Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham celebrate the end of the 60-day session in a jubilant mood. Republicans had a different experience of the session. Photo credit: Trip Jennings
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrapped up her first session with the Legislature Saturday agreeing to the most significant increase in public school spending in decades and putting New Mexico in the hunt once again for leadership in the nation’s “green” movement. A three-term congresswoman and former state cabinet secretary, Lujan Grisham began talking about a “moonshot” for education before she was sworn in as governor. No one expected a “moonshot” overnight, although to hear the governor Saturday, her first session behind her, she seemed ready for Mars.
This commentary is part of New Mexico In Depth’s weekly newsletter. Trip Jennings, NMID executive director
2019 is beginning to feel a lot like the 1990s Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”Twelve years ago, at about the same time in the legislative session as we are now, I reported that ethics reform efforts were on life support. I’m not ready to make the same call in 2019. But with four weeks to go in this year’s session, agreement on a bill to flesh out the powers, funding and operations for a seven-member independent ethics commission added to the state Constitution by 75 percent of voters in November isn’t looking quite as inevitable as it once did. As of today, there are competing ethics commission bills.
January will mark two years since Lynn Middle School in Las Cruces re-imagined itself. A walk around classrooms and its cafeteria reveals signs of the metamorphosis.
On any given weekday students drop in for healthy snacks or warm clothes in the school’s community room. Parents have access to computers, WiFi and office supplies to apply for jobs. Families and neighbors stop in for staples at a monthly food pantry operated by Roadrunner Food Bank.
Child wellbeing advocates pushing to expand childhood programs argue that New Mexico’s children are marinating in a stew of toxic stress that not only affects their health, but also underlies the state’s poor educational outcomes. This week, they got data to support their contention. A new report from the nonprofit Child Trends, using data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, found that New Mexico has some of the highest rates of children suffering from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). It tied with Arizona for having 18 percent of children from birth to age 17 with three or more ACEs. The national rate for three or more ACEs is 11 percent.
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.
Odds makers should be revising their estimates for passage of the Land Grant Fund Distribution for early childhood education. The joint resolution co-sponsored by Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas and Javier Martinez, both Democrats from Albuquerque, and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, has bypassed the Senate Rules Committee, the place it went to die in the 2017 legislative session. However, early childhood advocates shouldn’t get too far along in fantasizing about the winnings — the chances are still about as good as a long-shot horse winning the Kentucky Derby, not impossible but unlikely. Maestas and Martinez said after the resolution passed the full House on Tuesday they were planning to lobby individual lawmakers to try to get this constitutional amendment across the finish line.
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.
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.
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.
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.