The fear, expressed early on in the session, that history could repeat itself seemed closer to becoming an actuality as legislators embarked on the final week of the special session on Monday with no redistricing plans ready to be seen by Governor Susana Martinez.
The legislature last took up redistricting in 2001. After meeting for 17 days, legislators and then Republican Governor Gary Johnson were unable to come to an agreement, which caused the state courts to decide on the state House and congressional redistricting maps at a cost of $3.5 million to taxpayers. That money went to attorney’s fees to settle the disagreements.
A frustrated Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, said lawmakers seem to forget that they are in session on the taxpayer’s dime. “We have enough funding where we can be holding other committees at the same time as we are killing time.”
Although the speaker has assigned a few bills to various committees, such as Rep. Andy Nunez’s, I-Hatch, proposal for the Driver’s License bill to the labor committee, Ezzell said those committees are not meeting, including the labor committee, of which she is a member. The governor has the right to call lawmakers back for a special session again once redistricting is dealt with. The governor has three days to approve or veto a redistricting plan, if one reaches her while legislators are still in session, and 20 days once they adjourn. “Democrats seem to forget it all hinges on what the courts decide, and what they have to look at as far as mandates sent down by federal government. I don’t think they’re seeing this whole thing through.”
Ezzell expressed particular concern over a House Bill, introduced by James Smith, R-Sandia Park, which outlines plans for the redistricting of the Public Regulation Commission. The bill skews four districts, resulting in heavily Democratic representation for these districts. According to Ezzell, Miguel County was cut down the middle under the plan. Ezzell said PRC chairman Pat Lyons was not in favor of the bill, holding the view, of many Republicans, that the plans do not provide the people in those districts with fair representation. “The speaker (Lujan) is trying to repay a favor. We’re hearing rumors that Representative Vigil wants to run for Public Regulations commissioner. Speaker Lujan wants to maintain that seat in the House and wants to help Rep. Vigil get nominated. We’re also hearing rumors that Rep. Nick Salazar is not going to run again. They (Democrats) would move it (his seat) to where it benefits them. We’re getting real convoluted here.”
The Navajo nation is also causing certain difficulties for redistricting plans, according to Ezzell. Navajo leaders want good representation for those who belong to the nation, but many Navajos have moved off of the reservations making it difficult for the leaders to justify holding their seat. “The Native American population, as far as the Four Corners area is going, is not where it normally is. Certain sectors have moved,” Ezzell said. “They’re upset because Representative (Eliseo) Alcon, who lives in that area, represents a huge population of Navajos, and he is not Navajo at all. He is Hispanic. They want Navajo representation.”
House Democrats introduced two redistricting plans Friday around 6:30 p.m. One of the two plans, House Bill 39, paired Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, with Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell. Ezzell said both bills were assigned to the House Voters and Elections Committee, where there was a motion to table both.