Friday, October 28, 2011

State questions tribal gaming revenues

It's been a good while since I've written about tribal casinos and revenue sharing, but there's been an interesting development in that arena. The chairman of the state's Gaming Control Board, David Norvell, said many of the 14 gaming tribes in New Mexico aren't paying their proper share, accounting for underpayments of between $13 and $20 million.

At issue is how the tribes account for free play, and how they incorporate it into the formula that determines how much revenue they share with the state. In short, the state says the tribes are paying less than they owe.

The issue has the potential to drag on and involve costly arbitration. It will be interesting to see how the new administration deals with an issue that first surfaced during former Gov. Gary Johnson's term.

When I was writing the story, I called all 14 gaming pueblo governments for comment, but only Pojoaque responded. If anyone reading this is or knows a tribal official, please encourage them to call me, as I would like to add more of their perspective for my next piece.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New electronics company headed to NM border

Take that, Texas! Gov. Susana Martinez announced this morning that an electronic manufacturing company will move its El Paso office to Santa Teresa. TE Connectivity will move to New Mexico after discussions over the summer.

"As we work to encourage economic growth in and attract new businesses to our state, I’m pleased that TE Connectivity has decided to expand in Santa Teresa," Martinez said in a statement.

"Continuing to foster a friendlier environment that encourages growth and investment will send a signal that New Mexico is open for business. This announcement is an important development and I am committed to further encouraging growth and expansion as we work to turn New Mexico’s economy around," she said.

The company employs nearly 100,000 workers and manufactures more than 500,000 products, according to the Governor's Office. The press release didn't say how many jobs would move to New Mexico.

Guess the move puts an end to the questions of which state Martinez, who grew up in El Paso, likes better?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Block resigns and pleads guilty

The New Mexican's Steve Terrell is in the courtroom for today's Jerome Block hearing, where he just tweeted that Block has plead guilty and will resign.

Follow the New Mexican on Twitter for updates.

And, here's the info just released by the Attorney General's Office.

Attorney General Gary King says Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. has agreed to resign and plead guilty to multiple felonies involving two separate cases.

“Another important step was taken today in the prosecution of government corruption in New Mexico,” says AG King. “I congratulate my Government Accountability Division staffers for their good work and dedication in pursuing this matter.”

The PRC Commissioner agrees to plead guilty to two (2) separate embezzlement charges; fraudulent use of a credit card; theft of identity; violation of the state Election Code, Campaign Reporting Act, and Voter Action Act; and conspiracy to commit violation of the Election Code.

Block, Jr. has also agreed never to seek public office again and to repay the state for all improper charges involving state gasoline charge cards. The Attorney General adds that the state can likely save a million dollars in expected costs for impeachment proceedings in the legislature.

A sentencing agreement requires the defendant to successfully complete a drug court program and meet other requirements before final sentencing by the Court.

Friday, September 23, 2011

GQ's long but fascinating look at Gary Johnson

After last night's presidential debate, our former governor is starting to get a little traction, at least according to his campaign, which this morning said in a release that his name is now the number one search on Google.

Well because I already have a Google alert in my email for Gary Johnson, I just took a peek at the GQ profile of him. It's a fun read.

I like the description in the piece of him in a bike shop in Hooksett, New Hampshire, a state where all the contenders have been.

Gary? He's talking about bikes. Weight and tire pressure. He's telling the guys at the store that he needs to rent one for some race he's in. His two aides, Brinck and Matt—who constitute his entire paid New Hampshire staff—give him the look. The one that says: Maybe you should mention you're running for frickin president. But Gary's on to pedals now. He brought his own pedals with him from New Mexico. Would have taken the whole damn bike, but it would've cost too much to fly it here.

Classic Johnson. After being excluded from so many debates, maybe we'll start to see more of him in the upcoming ones.

Some tourism employees got canned, public gets ... a can

The Department of Tourism earlier this week had to lay off some folks who worked for the New Mexico Magazine. The same department earlier this year got an eight-foot can to promote an anti-littering campaign. Although the two pots of money are separate, the purchase is raising some eyebrows.

Read my story about the $26,400, eight-foot can in today's paper here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Keep track of lawmakers votes, attendance record

The New Mexico state Legislature is a lot to keep track of, what with 112 members, who knows how many bills and things happening at all hours.

But the folks at the conservative Rio Grande Foundation have a tool they say will help average folks keep tabs on the happenings in the Roundhouse.

The group first launched the site in 2008, and I have used it from time to time to look up how a lawmaker voted on a specific issue. One handy feature allows you to look up votes a lawmaker cast that went against the majority of votes in his or her party. Users can also see how many votes a lawmaker has missed. The info is helpful now during the session and I'm guessing gets even more hits around election time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stay up to date on the go

Just in the nick of time, the Legislature's web site has a nifty app to help you keep tabs on the lawmakers from your phone.

The lawmakers are back in town starting today to talk on meaty topics including redistricting. But don't expect much real work for a few days as they get organized again. Sources say this special session could take a month or more. . .

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A site for DIY redistricters

I know you are out there: people who want to know a little more about the state's redistricting effort than you will get from us media types during the upcoming special session. (Newspapers just don't have the space anymore to cover every machination of the debate.)

So check out the Legislature's redistricting page for more info on meetings, (done until the special session starts) maps and population information.

PRC employee says he was fired for reporting others' misuse of computers

After so many years covering state government, I have lost track of how many of stories I have written about the PRC.

Here is my latest, from today's paper. In short, a former employee says he was fired for reporting that other agency employees were looking up inappropriate information online.

The kind of funny part is that while employees allegedly were looking up things they aren't supposed to, several employees have said that political blogs including this one are blocked from being viewed at the agency.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Get in your redistricting comments before it's too late

Want to comment on where the boundaries for political districts in New Mexico should be? Better hurry. The last meetings of the Legislature's redistricting committee are Aug. 30 and 31.

The first meeting is Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. in the Kennedy Lounge at Highlands University in Vegas.
On Wednesday, the meeting will be in room 307 of the Capitol.

Check out the agendas here.

The special session starts Sept. 6.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Buh bye, jet

What once cost the state more than $5.45 million was sold for $2.5 million today to an Alaska couple, the Governor's Office announced.

"The state’s luxury jet was the ultimate symbol of waste and excess," Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement.

"There is no reason that taxpayers should have been on the hook for the millions of dollars that it cost to purchase and maintain this plane. It was a purchase that was neither practical nor cost-effective, and I’m proud that we kept our promise to sell it."

The Cessna Citation Bravo was at the center of criticism of former Gov. Bill Richardson during the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Stay tuned for what else may be on the chopping block. At least one group would like the state to get rid of its commuter train. . .

Friday, August 12, 2011

More questions on PRC gas cards

After the news of PRC Commissioner Jerome Block Jr.'s questionable gas card spending, I looked at the spending of a few others in the regulatory agency.

Turns out there are questions about charges on other accounts, as well. And outside agencies are looking into several weekend charges, as well as back to back fill ups. Read my story here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Block out as PRC vice chair; still on the commission

A vote this morning by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission means Jerome Block Jr. is no longer the vice chairman of the panel. He is, however, still a commissioner.

Commissioners chose Theresa Becenti-Aguilar as the new vice chair. Block wasn't present at the meeting.

Stay tuned for developments in the Block case, including whether he will heed calls for his resignation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Block on PRC agenda Thursday

Jerome Block Jr's removal as vice chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission will come up tomorrow, assuming Block doesn't resign before then, as many are calling on him to do. Stay tuned.









Friday, August 5, 2011

Democratic Party and Gov. Martinez call on Block to resign

This just in from Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales:

"Today I am asking PRC Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. to step down from his position as PRC Commissioner in light of the newest allegations of misuse of public dollars. The constant controversy from the Commissioner has become a distraction for New Mexicans," he said.

"The Democratic Party strives to be a voice for transparency and integrity, and the resignation of Commissioner Block will help to usher in a way forward for New Mexico that is consistent with those ideals."

Gonzales also sent Block a letter asking him to step down.

Gov. Susana Martinez also has called on Block to resign, a spokesman said. She said Block "continues to exhibit what appears to be a serious pattern of misconduct. Abusing taxpayer money and betraying the public trust raises real questions about his ability to serve the people of New Mexico."

Martinez: 'real questions' about Block's 'ability to serve'

Gov. Susana Martinez today said PRC commissioner Jerome Block Jr. is exhibiting "what appears to be a serious pattern of misconduct" in light of allegations he misused a state-issued gas card.

Martinez made the comments after this news today about charges made to the account assigned to him.

"Abusing taxpayer money and betraying the public trust raises real questions about his ability to serve the people of New Mexico," Martinez said in a statement.

More in tomorrow's paper on this developing story.

UPDATE: 5:13 p.m.

Martinez is now calling on Block to resign, a spokesman said.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More redistricting meetings set

As it continues its work redrawing the state's political lines, the Legislature's Redistricting Committee has set two more meeting times. It also expects to meet in Santa Fe and Las Vegas after these next two meetings, ahead of a September special session on the topic.

Here is the lowdown:

The committee will meet on Aug. 15 at West Mesa High School in Albuquerque and on Aug. 16 at Sue Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Karl Rove to stump for Wilson

Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson says Karl Rove will appear at a fundraiser for her Senate campaign on Aug. 11 in Albuquerque.

"I am pleased to have Karl as a special guest for my Senate campaign," Wilson said in a statement. “Karl has one of best minds in modern politics and he continues to inform and influence American life as an author, columnist and commentator.”

