ABQ City Council Redistricting Plan Passes on 5-4 Vote

By Matthew Reichbach

The Albuquerque City Council approved a redistricting map that will eliminate Commissioner Ike Benton’s district, which includes Albuquerque’s downtown area, and move it to the fast-growing westside part of the city. The map, which passed on a 5-4 party-line vote, uses the Rio Grande as a border.

Benton would be paired with Debbie O’Malley in a district that includes downtown and the North Valley areas of Albuquerque.

The map goes to Mayor Richard Berry who is likely to sign the redistricting map — but the battle likely won’t end there, as opponents say the map “packs” minorities in one district, diluting the minority voting strength, which would violate the Voters Rights Act.

The newly created Westside district, while expected to still be friendly to Democrats, would have a super majority of Hispanics — 82 percent. This is why opponents of the map say that the city council “packed” the district with minority voters at the expense of other districts. According to the U.S. Census, Albuquerque is 46.7 percent Hispanic.

Opponents also pointed out that with consolidation of most of the old District 3 into O’Malley’s North Valley District 2 will mean that almost all of the city’s federally designated “pockets of poverty” will be contained in a single district.

If opponents so choose, the redistricting map could join the New Mexico House of Representatives map in the courts, drawing out the process further. Insofar as the next Albuquerque municipal election is not until 2013, however, there may not be a great sense of urgency on the part of the courts in finalizing a new council map. This would be in sharp contrast to the legal battle involving the N.M. state House of Representatives map as the clock is ticking away with an impending primary election scheduled for the first Tuesday in June.

The big winner of the new map is Albuquerque’s Westside, which would have three full districts, an increase of the current two districts and a part of another.

O’Malley introduced a competing map, which was tabled, which would have extended borders across the Rio Grande and kept all five current city councilors in their districts. Opponents of that map say they preferred that the Rio Grande be used, when possible, as a natural border for districts, something that O’Malley says is divisive for the city.

The City Council said that Benton would be allowed to continue serving until his term ends in 2013, but court action could force Benton from his seat. In that case, the mayor would be allowed to appoint a replacement, likely increasing the Republican advantage on the city council from its current 5-4 advantage to 6-3.

Odds and Ends

  • Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis, the map’s sponsor, said before the hearing that the map was neutral because it was based almost entirely on a map created by Research & Polling. Ironically, Republicans involved in the state House redistricting case have made an major issue in their court filings of what they allege is the Democratic bias of the very same Research & Polling and its owner, Brian Sanderoff, which also performed the technical mapping work for the  state legislature.

The plan that scuttled congressional redistricting

By Matthew Reichbach

Democrats in southern New Mexico — including one who is often mentioned as a possible congressional candidate in the 2nd congressional district — objected to the congressional redistricting plan, sending the plan to its doom in the legislative session. With all Republicans opposed to the redistricting map, Democrats needed to be united to pass the bill.

On Saturday, which ended up being the final day of the special session, Democrats spent all morning and into the afternoon in a caucus. Reporters and the public waited for the legislators to emerge and begin work on the final touches of the special session which many assumed would include congressional redistricting. The congressional redistricting plan did not come up before the House adjourned sine die.

NMPolitics.net first reported that that the hang up was with southern New Mexico Democrats.

Lawmakers failed to even pass a plan for congressional redistricting after a handful of Southern New Mexico Democrats in the House refused to go with their party’s plan that would have essentially abandoned the southern 2nd Congressional District to Republicans.

Without the votes to pass the plan most House Democrats wanted, the House adjourned Saturday without approving a congressional redistricting plan.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Rep. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) was one of those opposed to the congressional map.

The Senate’s plan, Cervantes said, would have conceded the 2nd District to Republicans and continued to give Democrats a stranglehold on the 3rd District, which covers northern New Mexico.

“I don’t think any citizen of the state wants to be relegated to a de facto congressman from one party or the other,” Cervantes said in an interview Saturday.

The reaction to the lack of legislative congressional plan was swift. The Santa Fe New Mexico reported Monday that a “flurry of lawsuits” have been introduced in state court, including one by Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe).

The last time New Mexico went to court for redistricting, in 2001, the state paid $3.5 million in court fees.

With the governor likely to veto state House and Senate plans, the number of court cases over redistricting will likely grow in the coming days.

