Friday, January 29, 2010

House Passes Trio of Rules Changes for More Transparency


The House just a few minutes ago passed three rules changes that might be called a "transparency package."

The first was a measure sponsored by House Republican Whip Keith Gardner which mandates video webcasting of floor sessions. The House already has audio webcasting . (Let's hope it's better than the Senate Webcast, which only shows the backs of a few senators' heads.

The next passed was Rep. Jeff Steinborn's measure to webcast committee meetings. This will be audio only.

Finally, the House agreed to Rep. Zach Cook's rule change to publish roll call votes in the House online within 24 hours. The Senate has been doing this for a couple of years.

House Pays Tribute to Youngberg

State House members just tribute to former state Rep. Eric Youngberg, who died this week. Most remembered his sense of humor and how well he got along with his colleagues, no matter which party they belonged to.

Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, recalled a paintball game in which neither of them them knew what they were getting into.

Rep. Candy Spence-Ezzell told an even more hilarious story about the time Youngberg visited her ranch and tried to pet one of her bulls. He learned quickly some bulls aren't interested in being pet, Spence-Ezzell said.

Rep. Rhonda King, D-Stanley, remembered when Youngberg showed up at the annual House/Senate basketball game "a little unprepared." Specifically, he was wearing a business suit and dress show. However, Youngberg, King said, found a pair of scissors and turned his dress pants into shorts and played the game that way.

Rep. Kiki Saavedra, D-Albuquerque, said he lost one of his favorite golf partners.

Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said, "We could disagree on issues and argue passionately, but could still be dear friends."

Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, remembered a time when Youngberg was leaving the floor right as someone was putting a call of the House -- which means nobody is supposed to leave. Arnold-Jones remembered Democratic Whip Sheryl Williams-Stapleton shouting "Youngberg, where are you going."

House Speaker Ben Lujan talked about the respect Youngberg had for the institution of the House. He said he saw Youngberg a couple of months ago. "He was jolly Youngberg," the Speaker said.

Republican Whip Keith Gardner announced that Youngberg's funeral is scheduled for 2 pm Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque.

CORRECTED: The original version of this post named the wrong representative for the paint ball story. I was listening to the tributes from my office and thought after all these years I know most of the voices of the Legislators. Guess not.

ANOTHER CORRECTION: The story about the call of the House was initially attributed to the wrong legislator.

R.I.P. Eric Youngberg



This is a shock. Joe Monahan is reporting that former state Rep. Eric Youngberg has died at the age of 42.

The Albuquerque Republican served from 2003 to the end of 2008.

Youngberg, a lawyer, perhaps is best remembered in the Roundhouse as the co-chairman, along with Majority Leader Kenny Martinez, D-Grants, of the bi-partisan panel that in 2005 looked into the possible impeachment of then-Treasurer Robert Vigil. (Vigil resigned shortly before the panel started considering specific charges.)

He also was known for referring to his Capitol office as "The Bat Cave," which he always kept well-stocked with energy drinks.

Monahan quotes Rep. Ben Rodefer, D-Albuquerque, who defeated Youngberg in 2008.

I learned of Eric Youngberg's death with great sadness. What a tragic loss. Eric was a man of tremendous intelligence, warmth and ability. A man who cared deeply about his community and his state. A man who will be sorely missed by the so many who knew and loved him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tax Bills in B and I


The House Business & Industry Committee is scheduled today to hear a whole mess of tax bills.

Among those are:

* Rep. Brian Egolf's tax on cigarettes (HB35);

* Rep. Eleanor Chavez's bill to tax internet sales (HB50);

* House Speaker Ben Lujan's bill that would temporarily increase gross receipts taxes (HB119);

* Rep. Ray Begay's bill to close the loophole on out of state corporations doing business in the state (HB 62, which is similar to Sen. Peter Wirth's SB 90)

The meeting starts, supposedly, 30 minutes after the House floor session ends. (They're still in session at this writing)

UPDATE: 1:19 pm. The House just recessed.

Roundhouse Roundup: Finding Voting Records Made Easy

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 28, 2010


In 2007, the state Senate passed a resolution that required the Legislative Council Service to post roll-call votes on the Legislature's Web site within a day of the vote. As reported in this very column, the measure's sponsor, Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, joked that he carried the legislation so he could find out how he voted on various bills the day before.

But three years later, the state House of Representatives still doesn't post its votes online. Those looking for specific votes on bills have to go harass the folks in the House clerk's office or look for it in those big books they keep in the Legislative Council Service Library.

That could change, however. Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, has introduced House Resolution 3, which is similar to Adair's old measure.

"It will be helpful to a lot of people who can see how their representative votes," Cook said Wednesday. He said the House Rules Committee is expected to hear HR 3 on Friday.

If this passes, maybe it would put pressure on the Senate to get one of those cool electronic voting boards like they have in the House.

Speaking of House Rules and transparency measures, there are a couple of webcasting bills in that committee. HR 1, sponsored by House Republican Whip Keith Gardner of Roswell, would mandate webcasting of House floor sessions, while HR 2, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, would have official podcasts from committee meetings. (Some lawmakers and media organizations have done this on their own.) Gardner said his bill may be heard Friday.

Sitting out the Super Bowl: Super Sunday apparently will be just another Sunday for New Mexico's congressional delegation.

Pro Publica, an online investigative reporting organization, this week asked reporters and concerned citizens around the country to ask their senators and representatives whether they would be going to Miami to watch the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

"Why would we cast our skeptical eyeglass on Congress and the Super Bowl?" the Web site asks rhetorically. "Because the event "has long been used to rub shoulders, gain influence and form ties that help congressional candidates raise the approximately $1 billion they spend on their campaigns every two years."

So far, only a handful of Congress members have been confirmed as going to the game. According to The Sunlight Foundation's Party Time Web site, which tracks Congress fundraisers, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, is inviting supporters to join him at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. There's no price tag listed, although those interested are encouraged to contact Scalise's fundraising firm.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., is having a fundraising luncheon in Miami before the Super Bowl. Party Time reports, "$5,000 will get you a ticket to the game plus two admissions to the luncheon, at Joe's Stone Crab."

Could it be that someone in New Mexico's delegation is having some fundraising bacchanalia with the New Orleans Saints cheerleaders or something?

Not a chance.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján won't be going to Miami for the big game, his spokesman, Mark Nicastre said. Last year on Super Sunday, Luján held one of his "Congress on the Corner" events at an Española shopping center, where he handed out information on the digital television transition, which was a hot topic back then. Nicastre added, "and I'm pretty sure he watched the game at home."

Rep. Harry Teague's office had a similar answer. "No, the congressman will not be attending the Super Bowl, he'll be back traveling throughout his district visiting with constituents like he does almost every day the House isn't voting," said spokeswoman Sara Schreiber. Teague didn't go to the game last year either, she said. Same with Rep. Martin Heinrich of Albuquerque, and both of the state's U.S. senators, Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall. None of them went last year either, their respective communication staffers said.
Cargo
Lonesome Dave debut: Former Gov. David Cargo's new autobiography, Lonesome Dave is about to be published by Sunstone Press.

The ex-gov will be at a book-signing event at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe at 6 p.m. March 1.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A New Day for Same-Day Registration?


Once again Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, is carrying a bill that would allow voters to register right before voting at early voting sites.

HB123 also would allow voters to register at their county clerk's office when in-person absentee voting is allowed. The registration would be allowed starting 28 days before an election, running the Saturday before Election Day.

Currently if you don't get registered about a month before the election, you're out of luck.

Last year, a similar bill carried by Trujillo passed the House but died in the Senate.

The bill is designed to encourage people to vote, Trujillo said. Many people don't get to vote because they miss the registration cut off.

Trujillo said this morning that his bill has been endorsed by several groups including the League of Women Voters, the American Association of Retired People, the All Indian Pueblo Council, county clerks around the state and the Secretary of State.

The bill has been assigned to the House Voters and Elections and the House Consumer & Public Affairs committees.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish announced her support of a Senate Bill 195 by Republican Sen. Sander Rue to create a "sunshine portal" for the state government.

Sorry, it's not up on the Legislature Web site yet, so I can't post a link.

Among the features of the proposed portal:

* The State’s check ledger: regular updates of the state's cash balances by account or fund.

* A monthly summary of the state's investment accounts under the control of the State Investment Council.

*Annual operating budgets for each state agency with monthly expenditures by category.

* The Contractor Database, which became law last year and launch earlier on Jan. 1, 2010.

* The revenue that the state received in the preceding month by source, such as type of tax, fee, fine, administrative fee or other collection category.

* Special appropriations received outside the general appropriation act by each state agency and the purpose of those appropriations

* Approved budget adjustment requests by state agency and affected budget category.

* Reversions and cash balances by state agency and fund

* Capital Outlay tracker to give updates on capital outlay projects and appropriations.

* A directory of all employee positions, including exempt employee positions, by state agency, showing each position's title and salary.

* An open meeting tracker, so the public knows when key government meetings are occurring.

* And links to other areas of government where public information is kept, such as: The New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts and the Secretary of State's web sites for lobbyist regulation and political committee reports.

Press Release Headline of the Day


Stop Immoral Gravy Train for Lawyers that is diverting Money from the Most Vulnerable.

I've been joking that I'm starting a band to be named "The Immoral Gravy Train." It's also been recommended as a name for one of those straight-to-DVD movies.

But actually, the news release was about a bill sponsored by Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, SB173, which would cut off funding to lawyers in a 23-year old federal lawsuit filed against the state Health Department and give the money, an estimated $5 million, directly to the developmentally disabled waiver program, which aides families of those with developmentally disabled children.

A spokeswoman for the Health Department told me this morning that the department would love to do that, but the state is obligated to pay those legal fees until all the terms of the settlement of the Jackson vs. Fort Stanton lawsuit are completed.

An interesting issue. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More Fun With The State Investment Council

Last week the Senate Judiciary heard testimony from Frank Foy, who has filed a whistleblower suit claiming the Education Retirement Board -- for whom he worked as investment officer -- and the State Investment Council were pressured into investments for political purposes. Foy and his lawyer Victor Marshall complained that the SIC and other state agencies were "stonewalling" them by not providing requested documents.

See our story on that hearing HERE.

Today, the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear from SIC officials to explain their position.

That hearing is set for 3 pm in the Room 321.

(The meeting time has been revised on this post.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Meanwhile, Back in New Hampshire ...

It seems like only yesterday that former Gov. Gary Johnso nwas at the Roundhouse holding an anti-tax picket sign for passing motorists to see.

Actually, that was Tuesday, only three days ago.

But soon after that Johnson was off to New Hampshire to speak to a libertarian Republican group.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson
The Union Leader in Manchester interviewed the latest New Mexico governor to visit the state with the nation's first presidential primary.

There Johnson warned Republicans not to consider Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts this week a mandate for the GOP.

"I just see (voters having) a real disgust with those in office," Johnson told reporter John Distaso. "It isn't a shift to Republicans. It's just, 'Get whoever's in there out,'" he said.

See the whole story HERE.

(Thanks to my former New Mexican colleague and New Hampshire native Wendy Brown for alerting me to this story.)

3 Day Weekend!

Well, at least for most lawmakers. There are no floor sessions in the House or Senate today. This is the typical schedule for sessions. They need an extra day to catch up on printing all the bills that are filed in the first few days.

If they pass that measure to put a limit on the number of bills a legislator can introduce, maybe they won't have to take the first Friday off next session. (SCR 1 is co-sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe and Rep.Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque -- one of the few pieces of Legislation this session not sponsored by Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque.)

So it's a good day to catch up on your reading.

You can see the story I did with the help of Kate Nash on the testimony of whistle-blower Frank Foy at the Senate Judiciary Committee HERE.

And you can see the story I did about the Working Families Caucus and various tax proposals HERE.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Little Drama on the Senate Floor

Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle introduced an amendment to the Feed Bill to appropriate $200,000 to the Attorney General's office to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in state investments.

Democratic Leader Michael Sanchez argued against the amendment, saying the Feed Bill, which funds the Legislature for the session, was not the appropriate place. Even so, most the Senate discussion seemed to be in favor of Ingle's move.

But right as Ingle was closing and the vote was about to be taken, Ingle paused. Then he announced that a message from the Fourth Floor had come down asking for a bill to reform the State Investment Council. (Some senators had complained about not receiving a message.)

Ingle withdrew the amendment.

But there will be more discussion about investments today. Frank Foy, former investment officer for the Educational Retirement Board is about to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee. The New Mexico Independent plans to Webcast that meeting, which was scheduled to start 3 minutes ago.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: A Family Tradition

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 21, 2010


When Gov. Bill Richardson predicted in an interview last week that this would be a calmer, less contentious legislation session, some cynics said they bet that wouldn't last very long.
BILL RICHARDSON AT HIS POOL PARTY
In his State of the State address Tuesday, Richardson evoked the memory of the late former Gov. Bruce King in asking lawmakers to cooperate.

"When asked what his legacy would be, (King) said, 'I guess just getting New Mexico to realize that if we were going to be successful, we were going to all work together and be one large family.' "

To which the current governor added, "I believe in this time of need, if we are to succeed, we must work together, maybe even as a family."

If you bet it would take more than two days before a family feud erupted, you lost.

The ongoing budget crisis, it seems, has some senators on edge.

On Wednesday, the second day of the session, longtime Richardson critic Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, let loose a tirade as he ripped into Richardson and his speech.

Jennings — who has been especially critical of the fact that the administration decided last year not to spend $10 million on a program to help families of the developmentally disabled — was upset that Richardson had warned against making too many budget cuts. Richardson said in the speech that "most state agencies have been cut to the bone."

To Jennings, that meant it's not OK to cut anything except programs for "the blind, elderly and disabled."

Jennings mocked Richardson's call for stronger drunken-driving laws. "Except for boats," he said.

This was an apparent reference to a Labor Day boat accident on Elephant Butte Lake involving the governor, Chief of Staff Brian Condit and Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Katherine Miller. Police didn't charge Condit, who was piloting the boat, with any alcohol-related offense. Richardson has denied any alcohol was involved.

Jennings also spoke disparagingly of Richardson's call for ethics reforms, saying the government agency most in need of ethics reform is the State Investment Council, which is under investigation by the federal government after a former state investment adviser admitted recommending investments to financially help politically connected people.

"I'm not a happy camper about what's going on," Jennings said.

We are family: A couple of senators came to Richardson's defense.

Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, said he took Richardson at his word when the governor said he wants to cooperate. "We've got to work as a family," Griego said. "I hope we don't come in here every day blasting the governor."

Likewise, Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, said the important thing is working together instead of "pointing fingers."

Cisneros, who has been a senator for 25 years, said he's seen other state budget crises, which were worked through by lawmakers and governors cooperating.

Taking the floor for a second time, Jennings said he was sorry if some senators were offended and said he's willing to work with anyone.

He added, "Some of my remarks were personal, but I think they're all true."

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen seemed surprised about the dust-up.

"It must be the snow," he said. "I hope we remain calm."
SEN. JOHN ARTHUR SMITH
Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, might have made the understatement of the day when he said, "This is not going to be a fun session."

Smith continued: "What we lived in fear of has happened. ... I do not see (an economic) recovery to the levels we'd like in the foreseeable future."

There are 28 fun-filled — or not — days left in the session.

UPDATE: The original version of this said Condit wasn't charged at all in the Elephant Butte mishap. He actually was charged with two petty misdemeanors -- neither involving alcohol.

George Bush Endorses Susana

No, not that George Bush.

Not not that one either.

I'm talking about George P. Bush, nephew of the recent president, grandson of the first President Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Martinez campaign emailed a copy of an endorsement letter from George P., which concludes:

We were all disappointed in the results of the 2008 elections. Southwestern states went Democrat by large margins and Republicans must reverse that trend or we risk becoming the minority party for years to come.

That starts by electing dynamic Republican candidates like Susana Martinez. She will be a great Governor for New Mexico and is exactly the type of transformational candidate that can help rebrand the Republican Party and put us back on the course to becoming a majority party.

This letter comes a couple of days after the Martinez campaign told us, regarding Pete Domenici, Jr.'s entry into the gubernatorial race, that famous names and relatives of politicians don't really mean that much.

Webcasting Wars Year 2

If you thought the webcasting wars were over, think again.

State Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, is sponsoring two measures aimed at getting more webcasts coming out of the Roundhouse.

House Resolution 2 would create a rule change in the House requiring House committees to develop audio and video webcasting, while House Joint Memorial 15 would direct the Legislative Council Service to spell out the logistics of webcasting technology to interim committees, which meet between legislative sessions.

Currently there's a House rule set to expire at the end of the year that allows committee chairs during regular session to initiate webcasting if they choose. That rule would be replaced by Steinborn’s HR 2. There currently is no rule or requirement pertaining to webcasting interim committees.

The Senate Webcast and the House audiocast can be found HERE.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Value of Name Recognition in Politics

Regarding Pete Domenici, Jr., Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez's campaign did a little research on the affect of having a famous name and/or being related to prominant politicians has on campaigns.

They found several examples in which it didn't help. From Martinez's news release:

POPULARITY ISN'T PASSED FROM RELATIVE TO RELATIVE

2006 Arizona Governor’s GOP Primary

Don Goldwater, the nephew of former U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, ran for Governor in the Republican primary.

Goldwater started the primary leading a field of six candidates by 30%. He led the field of six with 39% of the vote. But Goldwater ended up losing the primary to political newcomer Len Munsil by 11% – awing of 41%. Munsil started the race with zero name recognition.

2008 Colorado’s 6th Congressional District

Will Armstrong, son of former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong ran for the Congressional seat being vacated by Congressman Tom Tancredo. Armstrong entered the primary as the favorite with the support of most of the Colorado political establishment, including former Governor Bill Owens and Senator Wayne Allard. Even Mitt Romney endorsed Armstrong.

Armstrong lost the primary to Mike Coffman 41% to 33%.

2002 OK-01

Cathy Keating, the wife of popular Governor Frank Keating ran for Oklahoma’s First Congressional District. The first primary poll shows her with a 2 to 1 advantage over her nearest competitor, State Representative John Sullivan – 34% to 17%.

But that lead did not hold when voters began to focus on the race. Keating lost the primary to Sullivan 46% to 30% - a swing of 33%.

2003 KY Governor

Ben Chandler, the grandson of former Governor Happy Chandler, ran for Governor. Chandler was the former baseball commissioner and arguably the most popular politician in Kentucky history and began the race tied with Congressman Ernie Fletcher.

Chandler had been elected twice before as state auditor and Attorney General (low information races) but he couldn’t capitalize on his grandfather’s name in a general election for governor and lost by 10 points – 55-45.

BIG NAMES NOT ENOUGH IN HIGH-INFORMATION RACES

A similar phenomena occurs with celebrity candidates. Voters react initially to the familiarity of their names, but the candidates later develop their own images during the campaign. It’s that ultimate image, not the early name recognition, which determines success or failure.

2002 Oklahoma Governor’s Race

Former Seattle Seahawks wide-receiver and Congressman Steve Largent began the Oklahoma’s Governor’s race as a huge favorite. Initial polling showed him with a 42% to 28% lead.

Largent lost the election with 43% of the vote.

2006 Nebraska GOP Governor’s Primary

Former Nebraska football coach and Congressman Tom Osborne ran for Governor. He faced a primary against Dave Heinneman. Osborne was a hero in Nebraska and began the race with a huge lead of 62% to 22%.

But that lead didn’t hold. Heinneman defeated Osborne in the primary 49% to 45% - a 44% swing.

2006 Pennsylvania Governor’s Race

Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide-receiver Lynn Swann ran for Governor. January polling showed Swann with a small lead, as did a poll in April which had Swann up by 3%.

But once attention began focus on the race, Swann was defeated by 20%.

XXXXXXX

FRED R. HARRIS
I'll go back even further. Back in 1964, when I was but a lad in Oklahoma, Bud Wilkinson, a very popular football coach for the University of Oklahoma Sooners lost a U.S. Senate race to Democrat Fred R. Harris (who later moved to New Mexico and served as a state party chairman and political science professor at the University of New Mexico.)

Ingle Loses Bet



Senate Republican Floor Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, told reporters that he lost money on Gov. Richardson's State of the State address.

"I lost 10 bucks," he said. "I bet 20 minutes."

Richardson's speech actually went on almost 35 minutes.

State of the State

The speech came in just under 35 minutes. I'm not sure if this is the shortest ever as he promised.

And, toward the end, he did squeeze in some bragging about past accomplishments.

Anyway, through the magic of cut and paste, here's Gov. Bill Richardson's speech:

Before we begin, let me say that the thoughts and prayers of every New Mexican are with the people of Haiti during this terrible disaster.

What we don’t hold in riches, we have in generosity and I would like to encourage our citizens to do all they can to help those in such great need.

Lt. Governor Diane Denish, Speaker Ben Lujan, Senate Pro-Tem Tim Jennings, distinguished members of the New Mexico Legislature, and the State Supreme Court, members of our Congressional Delegation, honored guests, including New Mexico’s First Lady Barbara Richardson and my fellow New Mexicans.

I’m sure you will agree that this year – more than any other – represents a defining moment for us all.

How we respond to tough times like these is a test of who we are as a people.

For sixteen months now, New Mexico has felt the full impact of the worldwide economic storm.

Each of us knows someone who has been hurt by this recession—a family member who has lost his job, a small business barely making payroll, seniors who have delayed retirement, or a friend whose home is on the brink of foreclosure.

