Friday, January 31, 2014

The Lobbyist Reports

The Santa Fe New Mexican this morning published my first report of the session on lobbyist expense reports.You can find that HERE.

By law lobbyists have to report any expenditure more than $500 within 48 hours. I try to note them all, updating about once a week.

The biggest report this time was the $27,750 for ski passes from Ski New Mexico, an industry organization made up of most the ski areas in the state. The group gives these to lawmakers every year.

One representative however wrote me this morning to say he didn't accept this gift.

"Like last year Steve, I did not take the ski passes," wrote Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces "Nor do I take anything form lobbyists. I have attended a reception or two (like the NEA one you mentioned) but took nothing."

I couldn't find the clip, but I do recall McCamley telling me last year that he didn't take the ski pass or other goodies from lobbyists.

I've been reporting on the "48-hour" reports for years, and sometimes I've been criticized for doing it. A couple of years ago a senator even  implied that The New Mexican doesn't like the idea of restaurants, bars and hotels making money from parties, lunches and dinners for legislators because we always run stories about these reports.

Not true. It's just that we believe the public has the right to know who is picking up the tab for our decision makers. So don't expect me to stop doing this.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

So Much Action in the Roundhouse .... zzzzzzzz

OK, in the last few days we've heard some music, a short comedy performance and lots and lots of memorials being discussed here at the Roundhouse.

Libraries, they're really cool ... Albuquerque's west side is a good place to be ... Whereas, whereas, whereas ...

Actually the most excitement today happened just a couple of minutes ago when House Speaker Kenny Martinez got booed (good-naturedly) after suggesting (jokingly) that the House meet this Sunday afternoon. (That's Super Bowl Sunday in case anyone doesn't know.)

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but I heard some speculation from a Roundhouse regular that made me wonder. Could it be that things are moving slow on purpose, to stall until Rep. Ernest Chavez, D-Albuquerque and/or Rep. Phillip Archuleta get well enough to make it to the session?

Probably far-fetched. After all, last year during the 60-day session, a lot of us were complaining that nothing happened in the whole session until an hour or so before the end.

So until then, here's to libraries and here's to the West Side ...

(Things might perk up next week if the Rules Committee holds that racetrack hearing. My story on that is HERE)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On the Julia Show at 9

I'll be on Julia Goldberg's Morning Show at 9 am.

I'll be talking about (you guessed it) the Legislature.

According to her site, Julia is "brash, informed, honest, funny and opinionated."

Uh oh ...

That's KVSF, 101.5 FM on your radio dial,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Steinborn Wants To Archive Webcasts

Rep. Steinborn
Ever want to watch the Legislature in action, but something like, say, work, interferes with your schedule and you can't do it?

State Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, plans to introduce a rule change that would require the Legislative Council Service to save all the webcasts so folks out in Cyberland can watch at their convenience.

Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, will co-sponsor the move.

“It’s vitally important that the citizens of the state be provided the opportunity to watch our legislative process in action and learn about critical policy issues being discussed” Steinborn said in a news release.  “Technology easily allows us the ability to broadcast and archive these meetings, so folks can watch them at times that fit their schedule.”

The decision not to archive came in the early days of webcasting when the old lions of the Legislature decided that saving the videos could result in political "mischief," such as making campaign ads showing lawmakers sleeping, goofing off or casting controversial votes.

Steinborn also said he will introduce another measure that would require the Legislative Council Service to webcast all interim committee hearings. "During this last summer, there was increased public interest in following interim committee legislative hearings related to Governor Martinez’ shake up of the state’s mental health system," the news release said.

Co-sponsoring this will be Senate President Pro-tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces.

UPDATE 1-28-14 10:23 am: Some Republican friends on Twitter gently reminded me that Gov. Martinez archives floor sessions and some committee hearings HERE. She doesn't have to though. The Steinborn-Harper measure would require it.

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Will Fireworks Bill Set the Woods on Fire in This Year's Legislature?

One type of bill that’s almost guaranteed to be a dud (caution, bad pun setup) in the New Mexico Legislature is legislation restricting fireworks.

