Friday, December 02, 2011

Guest Blogger Lora Lucero: Recap of We the People are Here Town Hall

This is a guest blog by Lora Lucero, a long-time resident of Albuquerque, NM, an adjunct professor of law at UNM and the Natural Resources Director for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.

Corporations, banks and taxes (thanks in great measure to the Occupiers’ consciousness-raising actions of the past few months) are the most despised words in the English lexicon today.  Americans won’t be fooled.  The 99% understand exactly who controls the traditional levers of power --- and we’re not going to take it any longer. 

Watch 2012!   Change is a-comin’

Packed house WAPH

At the We the People are Here town hall on Tuesday, Nov. 29, Senator Peter Wirth and Representative Brian Egolf, both from Santa Fe, discussed two proposals they will bring back to the New Mexico Legislature in January.  They stood before an enthusiastic audience of 200-250 people at El Museo Cultura.    

Senator Wirth’s Combined Reporting bill has never made it out of the Senate Corporations Committee in the past eight years that he has carried it.  “It goes there to die,” Wirth admitted.  2012 could be different.

There’s no sexy sound bite to describe the Combined Reporting bill, unfortunately, which might make it a hard sell for the general public, but Senator Wirth had no trouble explaining it Tuesday and gaining the support of those present.  The following night, a local chapter of the Progressive Democrats of New Mexico in Corrales also endorsed the proposal.

Egolf and wirth waphYou can’t stop a good idea whose time has come!

Combined Reporting, in a nutshell, will require out-of-state corporations (Walmart and the like) to pay corporate income tax in New Mexico, just like your mom-and-pop businesses must pay today.

“These behemoths don’t already pay corporate income tax in New Mexico?” you ask.  No. Astonishingly, New Mexico is one of the last (if not THE last) Rocky Mountain states that provides a loophole for multi-state corporations to elect to report and file their corporate tax returns in another state where they do business.  New Mexico gets nada.

Of course, opponents to Combined Reporting will argue that these out-of-state businesses pay other types of taxes and provide other types of benefits to our economy, so we’d better treat them with kid gloves.  We certainly don’t want them to pack up and move out. 

RIDICULOUS!  Does anyone really expect Walmart to close its doors in New Mexico? Or fear that any other multi-state corporations will leave?  Where will they go since most states don’t provide this same corporate tax loophole? That argument is a red-herring that most reasonable people have already dismissed. 

The real issue is fairness.  Should multi-state corporations slide through without paying corporate income taxes in New Mexico while the home-grown mom-and-pop business shoulders the burden?  Aren’t we putting our own New Mexico businesses at a disadvantage in this competitive environment?  Why would we do that?

Peter wirth waphSenator Wirth is hoping to deflect some of the “anti-new-tax” rhetoric by adding a sweetner to his Combined Reporting bill this year.  Because there will be more corporations paying income tax in New Mexico, if his bill passes, we can actually reduce the corporate tax rate from 7.6% to 7% and still come out ahead. 

So Wirth’s legislation might be a new tax for those out-of-state corporations, but it will be a reduced tax for in-state corporations.  I can see it now.  The dark suits in the halls of the Roundhouse will be in a tizzy.  If they represent in-state clients, will they continue opposing Wirth’s Combined Reporting bill?  Not if they want their lobbying contracts renewed in 2013.

I also expect there will be many new faces watching the committee hearings in 2012. The issue of fairness and making large corporations pay their fair share in New Mexico should resonate with the 99%. 

If you want to level the playing field, please sign this petition in support of Combined Reporting. 

Representative Brian Egolf proposes to reintroduce a bill (or was it a memorial or resolution? --- I’m not sure) to require state agencies to study and prepare a plan for the creation of a state bank.  Only North Dakota has a state bank which has proven to be a boom for that state’s economy.  Yes! Magazine had a good spread about the benefits of a state bank in its September issue.  My New Economy book club has read about state banks (David Korten’s “Agenda for a New Economy” for example) and we think it’s a great idea.  The We the People are Here in Santa Fe appears to favor it too.

