A state Senate committee failed to muster enough votes Wednesday morning to pass a bill that would fix a transparency loophole the Legislature created last year. But the bill sponsor said he’ll try again to get the measure through the Rules Committee. The loophole allows lobbyists to disclose much less about how they spend money on public officials than they used to. It removed a requirement for lobbyists to report expenses spent on individual lawmakers below $100. Previously, lobbyists had to report all spending, itemizing expenses spent above $75 per lawmaker and reporting the cumulative amount of expenses below $75 per lawmaker.
Registered lobbyists and their employer campaign donations made up about 25 percent of what legislative candidates spent during the 2016 election. And most of that money went to House Republicans. Despite that lobbyist largesse, the GOP lost control of the House to Democrats, while Senate Democrats increased their margin. Lobbyists and their employers reported donating more than $2.8 million to candidates and political action committees in 2016. That brings their total for the 2015-16 elections cycle to nearly $4 million, with more than 90 percent of that money going to legislative candidates or partisan PACs.
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.
Legislative candidates raised $12 million and spent more than $10.3 million during the 2016 election cycle. Republicans lost their state House majority despite outraising and outspending Democrats overall. Democratic Senate candidates outspent their GOP opponents while increasing their majority. even though Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez lost his seat after an onslaught of negative advertising funded by a super PAC. Candidates filed their final reports Thursday.
Democrats took back the House and increased their hold over the state Senate last week. That’s despite the loss of Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to Republican Greg Baca, which GOP Gov. Susana Martinez declared a major victory. Come January, the House majority will switch from 37-33 in favor of Republicans to at least 37-33 in the Democrats’ favor. That margin could increase to as high as 39-31, depending on the outcome of two recounts in the Albuquerque area. Here’s a look at the seats that switched or might switch:
House District 36: Las Cruces Democrat Nate Small defeated incumbent Rep. Andy Nunez with 56.5 percent of the vote to 43.5 percent of the vote.
Advance New Mexico Now will spend more than $125,000 on TV advertising in its effort to unseat Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. The ads begin Sunday on at least two Albuquerque stations, KOB and KOAT, and air through early November, based on contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Friday. Meanwhile, Sanchez is airing more than $120,000 in ads on four Albuquerque stations through Election Day. His ads began Wednesday, Oct. 17.