Perhaps more than any other time in history, New Mexicans need and are relying on state services – from workforce training and access to healthcare, to the delivery of unemployment benefits.

And they recognize the crucial role our education system plays in charting the path for personal improvement, and competitiveness in a changing economy.

So, while we continue to cut spending and look for ways to make government more efficient, we must not turn our backs on our most vulnerable citizens, nor should we be reckless with budget cuts and reverse the progress we’ve made during the past seven years.

I want New Mexicans to know that we have been and will continue to be good stewards of their money.

New Mexico has always been fiscally responsible.

Unlike Washington, New Mexico cannot run a deficit, nor overspend.

We must have a balanced budget.

And we have balanced the budget every single year.

And in the past, when we had extra resources, some were tempted to spend our cash reserves---– but I refused.

I insisted we hold reserves at a minimum of ten percent of overall spending – at one point that was six hundred and fifty -million dollars in our savings account.

That savings benefited us all when the national economy spiraled downward.

We have also grown our state’s Permanent Funds, which are recovering after the financial meltdown.

Those funds are back up to $13.4 billion dollars – $4 billion dollars higher than they were under my predecessor.

During the past year, we saw a nineteen -percent return on our investments.

And over the last seven years, we cut taxes by more than one billion dollars – much of it went straight into the pockets of working New Mexico families.

However, despite balancing our budget every single year, building a sensible savings account, and investing wisely in our future, we face a serious revenue shortfall.

The national and global recessions have taken their toll on our economy and, just like forty-eight other states, New Mexico must respond.

After a period of strong economic growth—with incomes jumping by thirty percent, and a thirty-nine percent growth of GDP between 2003 and 2008—the global recession has hurt our efforts to keep up that pace.

The good news is unemployment in New Mexico is still lower than the national level, and we continue to attract new jobs.

But many New Mexicans are out of work, and many more are doing more with less pay.

We must never forget them as we grapple with the tasks before us.

I am proposing a responsible and fair approach to balance our budget deficit.

We have already cut hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending.

While we can make more targeted cuts, it is important to note that most state agencies have been cut to the bone.

Any further cuts would mean certain lay-offs, closing facilities and ending public services when our citizens need them most.

But I also believe that increasing taxes – alone – is irresponsible and not the answer to balancing the budget.

I will not give anyone a blank check to raise taxes and over-burden hard-working New Mexico families.

Nor should we roll back important tax cuts and incentives that we’ve used to create jobs and open New Mexico for business.

Our efforts to build a high wage, high-tech economy must continue—most urgently now in this time of job loss and economic turmoil.

To be fair and responsible we need to take the middle path, a balanced approach that combines targeted spending cuts and short-term revenues with strong accountability measures.

Like our citizens, this administration has tightened its belt since this recession began:

I implemented a hiring and salary freeze more than a year ago, and we currently have three thousand vacancies in state government.

I eliminated positions and cut salaries of exempt state employees—those appointed by me—by two percent. Now one hundred and ten exempt positions are vacant.

I ordered five furlough days for about seventeen thousand employees

I froze one hundred and fifty million dollars in stalled capital outlay projects—both mine and yours—and I urge this body to eliminate those projects.

And we have cut state agency budgets by seven percent on average.

None of these measures were popular, but all were necessary.

My budget plan for the next fiscal year reduces spending by five hundred and ten million dollars through the following measures:

First, make permanent the two hundred and eighteen million dollars in cuts we made during the special session and by executive order.

Second, reduce costs by another one hundred and fifty-eight million dollars – by cutting spending across state government.

Third, eliminate stalled capital outlay projects and end the practice of double dipping.

Last, streamline and merge government functions, based on recommendations from my Committee on Government Efficiency. By consolidating agencies, as well as boards and commissions with overlapping functions, we can save at least twenty-five million.

I want to thank former Governor Garrey Carruthers for leading this government efficiency effort.

I also want to thank former Governor Toney Anaya for taking on the critical job of overseeing the federal stimulus money flowing into New Mexico.

As we look to raise revenue to help us through this crisis, I will only support a temporary revenue increase that—automatically expires in three years or less.

I will also oppose any tax increase that hurts our efforts to keep the state economically competitive and create new jobs – such as:

Increasing personal income taxes

Rolling back our capital gains tax cuts or

Decreasing business tax incentives or credits that are working to create jobs

Nor will I support reinstating the food tax.

We cannot ask working New Mexicans to pay more for groceries when too many are struggling to make ends meet.

Even in a time of shortfall, I insist that education must remain our top investment.

Let me also be very clear, budget cuts are not an excuse for cutting quality, for rolling back accountability, for lowering our standards, or for giving up our responsibility to educate our children.

We have invested more than one billion dollars in classroom spending—much of that for professional teacher salaries tied to increased accountability.

We rank third in the nation for percentage increase in average teacher salaries in the last decade and we’ve moved from forty-sixth to thirty-seventh in salary ranking.

And over that time, we have moved from sixty-seven percent of core courses being taught by highly qualified teachers, to ninety-eight percent.

Our investment in Pre-K and full-day kindergarten is paying off.

New Mexico PreK graduates scored higher on early math and literacy skills than children who did not participate.

And last year when the first class of full-day kindergarteners entered the third grade, and took their first round of standardized tests, they far outperformed third graders from previous years.

But I want us to go much further.

I want New Mexico be the first state in the nation to have a Hispanic Education Act.

We will be held accountable for results-- by creating an annual report card on the status of Hispanic Education.

We will increase parental and community involvement and close the achievement gap.

We are also bringing back ten thousand dropouts to complete their education as part of our Graduate New Mexico initiative.

Through aggressive interventions into low-performing schools, we are going to make sure more of our young men and women enter the workforce with the skills to get better-paying jobs.

I will also continue my strong support for innovative charter schools.

I believe the increased choices and competition charter schools provide is healthy for our state.

That is why I will fight any move to place moratoriums on new schools.

Finally, while we have seen a positive return on our investment, we must always be accountable for taxpayer money and safeguard our limited educational resources.

To that end, I propose that all local school boards receive financial training to ensure they can hold schools accountable for the money they spend.

I also want school boards to establish strict policies and procedures to prevent the abuse of credit and purchase cards.

We must do all we can to stop fraud and abuse in our schools.

I would like to recognize the work of the Legislative Finance Committee and State Auditor Hector Balderas in uncovering, investigating, and prosecuting these abuses.

My bottom line is this: I don’t want to cut teacher salaries and I don’t want to cut classroom spending.

If we have to cut education spending, we should start with the bureaucracy and district administrations.

Together, we’ve passed significant ethics reforms —setting strict campaign contribution limits, providing public financing for judicial posts, and capping gifts to candidates, employees and officials.

But, several vital reforms have been put off for too long:

Whistleblower protections to shield employees from retaliation for reporting fraud, waste or abuse.

Disclosure by any contractor wishing to make a bid on a state project of any campaign contribution of two hundred and fifty dollars or more over the last two years.

A ban on candidates doing taxpayer–funded, public service announcements.

An end to the revolving door where legislators this year become lobbyists next year. Just like we did for state officials.

A ban on campaign contributions by corporations, state contractors or lobbyists.