For instance, remember back in the hot dry summer of 2011, when the Las Conchas Fire was raging near Los Alamos, and Gov. Susana Martinez called for a bill that would give the governor the legal authority to impose a ban on all fireworks in the state? She got a bipartisan team of legislators to push such a bill, but it went down in flames (sorry, I can’t help myself).

With what some believe could be another hot, dry summer ripe for forest fires in store, Martinez again is calling for a fireworks bill. She sent a message to the Senate last week that allows the Legislature to consider it in the current 30-day “budget session.” The message applies to Senate Bill 94, sponsored by Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, who helped derail the 2012 fireworks bill.

To read the rest, see The New Mexican's website, HERE

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Martinez Ally Running For AG

Susan Riedel, who worked under Gov. Susana Martinez when she was the district attorney in Las Cruces, announced this morning that she's seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general.

 “New Mexico deserves a strong prosecutor as attorney general,” Riedel said in a news release.  “I will stand up and fight against those who would prey on the weak and try to take advantage of the public.  I will enforce the laws of New Mexico to ensure that dangerous criminals are put behind bars."

Much of that time, Riedel worked in Martinez's DA office, she was chief deputy district attorney. After Martinez became governor, she appointed Riedel to a vacant judge's post in Doña Ana County. However, Riedel was defeated in 2012 when she ran for the judgeship.

Her cases include the “Baby Brianna” child-abuse/murder case and the conviction of Jesse Avalos for the murder of New Mexico State University freshman Carly Martinez.

Last year the governor appointed her old deputy to the state Public Defender Commission, a fact that  Riedel doesn't include in the biography that accompanied her announcement.

At the time of her appointment the state Criminal Defense Lawyers Association called the choice of Riedel   "slap in the face" to defendants who can't afford private lawyers, as well as to people who voted for an independent public defender's office. Her appointment also was opposed by some Democratic lawmakers including House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Gail Chasey and  House Majority Whip Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, both D-Albuquerque.

Riedel briefly was chairwoman of the Dona Ana County Republican Party last year, which she served after the previous chairman David Clements resigned to run for U.S. Senate.

Riedel faces political newcomer Jim Baiamonte, an Albuquerque Republican, in the GOP primary. State Auditor Hector Balderas is the only Democrat who has announced for the job.

Many though that Clovis District Attorney Matt Chandler, who was the GOP nominee for AG in 2010, would run again. However, this week Chandler announced he would resign from his job on March 1 to go into private practice.

Riedel's campaign website is HERE

Monday, January 20, 2014

Archuleta Will Be "Fully Engaged" But Won't Be at Session

The House Democrats just issued a statement saying that Rep. Phillip Archuleta, D-Las Cruces, won't be able to travel to Santa Fe for the Legislature, but he'll be able to follow the session on his laptop.

However, I don't think Archuleta, who is recovering from hip surgery, be able to vote by laptop.

As I reported today, Archuleta is one of two House Democrats who might be sidelined because of health issues. The other is Rep. Ernest Chavez, D-Albuquerque.

If both Archuleta and Chavez are absent, the political makeup in the House would be  35 Democrats, 33 Republicans. And, as I said in the paper, "That is uncomfortable for Democrats considering that Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, and Rep. Donna Irwin, D-Deming, have been known to break with their party on several issues ..."

Here's the statement from House Dems:

SANTA FE, NM – Representative Phillip Archuleta (D-36, Doña Ana) will be fully engaged in the 2014 Legislative Session and plans to address the issues important to the citizens of Doña Ana County even as he recovers from major surgery.  Rep. Archuleta says he has already been involved in the introduction of legislation and requests of capital outlay on behalf of his constituents.  He has a laptop computer and will monitor the session online.  Rep. Archuleta will receive daily reports from the House staff and his legislative secretary.  He looks forward to hearing from his constituents by email at . 

