State lawmakers ended a 12-day special legislative session Friday by placing a final stamp of approval on a controversial Senate redistricting map and a bill clarifying language in the state’s Medical Malpractice Act.

In contrast to an evening of emotion and bitterness on the Senate floor only a few hours before, Friday’s business was reserved and efficient: the Democrat-dominated House passed and moved a redrawn Senate map to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who in the morning signed the bill that reconfigures New Mexico’s three congressional seats.

But as legislators began leaving the Capitol, several noted it wasn’t just the maps that are different.

The mood was, too.

Republicans remained angered by Democrats’ changes to maps offered by the Citizen Redistricting Committee, complaining they were altered to favor one party and also marginalize GOP Hispanics in the Legislature. But Native leaders said the session offered Indigenous people a chance to have a long-overdue say in New Mexico politics.

Those different viewpoints weren’t hard to find.

“It does appear that what we have done in this Legislature is to further divide,” said House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington.

But Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, said the bad feelings stirred by the redistricting fight were an orchestrated attempt by some to use “people of color” as “political pawns,” artificially pitting Hispanics against Native Americans.

“Our people are smarter than that,” Lente said.

Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corrales, who is Black, said the outcome of the redistricting fight will affect the state for years. Powdrell-Culbert, whose district will shift to encompass a heavily Democratic area of Sandoval County, urged lawmakers to come together to address the growing conflict.

“This [redistricting] process sucks, to be totally honest,” she said.

The debate on the Senate floor on Senate Bill 2 on Thursday whipped up emotions on all sides, as Republican senators argued the bill marginalized Hispanics and favored Democratic lawmakers. The Senate approved the measure Thursday night.

While some House Republicans, including Montoya, played many of the same notes during Friday’s debate, their tone was softer as they argued the Senate map was gerrymandered and decreases the number of majority-Hispanic voting districts by one, from 16 to 15.

House Democrats countered the approach was fair and based on a number of factors, from the need to connect communities of similar interest to adjusting for population shifts in certain parts of the state. The House voted 38-22 along party lines to approve the bill, which now goes to Lujan Grisham for her signature. Also waiting for her is the new map for the state House of Representatives, which was approved by the Senate late Thursday night.

The Senate also approved a bill amending language in the Medical Malpractice Act. That law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, puts a $4 million cap on malpractice claims against big hospitals in the state and a $750,000 limit for smaller providers.

But the law is unclear when it comes to independent providers who also serve as hospital contractors. As such, those health care providers have said they may have to close if they can’t afford the $4 million insurance for malpractice payouts.

New language added to the bill postpones enactment of those new fees for two calendar years, giving state leaders and health care providers time to find a solution.

The House on Friday voted to concur with the Senate’s changes to the bill and sent it to the governor.

New Mexico’s past efforts at redistricting have often ended up in the court system. Voting districts in New Mexico were last drawn in 2012 by a state District Court after then-Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, vetoed a redistricting plan drafted by a Legislature with a majority of Democrats following the 2010 census.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, who announced his departure from the Democratic caucus before the special session, said Thursday he and others are considering a legal challenge.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(13) comments

Peter Wyman

The Left loves to portray themselves as being above the fray; that their motives are so pure. The redistricting map is gerrymandering at its best. They were butt-hurt when Xochitl Torres Small was defeated by Yvette Harrell in the 2nd district, so they distorted the map to where the Silver City and Deming areas will have their futures determined by voters all the way up in the Albuquerque area. The Dems who voted for this are political whores.

Cindy Eakin

How about a link to the maps?

Dottie Butler

Republicans aren't concerned about non-white people in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, or Florida and they're not concerned about them in New Mexico or any other state in the union.

They're just mad about not being Texas.

Mike Johnson

So you are saying the many non-white GOP politicians in NM are not concerned about their racial/ethnic groups here?

Dottie Butler

That is what I'm saying. They've drunk Trump's Kool Aid.

Mike Johnson

I see, so non-white GOP, or conservative Ds even, can't be "real" it.

Cheryl Meyer

You don't make any sense.

Mike Johnson

Yes, there will be many lawsuits, and political battle lines will be more firmly entrenched than ever before. That is the culture of this country today everywhere. Politics has become a bloodsport, and does nothing but divide us all into waring tribes. One problem is that all this redistricting is a zero sum game. Political power is finite, and if someone gets more, someone else gets less, and fairness is a foreign concept. None of this can do anything but divide us, there is no unifying concept or principle in politics. If you win, I lose, and we know elected politicians only represent a portion of the people, not everyone. The unrepresented are just getting more and more upset about it.

Cheryl Meyer


Emily Hartigan

Mike, I seem to recall your and my agreement over the Indigenous consensus and anti-buddymandering? I sure don't affirm demonizing the Other (despite the temptations a certain Ted from my former state presents) or condemnatory rhetoric. I assume you want to try to find some ground of commonality?

Blessings -- if we can make it through the next three days, the light will increase.

For the moment, can we be glad together that the consensus map was included and elite buddying defeated?

Mike Johnson

My primary objection about this process was the secret, closed door, bilateral negotiations that ensued after The Native Americans voiced their objections, though many besides them did as well and were excluded in further negotiations. That secret process ended up in allowing The Native Americans everything they asked for, and some Democratic Party whites to be unpaired and saved., while GOP non-whites were not unpaired. That does not sound "fair" to me, and if you have any doubts what an objective, nonpartisan NM watchdog group thinks of it you should read this: "FOG believes the public's business should be conducted in full public view, the actions of the public bodies should be taken openly, and all deliberations be made open to the public, yet the Legislature has conducted their meetings about redistricting behind closed doors, in partisan enclaves, eliminating any public access to the proceedings – access that is an essential element of a properly functioning democracy."

Emily Hartigan

Mike, I'm in favor of doing business in public, like you.

But the onslaught of verbal abuse by the R's in the open debate made me think I'd rather not be a relatively new senator or representative as an object of that junk. What SUBSTANCE do you think should have been public?

(BTW, compare to what TX is doing, this is so fair it's quasi-masochistic on the part of the Dems.)

Mike Johnson

Comparisons to Texas, Florida, New York, or California, etc. is not relevant to the issues for us in NM. What should have been discussed in public is what options are there for drawing these districts, why we favor one over another, who we will consider, who we won't care about or mention, what overall principles and governing theories are we using. what outcome we want to see in the maps, etc. NONE of that was public, that should not be allowed is the one in charge want to say it was "fair" and "honest", as the claims that were made by the ruling party stated. They should have just stated, we are going to do what we want, for whatever reasons we want, and not tell you, the people, anything. That would have at least been an honest, true statement. That is what happened.

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