Rove no doubt will be among many big wigs -- Republican and Democrat -- who will be in town for the various candidates this year and next. Stay tuned to see who else will be dropping in.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Follow our live blog for fire updates

Stay up to date on the fires near Los Alamos and Santa Fe with our live blog. Have a question? Send it in.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Las Conchas Fire near Los Alamos growing; see it live

The Pajarito Mountain web cam has the best view I've seen today of the fire southwest of Los Alamos. Check it out here.

Meanwhile, LANL will be closed Monday, officials said. All non-essential employees should stay home, according to the lab's web site. At this hour, there is a voluntary evacuation in order for Los Alamos. Gov. Susana Martinez said she is sending the National Guard to the area to assist.

For fire updates, this website is pretty helpful. Inciweb is also usually useful, but there is nothing up right now about this fire.

At the same time, the Pacheco Fire near Santa Fe gained ground today, due to high winds.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gov. Martinez: no illegal fireworks, please

With dangerous fire weather season upon us, Gov. Susana Martinez is asking -- make that pleading with -- residents to not use illegal fireworks this summer.

"With the 4th of July holiday approaching, we are urging New Mexicans to exercise caution and restraint when it comes to using fireworks," Martinez said in a statement.

"Across New Mexico, we have seen just how quickly fires can burn through our landscape and impact our communities. I am asking New Mexicans to follow all state and local fireworks bans and restrictions and pull together to ensure a safe and celebratory Independence Day weekend."

The Governor's Office is reminding residents of the statewide ban on "all fireworks, as well as on smoking, the use of campfires, open burning, and open fires" in all state and private wildlands. Many counties and cities have taken similar steps.

No word yet on where Martinez will take in her July 4th fireworks fix, although I have a feeling she will be busy monitoring any more fires that pop up next weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Board votes to cut weekend Rail Runner service

The Rio Metro Board voted this afternoon to end weekend train service in mid-to late August. This as the train is facing cuts in federal funding.

"This was originally envisioned as a commuter service, and that’s the piece we want to maintain without affecting anybody," Steve Shaw, Chairman of the Rio Metro Board said in a statement. "While we recognize the weekend service from a tourism and convenience point of view, we think it’s more important to support the initial mission of the train without affecting the people who use it to get to and from work."

More details in tomorrow's paper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And today's Groupon is . . .

for the New Mexico Rail Runner.

That's right, the site that offers big discounts on everything from massages to photo packages is offering a deal on tickets on the Rail Runner Express. That can't be good news for the train service, which recently said it is looking at cutting service to offset a loss in federal funds.

But it is good news for riders trying to save some cash.

Friday, June 10, 2011

State employee layoffs on the table

Many state workers feared layoffs during the Gov. Bill Richardson administration, but got furloughs instead.

Now, it looks like the state's budget crisis means some employees will have to lose their jobs.

The state Personnel Board is meeting this morning on just how many jobs will be axed. Among the agencies slated for cuts are the Economic Development Department, the Commission on the Status of Women, the State Land Office, the Organic Commodity Commission, the Regulation and Licensing Department and the Public Education Department.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A look at PTSD options

No, this story doesn't have much do to with politics. But it's an important topic nonetheless: PTSD and what our country is doing to help veterans who are suffering.

My story, which ran in today's paper looks at the new ways veterans are getting help, including yoga, massage and couples counseling.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Block Jr. missed the most PRC meetings

I recently took a look at the attendance of the state's five PRC commissioners at meetings so far this year. Let's just say that the attendance varies widely, from one commissioner who had a perfect track record to one who missed 11 meetings.

Read my story in Sunday's paper here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

No More Business for Crooks

Gov. Susana Martinez has signed an executive order that prohibits the state from doing business with "companies that betray the public trust."

She said in a statement that companies that get public money should be on the up and up.

"Companies engaged in corrupt activity should not receive public contracts or continue to be allowed to do business with the state," she said. "This executive order is a key first step in reforming the state’s procurement process to ensure that it is open, fair, and more resistant to favoritism and corruption."

Here's the text of the order.



WHEREAS, the people of New Mexico have a right to have good reason for confidence in the manner in which their state government conducts the State’s business; and

WHEREAS, that confidence is undermined when the businesses and people with whom the State does business, and to whom the State pays money from the people of New Mexico are either under suspicion of or have in fact actual convictions of corrupt practices; and

WHEREAS, as a matter of public policy, public monies should not be expended by state agencies, departments, or boards to form contracts with known corrupt businesses and individuals; and

WHEREAS, the government of the State of New Mexico has the vested authority to be the good steward of state funds; and

WHEREAS, the Office of the Governor has made a commitment to fiscal responsibility and sound stewardship of public monies and to maximize transparency and inspire confidence in the manner in which the people’s business is conducted;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Susana Martinez, Governor of the State of New Mexico, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of New Mexico, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:

The state purchasing agent or any central purchasing office, after reasonable notice to the business involved, is hereby directed to recommend to the respective governing authority of a state agency, department or board, over which the Governor retains authority, the suspension or debarment of a business for cause from consideration for award of contracts under the circumstances defined herein.
The causes for debarment or suspension of eligibility for a procurement include but are not limited to:
Conviction of a bidder, offeror or contractor (including any principal, owner or officer of such business) for commission of a criminal offense related to obtaining or attempting to obtain a public or private contract or subcontract, or in the performance of such contract or subcontract, occurring within the preceding three (3) years;
Conviction of a bidder, offeror or contractor (including any principal, owner or officer of such business) under state or federal statutes of fraud, embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records or receiving stolen property, occurring within the preceding three (3) years;
Conviction of a bidder, offeror or contractor (including any principal, owner or officer of such business) under state or federal antitrust statutes, occurring within the preceding three (3) years;
Violation by a bidder, offeror or contractor (including any principal, owner or officer of such business) of contract provisions, as set forth in this subsection, of a character which is reasonably regarded by the state purchasing agent or a central purchasing office to be so serious as to justify suspension or debarment action; such as:
i. Willful failure to perform in accordance with one or more contracts, provided that this failure has occurred within a reasonable time preceding the decision to impose debarment; or

ii. A history of failure to perform, or of unsatisfactory performance of, one or more contracts, provided that this failure or unsatisfactory performance has occurred within a reasonable time preceding the decision to impose debarment and provided further that failure to perform or unsatisfactory performance caused by acts beyond the control of the contractor shall not be considered to be a basis for debarment;

Any other cause occurring within the preceding three (3) years of a procurement which the state purchasing agent or a central purchasing office determines to be so serious and compelling as to affect responsibility as a contractor; or
For a willful violation by a bidder, offeror or contractor of the provisions of the Procurement Code occurring within the preceding three (3) years.
The state purchasing agent and each central purchasing office is obligated and shall recommend to the governing authority of a state agency, department or board, over which the Governor retains authority, no new contracts to be formed with a business that the state purchasing agent or central purchasing office has reasonable cause to believe would be suspended or debarred for cause from consideration for award of contracts, under the guidelines contained herein.
When the state purchasing agent or central purchasing office makes a recommendation to the respective governing authority of a state agency, department or board, over which the Governor retains authority, for the suspension or debarment of a business for cause from consideration for award of contracts, the recommendation so made shall include a duration of time for such suspension or debarment that conforms with existing law. Such recommended suspension or debarment time duration shall be adopted by the state agency, department or board unless that state agency, department or board makes a separate finding to support such different time duration for the suspension or debarment.






Thursday, May 19, 2011

State won't pay legal tabs in latest case

The Gov. Susana Martinez administration has decided not pay the legal fees of Gary Bland or Guy Riordan in the latest lawsuit related to allegations of pay to play in the former Gov. Bill Richardson administration. I wrote about that in today's paper.

Martinez in another story I did mentioned she is looking into limiting who all is covered by the state in such lawsuits. As the legal fees mount, stay tuned for what Martinez has in mind.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

AG King starts blog to get out "the rest of the story."

Attorney General Gary King's Office has started a blog that intends to "expand upon, clarify, and provide correct information about the NM Attorney General's Office (AGO) that may also appear in media sources such as television, radio, newspaper, blogs, etc."

In the first post, spokesman Phil Sisneros says "Often, there is more to know about the activities of this office than is typically reported by the mainstream media due to their time and space limitations or editorial purposes."

King has been under pressure from some to do more with the corruption cases in the state, so we suspect the blog might get into the AG's work on some of those. In any case, we will keep our eye out "the rest of the story" that the blog promises.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

State pays legal tab for Guy Riordan

Among the interesting things I found recently in the legal bills in the Frank Foy case were invoices for a law firm defending former state Game Commissioner Guy Riordan. He wasn't an employee, but the Gov. Susana Martinez administration says state laws cover people who were representing the state, whether they were compensated or not. (Game commissioners get mileage and per diem.)

Check out my story in today's paper.

Do you think that is right or wrong?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stimulus starting to dry up

It's no surprise, but it's still not good news: much of the federal stimulus money ends this year. While some state officials planned ahead, others are fretting and wondering what the impact will be on the local economy.

See my story in today's paper here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Legal bills mounting in pay to play case

The case involving former state government officials and alleged pay to play schemes isn't getting any cheaper. I wrote about the issue in today's paper.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gary Johnson for President

Yep, it's official. Our funky ex-governor is in the 2012 presidential race. Slate has an interesting article here.

Johnson made the announcement this morning in New Hampshire.