The Cervantes’ Plan

Cervantes is often mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

Cervantes entered the congressional race for the 2008 election but dropped out in late 2007 citing family concerns.

So what was the alternative redistricting plan that Cervantes favored?

That would be (HB46) which he introduced just three days before the end of the special session. It clearly was designed to make the CD2 more competitive in that it raised the average Democratic performance rating up to 49.8%.

This feat was accomplished by carving the heavily Democratic south valley of Albuquerque out of CD1 and transferring it to the southern CD2 along with Las Cruces, Silver City and Hobbs — while transferring most of the city of Roswell in Chaves County from CD2 into the northern CD3 along with Santa Fe and Taos.

Under the Cervantes plan, the CD3 Democratic stronghold would have been transformed into a far more competitive district as well. The prospect of Congressman Ben Ray Lujan holding constituent forums in Tea Party dominated Roswell would have made for some interesting political theater.

And, Cervantes’ CD1, when compared to its configuration in the plan passed by the Senate, would have set the average Democratic performance dial down to 52%, which is roughly where it has rested for the last 30 years.

It should be noted that this partisan performance index was created by Research and Polling for redistricting purposes. It represents an average of 12 contested statewide races, most of them down-ballot, that occurred from 2004 to 2010, making it an ideal benchmark for comparing expected district performances in down-ballot legislative contests.

However, other factors would seem to be at play in New Mexico’s congressional races.

Significantly, a review New Mexico’s congressional contests through the years shows that in these high-profile, top-of-the-ballot federal congressional races, Democratic candidates consistently have underperformed in this particular index rating in all three districts.

For example, since New Mexico went to three congressional districts in 1982, the Albuquerque-dominated CD1 has elected a Republican to Congress 14 out of 16 times (15 regular and 1 special election) — even though it has always been acknowledged to have been a swing district.

How can that be a swing district? Prior to the Democratic breakthrough in the 2008 Obama landslide year with Martin Heinrich (who just scraped by in his 2010 re-election), several of those races were very close — most significantly, Wilson’s win by a whisker over Madrid in 2006.

CD2 in southern New Mexico has been an entirely different matter. Only Harry Teague’s one-term occupancy (2009-2010) broke a perfect Republican string since 1982, and none of those other contests were close.

Sour Note Sine Die: Vetoes promised and no congressional plan, but there’s always capital outlay

By Matthew Reichbach

The special session ended and Gov. Susana Martinez’s ambitious agenda went largely unaddressed. The controversial driver’s license issue fizzled, the unemployment fund fix that sailed through both chambers in the regular session died on the vine and the fireworks ban was rarely mentioned.

The legislature passed a number of redistricting bills, but a congressional redistricting bill that did not change the political balance was unable to be heard in the House before adjournment.

The failure to pass a new Congressional map puts the state in uncharted waters. Presumably it’s another legal tangle for the courts to fix.

All the other redistricting bills went to the governor’s desk where she is expected to veto them.

Capital outlay legislation passed but at a smaller spending amount than Martinez requested. It has been promoted by both sides of the aisle as a way to create badly needed jobs and boost New Mexico’s distressed economy.

Despite its job-creation potential, capital outlay has had a rough go of it this year already. In the regular session, two Senate Republicans, Sens. Rod Adair (R-Roswell) and John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) held an impromptu filibuster that killed another capital outlay bill in the waning minutes prior to adjournment. On that occasion, the two Senators were demanding that the Senate hear the Governor’s social promotion bill.

The special session also produced a Medicaid fix which also extended the state food stamp supplement for elderly and disabled citizens and a bill to provide for in-state preference for state purchases.

And the session ended with the House and Senate once again at odds. The Senate adjourned late Friday evening after passing the capital outlay bill — at a lower rate than the governor requested — leaving the House to either agree with the Senate’s version or let the capital outlay fail for the second time in the year.

Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) said that the Senate left the House with the choice of either to pass the Senate version or let the legislation die.

“The Senate has gone home, guys,” Maestas said while debating a Republican amendment. “They shirked their responsibilities to the people of New Mexico but we did not.”

Only Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell) voted against the legislation.

