SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Amid the start of the 2023 legislative session in Santa Fe, New Mexico Democrats held a news conference late Tuesday morning, addressing legislative priorities they hope to tackle. House Speaker-elect, Representative Javier Martinez helmed the news conference, as Martinez is slated to begin his first term controlling the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
“As Speaker, I vow to keep doors open for all and everyone, from every walk of life, from every county, from any political affiliation, any age group, race, gender, etc.” Martinez said at Tuesday’s news conference. “Democrats don’t have all of the answers, I know, our colleagues on the other side have ideas as well, and I’ve committed them and I commit to the people of the state to make sure those ideas are heard and incorporated, and we can find common ground.”
Martinez’s comments come less than 24-hours after the arrest of former Republican House candidate Solomon Peña tied to shootings at the homes of four lawmakers in the Albuquerque area. Albuquerque Police have accused Peña of conspiring with and paying four other men to shoot at lawmakers homes.
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Of the arrest, Martinez said Tuesday he is “incredible grateful” of the work of police and other officials for their work on the case. He also said he was relieved and “ready to get down to the business of the people.”
“It’s long overdue that we lower the temperature,” Martinez said of the case. “These are the things that can happen when rhetoric gets out of hand.”
Democrats will continue control both the House and Senate in the 2023 session by wide margins. 45 Democrats will outnumber the 25 Republicans in the House. Meanwhile, 28 Democrats will outnumber the 15 Republicans in the Senate.
Outlining priorities, Democratic Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski mentioned the state’s continued record tax revenues as an opportunity to make “transformational change” and “set a course for the future.” Bullet-pointing topics, Szczepanski outlined community safety, teachers and students, affordable housing and health care access, infrastructure and environment.
On the crime front, Martinez spoke of “a couple of pretty proactive public safety bills,” including legislation to address organized retail crime. He said he is focus on crime prevention and deterrents, and that some of the bills have bipartisan support.
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Gun safety was another highlight for Martinez, saying the issue has “no silver bullet” to address it. “There’s not one silver bullet that is going to solve the public safety problem it’s got to be an all hands on deck approach, it’s got to be a well thought out approach to ensure that our communities can be safer,” Martinez said.
The incoming speaker also spoke of what he calls “legislative modernization.” That includes the idea switching away from New Mexico’s longstanding volunteer legislature, which doesn’t offer a salary to lawmakers in Santa Fe.
“It is not simply Democrats trying to give themselves a raise,” Martinez said. “This is truly about building a more equitable more fair, more effective and more efficient system of government for the people of New Mexico, from blue counties to red counties and everything in between.”
The news conference comes just before Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to deliver her State of the State speech. Alongside Martinez, Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey, Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski and Majority Caucus Chair Ray Lara took part in the news conference. Martinez is expected to replace previous speaker Brian Egolf, who retired from the state legislature at the end of 2022.