The move puts New Mexico in the political spotlight (a little bit, anyway) again during a presidential race, which should be interesting. Johnson is the first GOP candidate to announce he is running next year.

That could be because he's last in name recognition and needs to get out there as early as he can.

This from the LA Times:

According to a Gallup poll released this week, Johnson ranked last among 14 possible candidates in name recognition, hovering between 12% and 14%. Ranked highest was Sarah Palin, at 96% name recognition, though name recognition doesn’t always translate into popularity. Most polls place Palin in the first tier of four or five possible contenders and Johnson well back in the pack, though no one is running away with the nomination.

Whether the polls mean much -- and whether Johnson can quickly climb in name recognition remains to be seen. We know Johnson has come out of nowhere in the past. . .

Friday, April 15, 2011

New PRC e-mail retention policy in the works

...but it is confidential and attorney-client privileged until it is presented to the Public Regulation Commission next Tuesday.

By way of background, last summer I wrote about the fact that no one at the PRC was following an electronic public records policy of keeping e-mails to be archived.

The January 2009 policy calls for employees of the regulatory agency to sort their own e-mails and determine what is public, and then forward those public records to an address for retention.

That wasn't happening, and after I wrote about it, PRC officials said they would craft a new policy. A spokesman for the commission said the PRC's general counsel will talk to me about the policy, once it is presented to the commission.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Supreme Court sides with unions

The New Mexico Supreme Court has sided with union members who say Gov. Susana Martinez overstepped her bounds in firing three members of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board. My colleague Steve Terrell went to the hearing today.

I wrote more about the issue two weeks ago here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

RIP Jeanette Wallace

The Associated Press has an obituary today on Rep. Jeanette Wallace here. The long-time Republican from Los Alamos died Friday, her family announced Saturday. She had been ill during the recent legislative session.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Martinez signs bill to end corporal punishment in NM schools

Gov. Susana Martinez today signed a bill that outlaws corporal punishment in our schools.

The state joins 30 others that do not allow punishment such as spanking in the classroom.

"The decision on whether or not to use corporal punishment on a child is one that is best left to a parent," Martinez said in a statement.

Martinez also signed other bills today. They are:

· HB 74, Science of Teaching Reading Requirement
· HB 81, No Land Grants as State Land
· HB 196, Uniform Child Witness Protective Measures Act
· HB 301 Create New Mexico Unit Fund
· HB 306, ESCAFACA District Authority and Elections
· HB 337, Fee and Term Limit on Payday Loans; Requiring Database
· HB 411, State Agency Submission of Timely Audits
· HB 413, Unauthorized Practice of Law
· HB 414, Commercial Motor Carrier Inspections
· HB 437, Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption
· HB 500, Excavation Notices and Utility Pipelines
· HB 652, Emergency Pilot Gas Relighting
· SB 105, Broker Licensure and Education Requirements
· SB 132, State Agency Uniform Credit Card Use Fee
· SB 141, No Education Department Auditor Approval
· SB 233, Plant Photosynthesis as Alternative Energy
· SB 278, Clarify State Treasurer Duties
· SB 282, Tax Liability Credit for Certain Physicians
· SB 295, Health Care Provider Dependency Task Force
· SB 445, Direct Wine Shipment Permits
· SB 520, Municipal Corporation Bond Deposits
· SB 546, Alcohol Microdistiller License
· SB 549, Renewable Energy Utility and Customer Costs
· SB 476, No College Credits Needed for State Police
· SB 617, Public Works Contractor Registration

Martinez vetoed these bills:

· HB 182, Penalties for Serving Alcohol to Minors
· SB 023, Corrine Wolf Children’s Law Center
· SB 025, Private Equity Investment Committee Duties

You can get updates on the bills Martinez has acted on on her web site.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Martinez to sign Native American suicide prevention bill on Thursday

Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday will head to Shiprock to sign SB 417, which aims to prevent teen suicides with prevention programs and a clearinghouse that would collect data on suicide rates, among other things.

The news will make some students at the Santa Fe Indian School very happy. As part of their senior honors project, they had followed the bill as they prepared a presentation about Native American mental health.

A spokesman for Martinez said she's glad to sign the measure.

"The governor is very pleased to be able to travel to Shiprock to sign this piece of legislation because she wants Native American young people to know that their lives are of significant importance, and the community is going to work very hard to overcome the teen suicide problem we face," spokesman Scott Darnell said.

Students watching to see what Martinez does with suicide prevention bill

A group of students from the Santa Fe Indian School are waiting to see whether Gov. Susana Martinez will sign a measure that aims to prevent suicide among Native Americans.

Read how the issue hits home for some students in my story here.

Martinez said she is looking into the measure and thinks the issue is important.

UPDATE, 11:23 a.m.

Martinez' office just let me know she will sign the bill Thursday in Shiprock.

Friday, March 25, 2011

We're richer than we were. Kind of.

When an editor gave me an assignment yesterday to write about new income numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, I was surprised to see New Mexico had the highest growth rate of personal income in the country in 2010. Turns out it's not quite that simple. "Income" includes things like Medicaid and Social Security payments. So in some cases, people who actually are "earning" less at work have higher "incomes." Fascinating stuff. Check out my story here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Open-government training this weekend at UNM

Didn't get enough of good government in the just-ended legislative session? Check out the workshop that the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is hosting Saturday. The event is geared toward non-profits, activists and others who want to keep government open and honest. There are some scholarships available to cover the $25 registration fee, which includes lunch.

More info here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Judge: AG violated records law

For those of you who follow public records news, check out the story I wrote today about a decision by a judge that Attorney General Gary King violated the state's Inspection of Public Records Act.

And, for those who want more news about records-related issues, check back next week. I plan to wrap up the action (or lack of) this session on bills pertaining to access to government information.

Here's a copy of the ruling by Judge Beatrice Brickhouse


Thursday, March 17, 2011

NM law allowing corporal punishment attracts national attention

A national group called Unlimited Justice is calling on Senate leaders here to again take up a measure that would outlaw corporal punishment in schools. The Senate earlier this session tie voted on a similar measure, leaving it tabled. The House earlier had approved the bill, HB 172. Rep. Rick Miera is the sponsor.

"The New Mexico Senate has a real opportunity to end the practice of having public school students being beaten in their classroom by an educator, a practice that is simply unacceptable," said Marc Ecko, an education reform advocate with the group.

"We call upon Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to bring the House bill to a vote before the session ends. Given the vote by the House and the prior indication from the Senate that it has an interest in this issue, there should be no reason for the Senate not to consider this bill."

Ecko was on MSNBC this morning talking about the bill.

"There are so many issues around education reform to debate, but this is one we can all agree on. Right, left, old, young, conservative, liberal, hitting students in schools is wrong."

Martinez posts ads online for state aircraft

1976 Beechcraft King Air Model E-90 S/N LW-159

Cessna Citation Bravo Model 550 S/N 1112

I was actually looking for something else on the governor's web site when I came across two new ads for the state planes Martinez wants to sell. No price listed, however.

The Cessna in particular seems like a sweet ride. According to the ad, it's got a "refreshment center" that features:

Barware storage area
Swing-out work surface
Heated liquid container
Bottle water storage
Two dispensers for disposable cups
Beverage can storage
Ice chest drawer with removable liner connected to a manual overboard drain.
Trash container
Pullout food tray drawer
Miscellaneous general storage
Accent lighting

The Beechcraft isn't as awesome, given that it's got 10770 miles, but I bet someone could get a good deal these days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unions say Martinez wrongly fired labor board and director

Members of organized labor groups today asked the state Supreme Court to reinstate the director and three members of the Public Employees Labor Relations Board, all of whom have been dismissed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

"Governor Susana Martinez exceeded her authority in firing the entire Public Employee Labor Relations Board in violation of state law," NMFL AFL-CIO President Christine Trujillo said in a statement.

"Her agenda is no different from that of Republican Wisconsin Governor (Scott) Walker … she, along with the Tea Party controlled Republican Party across the United States are attempting to pick off the rights of American workers to collectively provide safe and equitable work environments."

The rub comes as workers with grievances say they now have nowhere to turn with complaints under the state's Public Employee Bargaining Act, which the board enforces.

Seeking comment from Martinez.

Here is a copy of the filing

WRIT FINAL Filing With Supreme Court of New Mexico. 03.16.11.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A look at the new chief of staff

Many around the Capitol know Keith Gardner as the "gentle giant," a tall, friendly guy from Roswell who is on an upward path in politics.

But what else is there to know about him and how is he settling in to his new role as Gov. Martinez' chief of staff?

Check out my story in today's paper here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

State Supreme Court says people can make records requests anonymously

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday decided that everyone should have access to public records, including those who request documents anonymously through a third party.

According to the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, the court in the case considered whether a water-users association could sue the state when various government agencies had failed to produce all of the public records responsive to its requests under the state's records law. A private law firm had submitted the requests.

FOG Executive Director Sarah Welsh said the decision is "a victory for democratic and open government principles."

"When we talk about the public’s right to know, it’s important to remember how much power the state has, and how intimidating it can be for private citizens to actually exercise their access rights," she said in a statement. "This opinion is a reminder that our state records law is incredibly strong, and that any artificial procedural barriers erected to stymie enforcement simply won’t pass muster."

Here's the decision:

Opinion.3.8.11 1 OCR Version

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Driver's licenses, Part Two

It's the biggest show in town right now. So check out the Senate debate over what to do with drivers' licenses for immigrants online if you can't be at the Capitol in person.

Your guess is as good as mine as to when it will start, but I'm pretty sure the debate won't be short, so you probably won't miss it. Right now, it looks like it could still be later this afternoon.

Janice Arnold-Jones mulls run for House

Former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones says she's considering a bid for the U.S. House, in the Albuquerque-are First Congressional District.

She said calls from constituents are prompting her to think about it -- and that possibility that incumbent U.S. Rep Martin Heinrich might run for the Senate seat held by Jeff Bingaman, until he retires next year.

"Since the announcement by Senator Jeff Bingaman that he will retire at the end of his term I’ve received numerous telephone calls and emails asking me to run for several different offices," she said in a statement.

"The majority of these calls have been supporters asking me to step forward and run for Congress. Forming an exploratory committee is the first step in a possible run."

No other Republicans have announced for the seat, and Heinrich has not said one way or the other what he plans to do.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wilson announces bid for Senate

It's not surprising, but it is official. Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson is the first to announce her candidacy for the post Jeff Bingaman is leaving next year. She did so this afternoon in Albuquerque.

"I feel blessed to see so many friends here today. Friends from my decade of service in the House of Representatives. Friends from our work together in state government, helping abused and neglected children," Wilson said in a release. "And even a handful of friends from the Air Force Academy, who knew me as a 17-year-old kid with a single suitcase and a one-way ticket to Colorado Springs. Mother. Wife. Air Force Officer. Small business owner. Member of Congress. I am and have been all of these things," she said. "And today, you can add one more. I am a candidate for the United States Senate."
In a release, Wilson listed the support of 40 prominent Republicans, including party titans former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and former Interior Department secretary and Congressman Manuel Lujan. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce was not on the list, adding to speculation that he may run as well. Ditto for Lt. Gov. John Sanchez. (Read Heath Haussamen today for the scoop on Sanchez.)

With so many in Wilson's camp, will other Republicans even announce? If they do, expect it to happen soon. After all, the primary election is just more than a year and four months away.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's official. Heather Wilson is

...going to make an announcement Monday.

Republican insiders say the announcement will be that she's running for the U.S. Senate seat from which Jeff Bingaman in 2012 plans to retire.

Press conference is at 2:30 in Albuquerque.

Friday, March 4, 2011

House votes to repeal law allowing immigrant licenses

The House this evening approved a measure that would repeal the state law allowing immigrants to get drivers licenses. The vote was 42-28, and came after two days of debate on the issue.

The measure by Rep. Andy Nunez, I-Hatch, now goes to the Senate for consideration. The Senate Public Affairs Committee this week shelved a similar measure, so the fate of the bill is uncertain.

Gov. Susana Martinez, who made the issue a staple of her campaign for governor, applauded the move.

"Today, the will of the people of New Mexico was heard in the House of Representatives," she said in a statement. "Despite numerous procedural schemes to defend the status quo, a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and the House’s lone Independent came together to stand with an overwhelming majority of New Mexicans who want to see the dangerous practice of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants overturned. I hope the Senate will also listen to the people of New Mexico and give this bill an up-or-down vote."

Read more about the debate in tomorrow's New Mexican.

Here's a copy of the vote, sure to be used in political campaigns next year and beyond:


Immigrant license debate up on House floor now

Listen now to the ongoing debate over whether New Mexico should allow immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses.

Although there is a floor substitute for the bill, by Rep. Andy Nunez, it is not yet online.

There is still no video to go with the audio webcast, but it's still a way to listen in if you aren't at the Capitol today.

Given the contentiousness of the issue, and the fact that the debate on the bill yesterday took six hours, expect the debate on the substitute measure to last hours today.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fake Susana Martinez account on Twitter

When I received an email that Susana Martinez is now following the New Mexican on Twitter, it immediately caught my eye that the whole name on the account was Susana2014. She wouldn't really name her account that, tipping off aspirations for a new job in two years, would she?

No, it turns out. The account is clearly the work of anti-Martinez folks.
One post references last night's House floor scuttle over immigrant driver's licenses, and says:

Wish I could knock Ben Lujan's fake teeth out right now. Touche old man, but I'll be back. #boldchange #dentures

I'll let you look up the rest for yourself.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bingaman: oil supply disruption could get worse before it gets better

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman says the unfolding events in Libya mean the U.S. should be ready to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and soon.

Bingaman, a Silver City Democrat, says "There is reason to be concerned that the situation in Libya and throughout the region could become worse before it improves. I don’t know that it’s useful to try to predict the most likely outcome, but the reality is that many of the potential scenarios are not good for the stability of world oil flows."

Here's his argument for using the reserves, from a statement he put out just now.

From an oil market perspective, the turmoil in the Middle East changed course just over a week ago when Libya joined the group of countries that are witnessing historic popular uprisings. It is the first major energy exporter in the region to experience such an uprising.

At the moment, as much as 1 million barrels per day of Libya’s total 1.8 million barrels per day of oil production is currently offline, with continued political turbulence threatening to take more oil offline before order is restored. It appears that international oil companies, which are responsible for over 40 percent of Libyan oil production, have removed their personnel from the country, leading to the shutdown of most fields operated by those international companies. For the moment, it appears that the Libyan national oil companies are mostly continuing to produce and export oil, although there might be some limited production losses in national oil company production as well.

There is reason to be concerned that the situation in Libya and throughout the region could become worse before it improves. I don’t know that it’s useful to try to predict the most likely outcome, but the reality is that many of the potential scenarios are not good for the stability of world oil flows.

Fortunately, Saudi Arabia is widely believed to have enough spare oil production capacity to offset any losses in Libyan oil production. The Saudis have already publicly committed to compensating for any Libyan shortfall, and very likely have already ramped up production to make good on this promise. However, the additional Saudi crude oil will not be of the same quality as the lost Libyan barrels, which are light and sweet. About three-quarters of Libyan exports go to Western Europe, whose refineries cannot manage the heavier and sour crudes that come out of the Persian Gulf region. There will be some crude oil dislocation, as higher quality crudes are re-routed to Europe, and incremental Saudi barrels head for refineries that can handle the lower grade oil.

Between the lost production in Libya, the crude oil dislocation associated with additional Saudi production, and the prospect of further turmoil in the region, we are now unquestionably facing a physical oil supply disruption that is at risk of getting worse before is gets better. For this reason, I believe that it would be appropriate for the President to be ready to consider a release of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) if the situation in the Libya deteriorates further. Any additional oil market disturbance – such as turmoil spreading from Libya to Algeria, or from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia – would clearly put us into a situation where there would be a very strong argument in favor of an SPR sale. While I do not think that high oil prices alone are a sufficient justification for tapping the SPR, I do believe that the announcement of an SPR sale would help to moderate escalating prices.

My recommendation that we stand ready to release oil from the SPR is squarely in the traditional policy for SPR use, going back to the Reagan Administration. In testimony before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on January 30, 1984, President Reagan’s Secretary of Energy, Donald Hodel, stated that the Administration’s SPR policy in the event of an oil supply disruption was to ‘go for an early and immediate drawdown.’ The SPR would be used to send a strong signal to oil markets that the U.S. would not allow a physical oil shortage to develop.

New Mexico's Congressional delegation mostly supports keeping CPB funding

A few non-reporter friends have asked in recent days where the state's delegation stands on the whole Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding debate.

Turns out the Democrats among the lot -- U.S. Sens. Jeff Bigaman and Tom Udall, as well as Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan support funding for the program. Republican U.S. Rep Steve Pearce voted in favor a measure to cut funding to CPB.

The House has approved the measure, which is pending before the Senate. While the measure's fate there is uncertain, President Obama has said he would veto the measure, according to reports.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Watch out, New Mexico, Utah has big film incentives

As lawmakers here are wringing their collective hands over what to do about incentives for the state's film program, legislators in Utah are expanding its program, the Motion Picture Association of New Mexico says in a press release.

Here's the scoop:

In a 57 to 12 vote, the Utah House decided on Tuesday to both raise the 20% credit to 25% and make the program essentially permanent.

"Utah has looked at what we have done here in New Mexico and wants to emulate our program," said Santa Fe based producer Alton Walpole. "They recognize that this industry creates good jobs and attracts investment that creates a positive overall economic impact."

The Utah legislation, HB 99, also adds digital media companies to the eligible applicants column for the incentive.

"As a state that adopted incentives early, we got a head start in building infrastructure and developing a skilled work-force," said Walpole. "This has made New Mexico one of the top destinations for production and new media markets like digital effects. With other states rushing to duplicate what we’ve achieved here, attempts to cap or reduce our incentives send exactly the wrong message about our long-term commitment to this industry. In this competitive environment it’s vital that our lawmakers protect our strategic advantage by continuing to support and even improve New Mexico’s program."

The release of course is aimed at putting even more pressure on lawmakers here to think twice about reducing the incentives for filmmakers in New Mexico, again raising the point that movie producers could easily choose another spot for their next flick.

But it also highlights the difference in how states are approaching film programs and incentives. See this story on how the makers of the Avengers movie have pulled out of Michigan after its governor proposed essentially eliminating film tax incentives there.

Do Martinez' ads violate campaign law?

That's the question the good government group Common Cause New Mexico is asking today, after Gov. Susana Martinez started airing ads urging people to call their lawmakers to support a movement to repeal the state law allowing drivers' licenses for immigrants. More on that here. (In short, Martinez wants to do away with the law, but is being blocked by Democrats in the Legislature and so has taken to the airwaves with leftover campaign cash.)

Here's what Common Cause said in a statement urging Attorney General Gary King to look into the matter:
Following a careful review of New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act, Common Cause New Mexico (CCNM) has come to the conclusion that Governor Martinez may have violated this act when she used leftover campaign funds to pay for radio spots lobbying for a bill favored by her administration. CCNM has urged the Attorney General’s office to investigate this matter.

"The Campaign Reporting Act places strict limitations on how campaign funds can be used,” said Steven Robert Allen, executive director of CCNM. “Funding this kind of lobbying advertisement seems to be a clear violation of this statute."

Secretary of State Dianna Duran has said the spending is fine; King's office shas aid the SOS looks at the matter first, although some speculate he now will take a look as well. . . The question of what can be done with leftover campaign funds is an interesting one, as many big campaigns in recent elections have had money left over.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SOS Duran referring "matters of concern" to state auditor

Secretary of State Dianna Duran says she has referred several "matters of serious concern" to State Auditor Hector Balderas.

"Over the past month and a half since taking office, my staff and I have identified a number of irregularities in contracts and purchasing processes conducted by the previous administration which appear to violate the New Mexico Procurement Code, and we have asked the State Auditor’s office to investigate those matters," Duran said in a statement.

Duran also said some documents appear to be missing from the office, but didn't specify what kind of information.

"Unless those documents are recovered, their disappearance could impair an independent audit that will be conducted later this year," she said.

In addition, Duran said that it looks like "data on a number of hard drives on office computers has been deleted. The data, if not recoverable, is significant to the core operations of the Office of the Secretary of State."

Former Secretary of State Mary Herrera left office last year amid a cloud of controversy, and this surely adds to it. The next question is what Balderas will do with the information.

UPDATE, 7:12 p.m.
Here's what Herrera has to say, in a statement:

The office of Secretary of State received a clean audit with zero findings for fiscal year ending June 30, 2010. I requested an exit audit for the last six month in writing to the NM State Auditor and Director of Department of Finance and Administration, no response was received.
We left the office well organized and all files were order.
We provided the new Secretary of State and her Deputy with a transition in December.
The new Deputy was invited to the office for a week for additional transition, we received no response.
Secretary of State elect was allowed to interview the employees, immediately after the transition.
Chief Financial Officer remained on the job for an additional week in January, to train and transition the new Financial Officer with budget issues, outstanding purchase orders, contracts, RFP’s, files, etc.
The overall budget reflected a 50.8 percent balance, we complied with the law.
All files were there, we have been in contact with the new administration answering any questions this year, if Secretary of State Dianna Duran still needs our help to understand the files or data, we are available to assist her.

The (public) salary list UNM didn't want you to see

Kudos to the Albuquerque Journal for posting this info on salaries that UNM officials had said they would only make available on paper.

UNM had an antiquated approach to public information that was (not so easily) gotten around by the Journal. Here's the lowdown, from a column today by Thom Cole.

The administration makes a 448-page printed alphabetized list of full- and part-time UNM main campus and branch employees available for a two-hour checkout at Zimmerman Library.
A Journal editor checked out the list last Saturday, copied it ($43 in charges), then handed it off to our computer folks for scanning. The result is a list that is searchable but not sortable.

A measure this session would make information that's already available in a database form available electronically. Here's hoping it passes -- for all the state government information out there, not just salaries.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bingaman to retire and move to Santa Fe

After 28 years in Congress, Sen. Jeff Bingaman won't seek a sixth term in 2012, he said this afternoon at a press conference.

At the end of his term, Bingaman will have served 30 years in Washington.

"I believe it will be the right time for me to step aside and allow someone else to serve the state," he said.

"It's not easy to get elected to the Senate. It's obviously not easy to make the decision to leave the Senate," he said.

Bingaman didn't really give an exact answer when asked why he was retiring, beyond that 2012 seemed like the right time.

He will move to Santa Fe, but doesn't have a plan sketched out for himself, he said.

"I’m not sure what we’re going to do. I’m not counting anything in or ruling anything out. I'm hoping to find other challenges to pursue but I haven’t settled in on what they are yet."

Bingaman's decision, so close to the retirement of Sen. Pete Domenici, leaves a great void of seniority in New Mexico's Congressional delegation. It also means another big Congressional race is just months away. Check out Saturday's New Mexican for our coverage and analysis on what Bingaman's choice means.

Update, 9:45 a.m.
Check out our coverage here and stay tuned for what are sure to be many more stories on who will seek the seat.

WaPo: Bingaman to retire

The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman will retire and not seek re-election in 2012.

The move is not a total surprise, given the time Bingaman has spent in Washington, and his age. The interesting part comes now as the guessing begins about who will run to replace him...Diane Denish? Steve Pearce? Marty Chavez? Patsy Madrid? Heather Wilson? (See this on Wilson.) The list goes on . . .

Update, 11:16 am
State Auditor Hector Balderas was the first to come with a reaction to Bingaman's decision, making me wonder if he wants the spot.
Balderas called Bingaman a "national leader on energy policy, an advocate for our national labs, a responsible steward of our public lands to a champion for those without access to health care."

Here's part of the lengthy statement Balderas sent out:

"One of his greatest unspoken legacies will be that he has served as role model to young elected officials like myself on how to comport oneself in public life—focus on making people’s lives better and do so with humility. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Bingaman the next two years in improving the quality of life for all New Mexicans."

Update, 11:59
I have confirmed with Bingaman's office that he won't seek re-election. I will update from his Albuquerque press conference this afternoon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Martinez picks new head of State Personnel Office

Gov. Susana Martinez has chosen Eugene Moser to lead the state Personnel Office. Many know Moser from his time at the LFC, where he was a principal analyst. He most recently was head of HR for the city of Albuquerque.

The position typically is a low profile spot in the administration, but a key one. Under former Gov. Bill Richardson, SPO director Sandra Perez spent more time than she wanted to defending various hiring practices at the state, including those of exempt employees. That scrutiny has diminished some, but lawmakers are still keeping an eye on the size of the state's payroll, while they consider changing benefits for state employees to help balance the books.

"Mr. Moser has demonstrated the leadership needed to effectively manage the State Personnel Office and help me in my mission to recruit the best talent into New Mexico government and make state government more efficient," Martinez said in a statement.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Many involved say Martinez weathered the gas crisis well

Over the weekend I looked at how those involved thought Gov. Susana Martinez handled the recent gas outage. Many said she did well, given what she knew. You can read my piece here.

How she handled the situation was of course much different than how the New Mexico Gas Company did, and many I spoke to recognized the difference. For a recap of what the gas company learned, check out this piece by fellow reporter Staci Matlock.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Schmitt out as energy secretary

Gov. Susana Martinez sent this statement tonight after Harrison Schmitt decided to withdraw his name as the state's Energy, Mineral and Natural Resources secretary.

"Senator Schmitt is a former NASA astronaut who underwent a complete background check by the Department of Public Safety as part of his nomination process," Martinez said.

"Senator Schmitt was willing to allow a private investigator access to his personal information, but he was not willing to waive that investigator’s liability for any improper actions or use of that information. While one can understand Senator Schmitt’s concerns, complying with the Legislature’s request is necessary to restore public confidence in state government. That’s why I am requiring all of my cabinet secretary designees to comply with that request and this has led to Senator Schmitt withdrawing his nomination."

The decision leaves many questions about just what a private investigator would want to do with anything they found, and of course, there's the question of just what they might find. . .

Martinez is on the hunt for a new secretary.

Lopez says Schmitt refuses background check

This just in from Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Linda Lopez, who says that she will oppose Gov. Susana Martinez' choice for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department because he refused a background check.

Here is Lopez' statement.

Three days ago, at his request, I met with the Secretary Designate of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Harrison Schmitt. Mr. Schmitt’s reason for requesting the meeting was to inform me of his refusal to allow a Senate conferee background check, which is a check all designated cabinet secretaries and high level appointed officials undergo as part of the Senate’s confirmation process.

First, I sympathize with Mr. Schmitt’s and all conferees’ discomfort when it comes to the background check process. It is an extensive review that includes a search for any prior criminal convictions and of the Federal Civil Court Records; verification of appointees’ assertions related to financial circumstances or improprieties such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and outstanding loans; and a review of disclosure statements related to potential conflicts of interest and ownership in business entities.

However, the New Mexico State Senate is constitutionally charged with confirming top state government officials because of the tremendous influence and authority and power provided to those individuals in their official government capacity. The forty or so individuals we confirm to these top positions are responsible for expenditures in the billions of dollars, investing the state’s multi-billion dollar pension funds, and promulgating regulations that impact citizens across the entire state of New Mexico.

The New Mexico Senate adopted background checks in 2007. They are part of a procedure that all high-level appointees must undergo as they put themselves forward into positions of public service and public trust. The review process is in place to protect the public and to provide the citizens of our state with an increased sense of confidence in their government. As such, there can be no exceptions to the background review process.

At the Senate Rules Committee hearing on Monday, February 14, we will discuss Mr. Schmitt’s refusal to adhere to the confirmation process. This will not be a hearing of Mr. Schmitt’s qualifications for service, nor to receive public input related to his appointment.

At this time, Mr. Schmitt’s refusal to comply with the background check process has left me with no choice but to oppose his confirmation.

Martinez: FEMA damage assessments ongoing

Gov. Susana Martinez has penned an executive order that makes available up to $750,000 in state emergency funds for the recent natural gas crisis.

