Legislature passes campaign finance reform years in the making

It’s now up to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez whether New Mexico’s campaign finance disclosure laws will be modernized. The Senate agreed to House amendments to Senate Bills 96 and 97 Tuesday. The House approved the two measures Monday night. SB 96 has the greater impact, aiming for more disclosure from independent spending groups during campaigns. But it also doubles the donation limits for legislators to $5,000 for each primary and general election cycle.

Fixes to NM Campaign Reporting Act near the finish line

The House approved two bills to bring New Mexico’s campaign finance laws up to date Monday night, clearing a years-long hurdle. While Senate Bill 96 clarifies state disclosure law when it comes to independent spending in campaigns, it also doubles contribution limits for lawmakers. It’s likely the Senate will concur with House amendments. The next question is whether Gov. Susana Martinez will sign the measures into law. “It’s a big night,” said Senate Majority Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.

Golf gifts up lobbyist spending to nearly $250K, other spending not reported

Lawmakers can look forward to some golfing once the legislative session ends, thanks to $28,000 in gifts from the New Mexico Golf Tourism Alliance. That’s just a portion of the nearly $250,000 lobbyists have reported spending on lawmakers during the session through March 8. The number only includes spending of $500 or more at a time, which lobbyists or their employers are required to report to the Secretary of State within 48 hours. But some lobbying groups question what must be reported now or later when more comprehensive reports are due in May. For instance, neither ProgressNow New Mexico nor Everytown for Gun Safety has reported spending on canvassing to encourage support of House Bill 50, which would expand gun background checks in the state.

Lobbyist give burgers and fries, but it’s not reported

Before the House began to debate a budget on Feb. 22, there were burgers and fries. And there was a thank you from Rep. Patty Lundstrom, the Democratic House Appropriations and Finance Committee chairwoman from Gallup, to the seven lobbyists who bought the food. “Let’s thank them, because we’re getting some real food tonight, Mr. Speaker,” Lundstrom said after citing Vanessa Alarid, Mark Duran, Mark Fleisher, Charlie Marquez, John Thompson, Jason Thompson and Jason Weaks. But spending for that meal doesn’t show up in the latest reports by the lobbyists, because the cost wasn’t $500 or more.

Lawmakers won’t get cut of infrastructure funding pie in 2017

There won’t be any local road repairs, senior center vehicles or shade structures at schools coming from New Mexico lawmakers this year. There’s simply not enough money to sell more than about $63 million in severance tax bonds this year because of the decline in oil and gas revenue nationwide. That’s according to the sponsor of the annual capital outlay bill, Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa. “It would be a frivolous attempt for us to try to distribute that among 112 members,” Cisneros said. “If anything, right now we’re looking at using it for statewide needs.”

And the amount available won’t go far on statewide requests, which total $359 million.

Infrastructure funding reform would lead to significant change

Memorials to honor veterans, Bernalillo County public safety officers and gun violence victims.

“Shade structures” at schools and parks. Improvements for tracks, baseball fields, and basketball and tennis courts and baseball fields. Those are some of the “infrastructure” projects lawmakers funded by divvying up capital outlay money in 2016. Meanwhile, a state-owned reintegration center for troubled young people in Eagle Nest requested $673,400 last year for renovations. Photos show sagging floors, torn carpet, broken appliances and other issues.

Lobbyist wine and dine, nearing $203,000

Mining, developers and film interests reported wining and dining New Mexico lawmakers last week. Lobbyists and their employers have reported spending nearly $203,000 through Monday. They must report any spending of $500 to the Secretary of State within 48 hours. Last week’s biggest event was a $15,845 dinner at the Hilton sponsored by the New Mexico Mining Association. The IATSE Local 480, a union for film employees, spent $6,378 on a reception at the Pink Adobe.

Payday lending industry donated $118K in 2016 campaign cycle

Payday lenders and their professional associations donated more than $118,000 to candidates and PACs in 2015 and 2016. Most of that money – $92,150 – went to Republican interests, with $41,700 to Republican House candidates. That follows the trend of House Republicans outraising and outspending their Democratic counterparts in the 2016 election cycle, particularly when it came to business interests. Despite such campaign cash dominance, Republicans lost control of the House. But the total is less than the $140,000 the industry spent in the 2014 election cycle, when statewide offices such as governor and attorney general were at stake.

Gentry spurns campaign donor with gun background check vote

A gun control advocacy group that poured $216,500 into New Mexico’s 2016 legislative elections is finding at least one of its beneficiaries is a tough sell on expanding background checks for gun sales. Everytown for Gun Safety donated $5,000 to then House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, last June. The group also sent a mailer supporting Gentry, who is now the minority leader after Democrats regained control of the House. But late Friday, Gentry joined other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee in voting against House Bill 50, which would require background checks at gun shows or online, including gun sales by private individuals. After extensive debate in two committees, the measure next goes to the House floor.