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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council is requesting Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham select a member of the Navajo Nation to complete the remaining term of state Sen. John Pinto.

Pinto died on May 24 and had represented District 3 since 1977. The district includes several communities in San Juan and McKinley counties.

Delegate Mark Freeland introduced the bill containing the request as an emergency on June 5, the same day the council convened for a special session to discuss other matters in Window Rock, Arizona.

"He's irreplaceable, yes. But his legacy and his work need to continue and carry on. … This legislation or this resolution would send a message to our government colleagues in New Mexico," Freeland said in his presentation to the council.

Under the state constitution, the county commissions submit nominations to the governor for appointment when a vacancy occurs in the state Senate or in the state House.

The San Juan County Commission started accepting letters of interest and resumes this week. That process continues until 6 p.m. on June 14.

McKinley County Manager Anthony Dimas said letters of interest are being collected by the county commission there through June 17.

The McKinley County Commission will have a special meeting at 9 a.m. on June 17 to review the letters and to select a nominee, Dimas said.

Much of the discussion by the tribal council centered on the bill's language but some delegates expressed the need for the tribe to maintain a good relationship with whomever is selected to fill the vacancy.

"We need good advocacy for San Juan and McKinley counties. … We’d like to greet and meet and continue working with the senator just like we did with our late Sen. John Pinto," Delegate Raymond Smith Jr. said.

The council voted 21 in favor and zero opposed on the bill.

Hemp research project receives support

Delegates also approved authorizing a research project for industrial hemp between Navajo Agricultural Products Industry and New Mexico State University.

NMSU would grow the plant for research and development purposes and on land it leases at NAPI.

The bill passed in a vote of 16-5. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez will have 10 calendar days to sign or veto the resolution.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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