In addition, her office says damage assessment teams from FEMA are conducting a detailed accounting of the uninsured costs incurred by state and local entities. A FEMA representative has been in Santa Fe since Monday, and the administration says it was in contact with FEMA from the get go of the disaster.

The news release comes amid a whisper campaign that Martinez didn't reach out to the feds soon enough, something her office says isn't the case.

"We continue to express our gratitude to those who are offering a hand as we work through the process of recovering from the natural gas crisis," Martinez in a statement. "In order to facilitate the quickest possible recovery and reimbursement process for local governments, we have been responding to their requests and working with FEMA from day one to evaluate damages and follow necessary steps to make state and federal funds available. With the worst of the natural gas crisis now behind us, we must do everything we can to aid our local communities as they process the damage and ensure that such an outage never happens again in the future."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Forum Thursday for people affected by storm

Members of the state's Congressional delegation will hold a forum Thursday in Espanola to get information out about the assistance available to people affected by the recent snow storm and gas outages.

The forum is from 10 to noon at the Mission Museum. The agencies expected to attend include the USDA's Rural Development and Farm Services agencies, U.S. HUD, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Housing Assistance Council.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pawlenty/Martinez in 2012?

That's a possibility, according to, which today says that former MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty has mentioned Gov. Susana Martinez as a potential running mate in 2012.

Here's part of the article, which checks out the potential GOP field for next year.

At least one 2012 candidate has openly talked up the strength of the vice presidential field. During a visit to Washington last month, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty pointed to (Nevada Gov. Brian) Sandoval, Martinez and (South Carolina Gov. Nikki) Haley as strong potential running mates, along with Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno.

"There will be no shortage of great talent" for the vice presidency, Pawlenty said.

Martinez has said she's focused on New Mexico, but stay tuned. Stranger things have happened with New Mexico governors.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bill is first to get tri-partisan support

A measure by Rep. Nate Gentry that would essentially unseal records of former Gov. Bill Richardson has tri partisan support, Gentry said in a release.

Rep. Andy Nunez, who recently switched his party registration to be an independent, has signed on to the bill, along with Republicans and Democrats.

The bill is not yet online, but here's the gist from Gentry.

"Under a 1967 law, an elected state official who has left office may submit items, including documents to the State Records and Archives Center and restrict access to those items. State officials leaving office have placed moratoria on access to these items for up to 8 years. House Bill 368 ensures that the public will continue to have access to public documents even after they have been archived."

Gentry said the bill is not aimed at Richardson.

"This bill isn’t in response to a single elected official but instead to close this loophole that prevents the public from knowing what happens in their government."

It will be interesting no doubt to see where this one goes.

Bills would boost transparency

A handful of measures this session would make it easier to get access to public records, including by making them available electronically. Check out my roundup here.

There is one I forgot, however, a reader pointed out this morning. (And there are probably others...)

SB 128 deals with certifying that copies of public records are true and correct, and instructs a records custodian on how to "set forth" a request for records to identify what records may be responsive to a request.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bill would make public records. . . public

If you've been following the debate over whether former Gov. Bill Richardson had the legal right to have his e-mails and other office documents sealed at the State Archives for eight years, you'll find the bill the Rep. Nate Gentry is carrying interesting.

The measure aims to undo the apparent loophole that protects the records. He's going to talk more about it a press conference Friday.

One of the things Richardson said when asked about sealing his records was that all former governors have done that. That's not so, says former Gov. Dave Cargo.

Yep, it's cold. State workers going home.

Gov. Susana Martinez has declared a state of emergency and says all non-essential state employees can go home. Many are heading home to houses without heat, due to the ongoing natural gas emergency.

See our website or the NM Gas Company page for updates on shortages. There is other information on the state's page. Martinez at a press conference urged everyone to turn down the furnace and turn off all appliances that are not in use.

Exempts still under scrutiny

Remember all the fun debates last year about political appointees?
They're baaaack. (Well, sort of.)

Sen. John Ryan, who last year worked to highlight the huge number of exempts, said he's pleased that Gov. Susana Martinez has said she'll limit the number.

There are other measures, however, dealing with the topic. See my story in today's paper here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Several gun bills in the hopper

New Mexico doesn't have a proposal to make an official state handgun like Utah currently does, but there are several measures this session dealing with guns.

One measure would prohibit residents of other states from buying handguns here.

A separate bill would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry at schools, universities and liquor establishments.

Among other things, that measure would:

House Bill 136 (HB 136) would allow individuals with a valid license to carry a concealed handgun to carry more than one concealed handgun at one time. The bill would also allow a concealed handgun permitee to carry concealed handguns on school premises, preschool premises, university premises and into all licensed liquor establishments. The current law limits the individual with a license to carrying only one concealed handgun at a time, and does not allow him to legally carry a concealed handgun onto any school, preschool, university or into any liquor establishment unless the establishment does not allow consumption on premises or is a restaurant meeting certain requirements. The bill also allows those individuals with valid concealed handgun licenses to carry their handguns on buses and into state parks and recreation areas.

A third bill aims to streamline the process for getting a concealed carry permit, eliminating the need to be refingerprinted each time. It also eliminates a refresher course for people renewing their gun permits.

Expect big debates on these and other measures.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Three day weekend!


No House or Senate floor sessions today, meaning most lawmakers have cleared out and gone back home for the weekend.

So will it be busy next week, you ask?

Well, probably not in the Senate Rules Committee, which is where all Gov. Susana Martinez' Cabinet nominees must first appear. The committee on Monday will hold an "organizational meeting," and no agenda is yet posted.

In fairness, other committees look to be a little more busy next week, see the schedules here.

People often ask me what the lawmakers do exactly for 60 days, or why they stay up so late in the last few days of each session. The answer is tricky, as they of course do get things accomplished, but there is a lot of down time, time spent on speeches and time spent grandstanding. There are also three day weekends like this one.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Martinez to lawmakers: I cut my budget, you should cut yours

Gov. Susana Martinez has signed a bill to pay for the session. But she's not exactly happy about it.

In her message to lawmakers, she gently chides them for not reducing spending as she has.

"As you know, for your legislative agencies there are no reductions in these appropriations from the current operating budget level," she wrote. "I do commend you for reducing the session expenses from the original request but even those expenses are $1.2 million higher than the actual expenditures reported for the last 60-day session."

Her admonition isn't a first: former Gov. Bill Richardson's people often complained that the Legislature wasn't doing enough to share in the pain of the budget crunch.

PS you can read the whole message Martinez sent to lawmakers here, while other messages are posted nearby on the same site. Handy.

Bill would make it illegal for kids to be drunk

Sen. Kent Cravens today will introduce a measure that makes it a crime for minors to be drunk. The punishment would be a 60-day suspension of a drivers license. For those without a license yet, two months would be added to the time required before they could get a license.

Under current law, minors in possession can be charged, as can those who buy it, but if they are not in possession, they can't, Cravens said.

"If it is not in their hands, minors are not in possession and cannot be considered adjudicated or guilty of a crime," he said in a statement. "Drinking alcohol is not an appropriate behavior. It will be a crime."

The bill comes on DWI awareness day at the Capitol.

Will lawmakers require drug tests for the unemployed?

The idea has been introduced this session, and seems to have legs.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings is on board, and Gov. Susana Martinez thinks it's a good idea. So does House Minority Leader Tom Taylor, who I didn't talk to in time for the story today, but who said supports it as well.

"I would hope that money went to the unemployed to feed and care for their families rather than purchasing drugs," he said Wednesday night.

If Democrats in both chambers sign on, this bill could go somewhere. It's also apparently part of a national trend, with at least 16 states trying something similar.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Martinez names new members to Environmental Improvement Board

After she dumped the EIB's previous members, Gov. Susana Martinez has named new members today. They are:

-- James Casciano, who manages the Corporate Environmental Health and Safety program for the Intel Corporation in Rio Rancho.

-- Timothy Morrow, a Capulin rancher.

-- Deborah Peacock, the managing partner of Peacock Myers, P.C., an Albuquerque law firm specializing in intellectual property rights. Peacock she also has an extensive background in environmental law.

-- Elizabeth Ryan, an attorney from Roswell at Mark W. Taylor & Associates with a background in environmental law.

Given how environmental issues are playing out with the new administration, expect a lot of discussion on the new members.

Martinez to hold press conference on waste

Gov. Susana Martinez today will hold a press conference on some of the tips she's gotten by e-mail from employees who have ideas for cutting government waste. I bet there are some interesting ones, because state employees have the best view of what government is really doing.

Have you e-mailed your ideas? The address is Or send them to me and I will check them out.

House committee assignments online now

It took a while, amid the shuffling in the wake of the speaker's race, but the committee assignments in the House are now online.

Speaking of the Legislature's web site, the gurus behind it have updated the key word search engine, making it easier to find the bill you are supposed to be following for school, work...or the newspaper. In fact, it's so handy, I'm laughing back at the days when we had to go through the bills by hand after they were introduced, neatly filing them away on our desks each night after work. . .

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOS Duran: Herrera left many questions

Secretary of State Dianna Duran says her predecessor Mary Herrera left less money than she was supposed to in the SOS budget, as well as many unanswered questions. The always stellar Jim Williams of KUNM has the scoop in this story.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two bills so far would prohibit immigrant licenses

The nice thing about the Legislature being gone the first Friday of the session is the time it gives reporters to sift through everything that has been introduced so far. As usual, I see a combination of serious measures, and the wacky stuff that somehow gets into the bill hopper. (See my previous post on the state necklace bill.)