Maestas brought up the specter of recessing for three days — and Rep. David Doyle (R-Albuquerque) agreed that he might agree with that tactic — and forcing the Senate to reconvene. Ultimately, the House passed the capital outlay bill by a wide margin and another bill related to changing precincts in Bernalillo County before voting to go home.

The successful vote to adjourn sine die was the last of several sine die attempts to shut down the session throughout the afternoon. The others failed to pass until Reps. Andy Nunez (I-Hatch) and Sandra Jeff (D-Crownpoint) sided with the Republicans on the votes to go home.

Speaker of the House Ben Lujan ended the special session with a short speech.

“I want to thank the body for indulging and passing a number of other critical items on the governor’s call important to our citizens,” Lujan said as the House members prepared to go home for the last time.

This was the first redistricting special session in which the governor added other subjects beyond redistricting to the call.

The redistricting itself is headed to the courts. The legislature failed to pass a congressional map and Martinez has vowed to veto other maps. In 2001, New Mexico was in a similar situation, with a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature.

Then-Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed the Congressional and state House redistricting legislation and the lines were ultimately drawn by the courts.

This may not be the last time the Legislature is in session this year, however. It may take up the impeachment of Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr., possibly as soon as November. If Block is impeached by the House and found guilty by the Senate, the Senate can strip Block of his elected position.

More on the Congressional remap void

By failing to pass a congressional redistricting plan, the legislature failed to fulfill one of its most fundamental tasks for a redistricting session.What happened?

An impasse in the House Democratic Caucus may have contributed to what may be an unprecedented outcome.

The Senate did pass a congressional plan that would have left the current district configurations slightly altered to equalize population per Census requirements. CD3 would have still represented northern New Mexico and CD2 the south. CD1 would have still been dominated by Albuquerque, which makes up over 90% of its population.

However, on the House side, a plan being pushed by Rep. Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) was dividing the House Democratic Caucus. With the Democrats razor-thin majority of just one in the House, the inability to achieve consensus proved fatal.

The Cervantes plan would have represented a radical departure from the long-standing configuration that has endured ever since New Mexico gained its third congressional district after the 1980 Census. Cervantes’ plan would have shifted the entire south valley of Albuquerque into CD2.

Cervantes has shown interest in running for Congress in the past. He starting raising money for a 2008 CD2 run, but dropped out. If  Cervantes had the backing for his plan from his aunt, House Voters and Election Committee chair Mary Helen Garcia (D-Anthony), who supported his unsuccessful run for Speaker in January, that would have been more than enough to ensure gridlock.

Ball Now In House’s Court: Senate passes capital outlay, adjourns sine die

By Matthew Reichbach

The state Senate adjourned sine die shortly after 1 a.m. on Saturday morning after passing the capital outlay bill. The capital outlay bill passed on a near-unanimous vote after several hours of debate on a number of amendments, including a floor substitute cosponsored by a member of each party, that all ultimately failed.

With the Senate adjourning sine die (pronounced in New Mexico’s Legislature as “Sign-ee Die”), much of Gov. Susana Martinez’s large special session agenda is doomed. This includes the controversial issue of drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants that prompted national headlines.

The unchanged capital outlay bill will now head to the House. The bill would put $86 million towards public works projects throughout the state. This was a sharp cut from the $213 million that Martinez had requested.

The bill will now head to the House.

The smaller amount of projects would allow lawmakers $130 million in severance tax bond capacity for the 2012 regular session, Senator Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa) said according to a press release from the Senate Democrats.

Included in the bill were water projects for Northern New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, renovations to state buildings and improvements to state-run prisons.

One of the main objections to those who voted against the amendments to add projects to the bill was that there was already more than $400 million appropriated from past capital outlay bills that still has not been spent as the projects are not ready to be completed.

Sine die

The Senate adjourned with sine die, saying that they have completed their work for the special session. The Senate passed all the redistricting bills it is responsible for and now it is up to the House to concur with the amendments.

The House can call the Senate back into session. If the House does not adjourn in 72 hours, not counting Sunday, the Senate is compelled by law to come back. This is very unlikely to happen this year, though it has happened in the past — the last time as recently as 2007.

The Senate’s action pressures the House to adopt the Senate version of legislation without changing it. If not, the Senate would have to concur with the legislation before the House adjourns or the legislation would die.

