This story appears in both The Paper and the Santa Fe New Mexican through a partnership to bring our readers the best in reporting from the legislature.
Early endorsement: The 2022 election is still a long way off, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already secured a key endorsement in her burgeoning reelection campaign. Emily’s List, a powerful political action committee that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women, announced on Twitter it was throwing its support behind Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman serving her first term as governor. “In 2018, [Lujan Grisham] became the first Democrat Latina governor in U.S. history,” the group tweeted. “During her first term, she’s worked tirelessly to lead New Mexico into the future. We’re honored to endorse her for reelection. “The endorsement comes as the Legislature, with a Democratic majority in both chambers, seeks to repeal a 1969 law that criminalizes abortion in New Mexico — an effort Lujan Grisham included in her legislative agenda this year.
Civil Rights Act 2? House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said a news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday to discuss changes to a bill he is co-sponsoring that would, among other things, prohibit “qualified immunity” as a defense to legal claims filed against the government. “Qualified immunity” is a legal doctrine that can shield government officials, including police, from being held personally liable for actions that violate a person’s constitutional rights. Word on the street is the bill, which has generated opposition from government officials, is being rewritten. “We’ve been talking to stakeholders and the folks who are interested in the bill, and we’re going to be ready to announce any changes [Friday] morning,” Egolf said during a virtual news briefing with reporters. Egolf, an attorney, offered a one-word response when asked whether he wanted to address any conflict or perceived conflict with the legislation since his law firm does work representing whistleblowers. “No,” he said.
The Bill Rehm Show: That’s what Rep. Elizabeth Thomson, (D-Albuquerque), called Thursday’s House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, which included four bills introduced by the Republican representative from Albuquerque, a former police officer.
The committee voted to table one bill — which would allow more leeway for taking blood draws for motorists suspected of driving drunk. Meanwhile, with Rehm’s consent, they agreed to postpone hearing the other three until he could clean up some of the language. One would create a fourth-degree felony charge for a felon who owns or uses body armor in a crime. Another would do away with the current six-year statute of limitations on second-degree murder cases. The third would make it a third-degree felony to carry a firearm while trafficking a controlled substance. The committee meets again Tuesday.
What the frack: The Senate Conservation Committee will consider an anti-fracking measure next week that would prohibit certain uses of freshwater in oil and gas operations, among other provisions. The committee started to hear Senate Bill 86 but delayed the measure until Tuesday. Dale Doremus, water issues chair for the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, appeared as an expert witness and said the bill would require oil and gas operators to use water produced during fracking, recycled water or treated produced water for deep drilling and fracking instead of freshwater.
Before the committee postponed consideration of the bill, which also establishes penalties for spills, senators heard from a supporter, the Rev. David Wilson Rogers, minister of First Christian Church in Carlsbad. The minister shared a harrowing experience of a family he said woke up to the sound of “water exploding” from a pipeline across the street from their home a year ago. “Not knowing what the noise was, they scrambled outside at two o’clock in the morning on a cold January morning to figure out what was happening,” Rogers said. “They were showered with produced water, frack water. … Once it was done, they had skin rashes and health effects and all sorts of problems that were precipitated from that spill. Their livestock had to be euthanized because of the toxicity of the water in which they were exposed. They eventually had to leave that land because they could no longer safely live there.”
Quotes of the day: “I’m actually, honestly, confused that it’s still a talking point from the other side because there’s no substance to their criticism. Period. Full stop.” — House Speaker Brian Egolf, (D-Santa Fe), about criticisms that a repeal of a 1969 abortion ban would eliminate conscience protections, which allow a provider to object to a practice based on moral or religious grounds. “Just remember, Lord, some of the best cowboys are cowgirls.” — Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, (R-Roswell). Ezzell, a rancher, delivering the opening prayer for Thursday’s House floor session.