If we as elected officials want the public trust, then we must trust our people.

I believe we need an independent, bi-partisan, citizen-led ethics commission.

This commission must be able to investigate, discipline, fine, or censure, not just public officials or state employees, but also contractors and lobbyists.

Forty-one other states have such a commission.

New Mexico needs one too.

Our road to long-term solvency cannot depend on the whims of the oil and gas market.

It must be built on the revenues generated by creating thousands of high-paying jobs in emerging sectors of our economy---such as alternative and renewable energy, aerospace, high tech, advanced research and development, media and others.

Nothing is more important for our families, nothing is more important for our state.

At the beginning of my administration, I asked this legislature to “give me the tools,” and we will get the jobs.

Today, I’m pleased to report that those tools---like targeted tax incentives to attract innovative companies offering high wage jobs---are paying off.

We have successfully recruited Fortune 500 companies like Hewlett Packard, Schott Solar, Fidelity Investments, who are creating six thousand high-paying jobs in New Mexico.

But those incentives are working equally well to recruit medium-sized companies to rural New Mexico.

For instance, we have announced:

· Two hundred jobs at PreCheck in Alamogordo

· Six hundred jobs at Signet Solar in Belen

· Forty jobs at Sunland Peanuts in Portales

· Twenty jobs at eSolar in Sunland Park

· Three hundred and eighteen jobs at the New Business Conference Center in Silver City

· Fifty jobs at the Northern New Mexico Wood Business Park in Las Vegas


And just last week one hundred and fifty new jobs at Johnson Plate and Tower Manufacturer in Santa Teresa

And in the next few weeks I will be announcing new companies offering hundreds of jobs in Gallup and Roswell.

I’m pleased to report that Spaceport America is ahead of schedule and under budget.

As we speak four hundred and sixty-seven new workers are on the job constructing the first commercial spaceport in the world, with one hundred and fifty to three hundred more hires expected over this year.

The Spaceport is fulfilling its promise of inspiring young men and women to study math and science, developing our southern and statewide economy, and expanding tourism.

For those who doubt if the Spaceport will bring in business, you should know that Virgin Galactic has over forty two million dollars deposited for more than three hundred reservations.

The demand is there.

New Mexico will get its return on investment.

To make sure New Mexico remains competitive against Virginia, Florida and Texas, I’m asking this body to pass legislation allowing participants to assume the risks of spaceflight.

A singular bright sector in our economy throughout the state remains the Film industry.

Today, more than ten thousand direct and indirect jobs and thousands of New Mexico businesses are tied to the film industry, including over two hundred and fifty new businesses started here.

More than one hundred and thirty major movie and television productions have been made in New Mexico during this administration, bringing over $3 billion dollars in economic impact and generating hundreds of millions in state and local tax revenues.

These film and TV productions bring new dollars and showcase not just the attractions of Albuquerque or Santa Fe, but also the charm of New Mexico’s great small towns and pueblos---like Stanley and Roy, Santa Ana and San Ildefonso, Willard and Madrid, Carrizozo and Chimayo, Pecos and Tijeras, as well as Cochiti and To’Hajiliee.

And while New Mexico does not provide the most generous film incentives in the nation, we do provide the most effective ones.

We have built a global reputation as both a leader and a preferred production location due to our talented workforce, experienced management, and unmatched natural beauty.

Indeed, with two more Golden Globe awards going the New Mexico film “Crazy Heart” this past Sunday night.

New Mexicans continue to prove that we make some of the finest films in the world.

Due to our past efforts, and given the direction the industry is moving in, we have a unique opportunity over the next twelve to eighteen months to make this industry an integral part of our state’s economy along with ranching, oil and gas, and other core sectors.

And with more than twelve thousand New Mexico students around the state currently preparing for a career in film and media production, our commitment to this industry is our commitment to their future.

Next, we will continue to keep our responsibility to protect our communities.

We have thrown the book at drunk drivers: mandating ignition interlocks for every offender, running statewide super-blitzes, cracking down on bars that overserve, and opening a twenty-four hour hotline.

I’m proud to report that since 2003 our alcohol involved fatalities have decreased by almost thirty percent, and remain the lowest in state history. New Mexico is no longer in the top ten states for alcohol-involved fatalities.

This session, I’m proposing new legislation to continue our fight against DWI and Gang Violence.

Specifically, I will once again push for tougher penalties for gang crimes and criminal gang recruitment and I will close loopholes in our DWI laws that allow offenders to skip out of mandatory jail time.

Last session we passed smart legislation to help victims of domestic violence take time off to get a protection order, and granted law enforcement new tools to fight stalking.

I’m proposing that the task force that authored that legislation and dozens of other Domestic Violence initiatives become permanent in statute.

I would like to also recognize and thank First Lady Barbara Richardson for her tireless work to end Domestic Violence in our state.

Next, I am calling for a statewide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones for talking or texting while driving.

Distracted drivers focused on their cell-phone or text conversations, rather than on the road, have become a menace to our streets.

Perhaps the greatest area of partnership between this Legislature and my Administration has been in making New Mexico the Clean Energy State.

Others, like California, have tried to claim that title.

But I believe we’ve earned it-- passing an aggressive renewable portfolio standard, creating the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, and creating the most comprehensive package of clean energy tax incentives in the nation.

Just last session we went further, with new initiatives to train our Green Jobs workforce, to establish new districts for renewable energy financing, and to expand solar market development tax credits.

This year we must build on that progress by doubling the incentive for solar electricity producers who locate in our state.

In last year’s State of the State, I announced the creation of the Green Jobs Cabinet to create a statewide strategic plan for clean energy, clean technology economic development and job creation.

Through the work of that cabinet, we have developed ambitious goals:

Be the leader in renewable energy export.
Be the center of the North American Solar Industry
Lead the nation in green grid innovation
Be a center of excellence for green building and energy efficiency
Have a highly skilled and ready to work clean tech workforce

On each of these, we have made tremendous progress

In terms of exporting: New Mexico will soon be home to the Tres Amigas super Station—connecting America’s three main power grids—and enabling our state to export renewable energy to customers in the US, Canada and Mexico.

In terms of solar manufacturing: we are now the new home to Emcore, Signet Solar and are the international headquarters for Schott Solar.

And we will soon be announcing one of the world’s largest solar generation plants in Eastern New Mexico.

For Green Grid: Our green grid collaboration among our national labs, utilities and research universities is being built.

As a testament to its potential for innovation, we are proud to count a new partner --the Government of Japan.

But we must do more.

Coal-fired energy plants remain a major source of energy at home and at work, but pump far too much pollution into our skies.

We must demand responsible actions by industry, and we must also give them the tools to do it.

That’s why I’m proposing three bills: one to punish those who repeatedly and grossly pollute our air, another to enable coal companies to initiate carbon storage, and a global warming cap and trade bill to create market mechanisms, for reducing pollution and rewarding efficiency.

We kept the Valle Vidal wild and protected the largest publicly owned area of Chihuahuan Desert grassland, the Otero Mesa.

We also opened four new state parks to the public—Eagle Nest Lake, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Mesilla Valley Bosque, Cerrillos Hills and authorized the creation of Pecos Canyon State Park.

