New Mexico legislature sends constitutional amendments on household service infrastructure and judicial vacancies to the ballot, three bond measures to the governor’s desk

The New Mexico legislature adjourned on Thursday. During the 2022 session, the legislature referred two additional constitutional amendments to the Nov. 8 ballot to join one put there during the 2021 session. The legislature also approved three bond questions that the governor must sign before they also go before voters.

One constitutional amendment would provide that a judge appointed to fill a vacancy be up for election at the first general election one year after the appointment. The judge elected to replace the appointed judge would serve the expiration of the term in effect at the time of election. Currently, the state constitution requires a judge appointed to fill a vacancy to be up for election at the next general election.

The other amendment would authorize the legislature to appropriate state funds for infrastructure that provides household services, including internet, electric, natural gas, water, and wastewater. Such appropriations would require a majority vote in each chamber. Currently, the state constitution prohibits the state from lending or pledging credit or donating to any person, association, or public or private corporation. It contains a list of specific exceptions that does not include paying for infrastructure for household services.

When a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a judge from a list of candidates recommended by a judicial nominating commission.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both chambers of the state legislature.

The amendment on elections for appointed judges was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJR 3) on Jan. 18, 2022. The state Senate passed SJR 3 on Feb. 5 in a vote of 33-1, with eight absent or excused. The sole “no” vote was Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D). The state House voted on Feb. 15 to pass the measure by a vote of 58-0 with 12 excused or absent.

The amendment on funding infrastructure for household services was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1). The state House passed HJR 1 on Feb. 10, 2022, in a vote of 43-23 with four absent or excused. The state Senate passed HJR 1 on Feb. 16, 2022, in a vote of 25-14, with three absent or excused. Both votes were along party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

During the 2022 legislative session, the state legislature also passed a bond package totaling $258.8 million for (1) senior citizen facility improvements, (2) public education, and (3) public libraries. Voters will decide each bond issue as a separate ballot question if the governor signs the bill.

During the 2021 session, the legislature referred another amendment to the 2022 ballot, which means voters will see three constitutional amendments and, pending the governor’s signature, three bond questions on Nov. 8. The amendment from the 2021 session would allocate an additional 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) to early childhood education and the public school permanent fund increasing the total annual distribution to 6.25%.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Mexico voters approved 87% (89 of 102) and rejected 13% (13 of 103) of the ballot measures that appeared statewide.

Additional reading: