SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The special session is now underway in Santa Fe, with lawmakers drawing new political boundaries and deciding how to spend a billion dollars in leftover stimulus money. The Senate kicked off the redistricting talks on Monday for a couple of hours, reviewing congressional map recommendations put together by a small citizen committee. “To get the boundaries that people believed represented their neighborhoods and their communities where they worked together had common social and economic interests,” Citizen Redistricting Committee Chair Edward Chavez stated.
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A state representative broke down how changing populations could affect the new boundaries, including more people on Albuquerque’s westside, and in Rio Rancho and Southeastern New Mexico. “You’re going to have to either take in new precincts or delete precincts so that changes the dynamics of who the voters are, their composition,” Rep. Ryan Lane of San Juan County stated.
The stakes in the redistricting process are especially high in Congressional District 2, which almost always swings Republican. One big question is how much of the Albuquerque area could be shifted into that district.
A congressional map option presented, called Concept E, would move the unincorporated South Valley to District 2. The Citizen Redistricting Committee said that change was based on public input. “We had a lot of testimony, primarily during the West Mesa meeting where people indicated that they had more in common with rural New Mexico than with Tanoan,” Chavez stated.
All three congressional map options split Albuquerque. Some of the proposed redistricting plans pair lawmakers of the same political party together, including two Democrats and two Republicans in Albuquerque. In those cases, they’d have to either move to a new district or run against each other.
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Meanwhile, Native American communities are also trying to get a larger political influence in this redistricting process. “What we look for in a state like New Mexico is splitting up communities of color and specifically Native Americans and we don’t want to do that. We want to make sure that we’re really sensitive to making sure they have a voice because they haven’t always in the past,” Rep. Damon Ely of Sandoval County stated.
As for final approval of the maps when that time comes, both chambers will have to pass identical bills to send to the governor for a final sign-off. Each redistricting plan can later be challenged in court.
The discussion over how more than $1 billion in remaining stimulus money from the American Rescue Plan is spent is expected to be quite extensive. Senator Jacob Candelaria has said he’d like to see those dollars used for small business recovery. “Last session, the legislature sent $100 million to our state’s lowest-income families and small businesses who report such low levels of profit. I think we should do something similar,” Sen. Candelaria told News 13 last month.
The special session is expected to last two weeks, just about a month before the regular session starts in January.