Competitor: ABQ ‘rigged’ new body cam agreement for Taser

A Georgia-based police body camera manufacturer is alleging Albuquerque officials used an “inappropriate and illegal” process to reach a tentative agreement with Taser International Inc. for cameras and online video storage at the state’s largest law enforcement agency. Ted Davis, president and CEO of Utility Associates, Inc., filed a formal protest this week saying Taser’s initial bid of $4.7 million should have been disqualified last year because it did not meet the city’s requirements spelled out in a request for proposals. Chief among Davis’ allegations is that Taser low-balled its initial bid by not including specific prices for cameras and other required equipment — a claim reviewed by a New Mexico In Depth using public records related to the RFP. “That should’ve been it,” Davis said in a telephone interview with NMID from his office in Decatur, Ga. “It should’ve been over at that point.”

Utility Associates would have won the contract because it scored second highest behind Taser among the city’s seven-member selection committee.

Cannabis advocates undeterred in face of federal threat

During his campaign for president, Donald Trump said he would leave marijuana laws in the hands of the states, but his appointment of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general has created uncertainty about the future of the legalization movement. At a speech on March 15, Sessions made his views clear. “I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” he said. “And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”

But Emily Kaltenbach, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico, said it’s too late to backtrack on the issue. It’s a states’ rights issue, and some governors have already pushed back at the anti-marijuana rhetoric, she said.

What financial disclosure forms don’t require reveal as much as what they do

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell is a race horse owner, as she points out on her Twitter biography and her financial disclosure document. As a Republican lawmaker from Roswell, Ezzell often proposes and advocates for legislation that impacts the racing industry. At least seven of the 13 members of the House Education Committee are current or former educators, and one is a former school board member. At every meeting they take action on legislation that could impact their current or former livelihoods. Then there’s House Speaker Brian Egolf, the Santa Fe Democrat criticized by Republicans for failing to disclose his client – a medical cannabis provider – before the Department of Health.

Lobbyists report spending nearly $292K during session

Lobbyists reported spending nearly $292,000 during the 2017 legislative session, with more to be reported in May. Many of the final reports focused not on buying meals for lawmakers, but on campaigns to lobby them. Two groups, New Mexicans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions and Americans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions, spent spent nearly $16,900 on digital and newspaper advertising to encourage the Legislature to extend renewable energy tax credits. The bills the group supported didn’t make it out of committee. The American Federation of Teachers reported spending $10,000 for a consultant in “issue education for budget and revenue.”

The American Cancer Society Action Network lobbyist reported spending $9,591 on Facebook ads and phone calls urging support of a tax increase on tobacco products, an effort that failed.

Gov. threatens government shutdown, Dems slam her over jobs

The 2017 legislative session wrapped up at noon Saturday, but the work appears far from over. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on Saturday afternoon said she would call state lawmakers back in for a special session after the Democratically controlled Legislature had failed to give her a responsible budget. . Exactly when she wouldn’t say. Calling a $6.1 billion spending plan and $350 million tax package the Legislature had sent her “reckless” and “irresponsible,” the governor spoke of a looming government shutdown and of potentially furloughing state workers.

Legislature passes House bill to restrict solitary confinement

Modest restrictions on the use of solitary confinement in New Mexico’s jails and prisons easily passed the state Senate Friday. The House concurred with Senate changes later in the day. House Bill 175 would forbid “restricted housing” — defined as 22 or more consecutive hours in a cell “without daily, meaningful and sustained human interaction” — for pregnant women in the state’s county jails and prisons and for children in juvenile lock-ups. The measure also would limit how corrections officers and administrators in the state’s 28 county jails and 11 prisons can use the controversial practice on people living with or exhibiting signs of mental illness. Early versions of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, placed a 48-hour cap on solitary for inmates with mental health issues.

UPDATED: Lawmakers race to finesse state ethics commission details as session winds down

— This article has been updated to reflect news developments. With 16 hours left in a 60-day session, the Legislature on Friday moved one step away from doing something it’s tried to do for a decade: Pass a state ethics commission proposal. And it took all day Friday to get it done. Then after multiple meetings, both chambers of the state legislature agreed late in the evening to place a measure on the 2018 ballot letting voters decide whether or not to place in the state constitution an independent ethics commission charged with investigating and prosecuting ethics complaints filed against public officials, state contractors and lobbyists, among others. How it played out on Friday

Members of the House of Representatives disagreed Thursday night with changes the Senate had made to House Joint Resolution 8, which would ask voters to enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution.

In historic first, NM state senate passes ethics commission proposal

The state senate voted 30 to 9 early Thursday afternoon to ask voters next year to enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution.

“This is a really big step for us in New Mexico,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces told his colleagues moments before asking his colleagues to support the proposal. “I think it will be healthy for democracy.”

Steinborn, who presented House Joint Resolution 8 to the Senate, was alluding to the decades-long effort to get to this moment: The New Mexico state Senate voting on a proposal that would move the state closer to joining more than 40 states that already have an ethics commission.

The senator might have spoken a bit too early, however.

The Legislature isn’t finished with the proposal yet. The House of Representatives must decide whether to agree or disagree to changes a senate committee made Wednesday to the proposal that the House passed 66-0 earlier this month.

Capital outlay reform transformed by Senate into three-year interim study

The New Mexico Senate on Thursday approved a watered-down measure to investigate why nearly $1 billion in infrastructure money remains unspent. Senate Bill 262 next moves to the House with less than two days to go in the 2017 legislative session. The committee in the original bill would have vetted projects that are placed in most annual capital outlay bills by individual lawmakers. But a Senate Finance Committee amendment took away that authority. And a floor amendment restricted the committee to a three-year term.

Ethics commission proposal clears perennial hurdle, heads to full Senate

On a 9 to 1 vote early Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Rules Committee, a perennial roadblock to ethics legislation, moved New Mexico closer than it has ever been to joining most U.S. states in creating an independent ethics commission.

But as sometimes happens in a decade-long quest a challenge can materialize just as success appears within sight. And so it was for House Joint Resolution 8.

Already in a race against the clock, HJR8 — which would enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution should voters approve — must clear the full Senate before returning to the House, which gave its stamp of approval to HJR8 last week.

But that was before the Senate Rules Committee decided to remove language laying out how ethics commission members are appointed. Expunged too by the committee were requirements to make public all ethics complaints the commission receives, as well as the responses to them, and that it weigh evidence and rule on complaints in public hearings.