“Rep. Archuleta is determined to be a part of the process and to make sure his constituents have a voice,” says Speaker of the House, W. Ken Martinez.  “We wish him a speedy recovery and will keep him and his family in our good thoughts and prayers.” 

Rep. Archuleta is recovering after major hip surgery due to a fall he took while attending an interim committee meeting.  While he will not be able to travel to Santa Fe, his family will be representing him on Opening Day.  Rep. Archuleta looks forward to a complete recovery so he can continue working on behalf of the good people of Doña Ana County.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

30 Fun-Filled Days in Santa Fe About to Start

In case anyone hasn't heard, the New Mexico state Legislature will convene this Tuesday, Jan. 21 at the old Roundhouse.

You can follow it at The New Mexican's Legislature Page.

There are a bunch of stories about the session in today's New Mexican.

I did one on nine lawmakers who almost certainly will be in the news during the session. You can find that HERE.

There also is my annual piece with tips for civilians on how to follow the Legislature. That's HERE.

Milan Simonich did a story on a couple of major legislative battles. You can read that HERE.

Speaking of pending battles, Robert Nott wrote a profile of Public Education Secretray-designate Hanna Skandera, which is HERE

Yesterday I covered a workshop for potential citizen lobbyists at Santa Fe Public Schools conducted by school lobbyists. That's HERE.

Finally, my Roundhouse Roundup column this week is a look at former state Sen. Dede Feldman's new book, Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens, which should be required reading for anyone trying to follow New Mexico politics. You can find my column HERE.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Corruption No Problem at All in NM, 5 Percent Say

In reporting on corruption in New Mexico, so many of us look on the bad side. Same with polls. People get so negative.

So with this new Common Cause New Mexico poll, conducted by Research & Polling of Albuquerque, I'm not going to concentrate on all the negative perceptions. I'm going to see the glass as half full. Or, in this case, five percent full.

Five percent believe corruption is not a problem here. (Only 79 percent think it's a serious, or somewhat serious problem.)

Four percent say the influence of big money on politicians is not a problem. (Only 80 percent say it's a serious, or somewhat serious problem.)

Four percent think the impact of money on elections is no problem at all. (Only 77 percent believe it's a serious, or somewhat serious problem.)

One question the poll doesn't answer: Who are these people who say all this isn't a serious problem?

The poll is below:

Update 1:20 pm I just fixed a dropped word in one of the paragraphs above. It was an important one: "not." Thanks reader Mona for alerting me.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Richardson on KNME Sunday

Former Gov. Bill Richardson will appear on KNME’s Report from Santa Fe on Sunday to talk about his new book and his political career with host Lorene Mills

Richardson’s book, released late last year, is called How to Sweet Talk a Shark: Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator. It deals with his experiences as a high-profile hostage negotiator as well as his dealings with President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, who hired Richardson for two cabinet positions.

Richardson was governor of New Mexico from 2003 through 2010.

The show airs 8 am Sunday, January 19 on KNME-TV, Ch. 5.1.

New Legislative Team at New Mexican

Terrell, Simonich, Malone
Photo by Clyde Mueller, The New Mexican
I'm about to witness my 14th regular session of the New Mexico Legislature as a Capitol reporter for The New Mexican. But this year the paper is beefing up its legislative coverage.

I'll be joined this by two veteran reporters who will be working out of the Roundhouse media room.

Milan Simonich and I have been office-mates at the Capitol for about two years. He was the Roundhouse reporter for the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers chain during that time, but now he's working for us. He's started a new blog called Ringside Seat, which I recommend you follow.

Also joining us here is Patrick Malone, who has covered the Colorado state Legislature for several years before coming to The New Mexican.

We'll also have other New Mexican reporters at the Capitol, including Robert Nott, covering educational issues (rumor has it this will be a major area of concern during the session) and Staci Matlock covering environmental issues.

Speaking of blogs, The New Mexican has a whole lot of those now. You can find those HERE)

Monday, January 13, 2014

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: The Treasurer Candidates Spat

It must be frustrating for candidates in down-ballot races to draw attention to their races.