To continue our legacy of conservation, I am proposing the passage of the Natural Heritage Conservation Act to fund efforts to protect forests and watersheds, working farms and ranches, as well as habitat restoration and management.

I also ask this legislature to address three more important issues:

Our tax code is hitting too many homeowners with unfair increases—sometimes two or three times as much as their neighbors—I will send this legislature a proposal to move us toward a fair and equitable property tax system.

Our tribal communities have over one billion dollars in critical infrastructure needs. I believe its time to dedicate modest recurring funding –five percent of annual severance tax bond capacity--to our successful Tribal Infrastructure Fund.

It’s time to fully extend Domestic Partnership rights. A committed couple, who agrees to spend their lives together, deserves equal protection under the law. And as I’ve said before and I will say again---As a state whose diversity is its strength, we cannot accept discrimination in any form.

While we have accomplished much together, there have been times where we have stood far apart--when we stood behind bully pulpits pointing fingers, instead of sitting side-by-side at the table solving problems.

I may have even been wrong, once or twice. (Don’t push it)

Heading into this session, I urge everyone in this chamber to consider the following words from the late Governor Bruce King.

When asked what his legacy would be, he said “I guess just getting New Mexico to realize that if we were going to be successful, we were going to all work together and be one large family.”

I believe in this time of need, if we are to succeed, we must work together, maybe even as a family.

Our state cannot afford inaction and stalemate.

We must act, and act responsibly.

As I reflected on how I wanted to conclude this State of the State (don’t clap yet!), I thought back to how it all began during the campaign eight years ago.

I remember as we went town to town, and door to door, trying to explain what we wanted to accomplish.

Cynics and critics told us what we couldn’t do:

We can’t use money from the Permanent Fund to invest in school classrooms.

We can’t hold school districts accountable by forcing them to shift dollars from administration to the classroom.

We can’t invest one billion dollars in modern public school buildings.

But we did.

We can’t hold polluters accountable for their effect on the environment, or create new parks, or set aggressive renewable energy standards.

But we did.

We can’t build a film industry—or a spaceport—or a modern commuter rail.

But we did.

We can’t lower taxes for working families, or improve access to health care for kids, or raise the minimum wage.

But we did.

We can’t start a Pre-Kindergarten program, or expand full-day kindergarten, and we can’t get junk-food out of school.

But we did.

We can’t invest one billion dollars into modern and safe highways, curb Domestic Violence and there is absolutely no way you can reduce drunk driving.

But we did.

If there is one thing I know about the people of New Mexico, it’s that if we can get past our beliefs that something is too difficult, or too far out of reach, then we can accomplish great things.

Ladies and Gentlemen, New Mexico will recover.

It’s going to take hard work and shared sacrifice.

We will need to remember to believe in ourselves, and never forget to believe in each other.

As I said in the beginning of this address, how we respond to these tough times is a test of us as a people.

Let our response in these extraordinary times, be as extraordinary as our people.


Children of Politicos

Ben Ray Lujan, Dem
In my story in today's paper about Pete Domenici, Jr. I quoted political science professor Lonna Atkeson saying, "Children of politicians do well here," then listed several examples including Gary King, Diane Denish and Jerome Block Jr. (who "did well" in that he won his election.)

But a reader just pointed out that I left out a very obvious example -- one so obvious I'm going to have to learn yoga so I can kick myself harder:

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan!

According to my sources his father is involved in politics -- speaker of the state House of Representatives to be exact.

Before anyone else points it out, I also should have listed U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, son of former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall.

Pre-Session Misc.

Here's a bunch of links to stories I've written or helped to write the past couple of days.

Gov. Richardson promises a short State of the State speech with little bragging about past accomplishments. CLICK HERE.

Pete Domenici Jr.: GOP game-changer or the Frank Sinatra, Jr. of N.M. politics? CLICK HERE

My interview with the guv, published Sunday: CLICK HERE.

My annual User's Guide to The Legislature (and this year I can't gripe about the parking) CLICK HERE


And for a little video treat, here's a link to a part of my appearance on the panel on KNME's New Mexico In Focus, which aired Friday on Channel 5. I'm there with with political blogger Joe Monahan, Pat Frisch of KKOB-AM and journalist Christie Chisholm -- not to mention host Gene Grant.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kokesh Responds to Mullins

Republican Congressional candidate Adam Kokesh is returning fire over comments his primary rival Tom Mullins of Farmington made on his blog last week. See my original post HERE.)

Mullins, you might recall wrote, "My primary opponent is a war protester and proud of it. I have spoken with many veterans who believe that Adam’s actions dishonor the military and our nation’s military men and women. I agree with their opinion."

In the same post, Mullins described Kokesh as a "rousing orator whose resume reads with a single line item: `war protester' ...",

In a news release Monday, the Kokesh campaign responded:

We believe that Mr. Mullins' insinuation that Adam's service to our country as a Marine in Iraq isn't worth a line on his resume is a slap in the face to all military personnel and veterans. As is posted on our website, Adam enlisted at the age of 17 in the United States Marine Corps, and later volunteered to serve in Iraq with a civil affairs unit in Fallujah. When he returned, he established a group home for OIF/OEF (Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom) veterans, founded peer-to-peer counseling groups for veterans with PTSD, and continues to raise awareness about veterans' issues. He also worked as a graphic designer to pay his way through Grad School. Whatever perspective you may have on our foreign policy, there is no excuse for degrading the sacrifice a veteran has made for our country. It is possible that, because he has never served in the military, Mr. Mullins does not understand the type of commitment and dedication required to volunteer for our armed forces. Still, we believe Mr. Mullins owes an apology not just to Mr. Kokesh, but to all active duty military service members and veterans.

Mullins wrote his post in response to "an undated unsigned letter questioning my commitment to the Constitution of the United States. This letter was being handed out by my primary opponent’s supporters in Farmington."

Kokesh's news release says "Although the campaign does not endorse the letter, there was merit to some of the points raised therein."

Who knew a Republican primary in the heavily Democratic CD3 was going to raise this much heat?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Johnson Returns to Roundhouse

Former Gov. -- and not currently a presidential candidate -- Gary Jonson will retiurn to the state Capitol Tuesday morning, a spokeswoman for his PAC says.

"Both Gary and Doug Turner will be participating in the protest (complete with picket signs," Sue Winchester told me in an e-mail. "They will be protesting Governor Richardson's proposed tax increases."

Turner, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, served as Johnson's campaign manager for his gubernatorial bids in the '90s.

The protest starts about 10 a.m. Tuesdayand will go on until Gov. Bill Richardson's State of the State address, which is scheduled for shortly about the Legislature convenes at noon.

Pete Jr. Takes the Plunge

I wasn't able to get down to Albuquerque for the announcement, but according to my Twitter buddy, reporter Peter St. Cyr, Domenici indeed announced that he'll be the fifth Republican candidate for governor of New Mexico.

Domenici is an Albuquerque lawyer. He's the son of longtime U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, who retired at the end of 2008.

He joins Janice Arnold-Jones, Susana Martinez, Doug Turner and Allen Weh in the GOP primary. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has a clear field on the Democratic side.

All those but Martinez are from Albuquerque. Could that geographical tidbit play into the primary race?

Will update as information comes in.

