Sen. Michael Padilla was removed from his role as Senate majority whip last week by majority Democrats in the state Senate following public outcry over decades-old harassment allegations. Senate Democrats reportedly met privately to discuss Padilla’s role in the party, and ultimately voted to “vacate the position” and choose a new whip next month. The meeting followed Padilla's decision to publicly end his campaign in the lieutenant governor's race after skirting controversy for weeks concerning claims of harassment filed against him in 2006, when a number of subordinates working under him at a city 911 call center said Padilla made disparaging remarks about women and repeatedly asked some employees for dates after being rejected. Padilla denied the allegations, but the city settled, and he resigned from the post the following year. The claims were brought up again last month when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham told The Associated Press that Padilla should drop out of the race because of his history. In a statement released after Padilla was removed from his leadership role, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth called Padilla a “valued member of the New Mexico state Senate.” The statement says the caucus will meet early in January to elect a new majority whip. The 30-day legislative session starts on Jan. 16.
State Senator Announces Net Neutrality Legislation
State Senator Howie Morales announced last week that he will propose legislation to establish net neutrality for New Mexico following the Federal Communications Commission's decision to repeal internet regulations. Last week, the FCC rolled back Obama-era net neutrality rules, which protect consumers by ensuring that internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon treat all websites the same by barring them from blocking or slowing down certain services. The regulations were enacted in 2015 so that services like Netflix or Hulu could not be interrupted by ISPs that are owned by competitors, and to protect communications between consumers. The FCC's vote to roll back those protections means that broadband providers will now have complete control over the content and speeds their clients experience. According to a statement released by Sen. Morales, legislation at the state level could require that broadband providers practice net neutrality to do business in New Mexico.
City Attorney Says Rio Rancho Did Not Violate IPRA
Earlier this year, the New Mexico Attorney General's office said the city of Rio Rancho violated state laws by charging $30 for access to 911 recordings. Rio Rancho City Attorney Gregory Lauer responded to the allegations in a letter saying that the city disagrees with the Attorney General's office and will actually be considering raising the prices for some services. He argued that state statute allows municipalities to charge a “reasonable” fee to provide copies of records. The Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) allows public agencies to charge the “actual costs” for making copies of records, but does not allow them to charge for the retrieval of the records. Lauer's letter, however, references the Public Records Act (PRA), which must be considered alongside the IPRA. The state Attorney General's office does not have the authority to fine or reprimand the city of Rio Rancho for violations of IPRA.