December 2, 2011 at 05:06 PM in Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2011, Taxes | |

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Senator Lynda M. Lovejoy Named to Leadership Post of National Legislative Organization

SLOVEOn October 6, 2011 Stephen R. Morris, President of National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), announced the appointment of NM state Senator Lynda M. Lovejoy as Co-Chair of the NCSL Transportation Committee for the 2011-2012 term.

“The NCSL standing committees constitute the focal point for the organization’s invaluable assistance to legislatures on state issues and its formidable and successful representation of state interests in Washington, DC,” Said Morris, President NCSL.

The Transportation Committee is one of 12 standing committees of the National Conference of State Legislatures. The standing committees are responsible for developing policy directives that guide NCSL’s states’ agenda on Capitol Hill and within the administration.

“I have been serving on several NCSL standing committees for five years and now, to be chosen as Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee, this is truly something special and a great honor,” said Senator Lovejoy. “I feel that this is a real opportunity to increase visibility of Native American issues on the national level.”

Senator Lynda M. Lovejoy (D-Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, Rio Arriba & Sandoval-22) represents state Senate District 22. Sen. Lovejoy has been in the state Senate since 2007 and is a member of the Navajo Nation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the nation's 50 states, its commonwealths and territories. NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues. NCSL is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of state governments before Congress and federal agencies. The leadership of NCSL is composed of legislators and staff from across the country. The NCSL Executive Committee provides overall direction on operations of the Conference.

November 1, 2011 at 09:57 PM in NM Legislature 2011 | |

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sen. Tim Keller: We Need Sweeping Reform to Address Expo New Mexico Audit Findings

TimKELLERCrYesterday, the Legislative Finance Committee issued its report on the historical financial performance and operations of Expo NM (the state fair grounds).  Sen. Tim Keller, who represents the area in and around the Fair Grounds, responded to the findings. “It is now abundantly clear Expo New Mexico operations are rife with challenges and have been for some time.”

“New Mexicans deserves a well-run operation that is a pride point for the city, state and surrounding community. Expo has been in crisis mode for years and run adrift with millions of dollars for long enough. It's time the legislature reign in Expo operations with oversight and increased accountability.  I will be proposing legislation to reduce Expo’s autonomy and bring it under compliance with state purchasing (SPO), the sunshine portal and department of finance (DFA) regulations. I will also be restructuring the powers and duties of the State Fair Commission.”

As highlighted in the report, Expo New Mexico is run as in independent ‘enterprise’ that does not have to follow standard transparency and accounting practices required by the state purchasing office and the Department of Finance. Although it has been subsidized by the state for decades, it gets to make its own rules, Keller explained. With millions in budget dollars and contracts worth in excess of $50 million, this enterprise has been slowly drowning. “As you can imagine, the state, city and surrounding neighborhoods are very discouraged by these findings,” noted Keller. 

Pending Downs at Expo New Mexico Lease
The audit discussion also raised questions about the pending new $50 million lease for the racino grounds -- Downs at Expo New Mexico.  Sen. Tim Keller stated, “The process seems overly rushed, and I’m concerned Expo is getting into a 25-year lease without giving enough time to analyze various options and build a long-term vision for the grounds as whole. The RFP should be re-opened, a long-term plan should be in place, optimal lease rates determined and the community should have some input. It just makes business sense to allow for proper analysis of a $50+ million dollar land deal. “We can do a lot better than this,” concluded Keller. 

In reaction to Commissioner Rode’s statement that the “tax payers are subsidizing a racing company making millions and there is zero participation by state fair commissioners ... as it stands we are rubber stamp,” Keller noted, “It sounds like this RFP process has turned into a sham, and the Governor’s office should postpone it immediately.”

