Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sen. Steve Fischmann Guest Blog: End Giveaways In New Mexico's Budget

SFISCThis is an op-ed by Democratic State Senator Steve Fischmann of Mesilla Park, who represents District 37 in the Las Cruces area.

As October and January legislative sessions approach, I am constantly on the lookout for long term solutions to New Mexico’s fiscal crisis. The most recent meeting of the Economic and Rural Development committee generated useful ideas, but only via a rude reminder of how large economic interests have come to treat government as their private piggy bank. Let me give an example from the committee meeting, and then suggest potential solutions for New Mexico’s larger budget planning.

An outfit called Sun Cal was pitching a $408 million taxpayer funded TIDD subsidy to help them develop industrial lots on 1400 acres just outside Albuquerque – the same proposal that failed on a tie vote in this year’s legislature largely due to heroic efforts by Representative Ben Rodefer. The Sun Cal proposal is a complicated deal that committee members spent two hours asking detailed questions about; and for which many professed support on the grounds that it would promote economic development.

When a deal is complicated, I get to the heart of the matter by setting aside the details, and focusing on what each party puts in, and what each party receives when everything washes out. Using the company’s own numbers, here is what the Sun Cal TIDD deal boils down to.

SunCal contributes $5.6 million. (Land costs of $4,000 per acre for 1400 acres.)

New Mexico taxpayers contribute $408 million, ($291,000 per acre of the development – more than enough to cover all of Sun Cal’s development, infrastructure and project management costs.)

SunCal gets 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the lots.

Taxpayers get 100% of the ongoing costs of maintaining roads, sewers, water.

Why would the State of New Mexico (90%) and Bernalillo County (10%) put up virtually all the money, but then give all the revenue to Sun Cal? Sun Cal proponents claim the development will attract new and out of state businesses that will contribute to our tax base. This logic escapes me. If I were an out of state business, the $408 million given to Sun Cal would mean nothing. I would ask for my own subsidies and tax breaks. Based on experience at the Mesa Del Sol development this is exactly what will happen. Bottom line, the Sun Cal TIDD is one of the most outrageous giveaways of taxpayer money ever conceived in New Mexico.

Take a step back and it is clear Sun Cal is only part of a bigger picture. Layers of subsidies are handed out by counties, cities, improvement districts, and the state, often times without each being fully aware of what the other is doing. There is no mechanism in the State of New Mexico to track how much is being given away and whether we are getting a financial return on these subsidies.

Take another step back, and we see more considerations to special interests in the form of “tax expenditures.” These are essentially tax breaks given to specific industries and groups to support public policy goals. Many of these expenditures serve a valid purpose, but the logic behind some of them is no more compelling than what we see in the case of Sun Cal. As with economic development subsidies, there is no mechanism in New Mexico to analyze whether the expenditures are achieving what they were meant to - and to terminate them if they are not. There are approximately $10 billion in annual expenditures in the form of credits, deductions and exemptions from State Income and Gross Receipts Taxes. To put this number in perspective, net annual state revenues come in at about $5.5 billion.

With a budget crisis staring us in the face, now would be a good time for New Mexico to stop flying blind and begin managing our full fiscal picture. That means strategic cutbacks in operating costs to be sure, but it also means managing the hidden expenditures that dwarf our annual revenues. Various tools are used in other states. Ideas we should consider include:

  1. Require periodic reports on the fiscal and economic impacts of all tax credits and deductions.
  2. Require sunset clauses on tax expenditures to insure periodic reconsideration by the legislature.
  3. Require public reporting of all state and local subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives used to support individual private “economic development” projects.
  4. Require public votes to approve bonding of private “economic development” projects using state tax revenues; the same kind of votes that are currently required for bonding of publicly owned projects.
  5. Treat taxpayer money with the same respect afforded private capital. If public money is to be invested in a private project, taxpayers should enjoy either a debt or profit sharing interest until the investment is repaid. While reduced returns for public policy purposes may be considered, flat out giveaways must stop.

I fully support sound economic development investments that create industrial expertise and well paying jobs. That does not permit New Mexico to sit idly by while selected private interests break the state’s bank.