Because it was a big topic during the gubernatorial campaign, I wanted to see the legislation that would change the state's policy of allowing immigrants to get drivers licenses. To date, I know of two bills that would change the current law. This one by Rep. Andy Nunez would require a Social Security number to get a license, while another one would give immigrants with the licenses five months to turn them in and get a driving permit. The permit would only be good for driving and would not be accepted as a form of identification, as it is now.

Although she made it a big campaign issue, Gov. Susana Martinez has yet to say which measure she is backing. Expect several others to be introduced as well.

Bill creates official state necklace

It was just a matter of time.

We've already got the official state bird, cookie, question, fish, vegetables, butterfly, railroad, tie, insect, fossil, aircraft...

And now, SB 109 would designate the squash blossom necklace as the official state necklace.

That's all fine and dandy, I suppose, but it does mean we would have to redo the already outdated Blue Book. . .

More fleet fun

One of the fun things about being a reporter is getting tips from readers. That's how this story about a big shipment of new state cars came about. Turns out things weren't exactly as they looked -- the cars are new, but are leased, and will be replacing other leased cars -- but still worth reporting on, in the face of higher scrutiny with the state's fleet. Keep 'em coming.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Martinez may one day have national aspirations

Gov. Susana Martinez is just beginning her work as governor and says she's focused on the tasks ahead for the state. But some say there are signs she could one day want a bigger role in politics. Check out my analysis today here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Solano arrested

One guy we won't be seeing any more of around the Capitol is former Santa Fe Sheriff Greg Solano. He was arrested today.

One thing we probably will see around the Capitol are bills related to crimes committed in office. With all her focus on ending pay to play in the state, expect Gov. Susana Martinez to have several lawmakers carrying bills related to white collar crime.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Full text of Martinez' speech

Gov. Susana Martinez started her speech today at about 1:35. Here's the full text:

Lieutenant Governor; Senate President Pro Tem; Mr. Speaker; Democratic and Republican leaders; esteemed members of the New Mexico legislature; honorable members of the judiciary; former governors; distinguished guests; the state’s first gentleman, my husband, Chuck Franco; my fellow New Mexicans.

Thank you for the high honor of addressing you this afternoon.

It is my privilege to stand before you as New Mexico’s 27th Governor.

I would like to begin by taking a moment of silence to remember our neighbors in Tucson, Arizona who were the victims of a brutal and heinous act of violence.

We grieve for those whose lives were cut short.

And we pray for those who have lost loved ones and are recovering from their injuries.

Today, we begin to write a new chapter in New Mexico’s history.

By working together, we will take our state in a new direction: embracing bold change over the status quo, choosing progress over complacency and putting aside partisan differences to achieve lasting results for New Mexico families.

As I said during the campaign, the challenges that confront us cannot be overcome by simply replacing one party with another.

They can only be overcome when Republicans and Democrats – the Governor and the Legislature – come together to put New Mexico first.

I am committed to doing just that; and I ask you to join me.

It’s easier to take the reins when times are good.

When revenues are high and jobs are plentiful.

But, that’s not the hand we are dealt.

We face a tough road ahead, one which demands shared sacrifice.

But that tough road can turn into a path to prosperity if we have the courage to take decisive action.

As I said in my inaugural address, these challenges shouldn’t scare us.

They should inspire us to step forward and prove equal to the task.

This is what New Mexicans have done in the past.

And this is what we will do now.

That is why during these difficult times, we must be grateful for this opportunity to lead because it has been given to us at a time of great consequence.

At a time when it matters most.

And with that, we must turn to the issue that supersedes all others when it comes to the state of the state.

And we must not sugarcoat it: New Mexico is in a state of financial crisis.

We face an historic budget deficit that will require candor to address and courage to resolve.

No more shell games. No more rosy projections.

We must tell New Mexicans the truth: our financial house is a mess and it’s time we clean it up.

The day I was elected Governor, the state’s budget deficit was estimated at just over 200 million dollars.

A week later, it doubled and grew to almost half a billion dollars.

In the past, New Mexico’s serious budget problems have been papered over with unrealistic projections and temporary infusions of Federal stimulus dollars.

This allowed politicians to shirk responsibility and avoid tough decisions.

But I am here to tell the people of New Mexico that the days of kicking the can down the road are over.

We have all been elected to take action.

We may not be responsible for creating this financial crisis but we are all responsible for solving it.

During difficult economic times, balancing the budget is not easy, but how we choose to go about the task is critical because our budget blueprint is a statement about our values.

That’s why my budget protects core priorities like classroom spending in education and healthcare for those most in need.

By making cuts elsewhere, my budget only requires the education bureaucracy to trim 1.5 percent from the administration.

Only 1.5 percent.

Now, you’ve heard some special interest groups say this can’t be done.

They claim there is no waste in the bureaucracy. Not even 1.5 percent.

I don’t buy it and neither do the people of New Mexico.

New Mexicans are not fooled when bureaucrats, whose salaries are many times that of the average teacher, claim the only place to cut is from the classroom.

They’re not fooled when a school district spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on PR staff and then claims it has nowhere to cut but the classroom.

Or when school districts waste education dollars hiring lobbyists but then claim that the budget must be balanced by cutting teachers.

The truth is, the waste is there and it must be eliminated.

In order to protect classroom spending in education and basic health care for those most in need we must find savings elsewhere.

That’s why I propose reducing the state’s film subsidy from 25 percent to 15 percent, which is where it first started.

This has been incorrectly referred to as a tax credit. It has nothing to do with taxes.

The way it works is when a film is made in the state, New Mexico taxpayers cover 25 percent of the costs.

It’s a simple and straight-forward subsidy – 25 cents on the dollar.

And it’s been taken advantage of … One film company spent $100,000 chartering an actor’s private jet and New Mexico taxpayers paid $25,000 of it.

We have a responsibility to see how each and every tax dollar is being spent … How many jobs are being created and whether we’re getting a good bang for our buck.

Eight states have reduced, suspended or completely eliminated their film subsidies.

Studies found them too expensive for the few jobs they created.

I support the film industry and support maintaining the incentive at 15 percent.

But in these tough times, when New Mexicans are facing an historic budget deficit, I cannot support subsidizing the expense of Hollywood by cutting programs like child care services for working moms.

To protect priorities, we must do away with the waste and excess that has defined the past and whose absence will improve our future.

And I began by reducing the governor’s budget. I cut overall salaries within my cabinet by 10 percent.

I will reduce the number of political appointees in state government by at least 20 percent.

I have invited New Mexicans to share their ideas for cutting waste by emailing me at

And so far, over 750 New Mexicans have done just that.

Many of those who emailed suggested cutting unnecessary state vehicles. I agree.

And I ordered a one-year moratorium on all new state car purchases, except for law enforcement.

We must all do our part.

At a time when New Mexicans are struggling to make ends meet their Governor should not be leading a life of privilege.

That’s why I cut costs at the Governor’s residence by 55 percent – permanently eliminating the positions of two personal chefs.

The first gentleman will just have to help out with the cooking.

And we will get rid of that ultimate symbol of waste and excess, we will sell the state’s luxury jet.

We must remember that the long-term solution to our budget woes is economic growth.

We increase revenue by helping small businesses create new jobs – not by government creating new taxes.

Let me speak plainly: New Mexicans are not under-taxed. The government has simply over-spent.

I applaud the Legislative Finance Committee for putting forth a budget proposal that doesn’t include tax increases and doesn’t try to raid the permanent fund.

Unfortunately, some are still pushing tax hikes:

Doubling the tax when you buy a car.

Taxing job creators.

Even taxing the Internet.

To make them sound better, some call them “revenue enhancements.”

They can be called many things but they will all be vetoed.

These are difficult economic times. Families are hurting, many are out of work.

Many more are only one paycheck away from losing their car or their home.

We owe it to them to make the necessary changes to turn our economy around.

I’ve long said that government doesn’t create jobs.

Government creates the environment where small businesses can create those jobs.

We must recognize that in a global economy, businesses will choose to locate and expand in areas that encourage – not impede – job growth.

When a company is deciding whether it will operate in Albuquerque or Denver… in Roswell or Midland… in Farmington or Laramie, the deciding factor often comes down to the state’s tax structure and regulatory policies.

For too long, we’ve seen jobs leave New Mexico because neighboring states are more business-friendly and it’s not just our jobs we’re losing to neighboring states.

Too many of our sons and daughters are forced to move out of New Mexico in pursuit of those jobs.

If our state is going to compete, if we’re going to ensure our children can find a good-paying job close to home when they graduate, then New Mexico must become more business-friendly.

Less than two weeks ago, I announced that Union Pacific Railroad will move its hub from El Paso, Texas to Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

More than 3,000 jobs will be created for the construction with 600 permanent jobs.

To close the deal, we must put New Mexico on even footing with Texas and eliminate the tax on locomotive fuel.

But we must do much more than provide targeted tax credits to certain industries.

That’s not the “be all and end all” of economic development.

We must set the stage to make wholesale changes to our tax structure and become more competitive with our neighbors.

That’s how we’ll help all small businesses grow.

I believe that government’s role is to provide a hand-up, not a hand-out.

When people are out of work, we must provide a safety net for the unemployed worker to ensure people can continue to feed their families and meet the needs of their children.

But we must do more than just hand out unemployment checks.

