See that howling coyote? We hired a local artist to draw this critter as a nod to the political cartoon Elkanah Tisdale drew in 1812, skewering Massachusetts’ then-governor, Elbridge Gerry, who had signed a redistricting bill designed to strengthen his party’s grip in the state Senate. More than 200 years later, Tisdale’s sketch of a menacing salamander remains the iconic image of a practice we didn’t have a name for until he penned it: gerrymandering. But state Senate District 39 looks more like a coyote than a salamander. It’s a creature that represents another aspect of what happens when sitting lawmakers draw their own districts.
The average lawmaker in America is a “white, male, Protestant baby boomer with a graduate degree and a business background,” according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In short, the establishment looks a lot like it always has. And the status quo is extremely difficult to change. Incumbency is the one thing that most certainly determines whether a legislative candidate will win. An incumbent who is good at raising money won 94 percent of the time, according to a national analysis of 2013-2014 legislative races conducted by The National Institute on Money in State Politics.
New Mexico has the widest gap in the country between the laws on the books and the way those laws are actually enforced. This week produced a twist on that storyline: a New Mexico Attorney General intent on enforcing the law but blocked by the New Mexico Legislature.
In New Mexico money from taxes on gasoline and diesel (along with a few other things) goes into a road fund that pays for road maintenance. But the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993. And that means less money for road maintenance because of inflation, and because many people are driving more fuel-efficient cars or simply driving less.
AG Hector Balderas has charged former state Sen. Phil Griego with fraud, bribery, solicitation, tampering with records and “violating the ethical principles of public service.” He’s also charged with defrauding other brokers out of what should have been their share of a commission. A judge will decide if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
What could New Mexico politicians learn from MBA students at UNM’s Anderson School of Management? New Mexico in Focus visited a graduate-level business ethics class where some students are working on a project to design a good-government training for elected officials.
In the end, said Susan Boe, the executive director for the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, it comes down to economics. People may care about transparency and ethics, but their pocketbooks come first.
A plan to amend the state Constitution to let independents vote in primaries was tabled Monday by the House Judiciary Committee. A plan to amend the state Constitution to let independents vote in primaries was tabled Monday by the House Judiciary Committee.