This is a guest blog by New Mexico Senator Steve Fischmann. He can be contacted at steve@stevefischmann.com. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

September 3, 2009 at 11:55 AM in Business, Economy, Populism, Finance, Investments, Guest Blogger, Land Issues, Local Politics, NM Legislature 2008, Real Estate Development, Sun Cal | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bloggers Report Outrageous Police Actions in Minneapolis

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"Defense Control" vehicle in Denver

There were plenty of mucho macho, paramilitary-style displays and actions by law enforcement and Secret Service officers in Denver during the DNC Convention. As I reported before, we'd run into one person holding a peace sign surrounded by a dozen officers in riot-SWAT gear with assault weapons, or a small group of older women wearing peace teeshirts drawing a crowd of mounted police, bicycle cops or guys in suits wearing earpieces. Or streets would be closed down for blocks because a small group was walking together and chanting a slogan.

However, as far as we know, nothing came close to the kind of police state behavior that's already going on in Minneapolis as the GOP arrives for their Convention in St. Paul.

Check out this piece by Glenn Greenwald, who's on the story with Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake -- which also has several articles on the situation in Minneapolis. Police in riot gear have been raiding houses, forcing people to lay on the floor while handcuffed, seizing their computers, arresting journalists and lawyers and generally running amok claiming they are uncovering potential "conspiracies -- without any evidence of lawbreaking of any kind. I sure hope the whole world is watching, but maybe it's our own citizens who should be paying the most attention and admitting certain dangerous realities about certain "security" obsessed law enforcement officials.

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Cops in Denver

Serve and Protect?
We personally endured a few over-the-top, in-your-face intimidations in Denver. The worst came when the battery-operated scooter I was using to traverse the long distances between events broke down right before we were past the blocks long "security perimeter." The defective battery (one of two we encountered in my rented scooters) had been giving me trouble all night because it wouldn't hold a charge for long. I had gotten help from Convention volunteers and firefighters to recharge it enough to keep going very slowly, but it gave out again when I neared the exit from the Pepsi Center's secured area.

Two Secret Service agents were clearly peeved at this and ordered us to get the scooter out of there immediately, or else. They had beet red faces, were yelling loudly and were trying to be as intimidating and wise ass as they could. Oh, how they relish their power. When we explained we couldn't carry the heavy scooter ourselves and it shouldn't be pushed, they went ape shit. Questions or comments aren't allowed.

The beefy agents refused to help us or call anyone else over to help and just kept demanding we get the thing past the last barriers. One of them finally ordered me out of the scooter. He then half picked it up and half dragged it past the perimeter and threw it so hard against a concrete barrier that it almost overturned. Next came a nasty-assed grin. Pride in service!

We had the temerity to ask what we could do to get farther and they spouted a few epithets and said they didn't care if we spent the night there. They clearly detested being asked any questions, as they apparently perceive themselves as having unassailable and unlimited power to act as they desire, period. These types are really tough when it comes to dealing with a pair of gray-haired women, one of whom has mobility problems. After letting the scooter sit there for 20 minutes or so, it regained enough juice somehow that we managed to get it started so we could move at a snail's pace to an area where we could hail a cab to take us to our car.

A Cowed Citizenry
It was also instructive to watch our fellow citizens watch the inexcusable rudeness with which we were being treated. They stared, they saw, they fled. After all, the message was clear -- they could be next if they said a word. I'm convinced the authorities could have done whatever they felt like doing to us and nobody would have made a peep in our defense.

You see, intimidating tactics like those we witnessed do in fact work. The goal is to keep everyone quiet, obedient and unquestioning of any behavior on the part of "the authorities" and, quite often, it works. In fact, I'm sure it makes many people feel "safe" from "the terrorists" -- but it makes me feel like our civil liberties could easily go the way of video cassettes if the brutes among law enforcement are allowed to operate unrestrained.

It's especially ironic when Convention speakers are going on about enforcing the Constitution and Bill of Rights while right outside the door there are law enforcement entities acting like citizens exercising -- or even thinking about exercising -- their civil liberties are "the enemy." Not to mention the extreme threat posed by gray-haired women with a scooter with dead batteries. Priorities, priorities.

Keep checking our YouTube account, our Flickr stream and our Zannel widget at the top of the main DFNM blog page.

