A report issued by analysts for the Legislative Finance Committee found that gross receipts tax revenue is increasing faster than projected. Altogether, recurring revenue rose 17 percent, to $292 million, during the first third of this fiscal year—which ended in October—compared with the same period last year. According to the report, the exact causes behind the rise is unclear, but could have come as a result in the rebounding of the state's gas and oil industry last year. Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, chairwoman of the Legislative Finance Committee, told reporters that she expects the LFC to recommend 1.5 percent pay raises for state employees and teachers, but that New Mexico's reserves are critically low and might have to be filled before addressing other needs. A spokesperson for Gov. Susana Martinez took credit on her behalf, claiming the report's findings were a result of the governor's decision to reject proposed tax increases early last year. According to the Albuquerque Journal, economists in the executive and legislative branches of the state's government have estimated around $199 million in revenue above this year’s budgeted spending levels. The year's budget—which takes hold July 1—will be drafted during a legislative session that begins Jan. 16.
New Bill Could Extend Protections for Native Children and Police
A federal measure was introduced in Congress last month by US Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., proposing increased protections for Native children and tribal police officers involved in domestic violence incidents on tribal lands. The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act, if made law, would expand tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act to include children and law enforcement personnel responding to domestic violence calls. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, signed into law in 2013, recognizes tribes’ authority to exercise jurisdiction over natives and non-natives who commit acts of domestic violence or criminally violate protection orders on tribal lands. In a statement made last month, Udall called the bill's lack of protections for children and law enforcement officers a “loophole” which the new measure would close. The release states the Navajo Nation is among the entities supporting the measure. The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act is cosponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. The bill is supported by the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the pueblos of Acoma, Santa Ana and Santa Clara.
Supreme Court Recommends Changes for Guardian System
A state Supreme Court commission released its final recommendations for improvements to the state's guardian/conservator system. Under the current system, the state handles daily living and financial decisions for hundreds of incapacitated people a year with little to no oversight. The commission asked the Supreme Court, the state Legislature and the governor to fund and implement its “highest priority” recommendations—implementing a computerized system to automate conservator reports, hiring auditors, initiating a system to hear grievances of family members and the passage of new guardianship laws which would provide more notice to family members about hearings and would increase access to court records.