Public disclosure of legislation a lobbyist works on moves forward

Lobbyist Tom Horan talks to the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee about why he opposes a lobbyist disclosure bill during the 2019 legislative session. An effort to require more transparency from lobbyists passed its first hurdle in the House. The idea behind HB 131 is pretty simple: lobbyists would report a few weeks after a legislative session ends what bills they worked on, including their position on each bill, if they had one. One of the bill co-sponsors said the measure aimed to help the public have a greater understanding of how policy is made. “We’re approached in the hallway, approached in the bar, people talk to you at a reception,” Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, told the House’s State Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee Monday.

Senate committee keeps ‘funding theater’ of capital outlay alive

The Senate Rules Committee killed a bill today to make public the capital outlay funding decisions of individual legislators. Currently, New Mexico’s capital outlay system allows lawmakers to divvy up a pot of money among themselves to then give out to projects as they see fit, and to keep that information secret. For instance, if a lawmaker has $100,000 to allocate and divvies it up among five different projects, the public is denied access to a list showing which projects, out of many requests, the lawmaker funded. Each legislator has to specifically give permission to legislative staff in order to allow release of that information. By the same token, the projects the legislator chose not to fund are also not known by the public.

Effort continues to make “super secret” capital outlay list public

The House made quick work last week passing a measure that would lift a veil of secrecy on how individual lawmakers allocate capital infrastructure money under their control. Currently, New Mexico is the only state in the nation that allows legislators to divvy up among themselves a big chunk of infrastructure money to direct to projects as they see fit. And it allows them to keep secret which projects they choose to fund, although the information is readily available in an existing database. Sen. Sander Rue discusses capital outlay transparency with the Senate Rules committee in 2018, during which rural legislators explained their reservations about the measure. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, called it the “super-secret private list which is the one that actually appropriates the money” last year during a Senate Rules Committee debate on the issue.

Lobbyist loophole fix heads to gov. as lobbyists spend nearly $90K

A bill requiring full disclosure of lobbyist expenditures is heading to the governor’s desk after being fast-tracked through the Legislature as part of the “rocket docket,” a set of bills prioritized after gaining legislative approval in previous sessions only to be vetoed by former governor Susana Martinez. Meanwhile, lobbyists or their employers have already reported spending almost $90,000 during the session. SB 191 fixes a mistake made by legislators in 2016 when they inadvertently got rid of a requirement that lobbyists and their employers report a total of smaller lobbying expenses. Transparency advocates characterized it as a step backward in an ongoing effort to create more transparent government. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the bill, which she has indicated she will, all expenditures will have to be reported in the future, including the total of individual expenses under $100.

Senate Rules quick to pass lobbyist loophole fix

The Senate Rules committee made quick work this morning passing a bill to reverse a measure in 2016 that reduced the amount of spending lobbyists are required to report. This year’s bill, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, is included on the so-called “rocket docket,” a list of bills assigned to just one committee with the goal of fast-tracking them for signature by New Mexico’s new Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham. This video created by New Mexico In Depth in 2017 features Ivey-Soto explaining the problem created by the 2016 changes to lobbyist disclosure requirements.The rocket docket bills all previously passed the Legislature only to be vetoed by former Republican governor Susana Martinez. In her speech to a joint session of the Legislature on opening day, Lujan Grisham singled out Ivey-Soto’s bill, saying she favored signing the lobbyist disclosure measure. In front of the Senate Rules committee today, Ivey-Soto gave a familiar rundown of what happened in 2016, explaining that a bill he sponsored that year “inadvertently” dropped requirements that lobbyists report spending under $100.

Lobbyists dole out quarter million in lead up to session

Santa Fe is known for food. Really good food. In fact, the culinary scene is known to foodies across the country – maybe the globe – thanks to periodic travel and food pieces over the decades in a variety of publications, including the New York Times. So it is no surprise that lobbyists would exploit Santa Fe’s culinary abundance as a way to build or maintain relationships with New Mexico’s policy makers. Forty one lobbyists, according to filings at the Secretary of State’s office, spent $35,000 since early October, about half of it at restaurants and hotels, on small groups of legislators, or in a few cases, legislative committees.

Conditions for New Mexico’s children are ripe for change

The challenge is clearer than ever: A judge has ruled that New Mexico – once again ranked last for child well-being – fails to provide its children with a sufficient education, and must do better. Fortunately, after years of austerity, lawmakers expect to have more than a billion new dollars to allocate this year, along with a new governor who brings a fresh mandate and agenda. A policy window is opening, and substantial change is possible. During this special moment, lawmakers should prioritize early childhood. The science is clear – the first years of life set the brain’s foundation for future success in profound ways, and reliable access to care and education supports family economic and educational attainment.

On heels of town hall, New Mexico First seeks to stabilize what’s working in higher ed

New Mexicans know that obtaining a credential or a degree after high school increases a person’s earning potential across a lifetime. However, rising education costs and poorly defined pathways can make college seem out of reach, especially for low-income students. By 2020, an estimated 63 percent of New Mexico jobs will require at least some college, yet the state falls short in supplying a skilled workforce to fill those positions. At New Mexico First’s 2018 town hall, “Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce,” participants recommended financial support for students so they encumber as little debt as possible while completing well-defined higher education pathways, from certificates to professional degrees. To that end, we are working on two urgent pieces of legislation that will prevent the shuttering of two important projects: the College Affordability Fund and the SUN PATH program for students aspiring to healthcare careers.

Ambitious renewable goals on deck as new political era dawns in New Mexico

New Mexico was in the first wave of states to require gradually increasing amounts of renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal to power its electrical grid. Signed into law in 2004, the state’s Renewable Energy Act required private utilities to ensure that 20 percent of the electricity they provide to consumers comes from those sources by 2020. Since then, what was once a novel idea has gone mainstream. Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and three territories have similar laws. More than half have higher goals than 20 percent.

Money greases wheels of political machine, while legislative process is shrouded in secrecy

Each year, a small group of lawmakers doggedly push for improvements in the state’s disclosure laws related to campaign finance, lobbying, and discretionary infrastructure money available to lawmakers. Here are key initiatives New Mexico In Depth continues to follow. Steinborn works toward full disclosure of lobbyist spending on lawmakers, bills

For New Mexico’s volunteer legislators, campaign contributions provide more than just dollars to run an election. The money allows them to crisscross the state to meet constituents or go to legislative meetings. They can pay for telephone costs, stamps, conference travel out of state, and they can be donated to charities the candidate selects.