In the first special session in 2007, the Senate adjourned sine die three times — the first two times the House compelled the Senate to come back.

The Senate did not believe that there was enough of an emergency to warrant a special session. Domestic partnership was one of then-Gov. Bill Richardson’s big reasons for calling the special session but it obviously did not pass.

Bipartisan floor amendment fails

Sens. Eric Griego (D-Albuquerque) and John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) cosponsored a floor substitute to the capital outlay bill that would have disbursed $212 million in capital outlay spending. The floor substitute was rejected by the Senate on a 18-23 vote.

The leadership of both parties, as well as Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), voted against the floor substitute.

Legislators spent more than three hours discussing the floor substitute and numerous amendments to the substitute.

The numerous add-on projects in the floor amendments submitted by Senators prompted Smith to ask if it was Christmas. He said the items in the original bill were vetted and the projects that members tried to add to the legislation were not vetted.

“If I voted for this, and it wasn’t responsible spending in my district, it’s the responsibility of my constituents to send me home,” Smith said.

The end of the debate came with talk about a drug treatment facility featuring an impassioned speech by Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-Belen).

Sanchez said that the treatment facility funding was not in the bill but his constituents had been told that it was.

When a constituent called from his office, Sanchez said, “They were told yes in front of me. And we found out that it was not there.”

The funding was added in the floor substitute, but Sanchez said that it would not cause him to vote for the legislation.

“My vote’s not for sale,” said the emotional Sanchez. “It never will be for sale. I fight for what I believe in, in the truth. And if we can’t do that, then it’s a sad day for New Mexico.”

Votes on the amendments did not break upon party lines. One stark difference was an amendment to strip $30 million in funding in the floor substitute for a Paseo del Norte interchange. The amendment passed with Albuquerque-area Senators, of both parties, voting against it and Senators from other areas, especially rural areas, voting to strip the funding.

Odds and Ends

  • The Senate also passed the House redistricting legislation that is destined to be vetoed by Martinez. The debate over the bill was became quite heated as Adair called the plan “racist.”
  • “This is modern day, institutionalized racism carried over into the 21st Century,” Adair said, saying that Native Americans were not well served by the plan.
  • Sen. George Munoz (D-Gallup) objected and said, “Sen Adair’s comments are really offensive because he doesn’t live in that district.” Munoz was chastised by Adair for “attacking members by name.”
  • Sen. Lynda Lovejoy, a Navajo from Crownpoint, also challenged Adair’s account: “The Native American Consensus Work Grouphat, comprised of the pueblos, the Navajos and the Apaches, supported this bill. They have been here working with both chambers since Sept. 6. To paint an image that they have been ignored, overlooked and not listened to is absolutely not factual. The Native American Work Group are in full support of both the House and the  Senate redistricting plans.
  • The capital outlay debate was necessary in this special session because the bill failed in the regular session because of a filibuster by two Republicans, Sens. Ryan and Rod Adair (R-Roswell).
  • Debate on the legislation began before 9:00 pm on Friday night and ended after 1:00 in the morning.
  • Sen. Kent Cravens (R-Albuquerque) is expected to leave the state legislature to take a job as governmental affairs director for the N.M. Oil and Gas Association. Cravens gave a short farewell speech in which he said, “By God, we’ve done some really good things for the state.”
  • Adair was the only Senator to vote against the capital outlay bill although he did vote for some of the failed amendments. President Pro Tem Tim Jennings (D-Roswell) was not present for the session.

Court battle looms over redistricting

By Matthew Reichbach

The governor has vowed to veto redistricting legislation, setting the stage for a court battle for the second straight time in New Mexico. Redistricting of the House, Senate, Public Regulations Commission and Congress, which happens every ten years after the census, has been the subject of partisan battles throughout the special session.

So far, none of the redistricting maps have had bipartisan support, beyond the House redistricting bill which received the vote of Hatch independent Andy Nunez. One Democrat, Sandra Jeff of Crownpoint, voted against the legislation.

Republicans claim that Democrats have their fingers on the scales and are crafting districts that will make it more difficult for Republicans to win. Democrats say they have done nothing wrong and are drafting maps that follow the principle of equal representation and the precepts of the Voting Rights Act.

