New Mexico state senators unanimously chose Sen. Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces Tuesday to lead the Legislator's upper house.
She is the first woman elected president pro-tem of the body and replaces Sen. Tim Jennings of Roswell who lost his bid for reelection to the Senate in the November election.
Earlier the House elected Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, speaker of the House succeeding Rep. Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, who died last month from cancer.
Like Jennings, elected Senate president by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, Papen is considered a moderate-to-conservative Democrat.
Late last year a caucus of Senate Democrats
nominated Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas to be president pro-tem, a position chosen by the full Senate. Papen, however, launched a campaign for the job and apparently won over enough Democrats and Republicans.
KRQE News 13's Katie Kim , who is covering the 60-day legislative session that began at noon, reports Campos nominated Papen for president so the Senate could act in unison.
She then was elected unanimously.
Political observers have said Papen may be more open than Campos to working with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
Kim is looking into that issue and will report on the changes in both the House and Senate leadership on KRQE News 13 at 5:30 p.m.
The New Mexico legislature is kicking off a brand new 60-day session at the Roundhouse.
There will be new leadership in both the house and senate and fresh debates over how the state should be spending its money.
New Mexico’s 112 senators and representatives will hear Governor Susana Martinez give her State of the State Address Tuesday afternoon.
It's a year where lawmakers are expected to have a little extra money to spend.
Both the governor and the democratically-controlled Legislative Finance Committee have released $5.9 billion budget proposals that call for a little less than a quarter of a billion in new spending.
One major difference between the two is money for state workers.
The LFC plan would give state employees their first raise since 2008 while the governor says now is not the time for that.
Other hot topics include some ideas the governor has been pushing for a while are stopping the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants and holding back third graders who can't read proficiently.
Two underfunded state benefits could also see major reforms, teacher and public employee pensions as well as lottery scholarships.
Overshadowing all of that may be a larger question.
After a contentious election, can the democratic legislature get along with the republican governor well enough to get anything done?
That will not be answered for another two months.
Lawmakers will also be electing new leadership as soon as they convene at noon.
The house is expected to elect grants Democrat Kenny Martinez as its new speaker.
He replaces Ben Lujan who had held the spot since 2001 before passing away last month.
A battle could also be brewing Tuesday over who will replace defeated Roswell Senator Tim Jennings as senate president pro-tem.
Democrats control the senate and the democratic caucus last month nominated Las Vegas Senator Pete Campos.
But Senator Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, also a democrat, claims to have enough support to win the powerful post.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.