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August 31, 2008 at 01:27 PM in 2008 Republican Convention, Civil Liberties, Crime, NM Legislature 2008, Republican Party | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tonight & Sunday: Last Two Town Hall Meetings with NM Sen. Ortiz y Pino

The last two in a series of four town hall meetings with NM District 12 Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (and possibly additional guests and elected officials) are set for tonight and Sunday, each covering a different topic. Come and hear about what did (and didn't!) happen during the 2008 Legislative Session. For more information: 505-256-0668 or desibrown@comcast.net.

Wednesday, April 2, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Townhall Meeting on Electoral and Ethics Issues. It takes place at Heights Community Center (824 Buena Vista SE - Albuquerque).

Sunday, April 6, 4:00 - 6:00 PM
Townhall Meeting on Health Care Issues. It takes place at Senator Ortiz y Pino's residence (400 12th Street NW - Albuquerque).

April 2, 2008 at 10:35 AM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Events, Healthcare, Local Politics, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jason Marks: PRC/Feldman Health Insurance Bill Makes New Mexico a Leader in Consumer Protection

Jmarks_3This is a guest blog by Jason Marks, NM Public Regulation Commission Chairman, discussing an important health insurance reform bill just signed by Gov. Bill Richardson. The legislation is getting national praise and attention, including including a front-page story in USA Today:

As everyone knows by now, the 2008 New Mexico Legislature was unable to come to consensus on any of several competing healthcare reform proposals. Except that’s not entirely true. Moving through the Legislature outside of the media spotlight, a health insurance reform bill that originated with the PRC and its then-Chairman Ben Ray Luján, was passed and signed into law. This legislation, Senate Bill 226, sponsored by Senator Dede Feldman (D-Alb, below left) puts New Mexico into the forefront of consumer protection in at least two areas that help families obtain and keep needed coverage.

Dfeldman1New Mexico has become the second state in the country to enact a law limiting insurers’ ability to rescind health insurance policies and/or deny paying claims based on mis-statements on the insured’s original application for coverage. Until Senate Bill 226, insurance companies could retroactively rescind coverage during the first two years of a policy after a patient developed an expensive medical condition that the insurer didn’t want to cover. The insurer could decide that they’d rather refund your premiums and stick you with the responsibility for paying large medical bills. The insurer merely had to point to a relevant mistake or omission on the original application for coverage -- even if that mistake was unintentional. The PRC/Feldman bill raises the standard of proof so as to require the insurer to show that the applicant’s statements or omissions were willful or fraudulent.

Senate Bill 226 also extends the allowable lapse in “creditable coverage” from 63 to 95 days. Currently, if someone loses coverage under a group plan and applies for alternative coverage within 63 days, the period during which the individual was not covered is counted against any waiting periods on pre-existing conditions. The bill allows more time to seek alternate coverage. Several other states have increased their maximum lapse to around 90 days, but at 95 days, New Mexico has the most consumer-friendly standard in the nation. Lastly, Senate Bill 226 raises the minimum cap on coverage for policies under the N.M. Minimum Healthcare Protection Act from $50,000 to $100,000.

LujancommThis all started during the summer of 2007, when PRC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (right) arranged for several PRC discussions on the subject of healthcare and health insurance reform. With unanimous support from the Commission, Luján directed the PRC’s Insurance Division to look for ways to improve health insurance coverage for New Mexico families. As the options began to come together, Commissioner Luján, our Superintendent of Insurance, Mo Chavez (below left), and I met with Senator Feldman to discuss legislative approaches to healthcare reform in New Mexico. Senate Bill 226 was the result. The bill’s enactment fixes the three “gotchas” that have kept needed health insurance coverage from some families while we wait for comprehensive healthcare reform.

Mochavez_2Although Senate Bill 226 received little local media coverage, the PRC/Feldman health insurance reform legislation has drawn national attention, including a front-page story in USA Today, coverage in trade journals, and inquiries from ABC Nightly News.

The most important part of the story, is of course, that the reforms that have now been signed into law by Governor Richardson will provide real benefits to consumers. But almost as important to the long term is the change that this effort signifies at the PRC’s Insurance Division. Only two years ago, a different Superintendent of Insurance was in office and his main legislative priority that year was a bill to relax certain regulatory standards so that troubled insurance companies could relocate to New Mexico. Lobbyists were involved, as were rumors of campaign donations.