One example of the large differences can be seen in the respective House redistricting maps. The Democratic map moves districts from southeast New Mexico and central Albuquerque to Rio Rancho and Albuquerque’s westside to address the explosion in population in that area of the state — but the Republican plan moves a southeastern seat and a seat from north-central New Mexico.

The court battle when then-Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed the redistricting legislation passed by the legislature in 2001 cost the state more than $3 million.

House remap plan clears two committees, goes to House floor

By Matthew Reichbach

A redistricting map that would consolidate a district in southeast New Mexico and one east of the river in Albuquerque and move the seats to Rio Rancho and Albuquerque’s westside cleared two House committees and appears poised to pass the full House on a narrow vote.

The House Voters and Elections Committee Substitute to House Bill 39 passed the House Voters and Elections and House Judiciary committees on party-line votes. All Democrats voted for the bill and all Republicans voted against the bill.

Republicans in the House Voters and Elections committee, in front of a relatively-packed room, objected strongly to the legislation.

Rep. Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque) questioned Research & Polling, Inc. president Brian Sanderoff on what he was told by the members who crafted the maps. Gentry asked about possible political motivations that the crafters of the map may have had when drafting the legislation.

On a PRC redistricting bill last week, Gentry told Clearly New Mexico that the legislators did not have enough time to examine the map.

Floor Minority Leader Ken Martinez (D-Grants) chastised Gentry in the House Voters and Elections for what he viewed as overly aggressive line of questioning towards Sanderoff.

Gentry also asked Sanderoff about the legal principles of redistricting in the House Judiciary Committee.

“It seems for some purpose that Rep. Gentry is trying a case and I don’t know why,” Martinez said.

“In looking at my new district, which is a bright-red precinct, it seems as if the number one goal simply was to reduce my [political] performance,” Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque) said, referring to Research and Polling’s political performance measure which looks at how candidates from each political parties in close statewide elections performed in each district.

Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) read performance numbers in the House Judiciary Committee and said that the Democratic proposal had more competitive districts, when it came to using the political performance measures. He also noted that Democrats could have made a larger number of districts with broad Democratic majorities.

“There is a lot that is being left on the table if the Democratic leadership in the House wanted to press its advantage,” Egolf said.

While most Native American tribes were on board with the legislation, the Navajo Nation expressed concern about some of the districts with Navajo majorities. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Trip Jennings, two Navajo members of the legislature are split on the bill. Rep. Ray Begaye (D-Shiprock) supports the legislation while Rep. Sandra Jeff (D-Crownpoint) opposes the legislation.

Begaye told Jennings that the opposition was not the consensus of the Navajo Nation but a “certain elite few.”

If the Republicans vote in a bloc against the legislation and the all Democrats but Jeff vote for the bill, as expected, Rep. Andy Nuñez, I-Hatch, will be the swing vote on the legislation.

Odd and Ends

  • All requests of the Legislative Council Service in drafting legislation are confidential between LCS and the member. This includes Research and Polling, as a contractor of LCS. The legislators were reminded of this in both committees.
  • The House had to go to the floor between committees to approve the committee reports from the House Voters and Elections Committee before the House Judiciary Committee could begin.
  • The committees also passed Senate Bill 24, which is a Public Regulations Commission redistricting map. The House Voters and Elections Committee amended the legislation to move one precinct back into District 3 from another district. The committee amended the bill instead of using a committee substitute as the legislature has been doing for redistricting legislation because the bill originated in the Senate.
  • Republican legislators were concerned that Tucumcari was split into three legislative districts. “In redistricting, not every town is a winner,” Sanderoff said, noting that Rio Rancho has been hard-hit in the past.

Senate passes its redistricting bill

By Matthew Reichbach

The full Senate passed a redistricting bill that would pit two sets of incumbents against each other, including two from the same party. The bill passed the Senate on a party line vote with all Democrats voting for the bill and all Republicans voting against it.

Republicans were not on board with the proposal in any way.

The proposal would put Sens. William Burt (R-Alamogordo) and Rod Adair (R-Roswell) in the same district. the bill would move Burt’s district into Rio Rancho, the fastest-growing part of the state. Rural areas have either stayed the same in population or lost population while urban areas, especially west of the river in Albuquerque’s metro area, have grown at a faster pace than the rest of the state.

Burt expressed concern that Alamogordo will not be represented fairly.