Need Totally New Structure
“The commission has too much power; it’s a playground for commissioners to come in and do whatever they want ... they do whatever they want when they want ... money thrown around left and right with no consequences,” stated state fair commission chairman Hossie Sanchez.  Keller noted, “We have to totally change the structure of state fair management. This is irresponsible and it’s been going on far too long. It reminds me of the SIC a few years ago, and I’m going to do all I can to reign this in during the next session. I hope others and Governor will join me in that effort.”

October 21, 2011 at 06:30 AM in Expo NM, Finance, Investments, NM Legislature 2011, Tim Keller | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Bright Spot In NM Special Session: Jobs Bill Signed Into Law

Yesterday, Governor Susanna Martinez signed Senate Bill 1 into law, the In-State Preference bill sponsored by Senator Tim Keller (D-Bernalillo-17) in the recent special legislative session.  SB-1 was a true bright spot in the recent special session, and is expected to create thousands of new jobs in New Mexico.

Senator Keller and co-sponsor Rep. Larry Larranaga (R-Bernalillo-27) worked with the business community, the Governor’s Office and the Senate Jobs Task Force convened by Majority Floor Leader Senator Michael S. Sanchez (D-Valencia-29), to produce the legislation signed yesterday.

“The enactment of the In-State Preference bill is a shining example of how government should work for the mutual benefit of the people of New Mexico. SB-1 will now create over 3,000 jobs in our state and is the result of nearly two years of bi-partisan collaboration on the part of business stakeholders, the governors’ office and the legislature.”

“This bill will strengthen the New Mexico economy by creating a win-win situation for economic development and the private sector in our state,” said Rep. Larrañaga. “As a result, SB-1 enjoys widespread support from the legislature, governor and the entire business community,” he continued.

SB-1 corrects multiple loopholes that are in current law. The intent of the current law is to allow an advantage to in-state companies when competing for government contracts so that state tax dollars stay in New Mexico. “However, in practice, out-of-state companies have been able to abuse the system by creating shell companies that pretend to be local businesses in order to win state contracts,” said Senator Keller. The new law also extends the local preference beyond construction to all businesses that contract with the state like law, accounting, architecture, software/information technology and food producers.

Senator Keller stated he was appreciative that Governor Martinez included the bill on the agenda for the special session.  In the 2011 regular session, SB 19 -- legislation very similar to SB-1 -- successfully passed the legislature with 96 votes for and only 1 against. Ultimately, in the 2011 regular session, SB 19 was vetoed because of a “fatal” few words in the bill. After making the necessary revisions to the original bill, SB-1 was introduced in the 2011 special legislative session.

“Sometimes government can respond fast to public needs, for this measure we all put a crucial jobs policy over politics. The success of SB-1 shows us that we can work together, compromise, and create jobs,” said Senator Keller.

October 6, 2011 at 07:41 AM in Economy, Populism, Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez, Tim Keller | |

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New National Report: How Gov. Susana Martinez's Big Business Agenda Endangers New Mexicans

Susana1Cr Just the facts! Food & Water Watch, joined by Conservation Voters New Mexico and the New Mexico Federation of Labor, today (pdf) that outlines numerous examples of how Governor Susana Martinez has given special privilege to industries like oil and gas, industrialized dairy, homebuilders and mining -- at the expense of environmental protection and the local economy. The well-documented report also provide useful charts that demonstrate -- in no uncertain terms -- how and why the Martinez administration puts politics and campaign donor wishes ahead of the needs of New Mexicans and protecting our vital natural resources. 

Immediately following a press conference that took place in front of the Capitol Roundhouse at 12:30 PM, the groups and other concerned New Mexicans hand-delivered the report to Governor Martinez’s office and demanded that she give advocates for small business, working families and the environment a seat at the table that has otherwise been reserved solely for big industry.

