Legislator seeks to consolidate early childhood education programs

While legislators debate how to fund early childhood education programs, some think more efficiency and better services can be achieved by consolidating early childhood programs. Senate Bill 106 would create a cabinet-level Early Childhood Services Department with oversight of existing programs like home visiting and pre-kindergarten that are currently scattered through various state agencies. “We have a public education department, we have a higher education department, but we don’t have that focus on that early childhood educational component,” said Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City. In addition to better coordination of services, Morales said consolidation of programs would maximize taxpayer dollers. “I think that we have dollars that go unspent. We have, unfortunately, programs that aren’t run as efficiently as I would like to see,” Senator Howie Morales, D-Silver City, said about his bill to establish

 

According to a Legislative Finance Committee Early Childhood report, both state and federal funding for early childhood services totals more than $230 million.

Video: Rep. Jim Dines says subpoena power important for ethics commission

New Mexico is one of the few states that doesn’t have a state ethics commission, and Rep. Jim Dines, R-Bernalillo, hopes to change that. House Joint Resolution 8 proposes an independent ethics commission that oversees complaints concerning state officers and employees, lobbyists, campaigns, and state contractors. Rep. Dines says the subpoena powers contained in the resolution are important. “It gives the commission the ability to obtain records that are out there that would be able to help end the investigation of a potential ethics complaint,” said Rep. Jim Dines. Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Jeff Seinborn (D- Doña Ana), Rep Nathan P. Small (D- Doña Ana), and Rep. Bill McCamley (D- Doña Ana).

Tax loopholes are in the eye of the beholder

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez continues to say we need to tighten our belts rather than raise taxes in order to solve our current fiscal crisis. “She will not raise taxes,” Chris Sanchez, the governor’s spokesperson, told New Mexico In Depth this week. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, however, told the Santa Fe New Mexican this weekend the state can’t endure any more cuts and he is joined by lawmakers who favor raising new tax revenue to balance the budget and replenish the state’s reserve fund. On its face the two positions set up a battle over whether to cut expenses or to raise revenue. But it’s not so simple.

Legislators seek economic boost through hemp

A prime opportunity for developing New Mexico’s struggling economy may be the cultivation of hemp, the plant and leaf matter of one type of cannabis plant, a bipartisan set of legislators say. Several efforts underway at the state Legislature would license growers and establish a research and development fund for studying industrial uses of hemp. Senate Bill 6 would require the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to issue licenses to grow hemp for commercial or research and development purposes, subject to rules established by the department. It establishes a research and development fund at New Mexico State University and removes cannabis plants cultivated for industrial hemp from the definition of “marijuana” in the Controlled Substances Act. Sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, SB 6 passed the Senate earlier this week and will now be considered by the House.

New Mexico Tribes descend on state legislature to oppose Dakota Access Pipeline

Each year, American Indian Day brings culture and concerns from Native Americans across New Mexico to the State Legislature, but Friday they also showed up to show unified support for the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in South Dakota to stop a pipeline that they say threatens their water and damages sacred sites. “We came here today because it’s American Indian Day and to support Standing Rock,” said Rita Blatche who drove more than three hours with her husband from Mescalero to Santa Fe. Standing Rock was the overall theme of the day, with Standing Rock Councilman Robert Taken Alive speaking as the honored guest. All 23 Native American tribes within the state unified their stance toward the Dakota Access Pipeline and signed a letter opposing the pipeline. San Ildefonso Pueblo Lt. Gov. Chris Moquino said the visit from Taken Alive “shows there is strength in numbers.” San Ildefonso is located east of Pojoaque.

New Mexico legal cannabis customers would number 250,000, economist says

New Mexico would have about 250,000 potential customers of cannabis should the state legalize adult recreational use of cannabis, an economist told the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee yesterday. And those consumers would purchase roughly $412 million worth of the drug in the first year. The data was produced by Dr. Kelly O’Donnell, an economist who served as Director of State Tax Policy, Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Economic Development, and Superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department during Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration. She now works as a consultant. Her report was commissioned by Ultra Health, a New Mexico provider of medical marijuana.

Capital Outlay transparency gains traction

Several bills related to transparency are up for hearing this legislative session, including a capital outlay bill introduced by Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Santa Fe. The proposal, HB 121, would make public information about capital projects—and who funds them. That information is currently kept private. Detailed information including the amount of money given to projects is protected under statute. That means there is no way for the public to know how much money their lawmakers individually allocate to a capital project.