“If Senator Adair and Senator [Vernon] Asbill (R-Carlsbad) end up representing Alamogordo, that would just be wrong,” Burt said. He added this is not because of Adair or Asbill themselves but because neither reside in Alamogordo.

The district that is moved from southeastern New Mexico would move to a part of Rio Rancho that has more registered Republicans (42.8 percent) than Democrats (38.2 percent).

Sens. Dede Feldman (D-Albuquerque) and John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) would also be placed in the same district. Ryan’s current district, which stretches from Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights into portions of Rio Rancho, would move fully over to the westside.

The districts of Sens. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) and Eric Griego (D-Albuquerque) would also be combined. Griego is not running for reelection and is instead running for congress in Albuquerque’s 1st Congressional District.

Republicans also raised the possibility that Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, would veto the legislation. This would likely result in a court battle that would be costly to the state. The last time the state went to court when then-Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, vetoed House and Congressional redistricting in 1991. It ended up costing the state over $3.5 million in court costs.

Johnson also vetoed the Senate redistricting, but the Senate was able to go back and find a compromise bill before the Senate was up for election in 2004.

“Maybe, for some twisted reason, we have to start with something like this before we get reasonable,” Ryan said. “This is not reasonable.”

Democrats largely let the Republicans take the floor to speak about the bill. Only sponsor Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) and Mary Jane Garcia (D-Dona Ana) spoke in support of the bill before its passage.

“There are going to be losers. There are going to be those who will gain and that is the nature of the business that we are in at this point in time with redistricting,” said Lopez according to the Associated Press.

Afterward, Sen. John Sapien (D-Bernalillo) released a statement on Facebook saying that the map reflects the population shifts in the state of New Mexico over the past decade.

“Albuquerque and Rio Rancho have both experienced significant growth,” Sapien wrote. “These factors have led to the decisions regarding redistricting.”

According to the 2010 Census, 40 percent of the population growth statewide during the last decade occurred in a 20-mile narrow strip on the west side of Albuquerque.

Senate redistricting takes step forward

By Matthew Reichbach

A map to redistrict the state Senate moved forward from the Senate Judiciary Committee despite objections from Republicans. The state Senate map would consolidate two Senate seats in southeast New Mexico and move the district to the fast-growing area of Rio Rancho. The plan would also pit an incumbent Democrat against a Republican in Albuquerque and two Democratic seats in Albuquerque will be combined.

The big news comes from the districts of Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, and Rod Adair, R-Roswell, being put in the same district. The Republican version of the map avoided pitting any Republican incumbents against each other.

The bill, a committee substitute that was introduced Tuesday, passed on a party-line vote with all Democrats voting for the proposal and all Republicans voting against the proposal in a late-night vote.

Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, and Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, would also face each other in 2012. The Alamogordo Daily News reported that Ryan, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, was unfazed at the prospect of running against Feldman, saying, “She’s old.”

The Associated Press reports that the map will also add more likely Democratic voters to the districts of several freshman Democrats.

Sens. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque, and Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, would also have their districts combined. There is little controversy about this because Griego is running for congress in the 1st Congressional District instead of running for reelection in 2012.

Democrats defended themselves over accusations that their plan was no bipartisan by saying that they did not receive any invitations to help craft the Republican version.

A lawyer for Gov. Susana Martinez spoke before the hearing and warned of the costs of court battles if the legislature passes a bill that the governor ultimately vetoes. The last time that redistricting happened in New Mexico, Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed the House and congressional redistricting plans and it ended up costing the state millions of dollars in court fees.

It is worth noting that during that 2001-02 redistricting process a “compromise” state Senate plan was passed the Senate and signed by Governor Johnson, thereby avoiding the court-ordered fate of the House and congressional plans.

That plan was considered a compromise “bipartisan incumbent protection plan” in which the pairing of incumbents was avoided.

What was remarkable about that plan was in how it accomplished that difficult incumbent preservation feat while at the same time addressing the reality of declining relative population on the eastside of the state. Essentially, those districts had to grow in geographic size to capture needed population.

That was ten years ago. Yet, the same population dynamic is at work today — only more so given the even more extraordinary surge of growth on Albuquerque’s westside.