Take the office of state treasurer for instance. Though handling the state’s money is an extremely important job, usually the treasurer campaign is pretty sedate. However, a couple of treasurer candidates, Democrats John Wertheim and Tim Eichenberg, actually caught my eye last week with a bitter email spat.

The third Democratic treasurer contender, former Bernalillo County Treasurer Patrick Padilla, didn’t get drawn into this scuffle.

In a fundraising email, Wertheim, a former state Democratic Party chairman, started with a question:

“Ever heard of Harold Morgan?”

For the rest, see the full version in The Santa Fe New Mexican.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weh Makes It Official

As his campaign promised, former state Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh made it official just moments ago and announced he's running for U.S. Senate for the seat now held by Democrat Se. Tom Udall.

He made his announcement in a short -- about 5 minute -- speech videocast live on the Internet. (It's still HERE last I looked.)

Weh didn't directly attack Udal (or even mention his name) but said there seems to be a lack of common sense in the Senate. Speaking of the polarization in Washington, Weh promised, if elected, to be willing to be willing to negotiate and "treat everyone with respect."

He said he will work for "economic improvement" for New Mexico, to "fix the Obamacare train wreck," balance the budget, eliminate the deficit and work for a strong defense.

He didn't directly address the blistering attack he received yesterday from primary opponent David Clements. I wrote about that in today's New Mexican.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

GOP Has Attorney General Candidate

A political newcomer from Albuquerque announced today he is running for the Republican nomination for state attorney general.

He's lawyer  Jim Baiamonte, who says he's a lifetime New Mexico resident.

In a news release, Baiamonte said:

“With decades of legal experience—criminal, civil matters, and family law—I have an in depth working knowledge of our legal system, and I possess a strong moral code and commitment to doing the job correctly. Our state has suffered greatly under too many attorney generals who have developed a ‘do-nothing’ approach, and we are in great need of genuine leadership and a commitment to doing the job correctly.”

Baiamonte holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a law degree from the University of Wyoming. He served in the U.S. Army for eight years. He practices criminal law, family law, and civil matters.

On the Democratic side, State Auditor Hector Balderas is running for attorney general.

Weh to Challenge Udall

Former state Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh has hired a campaign manager and will announce Thursday he will seek the GOP nomination to challenge incumbent Democrat Tom Udall for his U.S. Senate seat.

Weh will make his announcement via live video stream tomorrow morning, campaign spokeswoman Chelsea Stallings told me.

Las Cruces lawyer David Clements, a libertarian Republican and political newcomer, also is running in the GOP Senate primary.

Weh, a retired military colonel who served two tours in Vietnam and with the British Royal Marines in Malaysia, ran for governor in 2010.

In that five person race, Weh came in second behind Susana Martinez in what turned into a heated race with both candidates running negative ads against each other. Weh's campaign that year largely was self funded.

Weh is founder of  CSI Aviation, an Albuquerque aircraft company.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

CORRECTION 11:35 a.m.: The otiginal version of this post identified Stallings as campaign manager. Actually she is the campaign's communications manager. Weh's campaign manager is Diego Espinoza.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Greta's Eyes Are on NM

About a year ago, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren did an interview with Gov. Susana Martinez that wasn't exactly hard-hitting.

This week's issue of Politico Magazine shows Van Sustern still is fond of the governor. Van Sustern and several other pundits were asked which elections will be the most interesting this year. Greta chose the New Mexico governor's race.

My eyes are on New Mexico—whether Republican Gov. Susana Martinez wins or not … and if so, by how much. The margin is important. It is expected that the Republican governor will win her re-election in the blue state of New Mexico, which President Obama won in 2012 with about 53 percent. Why is the margin of a win so important? Because it will indicate whether she is a powerful “player” in the veepstakes in 2016 (or maybe president).

You can read the rest HERE:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Gov Won't Push for Gay Marriage Amendment

In case she wasn't clear about her position before, Gov. Susana Martinez, at a news conference this afternoon said she won't push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in New Mexico in the upcoming legislative session.

