Move to legalize cannabis continues

One school of thought is that cannabis, or marijuana, is relatively benign and ought to be legalized, regulated and taxed to spur economic growth and end the harm caused by criminalization. An opposing viewpoint is that it’s a dangerous drug that needs to re-main unavailable legally, with criminal punishment of those who break the law. Proponents of legalization in the New Mexico Legislature for several years have tried unsuccessfully to win a majority of state legislators over in a bid to legalize, regulate and tax the production and sale of cannabis to adults 21 years or older. Expect 2018 to be no different as Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, will again introduce a resolution during the four-week legislative session to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide, a move that would not require support from the governor. Prospects for success

Working in favor of Ortiz y Pino and other legislators bringing similar bills is a shift in public opinion over the past decade, with a majority in New Mexico and nationally believing recreational cannabis should be legal.

NM legislators should protect working families

It’s been a rough few years for New Mexico’s working families. A stagnant economy has meant high unemployment, low wages and cuts to key programs that help families survive. But it appears the state’s economy and revenue picture
have begun to recover. With the current revenue outlook it is time the Legislature made New Mexico’s children and families whole. Those least able to absorb tax increases or cuts to basic services like health care should be protect-ed and prioritized in the 2018 tax and budget decisions being made.

Are Legislative Leaders Willing to Forego Tax Reform and $100 million in revenue?

The Rio Grande Foundation is undoubtedly among the strongest supporters of limited government in New Mexico. As a general rule we don’t support increasing government revenues as an end in itself. Our philosophy (based on reams of data and international comparison) is that resources would be better spent by individuals, not government bureaucrats and politicians. That said, the New Mexico Legislature, by not embracing tax reform during the 2018 session, seems to be willing to forego a chance to both secure upwards of $100 million for the state AND achieve an important public policy reform for New Mexico. Rather than embracing long-overdue reform of the gross receipts tax (GRT), New Mexico’s Democratic legislative leaders have clearly signaled that they are willing to let petty partisan differences with Governor Martinez stand in the way.

Prosperity is not possible without investment

We all want a prosperous state, but prosperity requires investments. You can’t grow a garden without good soil, sunlight, water, and some hard work. Same with a state—you can’t have prosperity without resources, infrastructure, and a skilled workforce. But instead of following an investment strategy to prosperity, New Mexico has tried to cut its way to prosperity. You could call this the “don’t build it and let’s hope they will come anyway” strategy.

Independent, Transparent Redistricting Process among Common Cause Priorities for 2018 Session

The 2020 census may seem far away to most citizens, but partisans around the country are sharpening their pencils in preparation for the redistricting process that occurs every 10 years, based on a new census. In New Mexico, a special session will be held in 2021 and legislators will draw new legislative and congressional districts. What they come up with could give Democrats, Republicans or incumbents an edge for the next 10 years and determine funding priorities and state and federal law. Common Cause believes that this process should be done by an independent, nonpartisan commission, as it is in six other states. We will be prioritizing a constitutional amendment to authorize such a system and establish more neutral, transparent criteria, including public hearings.

Strengthen public access to government information

When I walked into the state capitol for the opening session of the New Mexico Legislature a year ago I didn’t need to stop and get a press pass. A month earlier, when the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government hired me as its new executive director, I told newsroom col-leagues I’d just won the job lottery. After working as a journalist on and off for decades, I boxed up reporter notebooks and the press passes I’d hoarded since my first assignment in 1977 and headed to the Roundhouse to defend New Mexicans’ right to know and to advocate for stronger Sunshine laws. For the first time in my professional career, I felt like I’d been dealt a winning hand. In fact, the deck was stacked in the public’s favor in 1978 when state legislators recognized each of us is entitled to almost all the “information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of public officers and employees.”

New Mexico’s information jack-pot 40 years later is still essential.

NMID’s best 2017 stories: Criminal Justice, Child Welfare, Good Government

New Mexico in Depth highlighted the work of our fellows earlier this week, but there was a lot more going on in 2017. Here are just a few highlights. Criminal Justice:

Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’. After a 2016 drug sting, agents from the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced they had arrested over 100 of the ‘worst of the worst’ offenders in ABQ. Our story about one of those defendants, Yusef Casanova, explored that claim and found the sting captured a disproportionate number of black people and the ‘worst of the worst’ label is problematic.

Some of NMID Fellows’ Best 2017 Work

When New Mexico In Depth created a fellowship for journalism students of color at University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, we had high hopes for impactful, community-based stories. We haven’t been disappointed. Here are just a few of the stories created by Melorie Begay, Xchelzin Peña, and Robert Salas in 2017. Churches emerge as important refuge for immigrants. Xchelzin Peña explored the reasons behind refuge offered by Holy Cross Retreat Center in Las Cruces to immigrants facing deportation, with the most recent case being that of Martha Lorena Rivera.

Las Cruces City Council affirms immigrant friendly policies

Las Cruces city councilors unanimously voted Monday to affirm the city’s policy prohibiting police from questioning people about their immigration status unless doing so is necessary in a criminal investigation. A resolution, presented by Police Chief Jaime Montoya and City Attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown, affirmed the city’s current Human Rights ordinance as well as several existing policies of the police department which prohibit law enforcement officers from asking people to show proof of citizenship when responding to a domestic dispute, a traffic violation or other types of interactions with the public. Before voting for the resolution, city councilors focused their questions on policing and enforcement of federal immigration law. “We enforce criminal law, we do not enforce administrative law, which is immigration law,” Montoya explained to Councilor Gabriel Vasquez. Councilor Yvonne Flores questioned Montoya about procedures during routine traffic stops, particularly related to warrants for deportation violations, which she noted are federal felonies.