Denise Lamb, Santa Fe County elections bureau chief, tells the Santa Fe Reporter that the Santa Fe Community College Board election will happen two weeks from today
. She also discussed with SFR several education election bills before the legislature.House Joint Resolution 9
, introduced by state Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña Ana, and state Sen. Bill Soules, D-Doña Ana, calls for the election of a UNM and NMSU regent from each of the state’s three congressional districts.HJR 9 says
voters would select university regents in a “nonpartisan election as provided by law.” The Higher Education Department says
HJR 9 will need “additions to the Election Code,” presumably that detail how or when regent elections would occur.
The Legislative Finance Committee’s Fiscal Impact Report on HJR 9
indicates the proposed constitutional amendment would not change the current system of electing “board members for independent community colleges” and allowing branch community colleges to opt for elected board members.
When asked about the fairness of HJR 9 allowing regent and board member elections for UNM, NMSU, and community colleges, but leaving other four-year universities
without elected representation, Lamb said “I cannot even begin to answer, I’m not an attorney.”State law
describes two times for community college and branch college
board elections. CNM and APS in Albuquerque held a joint election two weeks ago
. The school and college boards in Santa Fe opted for two elections, four weeks apart
School board elections could happen at the same time as municipal and other non-partisan elections, notwithstanding the current non-substantive amendment
, if House Joint Resolution 2
, introduced by state Rep. Jim Smith, R-Bernalillo, and state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Bernalillo, becomes law.
Lamb says concurrent school board and state elections could create two-page ballots, which would “be a nightmare” for election administrators and voters. Senate Bill 457
, introduced by state Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Cibola, wants to add candidate photos to the ballot.
Lamb wonders why the state has never moved “school elections to September of the off year.” But she concedes home-rule municipalities like Albuquerque, which holds city elections in October of odd-numbered years, could not hold back-to-back school and city elections.
Every New Mexico municipality (except Albuquerque, Gallup, Las Cruces, and Los Alamos) elects councilors or commissioners on the first Tuesday in March of odd-numbered years. Lamb agrees HJR 2 could create a “patchwork of school board elections” across the state.
Community college board elections would not necessarily have to happen concurrently with municipal elections, since HJR 2 only discusses school board elections. But this would happen if a college board, school board, and municipality council/commission issued a joint election resolution.
UNM-Gallup would join other branch community colleges that have separated from their parent institution
if House Bill 71
, introduced by state Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-McKinley, becomes law. HB 71 does not change election procedures or timing for UNM-Gallup board members.Geographic areas of responsibility
, composed of school districts, indicate where independent and branch community colleges have primary responsibility to deliver courses
. Voting districts for these college boards usually coincide with a single school district, rather than the entire GAR.
Branch community colleges could annex adjoining school districts, most likely a “shared area of responsibility,”
even if those districts already belong to the GAR for another college, if House Bill 605
, introduced by state Rep Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos, becomes law.
If branch community colleges pursued annexation, under the terms of HB 605, the residents of newly-annexed school districts would participate in property taxes and bond elections for the benefit of those colleges. Independent community colleges would not get annexation opportunities.
New Mexico does not assign a GAR to tribal colleges
. But House Bill 28, introduced by state Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Cibola, would expand the lottery scholarship to these federal institutions, even though state voters do not elect their governing boards
.House Bill 232
, carried by Smith and state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Bernalillo (after recent controversy in Albuquerque
), would require campaign finance reports from school board candidates in large districts and community college boards. It does not cover branch community colleges.Senate Bill 356
, introduced by Ivey-Soto, a county clerk lobbyist
, would give school boards (and voters during board elections) the choice of having either seven members, with six-year terms for each, or five members, whose terms would last four years.
School board elections could also expand to include evening and Saturday voting if SB 356 passes. House Bill 219
, introduced by state Rep. Nate Cote, D-Doña Ana, would ensure adequate election day polling staff for these expanded days and hours.
New Mexico’s Public Education Commission Senate would become independent if Senate Bill 476
, introduced by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Bernalillo, becomes law. SB 476 does not say whether PEC candidates could switch from running in general elections to education elections.
Some of these bills have passed one committee. Many of them will head to another committee, receive a floor vote, and then repeat the same process in the legislature’s other chamber. The governor then decides whether to sign or veto.
An SFR review of community colleges across New Mexico found that about half held their board elections on February 5, with their local school board, and the other half or so will hold their board elections on March 5.
Voters served by NMSU branch campuses and UNM-Taos
do not elect board members for these institutions. Instead, university regents serve as their “governing board” and/or one
school boards serve as the “advisory” boards for these branch community colleges.
The SFCC board has made information about candidates, forums
, and polling locations
available on its website.