“New Mexicans are fed up with Governor Martinez’s secret task forces, industry appointments and decisions that do little to address the dire economic and environmental problems we face,” said Food & Water Watch New Mexico organizer Eleanor Bravo. “We are here today to remind Governor Martinez that she works for us –- the residents of New Mexico -– and not the big industries that threaten our health, our environment, worker rights, and home-grown small businesses.”

As the report says, "From the moment she became New Mexico’s governor on January 1, 2011, Susana Martinez has worked overtime to dismantle key protections that the state put in place for the benefit of New Mexicans and the air, water and land they cherish ... Unfortunately, Governor Martinez, who swept into office with the help of campaign donations from oil and gas, mining, mega-dairy and other big industries, has demonstrated little restraint granting the wishes of those who want to see the state’s environmental protections rolled back."

161899_182186898472448_2411796_n Big money talks -- and Susana Martinez listens. The report notes that oil and gas, industrialized dairy, mining and the construction industries all were big financial supporters of the Martinez gubernatorial campaign. Oil and gas gave more than $1 million to candidate Martinez, homebuilders and general contractors gave $621,000 and the livestock and dairy industry gave $267,900.

The must-read report, (pdf), describes how in her first six months in office, Martinez has rapidly worked to roll back the rules and regulations that protect New Mexico’s natural resources, public health and working families. It explains how her “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” does not truly represent small businesses, and how Martinez's big business agenda is particularly harmful to lower income, predominately Hispanic communities in New Mexico.

The report chronicles many examples of how Martinez has ignored the concerns of health and environmental advocates to favor the agendas of the big industries that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to her gubernatorial campaign. Examples include:

  • Undermining pollution controls for factory farms
  • Attempting to abolish the Water Quality Control Commission
  • Paving over the Pit Rule that protects groundwater from oil and gas drilling waste
  • Pocket-vetoing local food procurement bill
  • Firing the State Labor Board
  • Vetoing unemployment benefits

"Governor Martinez has launched an aggressive attack on the safeguards on which New Mexicans depend to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe," said Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of Conservation Voters New Mexico. "In our view, her systematic dismantling of these safeguards threatens the security of our families and communities."

Bottom Line:

This chronicle of Governor Martinez’s words and deeds during her first eight months in office makes her strategy quite clear -– she’s taken campaign cash from big industry, she’s appointed those industry players to key posts in state government and now she’s cutting the protections that keep New Mexicans and their precious air, water, food and land safe from those industries.

The report and corresponding fact sheets in Spanish and English can be downloaded for free at the Food & Water Watch website.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control. See

September 27, 2011 at 11:44 PM in Energy, Environment, Food and Drink, Labor, NM Legislature 2011, Regulation, Susana Martinez, Water Issues | |

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NAACP, LULAC Denounce Gov. Susana Martinez's Extremist Allies on Driver's License Issue and Discriminatory Anti-Immigrant Agenda

NM Governor Susana Martinez

In a joint press release issued today, New Mexico's chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( ) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said they are concerned and appalled by the involvement of the Americans for Legal immigration PAC (ALIPAC) in New Mexico politics, as well as Governor Susana Martinez's continued attacks on immigrants and her apparent abuse of power.

"It has become apparent that Governor Martinez's anti-immigrant political agenda relies on support by national organizations with no ties to New Mexico and with questionable motives," said Pablo Martínez, a member of the LULAC Board and former law enforcement administrator. "We're concerned by ALIPAC's documented ties to white supremacists and other extremist organizations."

In an article in today's Albuquerque Journal, ALIPAC President William Gheen said the group will lobby New Mexico lawmakers to fight the "illegal immigrant invasion of America."

NAACP and LULAC pointed to reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that have repeatedly labeled ALI-PAC as an "nativist extremist" group and an organization that goes beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants or their employers. Click for SPLC report.