We must also help people get back to work.

That’s why I propose encouraging small businesses to hire unemployed workers by covering part of their salaries for the first six months through the unemployment fund.

This will help the state by getting people off the unemployment rolls; it will help small businesses by making it easier for them to grow.

And it will help families by getting more New Mexicans back to work.

And we must refocus our mission outward – on helping small businesses grow.

That’s why we’ll cut wasteful programs that do little for job creation.

And redirect resources to open an Office of Business Advocacy within the Economic Development Department.

We’ll do more, with less.

Much like caseworkers in a Congressional office, this office will help small businesses break through regulatory roadblocks.

If a small business needs help with a permit or license, this office will help.

If a company is looking to locate in New Mexico and needs research, this office will help.

The big corporations have teams of lawyers and accountants to help them.

It’s the small businesses – the mom and pop shops – the small start-ups that get lost in the layers of red tape.

We will help them and in doing so, send a loud and clear message that New Mexico is open for business.

One of the greatest and costliest challenges small businesses face is the fact that each agency creates its own maze of red tape.

When a small business needs to get a permit from one state agency, they must abide by one process.

And when that same small business needs a permit from another state agency, the process is completely different and they have to jump through a whole new set of hoops.

So, I propose standardizing these administrative practices by passing the Red Tape Reduction Act.

This will help small businesses understand regulatory guidelines and make complying with them less expensive, less time-consuming and less complicated.

Time is money. And the more money a small business saves, the more employees they can hire.

That’s why the very first executive order I signed created a small business task force to review regulations over the next 90 days.

We will maintain common-sense protections for consumers, workers and our environment.

Rational regulations will remain, but irrational red tape will be cut.

To be clear, regulations such as Pit Rule 17 and Cap-and-Tax do not move us toward a cleaner environment.

Instead, they move jobs to the other side of the state line.

New Mexico is a beautiful state and protecting the environment and developing our natural resources are not mutually exclusive goals.

We can achieve both and we must achieve both.

But that requires basing environmental regulations on sound science – not on political ideology.

But turning our economy around involves more than just tax reforms and cutting red tape.

In order to attract and retain the jobs of tomorrow, we must make education reform a priority today.

When it comes to educating our children, we can no longer throw more and more money at the same system and expect different results.

A recent report by Education Week gave the system a failing grade – that’s an “F” – on student achievement.

Unless we take decisive action to improve our schools, history will judge us harshly and rightfully so.

To reverse years of decline, we must place a command-focus on student performance and progress not just on how much money we’re spending.

Too many are afraid to focus on student achievement, so we shuttle too many kids to the next grade, even if they haven’t learned the basics.

That implicitly tells little boys and girls that it’s okay that they don’t achieve.

My fellow New Mexicans, telling children, regardless of how subtle, that they are not capable of achieving is morally wrong.

We must end the culture of low expectations.

Stop accepting failure.

This session, I propose a comprehensive reform package that will transform our schools.

Our “Kids First, New Mexico Wins” plan is comprised of four key initiatives.

First, we will get money out of the bureaucracy and into the classroom.

Today, only 61 cents of every education dollar makes it to the classroom.

Wasting money on lawyers in the Public Education Department in Santa Fe does nothing to help a child read in a Farmington classroom.

By cutting waste and inefficiency in the bureaucracy, we will increase the percentage of funds that reach the classroom.

So our kids will benefit.

Second, we will adopt an easy-to-understand, easy-to-implement system of grading.

Schools will be assigned letter grades A, B, C, D or F.

And these grades will be posted to the Web.

That’s real accountability that will yield real results.

Greater accountability will ensure we identify struggling students in all grades.

And focus attention on the lowest-performing 25 percent of students. We will get them help immediately.

Just as we’ll target struggling students with immediate help, so too will we target failing schools with immediate intervention.

Currently, it takes approximately five years to identify and intervene in a failing school.

Five years.

We can’t wait that long to help these kids.

That’s why they lose hope, that’s why they drop out.

Third, we will end social promotion, the practice of passing children from one grade to the next before they have mastered the basics.

The New Mexico “Ready for Success” initiative will get struggling students the help they need before we pass them on to the next grade.

We aren’t doing our kids any favors by thrusting students who aren’t ready to advance into an environment where we know they have little to no chance for success.

Those kids fall further and further behind, they start seeing their dreams slipping out of reach.

They get frustrated and disappointed and many eventually give up.

But by identifying a student’s challenges in the early grades, we can give them the help they need and lay a strong foundation as they move to the next grade.

Finally, we will reward New Mexico’s best teachers.

The most important people in the lives of our students are parents and teachers.

The quality of our teachers is the key to improving our quality of education.

A system that evaluates and rewards excellence will attract the best and brightest to New Mexico classrooms.

As I stated just days ago, “Nothing we do is more indispensable to our future well-being or will receive more attention from my administration than guaranteeing our children a quality education.”

Just as I view educating our children as a core function of government, I also believe providing public safety is one of our central responsibilities.

For 24 years, I dedicated my life to being a voice for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.

I specialized in prosecuting child abuse and child homicide cases.

And I saw first-hand how criminals who got off light, later ended up committing unspeakable acts of violence.

That’s why I oppose balancing the budget by opening the prison gates and letting felons out of prison early.

We must always strive toward making our state a safer place.

That’s why today, I am calling for the expansion of Katie’s Law.

As many of you know, Katie’s Law is named after Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was brutally attacked, raped and murdered in 2003.

I personally prosecuted that case and convicted the killer.

The only reason that killer was caught was because of a DNA match years later.

That’s why we worked so hard to pass Katie’s Law in the first place.

The champions for that cause are the parents of Katie, Dave and Jayann Sepich, and they are with us here today.

Their efforts led to the passage of Katie’s Law in New Mexico and similar laws across the country.

Today, Katie’s Law requires criminals arrested for certain felonies to submit to DNA testing.

It is a great achievement, but more is needed.

This session I call on the legislature to build on the success of Katie’s Law by expanding it to require all those arrested for a felony to submit to DNA testing.

We’ll solve more cases, take more criminals off the streets and provide more justice for those who can no longer speak for themselves.

There are other areas in crime where we can enact tougher reforms.

We must target repeat drunk drivers.

It seems like every time we pick up the paper we read of another repeat drunk driver who has racked up yet another DWI.

And we ask, “What is he still doing behind the wheel?”

One reason is that our laws for repeat drunk drivers are not strong enough.

We should seize vehicles of repeat drunk drivers and increase mandatory prison time.

Let’s get them off the streets and away from our families.

We should also send the message that some crimes deserve the ultimate punishment.

When a monster rapes and murders a child or a criminal kills a police officer, the death penalty should be an option for the jury.

That’s why I am calling on the legislature to repeal the repeal and reinstate the death penalty.

And as we strive to make these bold changes and enact reforms, as we ask New Mexicans to trust us, we must set an example with honesty and integrity.

Unfortunately, public confidence in state government has eroded.

In recent years, too many have violated the public trust.

Politicians have treated taxpayer money as their own and rewarded cronies.

Decisions have been made to benefit the powerful and the connected, while New Mexico families pay the price.

It is our shared responsibility to restore confidence and faith in elected office.

I promised in my inaugural address that members of my administration would serve no interest other than that of the public.

That’s why I propose prohibiting members of my administration and the legislature from lobbying for two years after leaving state government.

There must be no question that public officials are serving only the interests of the public, not positioning themselves for a big payday with a special interest group.

I signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from hiring lobbyists.

Representing the people of the state is the role of elected and appointed officials – not lobbyists.

Going further, I propose tougher punishments against public officials who break the law.

Corruption is a crime, not an ethical dilemma. Those guilty of corruption are criminals and they should be treated as such.

First, we must institute criminal penalties for public officials who know about, but fail to report, pay-to-play activity.

Public officials don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye.

Second, when public officials are found guilty of corruption they should be immediately removed from office, receive mandatory prison time and be forced to surrender their pension.

Third, it is imperative that we formally adopt legislation that prohibits the State Investment Council, or any state investment agency, from paying finder’s fees to those who help direct state investments.

“Finder’s fees” can easily become nothing more than kickbacks – pay-to-play with the pensions of our teachers and police officers.

It must be banned and we must get their money back.

And fourth, it is time to establish a Public Corruption Unit in the Department of Public Safety.

They will investigate allegations of public corruption and help bring to justice those who violate the public’s trust.

We must also operate state government in an open and transparent manner.

For that reason, I signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from frivolously using executive privilege to block open records requests.

The public has a right to know exactly what their government is doing.

In addition to fighting corruption and increasing transparency, another way to earn back the trust of New Mexicans is to start applying common sense in the laws we pass and the policies we pursue.

That means when people have to show a photo ID to rent a movie, it’s not too much to ask to show a photo ID to vote.

And if we’re going to tell New Mexicans we’re serious about securing the border, we must stop giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

My fellow New Mexicans, we face many challenges.

Times are tough. But while the challenges are daunting, the opportunities are real.

The opportunity to put aside our partisan differences.

The opportunity to put our financial house in order.

The opportunity to truly reform education by putting students first.

The opportunity to create a business-friendly state where small businesses flourish and children no longer have to leave New Mexico to find a good job.

So we must not be intimidated by the challenges.

Instead, we must have the courage to confront them and the wisdom to seize the opportunities they present.

As I said during the campaign, it’s our state and working together, we will take it back.

Thank you. God Bless. And let’s get to work.