Fast forward to today, where we are seeing the fruits of commitments Commissioner Luján and I made to clean up the Insurance Division, reorient it more towards protecting and serving consumers, and to appoint a replacement Superintendent of Insurance who shared our values and vision. New Mexico may not have achieved all the healthcare reform progress that was hoped for this past year (or that is needed). But we have made to a point where we are getting national recognition for our leadership in protecting insurance consumers, and not for our regulatory failings and scandals.

This is a guest blog by Jason Marks, Chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Commissioner Marks is running for reelection in November and has qualified for public campaign funding for his race. Fantastic. To learn more, visit his website.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

March 7, 2008 at 12:10 AM in 2008 PRC Election, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ortiz y Pino: A Time Traveler's Guide to the 2009 Legislature

This is a guest blog by Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a Democratic State Senator who represents District 12 in Albuquerque.

JerryYou don’t have to own a crystal ball to realize that next year’s New Mexico State Legislative session will face an enormous agenda of unfinished business ... even before it tries to address the next generation of great new ideas coming down the pike.

In an earlier piece (in the The Sun News) I described what I think will have to be the next session’s main preoccupation: finding additional tax revenue to keep the Ship of State afloat.  We are coming out of an unprecedented period of economic prosperity in New Mexico.  Revenues have been growing at a rate sufficient to permit both generous tax cuts and ambitious program growth.

That period is now just about at its end.  Adjusting to the new realities of State Finance may be painful.  It will certainly require some additional courage or creativity on the part of a Legislature which has grown accustomed to rarely having to say “no” to any of the interests seeking its assistance.

However, even in the new era of economic belt-tightening which we are entering, there still will need to be solutions devised for the most troublesome of our social problems.  Pleading our state’s poverty as an excuse can never replace determined action. Our very real poverty is simply a complication we have to deal with in confronting the knottiest of our problems.

Here are a dozen guideposts to help keep track of the action leading up to next year’s legislative battles.  These are: three big ticket items; three time bombs; three cries for justice and three leftovers on the table.

Three Big Ticket Items for Our Shopping Cart
There are three big expenditures lurking over the horizon, awaiting action.  We ran away from them this year, postponing the inevitable for twelve months, hoping for some kind of fiscal miracle to spare us from shelling out the almost one billion in total new dollars that they will require.  That miracle isn’t going to occur.

In 2009 I believe we will have at last to stop running from them.  The ultimate cost of resolving them is only growing more difficult with each passing year, not easier.  Each of them is estimated to require $300 million or more (in 2008—by next year they will all have bigger price tags).

These three major purchases are the new public school funding formula; the bail-out of the public employees’ health insurance fund, and the Governor’s health care reform package (or some acceptable alternative to it).  All three have another characteristic in common: the longer we wait to act on each of them, the more expensive the ultimate hit will be.  We can run; we can hide, but we can’t escape.

Three Time-Bombs About to Detonate
Similarly, we postponed acting on three other issues that may not yet have a firm cost estimate attached, but that absolutely demand action before the symptoms already in evidence explode into major problems for many New Mexicans.

The first of these is the burgeoning issue of property tax inequity.  This year it surfaced as “property tax lightning” (the term coined to describe the unexpectedly large jumps that happen when new owners buy properties that haven’t had updated appraisals in years and that therefore haven’t been assessed at anything close to what that property’s real value would indicate).  In the past it was the fear that many elderly persons on fixed incomes might lose their homes because of escalating tax rates.

The numerous complaints that the property tax appraisal and assessment system is treating individuals unfairly suggest that we ought to address it before the entire system breaks down.  We don’t have the same kind of problems here that California faces with its Prop 13 consequences ... yet. However, since for most New Mexicans their home is their largest item of wealth, their most valuable possession, anything that threatens that home’s value demands legislative action.

The second is the continuing dilemma of how to finance highway construction and maintenance in this state.  Costs are sky rocketing; the Feds have seriously cut their support levels for this huge need and local governments are feeling the pinch themselves.  It is crucial that New Mexico figure out some new revenue stream to pay for this immensely important infrastructure and that we do it fast.

The third is the burden that County governments are being asked to shoulder in the financing of jails.  The rules for imprisoning and holding criminals are largely creations of State government.  Who gets locked up; how long he is held; under what terms he can be released; what minor parole infractions merit re-imprisoning him ... all of those are outside the authority of local government to control.  They are just expected to pay the bills for them.  And they are going broke doing so, shelling out scarce local dollars for something that probably ought to be part of State Government’s budget, not theirs.