They also pointed to statements in 2009 by the Anti-Defamation League decrying actions taken by white supremacists and Neo-Nazi groups on behalf of ALIPAC: click here and here

Both organizations stated they believe Governor Martinez overstepped her authority in August, when she instituted the now-halted "Residency Certification Program" that targeted 10,000 individuals in the MVD foreign national driver's license database. The program has since been stopped by New Mexico District Judge Sarah Singleton, who ruled on September 13 that requiring re-verification based on national origin could violate the Equal Protection Clause of the New Mexico Constitution.

"LULAC views ALIPAC's attempt to influence our New Mexico State Legislature as a continuation of a national trend of racist militancy against Hispanic civil rights," said Dennis W. Montoya, LULAC's New Mexico Civil Rights Chair and District 1 Director.

"Our shared concern is the continued harassment of immigrants by the Governor's administration, as well as her apparent lack of concern for the impact her approach is having on New Mexico families," said Sam Bone, President of New Mexico's NAACP. "This constant attack on people that have abided by the current driver's license law is an abuse of power at the very least and is not at all reflective of New Mexico's values. We worry that this driver's license repeal effort is a the first step in the erosion of civil rights for all vulnerable minorities in our state."

Montoya went on to state that the Governor's approach towards immigrants represents "her lack of connection to the people of New Mexico, and a frightening display of overt discrimination. This repeal effort isn't about what's good for New Mexico, it's a part of a larger political strategy to alienate Latino communities from Arizona to Alabama. New Mexico has worked hard to foster positive and respectful race relations since statehood, and we don't appreciate these outside ideologies based on the politics of hate."

"We encourage the legislature to stand up to the Governor and support reasonable proposals that address fraud in the driver's license process, keep all New Mexico drivers insured and protect all of us from run-ins with uninsured motorists," said Bone of the NAACP.

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

September 22, 2011 at 06:59 PM in Border Issues, Civil Liberties, Hispanic Issues, Impeachment, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sen. Keller's Bi-Partisan Jobs Bill Back on Track Despite Veto by Gov. Martinez in Regular Session

Sen. Keller at labor/jobs rally during 2011 regular session

Take Action: Please contact your Representative and urge him or her to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.

Senate Bill 1, a sponsored by Senator Tim Keller (D-Bernalillo-17), moved out of the Senate on a bi-partisan 39-0 vote today. The bill is a clean-up of the original measure vetoed by Governor Susana Martinez following the 2011 regular session that ended in March. SB-1, the “In-State Preference Bill,” has been praised by New Mexico business and labor leaders alike, who said it would help create more than 3,000 jobs each year for New Mexico companies by closing loopholes in the definition of what is an “in-state business.”

The Governor rejected the original jobs-creating bill that would have put New Mexicans back to work. She said she disagreed with wording in the bill because it could subject some businesses to the state’s procurement code. That original bill, SB-19, passed with overwhelming support in the Senate 35-1, and House of Representatives by 58-0.

Senator Tim Keller said the measure corrects multiple loopholes that are currently in the law that is supposed to allow an advantage to in-state companies when competing for government contracts -- so that state tax dollars stay in New Mexico. “However, in practice, out-of-state companies have been able to abuse the system by creating shell companies that pretend to be local businesses in order to win state contracts,” Senator Keller said in a statement released today.

Senator Keller and co-sponsor Rep. Larry Larranaga (R-Bernalillo-27) worked with the business community, the Governor’s Office and the Senate Jobs Task Force convened by Majority Floor Leader Senator Michael S. Sanchez (D-Valencia-29), to revise the language in question in SB 19 and produce SB 1 for the special session.

Senator Keller said he was glad the “In-State Preference” bill passed during the special session following the veto. “People have put this important policy over their politics. We can go home and say we worked together. Through compromise, we created jobs,” he added.

“This bill will strengthen the New Mexico economy by creating a win-win situation for economic development and the private sector in our state,” said Rep. Larrañaga. “As a result, SB 1 enjoys widespread support from the legislature, governor and the entire business community,” he continued.