For just one example of how extreme the geographic expansion of a district can get in the decade-defying pursuit of its preservation in the face of declining relative population, one only need look at how the Adair seat (SD33) is handled in the preferred Republican plan (SB34).

Under that SB34 plan Senator Adair, who resides in Roswell (which currently has portions of four state Senate districts) would see his district expand its boundaries to within just 10 miles of the Albuquerque city limits.

Like someone said. Redistricting is a complicated business.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the redistricting plan Wednesday morning.

Senate passes congressional, PRC redistricting maps

By Matthew Reichbach

The state Senate debated and passed two redistricting proposals Monday. The Senate passed redistricting maps for both the Public Regulations Commission and congressional districts on party-line votes Monday.

Republicans objected to both plans and for different reasons.

Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque), who proposed the congressional plan, noted that her map brings the west-Albuquerque areas of Paradise Hills and Ventana Ranch into the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District. The village of Corrales and Placitas were also moved into the 1st Congressional District. All were previously located in the 3rd Congressional District.

The map would also move the rural counties of Torrance, Guadalupe and De Baca to the 3rd Congressional district.

Rural portions of Roosevelt county were moved from the 3rd Congressional District into the 2nd Congressional District.

Rio Rancho, the fastest-growing part of the state over the last decade, would remain in the 3rd Congressional District in the proposal.

The Republicans proposed their own congressional redistricting map as a floor substitute sponsored by Sen. Kent Cravens (R-Albuquerque), but it went down on another party line vote. It would have placed a portion of Albuquerque’s North Valley along Fourth Street into CD3 and a larger portion of the South Valley into CD2.

Democrats expressed concerns about the significant encroachments into the core of the Albuquerque metro area by both the northern New Mexico district (CD3) and the southern district (CD2).

Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) observed that under the Republican plan, all three congressmen could potentially live within 10 miles of his house.

Republicans had a number of objections to the Democratic proposal. Sen. Cravens, who was the Republican who introduced his own map, said that Torrance County has historically been a part of the 1st Congressional District and that it should remain in the district that is generally considered the Albuquerque district.

Public Regulations Commission map clears Senate

The PRC plan that the Senate passed had less debate but was still controversial to some.

A common complaint from Republicans was that the PRC map would assure that four of the five PRC commissioners are Democrats, basing their numbers off the Performance Measure that Brian Sanderoff adds to the plans. The performance measure averages the vote in statewide elections in each district.

“Anything over 54% is going to be a lock, we know that,” Cravens said during debate on the bill.

Cravens suggested that the House “Go back to the drawing board and take a look at these things and make it a little more fair.”

Odds and Ends

  • Sen. Clint Harden (R-Clovis) accidentally voted for the congressional map. It was changed afterward but Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-Belen) said that the Senate wouldn’t allow such changes in the future.
  • The Traditional Values Action Committee, a socially conservative non-profit which is pro-life and opposes gay marriage, said that they met with Gov. Susana Martinez last week. Sen. Bill Sharer (R-Farmington) and Dennis Roch (R-Tucumcari) were also at the meeting according to the group.
  • Committees in both the House and Senate continued to meet throughout the day.
  • The buzzword of the day on the Senate floor was “communities of interest,” as members argued what a community of interest meant. Redistricting the Nation says, “The term can be taken to mean anything from ethnic groups to those with shared economic interests to users of common infrastructure to those in the same media market.”

House passes PRC redistricting bill

By Matthew Reichbach

The House of Representatives voted Monday morning to clear a Public Regulations Commission redistricting bill. The bill, which faced some controversy during the committee process,

The bill passed 37-33 along partisan lines. The House currently is composed of 36 Democrats, 1 DTS, and 33 Republicans.

Rep. William “Bill” Rehm, R-Albuquerque, expressed concern over the plan’s 1st PRC district. He said that since the plan has District 1 extending north out of Bernalillo County, that district will combine areas that do not have the same interests.

The PRC is made up of just five districts. Historically, this has meant that districts have by necessity been composed of a diverse range of communities.

The bill had little debate on the floor before passing the chamber.

The bill now goes over to the Senate. The Senate has its own redistricting plan which the whole body is scheduled to discuss and vote on Monday.

Afterwards, the House had a moment of silence for longtime Ute Mountain Tribal Council member Ernest House Sr., who passed away Saturday following a motorcycle crash.