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New Mexico legislative session begins with much on the to-do list

The 2011 legislative special session begins today in Santa Fe to deal with the once-per-decade process of redistricting, but Gov. Susana Martinez has demanded lawmakers repeal driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and end social promotion for third-graders, among other provisions.

The legislature will take up the redistricting of congressional and legislative districts. New Mexico did not gain or lose any seats in reapportionment, but congressional districts may change slightly. In addition, districts for the Public Regulation Commission and the state Public Education Commission must be redrawn according to 2010 U.S. Census numbers. This took 17 days in 2001, and state courts ended up deciding the exact boundaries.

More than the constitutionally mandated decennial process of redistricting, Martinez wants the legislature to bring up ending driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, ending social promotion for third-graders and giving municipalities more control over banning fireworks — an unprecedented step in the session that typically only includes redistricting.

The first two items are unlikely to pass. Bills ending driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and social promotion died in the Senate last year, and that’s unlikely to change. Giving local governments more control to ban fireworks has more support given the forest fires over the summer, but lawmakers may decide to wait until the regular session if the redistricting process drags out. According to the Legislative Council Service, It costs taxpayers $50,000 per day to keep legislators in Santa Fe, and the session cannot last more than 30 days.

Urgent items that are much less controversial are expected to pass. Some of these include shoring up the state’s unemployment compensation fund, securing funding for state supplemental food assistance, highway maintenance funding, and additional capital outlays.

The House will also begin a subcommittee to investigate whether the full House should consider impeachment against PRC Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr., who allegedly ran up charges to a state-issued gas card, drove with a suspended license for a year, and faces criminal charges due to campaign finance violations. Block has admitted to an addiction to oxycodone — commonly known by its brand name, OxyContin. It’s not yet clear whether the full House will consider impeachment during the special session or whether the legislature will be called into an extraordinary session to impeach Block.

You can watch the special session here.

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