"The past year's employment numbers indicate our construction industry in New Mexico is having a tougher time than anywhere in the nation. Our top priority remains putting our construction companies and families back to work. We appreciate our elected leaders making this their top priority, too," said Vicki Mora, CEO of the Associated General Contractors - New Mexico Building Branch. “I think businesses in New Mexico are very uncomfortable seeing over half a billion dollars worth of projects go out of state,” said Don Power, Jaynes Corp. Chairman and CEO.

SB 1 now moves on to the House of Representatives and the Governor for their approval.

Take Action: Please contact your Representative and urge him or her to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.

September 22, 2011 at 06:04 PM in Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez, Tim Keller | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crucial In-State Preference Jobs Bill Gaining Broad Support in Special Session

Senator Keller, Rep. Larranaga

Take Action: Please contact your Senator and Representative and urge them to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.

Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference, deals directly with the economy and job creation; and is working its way through New Mexico's special legislative session, according to a statement released by NM Senate Dems. Senator Tim Keller (D-Bernalillo-17), Representative Larry Larranaga (R-Bernalillo-27), the Governor’s office and Senate Democrats are working legislation known as the “In-State Preference Bill” during the current 2011 special legislative pursuant to item #3 in the Governor’s proclamation. 

“Better leveraging of our in-state requirements could mean the addition of more than 3,000 jobs annually for New Mexicans; unfortunately many of these jobs are currently going to out-of-state businesses,” said Sen. Keller. 

“This bill will strengthen the New Mexico economy by creating a win-win situation for economic development and the private sector in our state,” said Rep. Larry Larrañaga. “As a result, SB 1 enjoys widespread support from the legislature, governor and the entire business community,” he continued.

The In-State Preference Bill corrects multiple loopholes that are currently on the books. In theory, current law is supposed to allow an advantage to in-state companies when competing for government contracts so that state tax dollars stay in New Mexico. However, in practice, out-of-state companies have been able to abuse the system by creating shell companies that pretend to be local businesses in order to win state contracts. 

"The past year's employment numbers indicate our construction industry in New Mexico is having a tougher time than anywhere in the nation. Our top priority remains putting our construction companies and families back to work. We appreciate our elected leaders making this their top priority, too," said Vicki Mora, CEO of the Associated General Contractors - New Mexico Building Branch.

“I think businesses in New Mexico are very uncomfortable seeing over half a billion dollars worth of projects go out of state,” said Don Power, Jaynes Corp. Chairman and CEO. 

Earlier this year during the 2011 regular session, Senator Keller and Rep. Larrañaga co-sponsored Senate Bill 19, the In-State Procurement Advantage (or in-state preference) bill which passed the Senate 35-1, passed the House of Representatives 58-0, but was not signed. The Governor’s message stated that SB19 contained a few words that inadvertently could subject some businesses to the state’s procurement code. 

As a result, Senator Keller and Rep. Larranaga worked with the business community, the Senate Democrats Majority Leader’s Jobs Task Force, and the Governor’s office in the interim to revise the language in question in SB 19 and produce SB 1 for the special session.

“We need to do everything in our power to get New Mexicans back to work, now; and the In-State Preference Bill does just that,” said Senator Keller.

Take Action: Please contact your Senator and Representative and urge them to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.

September 20, 2011 at 10:25 AM in Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Tim Keller | |

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

State Senator Eric Griego Calls on Legislature to Pass Jobs Bills by Friday

Senator Eric Griego (SD-14) released the following statement today calling on the New Mexico Legislature to quickly pass and the Governor to sign two important bills that would help the state economy and create jobs. Senator Griego called on the legislature to pass the $220 million capital outlay bill and SB1, which was SB19 in the regular session, that would allow local businesses to obtain a five percent preference when bidding on state contracts.

“The local preference legislation would spur local jobs by preventing out-of-state companies from posing as local businesses and taking advantage of the incentives we have for local businesses bidding on state contracts.  SB1 (SB19) would tighten residency requirements for businesses bidding on state contracts and better enforce the existing rules. This bill has broad bipartisan support and should be passed immediately to start putting our people to work.

