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.

Budget boost: New Mexico could burn through unexpected money quickly

Cautiously optimistic.

That might best describe two senior lawmakers on the Legislature’s budget committees on the eve of the 2018 legislative session.

After two years of dismal tax revenues, New Mexico is suddenly enjoying a surplus of cash. Estimates are between $200 million and $300 million in new money will greet state lawmakers when they convene Tuesday in Santa Fe.

Tax reform unlikely to happen in 2018

A few years ago, a tax nerd at the Roundhouse could catch murmurings of “deductions,” “exemptions,” and “credits” — the tell-tale sign of tax talk — while strolling past law-makers in the hallways or overhearing side conversations during committee hearings. Tax reform as a goal has progressed since then. In the past two years, the movement has interested a larger number of public officials, including Gov. Susana Martinez. Last year, competing concepts jockeyed for primacy. A bipartisan bill wasn’t in the cards.

NM’s skeletal criminal justice system needs a cash infusion

New Mexico’s judges are the lowest paid in the country. Its chronically underfunded public defenders struggle to represent clients in one of the nation’s poorest states. And prosecutors say they need more money to blunt increases in crime. This situation awaits New Mexico state lawmakers when they convene Tuesday for the 2018 session in Santa Fe. But, for the first time in years, thanks to a projected $200 million to $300 million more in revenue than anticipated, the Legislature could spread serious money around New Mexico’s skeletal criminal justice system after recent budget cuts and years of austerity.

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.