SANTA FE – Lawmakers from Albuquerque will have a stronger presence this year in one of the most powerful groups in the Legislature – the Senate Finance Committee.
Sens. Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat, and Jim White, a Republican, won appointments to the committee Wednesday, filling vacancies created by the departure of two members who left the Legislature.
The panel has traditionally been dominated by veteran members of the Senate from rural areas. Its lack of an Albuquerque Democrat – someone from the majority party in the state’s largest city – has been an occasional complaint over the years.
Candelaria, who represents much of Albuquerque’s West Side, will replace Howie Morales, a Silver City Democrat who is now the lieutenant governor.
White, who represents the East Mountains and part of eastern Albuquerque, replaces Carroll Leavell, a Jal Republican who resigned late last year for health reasons.
The leaders of the 12-member committee remain Chairman John Arthur Smith of Deming and Carlos Cisneros of Questa, both Democrats.
The only Albuquerque senator on the committee in previous sessions, Republican Sander Rue, remains a member.
The Finance Committee is a critical gatekeeper in the Senate. The state budget, tax proposals and legislation touching on all kinds of other topics – from New Mexico’s permanent funds to pension solvency – usually must clear the committee before making it to the floor of the Senate.
Democrats hold a 7-5 edge on the committee.