“The capital outlay legislation is long overdue and our economy needs it now more than ever to create jobs. There are communities throughout New Mexico that can’t wait any longer to benefit from the millions of dollars put toward rebuilding our infrastructure and creating local jobs. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put politics aside and pass this bill to put people back to work."

September 13, 2011 at 04:00 PM in Eric Griego, Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 12, 2011

NM Dem Senators Say Martinez's Proposal to Fund Unemployment Benefits is Risky Business for Citizens

According to a statement released by Democratic Senators in the New Mexico Legislature, Governor Susana Martinez's proposal to transfer $130 million out of state reserves to prop up the Unemployment Insurance Fund (Fund) could jeopardize the business community, teachers, the state's most vulnerable citizens, public employees and the state's bond rating. During January's legislative session, the Governor used her line-item veto to kill a bi-partisan, business-supported bill that would have provided additional money to the Fund to prevent its insolvency. 

"Rather than admit her veto was misguided and will actually hurt businesses, the Governor is now trying to take money from the state's cash reserves. Dipping into our savings has to be the last resort. It makes no sense to take money from the reserves when the compromise reached during the regular session is still a viable option," said Senator John Sapien (D-Sandoval-9). 

"Paying a slight increase in the employer's share as part of the cost of doing business to guarantee solvency is more acceptable than paying almost twice as much if the Fund becomes insolvent," said Senator George Munoz (D-Cibola, McKinley-4). "It is unfortunate that the Governor refused to accept the compromise reached by those most directly affected. The veto was detrimental to business," he added. 

Senator John Arthur Smith (D-Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra 35) explained, "There are many unpaid bills that we have to take care of, including the Medicaid shortfall of $100 million, and the loss of nearly $40 million in Tobacco Settlement funding. Also, the revenue projections for the current fiscal year could be off by as much as $55 million. By adding the Governor's proposal to shore up the Fund, the State's reserves may be down to nearly 3.9%. Anything below 5% could negatively impact the State's bond rating."

"If our reserves go below 5%, teachers and public employees will have to wait at least another year to have their wages reinstated to levels from 3 years ago," said Senator Howie Morales (D-Catron, Grant, Socorro-28). "Using money from the reserves will also mean less money will be available to help many New Mexicans dependent on state programs for their most basic needs. I cannot support a proposal that will negatively impact those least able to afford it," he added. 

September 12, 2011 at 10:13 AM in NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest Blog: Time to Break Taboo on Open Discussion About Drugs and Accidental Overdoses--Lives Are Literally Hanging in the Balance

6a00d834519ed469e2014e892a6a1c970d-120wi This is a guest blog by Emily Kaltenbach, who is the New Mexico state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

August 31st marks International Overdose Awareness Day, a day for people in New Mexico and around the world to publicly mourn loved ones without guilt or shame. This day is also an occasion to educate policymakers and the public about the growing overdose crisis in New Mexico and beyond. It is time we offer concrete solutions that save lives.

Overdoses happen everywhere, to all kinds of people, and it's only been getting worse in recent years. Drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death for Americans between the ages of 35 and 54. In 17 states, it now surpasses car accidents as the leading overall cause of accidental death.

New Mexico has long grappled with overdose mortality rates far above the national average. Overdose deaths continue to rise -- the heroin overdose rate in 2008 was the second highest ever recorded and fatal overdoses from prescription opiates such as hydrocodone and oxycontin have surged alarmingly. Nor are our young people being spared from this epidemic as there has been an increase in the number of people 21 years and younger dying from overdoses.

This loss of life is completely unacceptable, in no small part because most of these deaths are so easily preventable. But the “tough-on-crime” rhetoric of the drug war and the stigma associated with illicit drug use have blocked the widespread adoption of simple, proven, life-saving policies.