"I think what I said before was that yes, the people should have decided on it, but the Supreme Court has decided. And it's now the law of the land."

Asked if that meant she wouldn't push for the Legislature to pass a measure like Sen. Bill Sharer's Senate Joint Resolution 6, Martinez said, "It's the law of the land. The Supreme Court has spoken."

On the day of the high court's Dec. 19 decision, Martinez released a statement saying:

"While there will surely be intense debate about this decision moving forward, I encourage New Mexicans to continue to respect one another in their discourse, as this is an important issue for many New Mexicans on both sides. As we move forward, I am hopeful that we will not be divided, as we must come together to tackle very pressing issues, like reforming education and growing our economy, in the weeks and months ahead.”

Is "Decriminalization" the "Domestic Partnerships" of Marijuana

Rep. Kane
I spoke with state Rep. Emily Kane, D-Albuquerque this weekend after I'd filed my story about Colorado's embarking on legal retail sale of marijuana for recreational adult users.

Kane last year sponsored a bill, which passed the House, that would have reduced penalties for possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana to a civil penalty with increasing fines, and would have eliminated the potential for jail time for anyone caught with up to 8 ounces of pot. I asked her if she intended to introduce that bill in the upcoming session.

No, she said. House Democrats are discussing whether to get behind Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino's proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, like Colorado did. If that passes state voters would decide the issue in November.

Personally, I'm doubtful that the Legislature will pass Ortiz y Pino's legislation this year. (But don't put too much stock in my power of prediction. I didn't think Kane's bill would pass the House last year.)

But I do think marijuana eventually will be legal here, especially if Colorado's experiment goes well and the dire predictions of the Reefer Madness crowd don't come to pass in the next few years.

Something tells me that because of Colorado, the efforts of drug-law reformers, in this state and elsewhere, will be focusing on legalization, not decriminalization -- as as gay-rights activists here at some set aside their effort to establish a "domestic partnership" law here and focus on actual marriage equality. Domestic partnerships" was an attempt at compromise that became less and less relevant as events unfolded.

With the new marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington state, the "decriminalization" compromise is starting to look the same way.

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Did SOS Letters Confuse Green Voters Before ABQ Abortion Vote?

SOS Dianna Duran
In early November, members of the New Mexico Green Party received a letter from Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office that caused some confusion — right before a high-profile election in the state’s largest city.

“Dear Green Party registered voter,” the message began. “In the 2012 General Election, the Green Party’s candidate for president of the United States did not receive the required percentage required by law for the Green Party to remain an active political party in New Mexico.”

The state election code says a party shall “cease to be qualified” if its candidate for president or governor fail to receive at least one-half of 1 percent of the total votes cast for president or governor, or if the party doesn’t have any candidates on the ballot in two consecutive general elections. Green Party candidate Jill Stein received just above one-third of 1 percent of the vote.

“The Secretary of State’s Office is required by law to notify all registered Green Party voters that the party is no longer a qualified political party,” the letter, signed by Elections Bureau Director Bobbie Shearer said.

To read the rest, check out the version on The New Mexican website

Friday, January 3, 2014

LFC Proposes $6.15 Billion Budget

The Legislative Finance Committee is proposing a $6.15 Billion budget with $50 million earmarked for state employee raises.

The raises include a 1.5 percent across the board raise for all state workers and another $40 million for schools and state agencies to use for hard-to-fill positions, to reward "deserving employees" and to fix other pay issues.

State police would get another $3 million to implement a new pay plan and CYFD would get $1 million to recruit and retain child protective services and juvenile justice employees.

Meanwhile, the budget would set aside $35 million for early childhood education initiatives, including $12 million for literacy programs.

About 58 percent of the budget ($3.55 billion) would go to education. Public schools would get $2.7 billion, an increase of nearly $143 million.

Gov. Susana Martinez is expected to unveil her budget proposal in the near future.

Read more in tomorrow's New Mexican.

UPDATE: 3:25 pm Here's the LFC handout of budget highlights (shamelessly stolen from NM Telegram)