Lawmakers aim to make voter registration automatic, more convenient

A group of legislators want to ensure more New Mexicans can vote by making registration easier. They’re proposing automatic voter registration when a person gets a driver’s license and they also want to allow registration right at the polls. Eligible voters already can register or update their registration when applying for or renewing a driver’s license or identification at the Motor Vehicle Division. House Bill 84 would make that process automatic, with an opt-out option for those who don’t want to register. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Democratic representatives from Albuquerque and Corrales — Daymon Ely, Debra Sariñana, Patricia Roybal Caballero and Joy Garratt.

21st Century student success hinges on internet access

Gone are the days of chalkboards – and even whiteboards – in schools. The Las Cruces Public Schools district has slowly transitioned into using more technology, such as Promethean boards — fully digital smart screens that can connect to a computer to be used as a projector or writing board. And class textbooks and curriculum in many cases are fully online. That means students need access to the internet and a computer to do schoolwork, which is a challenge for many in Las Cruces. Twenty-two percent of LCPS students don’t have an internet subscription, meaning no data plans, broadband or any other type of service, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

When money buys the message, it pays to know who’s spending

During an election year, the public — including University of New Mexico students —  is bombarded with political advertising, online, television radio, in the mail, or over the phone.  

The messages are easy to understand: stay away from — or vote for — this person. Less easy is tracking contributions for advertising, because in the current system donors are able to obscure their identities through so-called “dark money.”

This article was published by both New Mexico In Depth and the Daily Lobo at the University of New Mexico. Anthony Jackson is a Fellow for NM in Depth and a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted on Twitter: @TonyAnjacksonDark money is untraceable contributions that can come from unions, corporations, nonprofits or any group registered with the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(4) and also 501(c)(6) to make it more complex. Donations from these groups can go directly to candidates or to political groups.

New institute aims to strengthen Native influence

A newly formed institute hopes that by synthesizing indigenous wisdom with hard-won knowledge of how American institutions work it can become a powerful advocate and resource for New Mexico’s Native American population. The Native American Budget and Policy Institute, formed in late February at the Tamaya resort on the Santa Ana Pueblo, aims to create a dynamic dialogue drawing from both traditions. Using a network of academics, policy makers and tribal elders, the Institute wants to strengthen the influence of Native Americans in policy making at the local, state and potentially federal levels. The goal is to “create the kind of balance” that allows native peoples to “become architects of policy, the architects of laws where they are necessary” — all toward improving the lives of Native American children and their communities, said Regis Pecos, a former governor of Cochiti Pueblo and one of the Institute’s founders. The Institute’s 11-member governing council seems to embody that vision.

Language preservation focus of 2018 American Indian Day

Slideshow by Anthony Jackson
Native Americans from across the state gathered at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Friday to celebrate their cultures and languages during American Indian Day. New Mexico has 23 federally recognized tribes and there are 25 dialects of eight indegenous languages spoken in the state. Native Americans make up 10 percent of the state’s population. The governor of Santa Clara Pueblo, J. Michael Chavarria, opened the day with prayer and a few special guests — children from Zuni Pueblo and their teacher — drove over 200 miles to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in both English and Zuni. The Head Start program the children participate in has a language immersion program where the they can learn Zuni, their Native language.

Efforts look to support children and teen sexual assault survivors



The trauma Abrianna Morales, 16, experienced from sexual assault last year was compounded by isolation she felt during her recovery . There was no resource group or program specifically directed toward teens and youth. “I felt very alone, very isolated, having to deal with the ptsd, the trauma, all by myself,” Morales said. “I was sitting one day watching television and the character had to report a sexual assault, and it occurred to me, I didn’t know how to report a sexual assault.”

With the help of her parents she properly reported her case, but realized that not all young people who’ve been sexually assaulted have support from their parents. So she decided to do something about it.

Native lawmakers carve out space for tribal voices at the statehouse

For Native Americans at the Roundhouse, the annual American Indian Day, celebrated on Friday, is a day to commemorate the struggle Native politicians have endured to find their voice in a predominately non-Native Legislature. Tribal leaders who moved to establish formal governing institutions or processes for their communities in the United States initially established relationships and forged agreements with the federal government.  It wasn’t until the 1980s that Native leaders began to turn their attention more fully to developing stronger voices within state houses. The Reagan administration during that decade made dramatic cuts to social welfare programs, including funding that provided health care and other services to tribes. Reagan’s policy toward American Indians was in line with his general philosophy of moving resources and decision-making authority to states rather than centralized federal control. “This whole state’s rights agenda really forced a relationship where there was no Indian policy, there was no delineation of any shared responsibilities between the state and the tribes,” Regis Pecos, co-director of the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute, said.

Ski passes, newspaper ads and meals: A look inside lobbyist spending during the session

What do ski passes, meals and newspaper ads all have in common? Lobbyists or their employers have purchased them in recent weeks as part of their ongoing efforts to build relationships with or bring lawmakers around to their perspectives on issues. According to mandatory reports filed since January 17th, lobbyists or their employers have spent more than $75,111 so far this session, slightly more than $68,000 spent by this time last year. About half the expenses were in the form of meals at restaurants in and around the Roundhouse, mostly larger events to which all legislators were invited. Lobbyist Natasha Ning told New Mexico In Depth (NMID) she was lobbying to establish a new scholarship at New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI), called the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship.

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.