In the face of this tragedy, however, New Mexico has become a leader in the struggle to prevent overdose fatalities. It became the first state in the nation to implement a 911 - Good Samaritan law in 2007 that provides people who call 911 on behalf of an overdose victim with limited immunity from prosecution for drug possession. Good Samaritan laws reduce reluctance to seek medical help when illegal drugs are involved, and thus save lives.

Our Department of Health has programs to educate the public about overdose risks, and trains first responders, law enforcement and members of the public how to recognize an overdose and respond using rescue techniques and the opiate antagonist medicine naloxone. This unheralded and inexpensive drug has been used by first responders for decades. Administered nasally, it can revive opiate overdose victims within minutes. These programs save lives while reducing hospitalization costs and relieving pressure on first responders and emergency rooms. More could and should be done, however, to expand the availability of naloxone. All too often, first responders are not called or cannot arrive in time.

Calling On New Mexico's Lawmakers
On this day of awareness and mourning, we ask New Mexico’s lawmakers to build upon the growing tradition in New Mexico of taking a proactive role in addressing the overdose crisis. We ask them to stand up and support policies designed to get us to a place where politics no longer trumps public health, science, or compassion. Policies that continue to support access to syringe exchange programs for all New Mexicans struggling with an addiction, including our youth. Policies to increase access to naloxone that has no abuse potential, and costs as little as one dollar for one dose. And, policies to explore the efficacy of safe injection sites and heroin prescription programs -- both of which are evidence-based life-saving interventions for individuals struggling with addiction to opioids when other treatments have not worked.

There is no question that innovative overdose prevention programs are needed and long overdue in this state. All that stands in the way is ideology and the cynical assumption that it can never happen in New Mexico.

This is a guest blog by Emily Kaltenbach. Also see her previous guest blog on the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs.

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

August 31, 2011 at 06:08 AM in Drugs, Alcohol, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, Law Enforcement, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2011 | |

Monday, August 29, 2011

8/30-31: NM Legislative Redistricting Committee to Meet in Las Vegas and Santa Fe

The Legislative Redistricting Committee continues to hold public meetings at locations throughout the state in order to encourage public accessibility and input on the upcoming redistricting plan. The final public meetings prior to the upcoming special session will take place at Highlands University and at the State Capitol in Santa Fe on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 30–31.

Representative Mary Helen Garcia (D–Dona Ana–34) and Senator Linda M. Lopez (D–Bernalillo–11) serve as co-chairs of the committee. The upcoming meeting begins Tuesday morning, August 30, at 10:00 AM in the Kennedy Lounge on the Highlands University campus. On Wednesday, August 31, the meeting moves to the State Capitol, room 307 and begins at 9:00 AM. This is the final interim session meeting to be held in preparation for the special session of the legislature that begins September 6, 2011.

The committee will recommend new boundaries for the congressional districts within New Mexico, the state House of Representatives and Senate districts, the Public Regulation Commission districts, and the Public Education Commission districts. Recommendations will be based on the 2010 decennial census, the redistricting guidelines adopted by the New Mexico legislative council, and testimony received from interested individuals and groups. The hearings will include sharing of information about the legal requirements of the redistricting process, sample maps and time for public comment.

The committee recognizes the importance of redistricting in a democracy. Members and legislative staff are working to ensure that every citizen is represented and that the process is visible and open for public input. Representative Garcia encourages all interested New Mexicans to take an active interest in the redistricting process.

“The job of the Redistricting Committee is to develop a variety of plans that are in line with the legal principles that govern redistricting. We look forward to sharing the information we’ve gathered and hearing from all concerned,” said Representative Garcia.

The committee welcomes and encourages public attendance and input. Time for public comment will be allowed each day. For more information and the most current committee agendas and calendars, please go here.

August 29, 2011 at 07:52 AM in Events, Las Vegas NM, NM Legislature 2011, Redistricting, Santa Fe | Permalink | Comments (0)