You could call this issue getting a fiscal handle on our state’s out-of-control, super-expensive correctional system.  Privately owned and operated prisons paid-for by State Government; “corrections” facilities that rarely rehabilitate those they house; scandalously high recidivism rates, and a dearth of good alternatives to incarceration—all are symptoms of a penal system hemorrhaging red ink.

Three Cries for Justice
The legislature fell short again this year in resolving the plight of those in our state living in non-marital relationships, “domestic partners.”  There are very real issues of discrimination in this regard, issues that won’t vanish just because we chose to ignore them this time around.  Look for this to continue being a huge battleground next year.

Then the issue of eliminating the death penalty is certain to again stir its advocates and its opponents to protracted action.  Will 2009 be the year that finally this brutal remnant of the frontier mentality gets put away once and for all?  One can only hope.

Finally, I would include in this group of issues the many forms of injustice we have built into the very framework of most of our social programs as a consequence of inadequate funding levels. 

We maintain a “waiting list” for many developmental disability services; we fund mental health care at a level so low that it permits treatment for only some of those who are desperately in need of it; we require our social service contractors, non-profit agencies operating on a shoestring, to pay a higher wage than previously and to continue to provide health insurance to employees—but we haven’t increased their reimbursement rates.  All of those are penny-wise/pound-foolish games that not only delay services but treat citizens unjustly, with a classic double standard.

Three Scraps Left on the Table
We still have no ethics reforms.  Plenty have been suggested; a few made it into legislation that got debated; nothing came out the other end of the sausage-making machinery.  The challenge remains: we need to act to restore the public’s confidence ... before we lose it permanently.

The Railrunner commuter train funding scheme didn’t get approved, either.  If it is to ever realize its potential for keeping I-25 safe and for reducing our dependence on automobiles, this issue of paying for commuter service will have to be re-visited.

The third leftover in this grouping is the knotty issue of nuclear power: cleaning up uranium mines; protecting against future environmental and health damage caused by mining, milling, transporting, fabricating and reprocessing radioactive products and of course, where or how to safety store the waste produced by the nuclear industry: in weapons, medical procedures and energy production.

Big Uranium wants to start up the machinery again; will we be tempted by the money?  And can it truly be viewed as “clean energy” when it takes as much fossil fuel to produce as it saves?  This is a debate that has barely begun.  I see it on the agenda for many years to come.

Three Items on My Personal Agenda for 2009
I’ll end by discussing some of my own areas of concern, the concerns of a very junior State Senator who represents a district in Central Albuquerque that in some ways accurately serves as a microcosm of our full State—but in others is completely atypical.

I want to get something done about the potentially scandalous situation regarding legal guardians.  These are individuals appointed by Courts to handle the affairs of adults judged incompetent.  For starters we need to get a handle on what’s out there.  Since the Courts aren’t monitoring or checking up in any way, the fear is that abuses may have cropped up in the system.  Every year of delay in addressing this means additional elderly or handicapped adults may be being taken advantage of.

I also want to fund the depleted uranium testing program for soldiers returning to New Mexico from war zones in the Middle East.  In time the hope is to convince the Federal Veterans Administration that this problem has to be admitted and dealt with.

Finally, this state is allowing a potentially valuable resource to be wasted: the minds and skills of the 200,000 or more adults who live in New Mexico who have not finished high school.  Many are not literate.  They want to work, want to be part of the solution, not the problem ... but until we put together a serious effort to expand  programs in Adult Literacy, Adult Basic Ed, English as a Second Language and drop-out recovery, we will have to watch this vast potential get wasted ... or get twisted into criminal careers.

That’s my travelers’ guide.  The revised edition will be available in 2009.

This is a guest blog by NM State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino. Click to read previous guest blogs by the Senator here and here. Guest blogs provide readers with an opportunity to express their views on relevant issues and may or many not reflect our views. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

March 3, 2008 at 08:28 AM in Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Health Action NM Presents Legislative Wrapup Tonight

From Health Action New Mexico:
Health Action New Mexico will host a Legislative Wrapup on health care reform and other related issues on Thursday, February 28, at 5:30 PM at the First Unitarian Church (Comanche and Carlisle) in Albuquerque. The panelists reporting will be:

  • State Senator Jerry Ortiz Y Pino
  • Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministries
  • Bill Jordan, New Mexico Voices for Children

Patrick Tyrrell of Health Action NM  will be the moderator. The public is encouraged to attend.

