NM In Depth editors and reporters discuss 2024 legislative session outcomes

New Mexico In Depth reporter Bella Davis joined Executive Director Trip Jennings and Managing Editor Marjorie Childress on Tuesday for a chat about the 2024 legislative session, which ended Feb. 15. 

Childress began by reminding everyone that all bills passed by the Legislature are still subject to vetoes from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Jennings added that the $10.2 billion dollar state budget and $1 billion dollar capital outlay legislation are subject to line item vetoes. That’s because they appropriate money and the state constitution gives a governor the power to eliminate words, passages and individual appropriations in any bill that spends state money. 

The audience asked what New Mexico In Depth was least happy about coming out of the session. “I’m upset that I don’t know more about how much money lobbyists spend on lawmakers,” Jennings said.

NM In Depth editors and reporters discuss government transparency, ethics and the Governmental Conduct Act

New Mexico In Depth editors held the third of five online chats about the 2024 legislative session last week. Professor of Practice of Journalism at the University of New Mexico, and occasional contributor to New Mexico In Depth, Gwyneth Doland, joined Executive Director Trip Jennings and Managing Editor Marjorie Childress to discuss government transparency, legislative modernization efforts, and the Governmental Conduct Act. Doland kicked off the conversation talking about the 14 students she takes to the Roundhouse every Wednesday and their experience thus far. “It’s interesting and cool to see things through their eyes,” she said, while noting that for newcomers, navigating the state capitol during a legislative session can be a lot to take in. 

The three discussed efforts over the past 15 years to make the statehouse more accessible and understandable, including webcasting, budget transparency efforts, and showing what is stricken or added through amendments lawmakers adopt to change legislation, and making bills easier to track. One step backwards Jennings mentioned is that certain areas of the capitol have been closed to the public, making it more difficult to reach lawmakers for a conversation.

New Mexico In Depth editors and reporters discuss education in second legislative chat

New Mexico In Depth editors held the second of five online chats about the 2024 legislative session yesterday. Indigenous Affairs reporter, Bella Davis, joined Executive Director Trip Jennings and Managing Editor Marjorie Childress to chat about education in general, and tribal education specifically. 

Childress mentioned that 42% of the proposed $10 billion state budget was earmarked for education. Education is “always a big ticket item,” said Jennings. Both mentioned low proficiency rates and low graduation rates as big educational challenges as New Mexico attempts to improve instruction for the 305,000 children enrolled in public schools around the state as well as move the state up the national education rankings. The backdrop to the conversation was the 2018 landmark Yazzie Martinez lawsuit, which found the state had violated the educational rights of Native American, English language-learners, disabled and low-income children. 

Davis went into detail about three legislative initiatives that would allocate public dollars to tribal education efforts, including bringing more teachers into the educational system from under-represented communities.

New Mexico In Depth editors chat about the state budget, public safety, and transparency

New Mexico In Depth editors held the first of five online chats about the 2024 legislative session yesterday. In a wide-ranging conversation, Executive Director Trip Jennings and Managing Editor Marjorie Childress covered the highlights of the first week, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State of the State address which was disrupted by young protestors on three different occasions. New Mexico In Depth will host weekly conversations each Thursday at 12:30 during the 30-day legislative session that kicked off on Tuesday. 

Jennings and Childress, with 30 years or more combined reporting at the Roundhouse,  discussed the competing state budget proposals from Lujan Grisham and the Legislature at a time when New Mexico is swimming in money thanks to a historic surplus. A theme of the coming budget discussions between the governor and state lawmakers will center on how much to spend and how much to save, they said. New Mexico relies heavily on the volatile oil and gas industry to pay for services and programs, with more than 40% of the state’s spending every year underwritten by revenues generated by the industry.

Public blind to money flowing to lawmakers as session kicks off

As the New Mexico legislative session kicked off this week, the public was blind in one very important respect. 

Marjorie Childress, New Mexico In Depth

In the next four weeks, lawmakers will create a state budget worth at least $10 billion dollars, pass another quite large capital outlay budget, and pass influential tax and policy bills. But who gave money to those lawmakers in the last quarter of the year – in the form of campaign contributions – will largely be a mystery. That’s because lawmakers aren’t required to file a public report in January about campaign contributions they received in the run-up to the legislative session, if they didn’t run for office the year before. 

Since no lawmakers ran for office in 2023, we do not have a comprehensive data set showing the money that flowed into campaign accounts in the final months of 2023. Their last reports reflect contributions through Oct. 7, 2023, and we won’t have an update until April, when their next reports are due.I’ve been looking at campaign filings for many years. I promise you that among year-end contributors will be corporations and often, their owners and employees. There will be executives and public relations specialists for trade associations, labor unions, and public policy organizations. 

Some of those contributors will be registered as official lobbyists for their organizations, and in those cases we can see what they gave because lobbyists must file a January report. But while the reports of 100 or so lobbyists, or of their employers, are highly consequential, they are just a slice of the money flowing into the campaign accounts of lawmakers. A fuller picture would allow the public to comb through reports by address, employers, and occupation, and better understand how much money lawmakers are getting from a particular industry, special interest group, or simply from a handful of big donors. Last year, lawmakers were poised to pass a bill with several transparency measures, including one that would have shifted the reporting schedule to capture donations at the end of the year in a January report, showing how much money was given to lawmakers in the run-up to the legislative session.

Desperate Families Search for Affordable Home Care

New Mexico In Depth occasionally publishes stories produced by other news organizations that we feel would benefit New Mexicans. This is part one of “Dying Broke” – a look by Kaiser Family Foundation Health News and the New York Times at the economic devastation families often face caring for their elderly members. Given New Mexico’s aging population, it is particularly timely. It’s a good day when Frank Lee, a retired chef, can slip out to the hardware store, fairly confident that his wife, Robin, is in the hands of reliable help. He spends nearly every hour of every day anxiously overseeing her care at their home on the Isle of Palms, a barrier island near Charleston, South Carolina.

What to Know About Home Care Services

New Mexico In Depth occasionally publishes stories produced by other news organizations that we feel would benefit New Mexicans. This is part one of “Dying Broke” – a look by Kaiser Family Foundation Health News and the New York Times at the economic devastation families often face caring for their elderly members. Given New Mexico’s aging population, it is particularly timely. Most older Americans want to live at home as long as they can, but finding and affording the help they need often isn’t easy. There are severe shortages of home health aides in many parts of the country.

Why Long-Term Care Insurance Falls Short for So Many 

New Mexico In Depth occasionally publishes stories produced by other news organizations that we feel would benefit New Mexicans. This is part one of “Dying Broke” – a look by Kaiser Family Foundation Health News and the New York Times at the economic devastation families often face caring for their elderly members. Given New Mexico’s aging population, it is particularly timely. For 35 years, Angela Jemmott and her five brothers paid premiums on a long-term care insurance policy for their 91-year-old mother. But the policy does not cover home health aides whose assistance allows her to stay in her Sacramento, California, bungalow, near the friends and neighbors she loves.

A Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance

New Mexico In Depth occasionally publishes stories produced by other news organizations that we feel would benefit New Mexicans. This is part one of “Dying Broke” – a look by Kaiser Family Foundation Health News and the New York Times at the economic devastation families often face caring for their elderly members. Given New Mexico’s aging population, it is particularly timely. If you’re wealthy, you’ll be able to afford help in your home or care in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. If you’re poor, you can turn to Medicaid for nursing homes or aides at home.