UPDATE: Doug Turner was the first gubernatorial candidate to react to Domenici's entry:

“There are so many good Republicans running because New Mexicans are desperate for a change from the policies and corruption they have endured for far too long," he said in a written statement. "...This is going to be an exciting year for Republicans and I look forward to the debate and presenting my vision for New Mexico’s future and becoming our party’s nominee for Governor.”

UPDATE 2: More reaction to the announcement.

GOP rival Allen Weh had this to say: "“This election for Governor isn’t about political connections or surname; it’s about who has the experience to create jobs and get New Mexico back on the right track — I believe I have that experience, and the ability to lead this state forward. I look forward to the debate."

And state Democratic Chairman Javier Gonzales released a statement saying, "“Since Republicans insiders have been unable to find a candidate for Governor with an actual record of fighting for New Mexico families, they’re settling for the biggest name they could find. The people of New Mexico won’t be fooled. It’s common for voters to ask candidates for office ‘what have you done for me lately?’ In this case, they’ll be asking ‘what have you done for me ever?’”

Gonzales also said while Domenici calls himself an environmental lawyer, he represents "special interests who pollute New Mexico."

Looks like the debate's already started.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Domenici Jr. Has Announcement.

Here's something Bound to put more fuel in the fire of speculation that Pete Domenici, Jr. is going to run for governor.

Pete Domenici, Jr. invites you to attend an important announcement to be made at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102, at 1:00 PM on this Sunday, January 17, 2010.

Although no further details will be released in advance, all information will be provided at the Embassy Suites.
I guess we'll know on Sunday.

SUSANA RELEASES CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS

Following Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Janice Arnold-Jones, Susana Martinez, also a Republican gubernatorial candidate, has released her campaign finance report -- several months before it's legally due.

According to the numbers on her Web site, Martinez has raised more than $306,000 for her campaign. more than half of it since she filed her previous report in October. She has more than $228,000 in the bank.

The campaign makes a point of saying 65 percent of her contributors were from outside of Las Cruces. Denish in October pointed out that the lion's share of Martinez's contributions at that point were from southern New Mexico.

Martinez's biggest contributors were $17,500 from the Mack Energy Corp in Artesia and $10,000 from James and Deborah Gianneli, who are in the contstruction business in Albuquerque and Alliance Drilling Fluids of Midland, Texas, which also gave $10,000.

Denish reported yesterday she'd raised $750,000 in the last three months of 2009, while Arnold-Jones reported raising more than $50,000. Republicans Allen Weh and Doug Turner have not released their campaign finance figures since the last legally required report in October.

New Mexico In Focus



Join me Friday night on New Mexico In Focus, 7 p.m. on KNME (Channel 5).

I'm a guest panelist with Joe Monahan, Pat Frisch of KKOB-AM and journalist Christie Chisholm. Gene Grant, as always, is the moderator.

We talk about -- you guessed it -- the upcoming legislative session. Tune in.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Denish Raises Another $750 K


UPDATED: The entire 305-page report is now included below, as well as a link to my New Mexican story.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish raised almost $750,000 in the last three months of 2009, according to her campaign.

A news release from Denish spokesman Chris Cervini said Denish, the only announced Democrat running for governor, has more than $2.5 million cash on hand.

Denish for the past two years or so has voluntarily released quarterly campaign finance reports -- even though state law doesn't require her to do so. By law, the next required report is in May.

Last week Republican gubernatorial contender state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones released her campaign contributors. She's raised more than $50,000 for her campaign. Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez has said she'll be releasing a report soon.

UPDATE: Campaign spokesman Chris Cervini reports Friday morning that about 75 percent of the money Denish has collected is from in state.

Below is the entire report. My story in Friday's New Mexican is HERE.


DENISH 4th Quarter 2009 Report

A previous version of this story had the wrong year for the report.

First Shots Fired in CD3 GOP Primary


Republican candidate Tom Mullins of Farmington is taking offence at an unsigned, undated letter he says is being distributed by supporters of his opponent, Adam Kokesh of Santa Fe. The letter,, Mullins says, questions his commitment to the U.S. Constitution.

In a post on his campaign blog yesterday, Mullins fires back at Kokesh:

My primary opponent is a war protester and proud of it. I have spoken with many veterans who believe that Adam’s actions dishonor the military and our nation’s military men and women. I agree with their opinion.

This could get interesting.
Adam Kokesh
Kokesh, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war, indeed has a record of protesting the war.

Whoever wins the GOP primary will face incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Lujan in the general election

Roundhouse Roundup: Governor Going to New Hampshire

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 14, 2010


The governor's going to New Hampshire next week.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson
No, not that governor. I'm talking about former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He's speaking to the New Hampshire Liberty Caucus on Jan. 23 at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, N.H.

In case anyone's forgotten, New Hampshire is home of the nation's first presidential primary.

The event is being billed as an "educational forum." Johnson recently launched a 501(c)(4) political action committee called "Our America: The Gary Johnson Initiative," to raise money to promote Johnson's small-government views.

Johnson, in recent interviews with myself and others, has been coy about the possibility of becoming a presidential candidate.

Remember, though, at this point of the previous election cycle, Gov. Bill Richardson was downplaying the possibility that he would run for president — even when he was getting acquainted with New Hampshire's rubber chicken circuit in 2005.
NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE CAPITOL
Something tells me this won't be Johnson's last trip to New Hampshire in the next two years.

Johnson should give his New Hampshire audience some food for thought. But not actual food. "The event will be a reception with a cash bar," the group's Web site says. "Food will not be served, however, we'll be inviting guests to join us at a local restaurant afterward, for further camaraderie and discussion."

Sounds like fun. But not as much fun as Johnson's scheduled appearance Wednesday night at the Marijuana Policy Project Gala in Washington, D.C., at the Hyatt Regency. At that $250-a-plate event, Johnson was expected to share the stage with the comedy team of Cheech & Chong. I bet there's a lot of camaraderie and discussion there, too.

The D.C. trip is "the first of several trips around the country, to engage the public in open dialogue regarding these and other pressing national issues," An Our America news release said Wednesday. Johnson's also traveling to Phoenix on behalf of his PAC on Jan. 27 and Los Angeles on Feb. 2.

Coalition of the Ruling: State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, used the "C word" at a public forum last week. Speaking at a legislative town hall at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, Wirth noted that it's difficult to pass progressive legislation because the Senate is ruled by a coalition (emphasis mine) of Republicans and conservative Democrats.

That's true, of course. It's just that in recent years, the word coalition has taken negative connotations. When Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, won the post of Senate president pro-tem with the help of seven other conservative Dems and all 15 Republicans, he bristled at the word, which, he said, "means a lot of different things to a lot of different people." True to his word, Jennings didn't appoint any Republicans as committee chairmen.

Back in 2001, then-Sen. Shannon Robinson frequently railed against the three Democrats who teamed up with Republicans to oust then-Senate President pro-tem Manny Aragon. He used the word to castigate his opponents.

The negative connotations probably go back to the late '80s when Aragon and Republican Sen. Les Houston formed a coalition that led to Aragon seizing the president pro-tem post, which he held for more than a decade.

E-mail subject line of the week: "Governor Richardson to Receive Golden Gloves for Protecting Otero Mesa from Boxer Holly Holm." That was on a news release from Richardson's office Tuesday.

