In her final State of the State address, Gov. Susana expressed her frustration over seven years of reform efforts that have been fought by some school districts and pointedly called out teachers’ unions and the Albuquerque Public Schools for dragging their heels to the detriment of students.
While New Mexico’s colleges and universities are hoping today’s special legislative session restores hundreds of million worth of funding, the Secretary of State’s office is yearning for something more modest. That’s $950,000 for a new online reporting system. New Mexico In Depth reported last week on lobbying records that revealed nearly $318,000 in advertising spending in 2016 and 2017 that was undisclosed because the reports exist only in paper form. The Secretary of State’s online system isn’t set up to receive and post the advertising-only filings online and the agency has requested the software upgrades the past two years. The upgrades would allow filers to submit such reports online, rather than on paper forms.
But for now, data downloads for lobbyists don’t include all the available information.
State lawmakers have repeatedly killed efforts to require greater disclosure by lobbyists that also would clarify the rules, reducing the ambiguity. Bills to tighten lobbyist reporting laws, including requiring details on all expenses, died in committee during this year’s 60-day session.
Lobbyists reported spending more than $690,000 during the first four months of the year to influence legislators and other public officials. Much of the money went to food, drinks and gifts for lawmakers and other public officials. But nearly $244,450 went to advertising and phone calls aimed at motivating constituents to contact their lawmakers on a variety of issues. That advocacy spending, by 11 different groups, is considerably higher than the $106,000 reported by two interest groups in 2015, the last 60-day session. Much of the 2017 advocacy focused on failed efforts to increase background checks on gun purchases, but lobbyists reported trying to rally constituents to contact lawmakers on other issues as well.
New Mexico’s 2018 election season is off to a fast start when it comes to campaign cash. Candidates reported raising $1.8 million in reports filed Monday, with nearly half that raised by Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The reports shed light on possible upcoming 2018 races. They also show funds raised for school board elections that concluded in February. You can search the data at New Mexico In Depth’s Openness Project.
Gov. Susana Martinez, who has touted herself as a champion of transparency, on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have required lobbyists to return to disclosing more information publicly about money they spend on public officials. The Legislature passed a law that weakened those rules last year but sought to correct what some lawmakers called an inadvertent mistake during this year’s 60-day session, which ended last month. Martinez’s veto means lobbyists won’t need to report expenses on lawmakers and other public officials under $100, as they did prior to the current law taking effect. Martinez explained her reasoning in a one-page veto message. “Various interpretations and ambiguity of the bill became clear” after discussion with the bill sponsor, Martinez wrote in her veto message, although she didn’t detail that ambiguity.
It’s now up to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez whether New Mexico’s campaign finance disclosure laws will be modernized. The Senate agreed to House amendments to Senate Bills 96 and 97 Tuesday. The House approved the two measures Monday night. SB 96 has the greater impact, aiming for more disclosure from independent spending groups during campaigns. But it also doubles the donation limits for legislators to $5,000 for each primary and general election cycle.
New Mexicans overwhelmingly oppose spending cuts on education and health care for the poor. But they also don’t want to see taxes on gasoline or internet purchases. They are willing to raise taxes on booze or tobacco and on those earning $200,000 or more a year, however. That’s according to a new poll commissioned by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “I think if you look at the percentage of folks who oppose education or Medicaid cuts, that percentage far outweighs the percentage of opposition there might be to any of the revenue measures,” said Edward Tabet-Cubero, executive director of the center.
New Mexico political action committees raised $16.5 million and spent nearly $15.8 million from 2015 through Dec. 3. Leading the way were GOP super PAC Advance New Mexico Now and Democratic super PAC Patriot Majority New Mexico, with both groups targeting key legislative races. Advance still had $284,000 in cash left as of Dec. 3, money that could have been spent in its efforts to help Republicans retain control of the state House.