgeships, sponsored by Sen. Martinez. SJC substitute for SB185, authorizes the creation of five more district court judgeships, one in the 1st Judicial District, two in the 2nd Judicial District, one in the 3rd Judicial District and 1 in the 12th Judicial District – and it retains the appropriations to pay for each position. With several districts throughout the state lacking enough judges to adjudicate the increasing number of cases on their dockets, this is a significant step in the right direction to ensuring our courts are not overwhelmed by an increasing case volume, and ensure expediency and due process in our judicial system.

SB4, Complete Count in 2020 Census, passed unanimously out of both chambers, and has been sent up to the Governor’s Desk to be signed into law. A huge win for New Mexico communities and ensuring our state gets full funding and representation!

SB64, Public Records Pertaining to Certain Claims, passed unanimously out of both chambers and is waiting to be signed by the governor. SB64 increases transparency and accountability within claims filed against a governmental entity or employee. SB64 allows the public to inspect a settlement agreement for damage claims against a governmental entity, public officer or public employee after the earliest of: the issuance of a final judgement resolving the claim and all appeals or rights to appeal have been exhausted; or the date a settlement agreement is signed by all parties.

SM4, Centennial of League of Women Voters, passed the Senate Floor unanimously, and has been sent up to the Governor’s Desk to be signed into law.  This memorial declares February 6th, 2020, “League of Women Voters Day” in the Senate to recognize its 100th anniversary and the significant role played by the LWV in educating citizens and advancing government accountability.


HB229, Changes to Election Law, sponsored by Rep. L. Trujillo and Sen. Ivey-Soto. This bill would have increased security and integrity for our upcoming elections. This legislation made a number of necessary changes to the Election Code relating to redistricting, requirements for voter registration, handling of ballots, the years of election of certain officials, post-election duties and procedures, referendum petitions and the staggering of judicial terms. However in the final moments of the session, HB229 was rolled over for discussion to the final three hours of the session, and never moved past the Senate Floor. 

HB229 was vital in providing clerks the authority to enter registration forms immediately after the canvass of the election. Unfortunately, they will have to wait 35 days after the election to do so which will in some counties result in thousands of registration forms piling up creating a log jam. Additionally, election results for some races may be in limbo long after Election Day. HB229 cleaned up language in the election code that currently allows voters to make corrections to their absentee ballot through the state canvass which is three weeks after Election Day. Election night may produce an apparent victor in a race only to have it changed three weeks later after additional ballots are counted at the state canvass.

SJR7, Ethics Commission to Set Elected State and County Officials’ Salaries, CA, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto and HM 32, Legislative Structure Task Force, sponsored by Rep. Angelica Rubio.  SJR7 proposed to amend the state’s constitution to give the State Ethics Commission sole authority to review and establish salaries of all elected state officials, including legislators. 

It would have repealed the article in our constitution that currently allows legislators to receive per diem and mileage but forbids any other compensation, and the sections authorizing the Legislature to set salaries of state-wide elected officials.

The State Ethics Commission would have been enabled, as an independent agency, to hire appropriate staff to assess and then set salaries for all of our state elected officials by January 2023. This would have included all state legislators, state-wide elected officials (such as the Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State) and district judges. 

Although this constitutional amendment was not successful in making it through the legislature this year, we look forward to the assembly of a task force through the Legislative Council that will begin work to address the importance of a professional legislature. 

The assembly of this task force, which was included in HM 32, will study methods to improve our legislative processes–including legislator salary, staffing, session & interim, capital outlay reform, & conflicts of interest ahead of the next legislative session and develop a report of recommendations for changes and legislation. 

What do we need you to do?

Your phone calls and emails helped us pass these priority bills this session, and now we need you to speak up one more time and ask our Governor, Michelle Lujan-Grisham, to sign these bills into law! 

All legislation must either be signed or vetoed by March 11, so please make your voices heard today!

Together, we are building a better democracy here in New Mexico.

And call and thank Senators Daniel Ivey-Soto, Bobby Gonzales, Representatives Paricia Lundstrom, and Candie Sweetser for their work on SJR 7. 

And call Representatives Angelica Rubio, Melanie Stansbury, Abbas Akhil, Gail Armstrong, and Jason Harper for their work on HM 32!

Stay tuned for a final call to action following our legislative priorities! 

Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for final updates and stay tuned!