Hopefully, Ms. Holm has stopped being a threat to Otero Mesa.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A New Investment Scandal Lawsuit

Some might call it Foy II.

Donna J. Hill, a records clerk at New Mexico State University is suing past and present state officials and a couple of controversial financial firms in a class action suit to recapture money lost in questionable investments by the state Education Retirement Board.

Hill's suit seeks to win back money for 95,000 beneficiaries of the state educators’ pension fund.

It's similar to the whistleblower suit filed last year by former ERB investment officer Frank Foy, who claimed the ERB lost millions in investments made because of political pressure from Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration. In fact a lawyer for one of the defendants referred to the new suit as a “ copycat lawsuit.”

Among those named in the suit are ERB chairman Bruce Malott, former state Investment Officer Gary Bland, state Education Secretary Veronica Garcia, and former acting state treasurer Doug Brown.

The companies named in the suit are Aldus Equity, a Dallas company which served as the investment adviser to the ERB and State Investment Council for several years until being implicated in a pay-to-play scheme in New York and Vanderbilt Capital Advisors, a Chicago firm that is the center of the Foy lawsuit.

Also listed as defendants are “John Doe #1,” who is described as a former chief of staff and campaign manager for Richardson‘s presidential run, and “John Doe #2,” who is described as “a Santa Fe broker,” the son of a Richardson friend and political contributor and the husband of Richardson’s former international protocol officer.

Sound familiar? These descriptions match former Richardson chief of staff Dave Contarino and broker Marc Correra respectively. Both have been named in the Foy lawsuit.

Like “John Doe #2,” Correra made millions in finders fees for ERB investments. Between his fees for the ERB transactions and those by the State Investment Council, Correra shared in some $22 million. Correra’s lawyer has denied wrongdoing.

Asked why the suit doesn’t come out and name either Contarino or Correra, Cuneo replied, “Without confirming or denying identities, we recognize these are sensitive allegations and involve allegations of political influence peddling linked to highest levels of the New Mexico government. We wanted to be responsible and diligent and obtain confirmatory discovery before revealing that part of our case.”

UPDATE: Here's my story in The New Mexican.

Meanwhile, here's the suit for yor reading pleasure.

2010 01 02 Hill v Vanderbilt Complaint

Another Town Hall

Did you miss the last Santa Fe town hall hosted by local legislators? (Read about that HERE)

Well, you can go to another one tonight. Eldorado Democrats will host a town hall with state Sen. Peter Wirth and state Rep. Brian Egolf at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, to discuss issues pertinent to the upcoming legislative session.

Like they did last week with Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, Egolf and Wirth will answer questions and give a preview of the session, which starts Jan. 19.

The event will be held at the new fire station at the corner of Old Las Vegas Highway and U.S. 285 (Hondo Station 2, 645 Old Las Vegas Highway, near the Eldorado entrance ramp to Interstate 25).

The public is welcome, and the event is free. For more information, send an e-mail to eldoradodemocrats@gmail.com or call 660-5905.

Reduce Gov's SIC Presence, Consultants Say

The State Investment Council needs to decrease the influence of the Governor's Office, train its members better, provide more documentation, tighten ethical standards and become more engaged in the investment process.

Those are among the recommendations of a Chicago-based consulting firm hired to review state investment practices and policies.

Representatives of Ennis, Krupp & Associates presented their recommendations to the SIC on Monday. My story on that is HERE

The Ennis Krupp consultants stressed that their report was not a forensic audit or an "investigation" of the SIC, which in the past year has been the subject of a federal investigation of its use of third-party placement agents. One consultant also said at the SIC meeting Monday that nobody found any "smoking gun" during the review.

So far the study isn't online. If and when it does, I'll post a link.

Little argument about the findings were expressed at the SIC meeting. But the question remains: Will these recommendations be implemented? Gov. Bill Richardson already vetoed (technically he "pocket vetoed") one bill that would have reduced the governor's influence on the SIC. Another such bill is in the works (CLICK HERE) but I wouldn't bet against it receiving the same fate.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Janice's Campaign Contributors

Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque, has raised about $52,000 for her gubernatorial campaign, which I reported in today's paper. She joins Democrat Diane Denish in reporting her contributors several months before it's legally required.

A couple of political names up on Arnold-Jones' contributor list. State Sen. Mark Boitano, R-Albuquerque, gave her $500. In 2008 both Boitano and Arnold-Jones told reporter Dennis Domrzalski that the state GOP strongly discouraged -- and that's being polite -- from running for the Congressional seat then being vacated by Heather Wilson. The state party then was headed by Allen Weh, who now is running for governor.

Arnold-Jones also got a $500 check from one of her former House colleagues, ex-Rep. Benjie Regensberg of Cleveland, N.M. The surprising thing here is that Regensberg is a Democrat. He lost his re-election race in 2004 when Hector Balderas beat him in the primary. Balderas has since been elected to state auditor.

UPDATE: I just noticed some more politicians contributing to the Arnold-Jones campaign.

There's House Republican Caucus Leader Anna Crook of Clovis, whose campaign organization gave $100. Former state GOP Chairman Ed Lujan kicked in $150.

And there's another Democrat -- Albuquerque lawyer Eric Sedillo Jeffries, who for a brief time was seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general. He dropped out of the race in late 2005, backing fellow Democrat Gary King, who went on to win the primary and general election. Jeffries gave Republican Arnold-Jones $100.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Furlough Song

Now that state employees have a little more personal time -- thanks to the recently imposed unpaid furloughs -- at least one of them used it in a creative way.



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There are more lyrics (sung to the melody of "The Banana Boat Song"):

Work at my state job all day long.
Friday come and we gotta stay home.
Work real hard, don't do nuthin' wrong.
Friday come and we gotta stay home.

Come Mr. Governor help me with my pay check.
Friday come and we gotta stay home.
My poor bank account looks like a train wreck.
Friday come and we gotta stay home.

Well it's one day, two day, three day, four.
Friday come and we gotta stay home.
Five days this year, next year more/
Friday come and we gotta stay home.

Furlough, furlough. Friday come and we gotta stay home


One employee union leader says they're looking for a sponsor to make this the Official State Employee song. Whoever holds the copyright to Harry Belafonte's hit might have a problem with that, but who knows?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Go on. All of you. Go on to jail."

The state Supreme Court today is going to take up the case of Taos District Judge Sam Sanchez, who last November ordered the arrest of more than 30 people in his courtroom on charges of contempt of court following a brief disturbance following a hearing.

The high court, one day after the incident, ordered the release of all those jailed -- almost all of whom were members of Taos Pueblo. And Sanchez, a couple of days later dismissed all charges of contempt of court. But the court wants Sanchez to explain "the appropriate procedure for a judge to follow when contemplating contempt for unruly behavior in a courtroom."

The Nov. 19 hearing in Sanchez's court was about a request to reconsider the sentence of Dominic Bau, who pleaded guilty to raping an underage relative at a hotel in 2007. Bau was sentenced to 12 years in prison in April. Sanchez, literally about a minute before he ordered the mass arrest, ruled against Bau's request for a reduced sentence.

My story in today's New Mexican is HERE.

Did Sanchez overreact as those he jailed have said? Or was there real concern about the safety of the rape victim, her family and court staff?

Decide yourself. A tape of the incident can be heard on the player below.


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