Necessary Ethics Reform Efforts Hampered by Constitutional Restrictions, Politics

Everyone who works around the Legislature – legislator, lobbyist, analyst, advocate, reporter, etc. — knows that it can take time for legislation to “ripen”. That sometimes moving in a new direction from what is currently in statute or what is commonplace can take years of lead time and advocating for a change or for reform. And sometimes there are issues that arrive with such exigency that they are embraced with apparent immediacy and acknowledgment of the necessity for action. This year saw the indictment of a powerful state representative on multiple corruption charges.

Lawmakers may be more accessible via social media

Sen. Jacob R. Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, takes a selfie on the House floor of the New Mexico Roundhouse. Candelaria is one of three legislators who were rated super active on both Twitter and Facebook. (Celia Raney, NMID)

When the legislative session comes to an end today, lawmakers will disperse throughout the state. But communicating with them doesn’t end when legislative leaders gavel the session to a close. All legislators have contact information like a phone number or email address listed on the state’s legislative website, but for some lawmakers, 43% of them, there’s a good chance their constituents can communicate with them through social media, an analysis by NMID has found. 
New Mexico In Depth wanted to find out which lawmakers connect with the public through social media.

Slideshow: Lujan Grisham gives State of the State address

The Capitol Building opened its doors to hundreds of people Tuesday as the New Mexico 2020 Legislative Session kicked off with the State of the State speech from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Two newly appointed Representatives were confirmed, Lujan Grisham briefed a joint meeting of the House and Senate on the issues at the top of her agenda for the 30-day session, and lawmakers began four weeks of discussion and debate to, in part, set the state budget for the next fiscal year. Below are images from the House and Senate Floors on opening day. 

A member of the National Guard carries the New Mexico State Flag during the presentation of the colors as the 2020 Legislative Session kicks off in Santa Fe on Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Newly appointed representative Daniel R. Barrone, D-El Prado, is escorted to the front of the House Floor to take his oath of office. (Celia Raney, NMID)Sen. Jacob R. Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, takes a selfie on the House floor of the New Mexico Roundhouse on Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Newly appointed representatives Marian Matthews, D-Albuquerque, and Daniel R. Barrone, D-El Prado, take their oath of office in Santa Fe on Tuesday as the 2020 legislative session kicks off. (Celia Raney, NMID)House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapelton, D-Albuquerque, asks speaker of the House Brian Egolf to invite Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to the House floor to give her State of the State address in Santa Fe on Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is escorted onto the House floor to give her State of the State address by Deputy Frank Montoya at the State Capitol Building in Santa Fe on Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Sen. Antoinette Sedillio Lopez walks onto the House floor at the Roundhouse for the State of the State address wearing a sash that reads “votes for women.” (Celia Raney, NMID)Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham addresses senators and representatives on the House floor during the State of the State Address, kicking off the 30=day legislative session in Santa Fe on Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham carries her granddaughter Avery out of the House Floor after delivering her State of the State address to lawmakers and a full public gallery Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Rep. Linda M. Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, talks with other legislators and opening day guests after the State of the State address Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Rep. Antonio Maestas,  D-Albuquerque talks with guests on the House floor after the State of the State address in Santa Fe on Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Regis Pecos, senior policy adviser for Rep. Williams Stapleton, talks with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller after the State of the State address on the opening day of the 30-day legislative session in Santa Fe on Tuesday. (Celia Raney, NMID)Sen. Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, right, and Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, left, speak to reporters after the governor’s speech. (Trip Jennings, NMID)

Institute will take effort to combat child trauma statewide

Las Cruces City Councilor Kasandra Gandara is bringing together behavioral health, education, community organizing, child wellbeing and health groups in an effort to gather data on Adverse Childhood Experiences and use that information to combat childhood trauma. Tackling childhood trauma in a data-driven, community-based fashion went from an idea to an institute within the space of a year. Las Cruces City Councilor Kasandra Gandara knew from her years as a social worker at the Children Youth and Families Department that even front line workers in child protective services, faced with the hardest cases of abuse and neglect, were not aware of or trained in the theory of Adverse Childhood Experiences and the lifelong effects they have on health and learning. So when she read the book, “Anna, Age Eight: The Data-driven Prevention of Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment,” written by Katherine Ortega Courtney and Dominic Cappello, from research done at CYFD, she embarked on a mission to use data to prevent the heart-breaking instances of abuse she witnessed first-hand in Las Cruces and Dona Ana County. That project has grown swiftly.

Governor and Democrats bask in session successes

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.

Is it ‘Groundhog Day’ for ethics reform in NM?

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.

It takes a community to educate a child at Lynn Middle School

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.

‘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.