V.19 No.7 | 2/18/2010

Day 30 and Where's the Budget?

Live from the NM Legislature, Week 5

Alibi News Editor Marisa Demarco and the New Mexico Independent are live-blogging from Santa Fe the last full day of the legislative session. Though New Mexico is facing a $500 million to $900 million budget shortfall next year, there are serious doubts about whether legislators will manage to pass a budget. Reporters are digging in for a full day and night. The session ends tomorrow at noon.

There are no less than 84 measures up for vote in the Senate today and 43 in the House. See what's on tap here.

Toney Anaya (D), governor from 1983-1987. He was born in Moriarty, N.M., and ran for a Senate seat against Pete Domenici in 1978.

All Living Ex-Guvs Support This Bill

Think New Mexico says all the state’s former bosses are fans of this bill. Toney Anaya, Jerry Apodaca, David Cargo, Garrey Carruthers and Gary Johnson favor HB 118, which prevents lobbyists and big-time government contractors from pitching cash to political campaigns. Gov. Bill Richardson rallied for the reform in his State of the State address.

The legislation is based on a report called “Restoring Trust” published in October 2009 by the New Mexico think tank. The bill takes aim at pay-to-play practices. (We first wrote about it a few weeks ago as part of our legislative update column, Making Sausage.)

V.19 No.5 |

Talking Race in the Legislature

SANTA FE—The big news today is the Hispanic Education Act. Rep. Rick Miera's HB 150 is meant to address the Hispanic achievement gap in New Mexico. It was debated extensively. It costs no money, creates an office, a council and a liaison to discuss issues facing Hispanic students, which make up 56 percent of the student population in the state. Rep Benjamin Rodefer said since there is a minority-majority, isn't the Public Education Department already the Office of Hispanic Education?

Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas said there isn't a force field around the state that prevents institutional racism from entering. ""We have an anglo-saxon tradition in this state. The words I'm speaking come from England," he said.

The Legislative Education Study Committee reports that 71.3 percent of caucasian students graduate and 56.2 percent of Hispanic students graduate. There's a slew of other statistics in that report that shake out that way.

A similar measure in the Senate immediately began being discussed after the House bill passed 44-25.

The Senate also debated earlier an amendment from Sen. Rod Adair to SB 137 that would give driver's licenses only to U.S. citizens. During that conversation, Sen. Eric Griego said Adair connected Mexicans to al Qaeda and that it was "blatant racism."

Follow along on our live-blog as the race conversations continue.

V.19 No.6 | 2/11/2010

Live from the NM Legislature, Week 4

News Editor Marisa Demarco is in Santa Fe today live-blogging from Day 23 of the 30-day legislative session. Will our state representatives and senators fix the budget shortfall? It's hard to say, but Sen. John Arthur Smith is predicting a special session.

Peruse what's on the Legislature's plate today here.

Treatment or Jail for Drug Users?

Carolyn Carlson penned a great article this week on Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas bill that would give drug users a treatment option instead of a jail sentence.

Among the key arguments in favor of this measure: It would save a lot of money. Possession charges can result in 18 months in the slammer. It can cost $22 million a year to jail nonviolent drug offenders. It only costs about $6,500 to treat them. All of that info comes from the Legislative Finance Committee.

One argument against the legislation: Would addicts really be motivated to attend a treatment program, or is this just a way of letting them off easy?

What do you think?

V.19 No.4 | 1/28/2010

Live from the NM Legislature, Week 3

Alibi News Editor Marisa Demarco is up in Santa Fe where she'll be live-blogging from the Roundhouse along with the New Mexico Independent. You can check out today's schedule here. There's a complete list of bills in progress here. If you're nerdy like Demarco, looking through the list for the more off-the-wall measures is a pretty good time. Wheeee!

Making Sausage

Making Sausage

Most of the attention during this 30-day session is focused on budget woes. But with all the bad press state politicians ate last year over accusations of dirty dealings, some ethics bills may have a shot after all.

[ more >> ] [ permalink ]

V.19 No.3 |

Pluto is a Planet, New Mexico is a State

Right now, I'm in the House of Representatives. Among the funnier memorials is HJM 17 from Rep. Giannini. It requests "that the people of the United States and elsewhere recognize New Mexico as the 47th state of the United States of America."

There's another from Rep. Gutierrez proclaiming Feb. 18, 2010 as "Pluto is a Planet in New Mexico Day" in honor of the 80th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh.

You can view the agendas for the House and Senate every day here.

V.19 No.3 | 1/21/2010

Live from the Legislature, Week 2

Our news editor and managing editor, Marisa Demarco, is in Santa Fe today live-blogging from the state Legislature with the New Mexico Independent. She'll be up there every Wednesday through the end of the session. Jump on in with your comments.

Tune in on our front page all day today.

V.19 No.4 | 1/28/2010

AG’s Ethics Bills

Gov. Bill Richardson controls which non-budgetary bills make it into the short, 30-day session. The governor issues a executive message telling the House or the Senate to consider such measures.

Phil Sisneros, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, says AG Gary King is pushing four ethics bills this year. Three of them have received messages. One probably won’t. The session began Tuesday, Jan. 19.

1) A whistleblower protection act that would prevent an employer from retaliating against a worker who discloses illegal or improper actions. This has been messaged in the House.

2) An extension of the Governmental Conduct Act to apply to all local governments. It would prohibit the use of public office or position for personal financial benefit. This has been messaged and will be carried by Sen. Tim Eichenberg.

3) As things stand, lobbyists only have to register with the secretary of state only if they’re lobbying legislators during the session. King is proposing lobbyists would have to register to lobby any state office, including the Governor’s Office, the AG’s Office, etc. They would have to register at any time, as well, not just during the session. This would be carried by Sen. Dede Feldman.

The Governor’s Office sent along this statement regarding why this probably won’t be messaged:

“At this time we feel the Government Conduct Act as well as existing lobbyist registration requirements adequately cover the people targeted under the proposed expanded definition.”

4) The final ethics measure would require anyone seeking contracts with the state entity to disclose contributions to government foundations. Potential contractors would have to disclose direct or indirect donations. Sisneros gave this hypothetical example: Say an Albuquerque public official wants to take a trip to France. He could ask contributors to give money to a zoo foundation. Then the foundation would pay for the trip to France. That cash donation would never show up as a contribution to that public official. “That can happen right now unless we close this little loophole,” Sisneros says. This has been messaged and will also be carried by Feldman.

V.19 No.3 | 1/21/2010

Live! From the NM Legislative Session

Tune in every Wednesday

Legislators started tackling the $500 million to $900 million budget shortfall during the 2010 session, which convened Tuesday, Jan. 19. It's a short one, only 30 days, and the state's empty wallet is probably going to eat up most time and attention. Should New Mexico raise taxes? Should the state cut spending (programs, salaries, etc.)?

I'll be live-blogging from Santa Fe along with the New Mexico Independent every Wednesday. Or check in on my weekly column, Making Sausage, in the dead-tree edition.