February 28, 2008 at 10:26 AM in Events, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ACTION ALERT: Urge Gov. Richardson to Veto Damaging Uranium Cleanup Bill

Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), alongside the Southwest Research Information Center (SRIC) and many other environmental justice organizations, fought hard against uranium mining industry-friendly legislation throughout the 2008 New Mexico State Legislative Session, only to see SB487 (Ulibarri) become the final bill to be voted upon during the closing minutes of the session.

If signed in to law, SB487 would create an industry-biased source for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines because it ties cleanup of mining sites to production from new uranium mining and mills -- which many residents of impacted communities oppose. The bill would also absolve companies that created abandoned uranium mines from responsibility, and pre-empt efforts to inventory abandoned uranium mines and their past operators, and develop recommendations for a state Superfund for abandoned uranium mines.

The organizations are now encouraging New Mexicans to contact Governor Bill Richardson (505-476-2200) to veto the legislation in lieu of a critical analysis to understand clean-up needs and the industry's impact on New Mexican communities' health. For more information, please contact Leona Morgan, of ENDAUM at leona.morgan@yahoo.com.

According to a call to action issued by SAGE Council:

SB 487/a is disguised as a uranium cleanup bill, but only invites uranium companies to reopen their mines and add to the already devastating affects to both the environment and the health of the people. The bill, sponsored by Senator Ulibarri, passed the Senate floor just minutes before the session ended. Please call the Governor and ask him to VETO THIS BAD URANIUM BILL!

February 19, 2008 at 11:40 AM in Energy, Environment, NM Legislature 2008, Nuclear Arms, Power | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Saturday: Insight New Mexico Radio's Legislative Wrap-Up

From Insight New Mexico:
The lastest installment of Insight New Mexico airs on Albuquerque's Progressive Talk Radio 1350 AM from Noon to 1:00 PM on Saturday, February 9. Cohosted by Heather Brewer and Javier Benavidez and produced by Suzanne Prescott. You can call in live during the show with your questions and comments at 338-4090. This week's show:

Monahan1_2

Joe Monahan will be with us to wrap up our series of shows on the legislature, 2008 version. What have the alligators told Joe about our show continuing after the legislature?

Ortizypino1
Senator Ortiz y Pino talks with
DFNM's Mary Ellen Broderick  before a show last year

Senator Jerry Ortiz Y Pino is back with us again for the 2008 legislative wrap-up edition.  He'll tell us why he voted for the TIDDS legislation and what success and disappointments were made this legislative session.

Moe1

State Rep. Moe Maestas joins us to give his take on actions taken in the House during the 2008 legislative session.

February 15, 2008 at 04:06 PM in Local Politics, Media, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tonight on New Mexico In Focus: Legislative Session Wrap-Up

From New Mexico IN FOCUS: FRIDAY, FEB. 15 at 7:00 PM and repeated SUNDAY, FEB. 17 at 6:30 AM  on  Channel 5, KNME-TV. Hosted by Gene Grant and David Alire Garcia.

This Week’s TOPICS: The 2008 Legislative Session Wraps Up With Issues, from Universal Health Care To Domestic Partnership And Ethics Reform; The Growing Tension Between Lawmakers and Gov. Richardson; The Congressional Candidates Make Their Campaigns Official; The Ballot Counting Continues In The Democratic Presidential Caucus; The Battle Over Oil And Gas Drilling In The Galisteo Basin Rages On.

This Week’s GUESTS: Walter Bradley, Former Lt. Governor; Senator Carlos Cisneros, (D) Questa;  Senator Linda Lopez, (D) Albuquerque; Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, (D) Albuquerque; Representative Danice Picraux, (D) Albuquerque; Representative Lucky Varela, (D) Santa Fe

GUEST PANELISTS: Jennifer Duke, Communications Manager, CNM; Joe Powdrell, Former President, NAACP New Mexico

February 15, 2008 at 02:23 PM in Local Politics, Media, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Interested in the End Results of the NM Legislative Session?

FightNo, I didn't think so. Me either. It's hard to stay engaged during 30 days filled mostly with the low spark of high-heeled boys. You know what I mean. I found it next to impossible to write with real hope about the prospects for passage of stem cell research, REAL heath care reform, educational improvement, ethics and campaign reform, domestic partnership or other important measures. Clearly, our critical needs really don't matter much with too many up there, all caught up in who can stick their tongues out the farthest. Much ado about nothing, negating months of work on important issues by hundreds of people.

