More funding would help, but other issues also impede early ed in rural New Mexico

With the 2018 legislative session fully underway, lawmakers are once again debating funding levels for early education. A tug a war continues to play out between those who say New Mexico ought to tap its Land Grant Permanent Fund, one of the largest such funds in the nation, to dramatically expand the reach of early ed programs and those who advocate a slower, incremental approach to increasing funding levels. As the debate rages on, current services aren’t evenly distributed around the state. New state dollars often go to places where they’re already going, helping to expand the number of children served in places where facilities to educate young children already exist. It leaves a lot of rural New Mexico’s children out in the cold when it comes to New Mexico PreK.

Sexual misconduct allegations simmer at the Roundhouse

SANTA FE— Lobbyist Vanessa Alarid described feeling like “a deer in the headlights” upon seeing Thomas Garcia at the Roundhouse on Wednesday. It was their first run-in since last month when Alarid accused Garcia, a former Democratic representative, of sexual misconduct. Alarid might be seeing more of Garcia. He might be seeing more of her, too. Garcia told New Mexico In Depth he is considering running for Rep. Tomás Salazar’s (D-Las Vegas) seat in District 70.

New Mexico House Rep. urges federal statute to protect state cannabis laws

With New Mexico’s 30-day 2018 legislative session moving quickly along, it’s unlikely legislation related to cannabis will get much traction. Mainly because the short session is crammed full of budget related items. Nonetheless, one state representative – Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park – has introduced a House Memorial that makes a statement about recent federal actions related to cannabis. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions “reinstated a policy of imprisoning medicinal cannabis users,” McCamley’s House Memorial 5 states. The memorial calls for the legislature to make a formal request of New Mexico’s congressional delegation to create legislation that protects New Mexico medicinal cannabis users from federal prosecution. “We in the legislature should advocate as strongly as possible that our federal representatives uphold our laws to protect our medicinal patients and move in to the 21st century,” McCamley said.

Domestic Violence court offers alternatives, hope for future

Jaime was just 19 years old when a fight with his girlfriend escalated from what he describes as “a lot of back and forth petty stuff” to a conflict that saw him facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Around the same time, he’d survived an attempted homicide and was coping with the news that his daughter was on her way. Rather than pursue a conviction, Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court offered him a pre-prosecution alternative: the Domestic Violence Early Intervention Program. As part of that program, he participated in group and individual counseling sessions and parenting classes for six months. It’s the same amount of time his daughter has been alive.

Education committees hear budget proposals, including potential teacher pay raise

There is only a $400,000 difference between what the governor’s office and the Legislature’s budget arm are requesting for the main category of public school funding (that’s the State Equalization Guarantee, or SEG funding, for you education wonks), but there are some interesting departures in the details. 

If you are a teacher, you are going to be really interested in those differences. Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski and analysts from the Legislative Finance Committee and the Public Education Department came before a joint meeting of the Senate and House Education committees on Friday to detail their budget proposals for fiscal 2019. For teachers just starting out or who just reached a new teacher level, there could be a $2,000 salary bump in your future if the LFC gets its way, plus a 1.5 percent cost of living salary increase. If the PED plan prevails in negotiations, all teachers will receive a 2 percent across the board salary increase, with other school personnel receiving a 1 percent cost of living increase. Then, exemplary teachers would be up for a one-time $5,000 bonus and exemplary high school math or science teachers would be eligible for up to $10,000.

State public finance fund seriously depleted, Secretary of State tells lawmakers

Say you want to run for a spot on the state Supreme Court or New Mexico Court of Appeals. How about a seat on the Public Regulation Commission? Candidates for New Mexico’s two top courts and its utility commission are eligible to apply for public dollars to finance their campaigns through the New Mexico Voter Action Act. But in 2018 those dollars won’t stretch far, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told state lawmakers Wednesday. That’s because it’s dramatically underfunded.

2018 legislative session: A look at critical issues before state lawmakers



New Mexico’s 2018 legislative session begins Tuesday. For the 4th year running we’ve created a special edition devoted to key issues legislators are sure to in one way or the other. The edition runs today in nine newspapers around the state, and we’ve published it online as well. See it in magazine form above, or read each article in print online. ———————————————————————————

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Will lawmakers make 2018 the Year of the Child?

New Mexico’s children have arguably taken the brunt as the state has struggled through tough budgets the past couple of years, with cuts to public schools, state colleges and programs such as home visiting and expanded school years.

But with oil and gas revenues re-bounding, could 2018 be the year of the child at the Roundhouse?

Lobbyist transparency takes a nosedive

In our society, money buys things. That includes at places like the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, where the textbook ideal is an informed citizenry empowered to ask elected officials educated questions about how decisions are made but where the reality often is more muddy.

What money buys in Santa Fe is a pressing question these days in New Mexico, where in the past three years, a former secretary of state has pleaded guilty to embezzlement and a former state senator has been convicted of bribery.