‘Nothing ever dies’ at the Roundhouse, except maybe transparency

Gov. Susana Martinez wants each state lawmaker to disclose how much he or she spends on projects around the state. Making their emails public would be nice, too. However, the governor isn’t keen on sharing information about legal settlements the state negotiates. As for state lawmakers, they aren’t rushing to support calls from Martinez or some of their colleagues to shine more light on how the Legislature works. Legislation that would help New Mexicans better understand New Mexico state government is going nowhere fast in the legislative session that ends Thursday, a review by New Mexico In Depth has found.

House passes early childhood funding bill, 36-33

Rep. Javier Martinez talked with NM In Depth’s Sylvia Ulloa about House Joint Resolution 1, which would tap New Mexico’s permanent land grant fund for early childhood programs. It passed the House Tuesday on a 36-33 vote.A plan to fund early childhood education programs in New Mexico by adding an extra 1 percent to the distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund cleared the same hurdle it did last year — though with about an inch less clearance. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas and Rep. Javier Martinez’s HJR1, Land Grant Fund Distributions, passed on the House floor on a 36-33 vote, one vote less than the resolution got in the 2017 session. Martinez said the debate about the benefits of early childhood education was largely over. The debate now is how to fund it to an extent that it could change the education system. “We can invest in global stocks or we can invest in our children,” he said in opening statements.

Last-ditch effort aims to pay back NM school districts $40M

Is it possible to sneak $41 million into New Mexico’s budget — even after the House has already sent its version over to the Senate? School district leaders are sure going to try. The House Appropriations Committee heard impassioned pleas Wednesday from the Republican sponsor of a bill to pay back public school districts whose cash reserves were taken by the state to plug a gaping hole in the fiscal 2017 budget. Superintendents and school board members from all corners of New Mexico and Albuquerque traveled to the state capitol to show their support for the measure. The effort got a late start because of an unexpected increase of “new money” that was forecast Jan.

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.

Datatable: 2016 lobbyist and employers detailed campaign contributions

New Mexico In Depth downloaded data on campaign contributions reported by individual lobbyists, and extracted employer contributions from PDFs of their filings to analyze 2016 donations. In this detailed table, candidate or committee names were standardized. Note that information on a few donations could not be discerned. More Info
House Republicans benefit the most from lobbyist campaign cash

2015 lobbyist and employer detailed contributions

Get a full Google spreadsheet of the data from 2015 and 2016 here.

New lawmakers express optimism about session

The 2017 Legislature kicked off at the Roundhouse Tuesday, and the first order of business was Gov. Susana Martinez’s state of the state address to the legislature. That speech featured many proposals the Republican governor has advocated for years – reinstating the death penalty, avoiding tax increases, holding back third graders who can’t read and increased penalties for DUIs. But she also advocated bipartisanship, probably a necessary step when Democrats control the Legislature. Opening day is largely one of pomp and circumstance, especially for new lawmakers and their families. For New Mexico In Depth and KSFR Radio, we tracked down five new lawmakers in the boisterous capitol and asked about their day, the state of the state address and their goals for the 60-day session.