Legislative roundup, Jan. 29, 2022

·4 min read

Jan. 29—Days remaining in session: 20

Representative resigns: State Rep. Brittney Barreras, D-Albuquerque, resigned Friday to focus on her mental health.

Barreras, who took office last year, said in a statement the "huge amount of pressure" in such a demanding job has become increasingly difficult.

"All of the pressure and stress has taken a toll on my mental health," she said.

Barreras also said she is among those "experiencing stress, anxiety and negativity" two years into the pandemic.

"I want you to know that I feel you, I see you, I hear you, and we're in this together," she said. "I know that I need to take care of myself right now in order to be a good mom, daughter, co-parent, and community member."

COVID-19: Three dozen people have tested positive for COVID-19 through testing conducted at the state Capitol between Jan. 13 and Jan. 25.

Testing is being offered daily at the Roundhouse during the session. It is mandatory for staff who are not fully vaccinated and voluntary for all other staff, legislators and Capitol tenants.

"The Department of Health has been very helpful in providing this service despite the demands the pandemic has placed on them for testing, vaccination, boosters, contact tracing and everything else," Raúl Burciaga, director of Legislative Council Service, wrote in an email.

Pretrial detention: One of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's priority crime-fighting bills cleared its first legislative hurdle Friday when members of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted 7-2 to approve it.

House Bill 5 would make a major change to the state's pretrial detention system — which now requires prosecutors to provide evidence a defendant accused of a violent crime should be jailed without the possibility of bail until trial.

Under the legislation, the burden would be placed on the defendant to prove why they pose no threat of further violence and should be released. Judges would have the final say on whether to detain or release defendants.

Several lawmakers on the committee questioned some of the language in the bill, asking whether it would violate the state constitution.

The bill now moves to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will likely undergo further scrutiny.

Missing persons: A bill to create an annual "Missing in New Mexico" event to support people with missing loved ones received unanimous approval from the Senate.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 13, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said the legislation was recommended by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force.

"The recommendation ... is not just for our Indigenous communities, but it's also for everyone in the state," she said.

The event is designed to provide governments at all levels an opportunity to come together in one location and help families file missing persons reports, update missing persons reports, submit DNA records or meet with an investigator.

Open primaries: The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted 6-3 to approve House Joint Resolution 5, which would amend the state's election code and allow voters who have declined to state their party affiliation to cast ballots in primaries.

Right now such voters, often referred to as independents, cannot vote in Democratic, Republican or Libertarian primaries.

Voters affiliated with a minor party would still be unable to participate in a primary election unless they change their voter registration to "decline to state."

If the resolution passes both chambers, voters would decide whether to approve it in the next general election.

Candelaria's absence: Sen. Jacob Candelaria, an Albuquerque Democrat turned independent, has been noticeably absent from floor sessions in the Senate since the Legislature convened Jan. 18.

Candelaria, one of the most vocal lawmakers in the chamber, said there's no reason for him to be there, at least not at this point.

"There's nothing happening on the floor sessions," he said in a telephone interview. "There's a lot of procedure and pageantry right now, and so with a husband who's working in [an intensive care unit] right now, I'm not going to put myself at risk to go up there and sit for pageantry."

So far, the Senate's floor sessions have largely consisted of the introduction of legislation and the reading of messages from the governor.

Candelaria, who has announced he won't seek reelection in 2024, said he pushed unsuccessfully for a rule that would allow senators to appear remotely for floor sessions.

"I'll be up there when there's actually bills for me to vote on," he said.

Quote of the day: "I had a fur vest and no shirt underneath, and it wasn't a pretty sight." — General Services Department Secretary John A. Garcia, who once won a Sonny Bono lookalike contest, to the Senate Rules Committee, which was considering his confirmation to the governor's Cabinet. The committee endorsed the appointment, and the full Senate later unanimously confirmed it. Garcia also told the committee he sings "no better than Sonny Bono, so I won't put you through that today."