Now the usual suspects can prattle on about which side "won" in any given spat. Let's not waste much time here doing that. Oversize egos, narrow minds and corporate lobbyists won out over everything else. Period.

There's little to praise beyond the valiant efforts of adult legislators like Rep. Mimi Stewart, Sen. Dede Feldman, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and others who take the job seriously. There are significant numbers of state senators and representatives who work tirelessly to craft sensible legislation in the face of raging juvenile delinquency in the Roundhouse from top to bottom (and that includes the newly bearded one). Special gold star, though, to honor a 45-minute filibuster last night by Sen. Cisco McSorley that stopped the SunCal TIDD bill giveaway. Bravo, Senator. Or as Cocoposts puts it, Kiss Senator Cisco!

Anyone else remember any high points this year?

February 14, 2008 at 04:15 PM in NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Domestic Partner Bird Blogging: Happy Valentine's Day

Dscn3561
Hambone and Ginger, sitting in a swing, k-i-s-s-i-n-g ...

We have new love among our parakeets -- our female parakeets. Hambone, the daughter of now deceased mom Whitey and dad Queenie, has allowed herself to be wooed and won by Ginger, our female lutino budgie. It was a long and sometimes rocky courtship. For many moons, Hambone didn't want much to do with Ginger, preferring to busy herself with toys and seed dishes. When Ginger would make an affectionate overture, she'd peck Ginger's head and make threatening noises. Ginger, however, was undeterred and persistent in her courtship. She had it bad for Hambone.

Recently, however, Hambone had a change of heart and the two of them can be found side by side most of the day and through the night, often sharing a swing, as above. Ginger feeds Hambone, as any good parakeet lover does with its domestic partner. She sings to her, kisses her beak, grooms her feathers and yes, makes sweet parakeet love with her. This is nature at work -- not the result of any propaganda from the GLBT parakeet community. Obviously, they don't consider it a "sin." Our other parakeets seem just fine with the arrangement, and grant Hambone and Ginger their space and their dignity despite the couple's obvious difference in orientation. No big whoop.

Dscn3558

Unfortunately, that's more than I can say for some in the human community, at least here in New Mexico, where Legislators like Sen. Lidio Rainaldi, Sen. Richard Martinez and Rep. Gloria Vaughn hold my civil rights and those of many others hostage in order to uphold some distorted "scriptural" take on matters that are entirely to do with civil law. On this Valentine's Day, I hope lovers and partners whose relationships are granted respect, civil law authority and the full rights and benefits due them will consider the plight of couples like Hambone and Ginger, who are following nature's way as it manifests within them. After all, diversity is the norm on this here planet Earth.

February 14, 2008 at 10:02 AM in Bird Blogging, Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NM Legislators: Do You Support Clean Elections?

Gotta love it. Clearly New Mexico's Alicia Lueras Maldonado asked a number of New Mexico Legislators about their views on the Clean Elections bill currently being considered at the Roundhouse and posted a video (above) of their responses.

HB564, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, would provide a public financing option for all statewide races in New Mexico similar to a measure enacted previously for Public Regulation Commission candidates and appeals court judges. In fact, Democrat Jason Marks is running for reelection to the PRC this cycle using the public financing option. Unfortunately, HB564 is currently mired in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. You know why.

Do you know any ordinary citizens who believe it's good policy to preserve the power of large campaign donations from corporate and other vested special interests, along with their corrupting influence on politicos? Unfortunately, those who contribute the big buck cash and those who use it to represent the interests of the donors seem mighty enamored of the present system, which looks more and more like pay-to-play every election cycle.

Common Cause New Mexico has been encouraging constituents to ask their Legislators to sign a Voters First Pledge and promise to work to pass and enforce legislation for full voluntary public campaign financing for statewide offices. After the Session, Common Cause will be issuing their 2008 Ethics Reform Report Card to let voters know the degree to which their legislators support much-needed ethics reform in New Mexico. Should make compelling reading.

You can read our previous coverage on ethics and campaign finance reform at our archive.

February 13, 2008 at 09:37 AM in Corporatism, Ethics & Campaign Reform, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)