NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – In addition to choosing candidates, voters can also consider changes to the state’s constitution. On the ballot are three proposed amendments, so here’s what you need to know about each.
Amendment 1: School funding and calendar changes
The first amendment on the ballot could impact education in New Mexico. Currently, New Mexico’s public schools receive a regular annual distribution of state funds to provide free public education. This proposed amendment increases how much schools receive.
The amendment would add an additional 1.25% of the average five-year value of the state’s Permanent School Fund investment portfolio. Of that, 40% of the additional funds would go to “enhanced instruction for at-risk students,” which could include extending the school year, according to the state’s Legislative Council Service. And 60% would go to pre-K education.
Some protections are built into the constitution that would limit the power of this amendment. For example, if three-fifths of the state’s legislators vote to do so, they can put a pause on the funding.
Amendment 2: Anti-donation clause
Currently, the state’s constitution prohibits the government from donating or lending money or property to individuals, businesses, or associations. This is known as the “anti-donation clause,” preventing legislators from simply handing over funds when non-profits or businesses ask for help.
There are already a few exceptions to that rule. Currently, the state’s constitution allows the government to make donations to care for the sick, fund veterans’ scholarships and scholarships for healing arts, help expand job opportunities by investing in legislature-approved businesses, or create affordable housing.
Now, a proposed amendment would allow the government to fund “essential services” projects, such as expanding internet, energy, or water services to the public. The proposed amendment includes some protections, such as the requirement that projects have to be approved by a majority of legislators.
Amendment 3: Judge service timelines
The third constitutional amendment on the ballot deals with the state’s judicial branch. It would require the state to allow judges to serve for one year before they can be replaced by election.
To decide who becomes a judge in New Mexico’s courts, qualified candidates have to be elected. That applies to everyone from the judges at magistrate court up to the state’s supreme court. But if a judicial vacancy opens in the supreme court or court of appeals, the state’s governor can appoint a judge (from a list provided by a nominating committee) to fill in.
Currently, the state’s constitution allows those appointed judges to serve only until the next general election. So they could be in place for only a few months.
This has happened a handful of times, including in April of 2018, when District Judge Gary Clingman was appointed to the Supreme Court. He was only able to serve until Michael Vigil defeated him later that year in an election. Vigil is still in the process of serving an eight-year term.
The proposed constitutional amendment would allow appointed judges to serve for at least one full year. Then they’d be replaced via a general election.
The proposed amendment also adjusts the language of this section of the constitution to be more gender-neutral. For example, the term “chairman” would be replaced with “chair.”
Deciding to vote for or against constitutional amendments
Given the complex nature of constitutional changes, some voters might find it helpful to have a list of pros and cons for each. The state’s Legislative Council Service has just that.
At this link, you’ll find more info about each proposed amendment. And you’ll find brief arguments for and against each proposed change. The Secretary of State’s Office provides a similar document in Spanish.