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.

Watch the state of the state on KNME

If you won't be at the Capitol today but want to keep up with what is happening on the opening day of the session, including Gov. Susana Martinez' state of the state address, see it live streamed courtesy of KNME, Channel 5, here. It should start around noon, but that's never written in stone.

So many issues, so little time

Lawmakers from across the state head to Santa Fe today for the opening of the 2011 session. Because it's a 60-day event this year, anything is on the table. And almost everything is. Sources say they are seeing more bills than usual on a wide, wide variety of topics.

The budget is the biggie, of course, But among other discussions will be drivers licenses for immigrants and what to do about the Rail Runner. Don't forget social issues, crime, taxes, the environment. . . the list goes on. There's also the fascinating race for House speaker.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Martinez boots commission members including Johnny Cope

As part of her state government house cleaning, Gov. Susana Martinez has kicked out the appointed members of the New Mexico Labor and Industrial Commission and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors, her office said.

She also removed Johnny Cope from his position on the State Transportation Commission, saying "It’s time to restore accountability to the Transportation Commission. As a body that has exceptional control over the use of taxpayer money, the potential for abuse is equally great. If we hope to restore the public’s trust in government, we must guarantee that public servants are held to the highest standard as responsible stewards of taxpayer money."

As for the industrial commission, Martinez said, "Given the issues coming before the commission, it is absolutely necessary that all sides have a say in the decision-making process. My administration is committed to leading by example when it comes to cutting spending and I believe that new leadership at the commission is needed to ensure the responsible use of taxpayer money."

Martinez also wants a new direction for the Spaceport Commission.
"There’s no question that the Spaceport can bring jobs to New Mexico, but long-term success will require the right leadership. Given its significant costs, I believe that developing the Spaceport to its full potential requires more robust private investment and new leadership to make necessary adjustments," she said. "With more than half of construction costs coming from state funds, we must explore ways to ease the significant financial commitment that taxpayers have made in this project.”

Expect more removals in the coming days.

While she removes some people, Martinez has appointed two new people to the state Legislature. Bill Burt of Alamogordo will take Dianna Duran's old seat while Bob Wooley of Roswell will serve in Keith Gardner's previous spot.

And, speaking of commissions, I just got this email from the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women, who apparently don't like Martinez' plan to eliminate the commission completely.

The commission's chairwoman, LaNelle Witt, said the group was caught off guard by the proposal, in part because it had just convinced lawmakers on a government restructuring task force to vote to keep the commission.

"Just as we began to catch our breath, we received unexpected news. On January 10th, Governor Susan Martinez recommended to eliminate 100 % of the Commission’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012, potentially shutting down the 37 year-old agency’s doors on June 30, 2011. Needless to say, this was completely unexpected. Over 51% of New Mexico’s population is women and girls. The recommendation to de-fund the State’s woman’s agency is historic on several levels."

Witt says the commission's budget is now just $598,000 and has a staff of seven and eliminating it wouldn't help the state's multi-million deficit.

Stay tuned on this fight as the session revs up.
Stay tuned.

New DOT secretary will have hands full with Rail Runner

Just as Gov. Susana Martinez picked Alvin Dominguez to head the state Department of Transportation, I got the new quarterly ridership numbers for the Rail Runner. See that story here.
In short, Dominguez will have to take a long look at the train and what, if anything, could be done to boost ridership -- and revenues.

Rail transit is of course, just one of the issues facing a department that's got so many topics to tend to, the least of which is financing for infrastructure improvements.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

State cars and phones could be perks of the past

As she works to whittle the budget this year, Gov. Susana Martinez is taking aim at taxpayer funded cars and cell phones, among other things. Check out the details in my story today.

Looking into the size and use of the state fleet was a campaign promise of Martinez. But expect other little perks to be under scrutiny as well...bottled water, unlimited copies of handouts at committee meetings, it's all on the table, Martinez has said.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Martinez' budget proposal online

If you follow the state budget, you've no doubt read the coverage by now of what all is in Gov. Susana Martinez' first budget proposal. But if you are the type who wants to look up a certain department or program, you can find all the details you want where the spending plan is posted online.

Seeing it online made me think back to when I first covered the Legislature in the late 1990s. Getting a copy of the budget was sometimes tough, and it always involving going to the press conference where the governor announced his proposal and handed out just a few copies of the budget book. In the media room at the Capitol, we frequently had to mark our respective newspaper's name on the books, too keep track of them. Other reporters and lobbyists often would stop by to see what was in the proposals.

Funny how things have changed, and how fast those printed budgets became obsolete.

What perks will state government employees keep?

As the budget cutting begins in earnest, there are questions about the perks that state employees get -- and which ones they will keep. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown just took away about half of the 96,000 employee cell phones. In other states, employees are being asked to pay more into pension programs.

The story on state cell phones caught my eye because I frequently got complaints during the Richardson administration about employees only being available on their cell phones -- and presumably not at their desk. Whether anything will come of the idea here remains to be seen.

What state employee perks would you cut? What should we keep?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Martinez names environment, veterans Cabinet members

Gov. Susana Martinez has named two men to the posts at the environment and veteran's departments.

At the Veteran's Services Department, Col. Timothy Hale will replace John Garcia while F. David Martin will take over at the Environment Department for Ron Curry.

Martinez' office said Hale retired from the Air Force in August 2008, where he commanded the 486th Expeditionary Operations Group during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Currently, he heads a group called Higher Calling Aviation, Inc., a flight training company.

Martin, meanwhile, is an engineer who works as an adjunct associate professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. He in 1990 was appointed by then-Gov. Carruthers as a coordinator between the state of New Mexico and the United States Department of Energy.

Martinez to keep same salary

This post is for the many readers who have e-mailed asking whether Gov. Susana Martinez will keep the same salary as former Gov. Bill Richardson, amid a move by Martinez to cut the salaries of her Cabinet member.

It turns out that yes, Martinez will earn the same $109,998.72 Richardson did, unless the Legislature changes that.

Richardson also had a $6,750 a-month discretionary fund as well, something Martinez will keep, spokesman Scott Darnell said Friday.

I haven't heard any talk among lawmakers about changing the salary, but with so much up in the air this session, I suppose it is a possibility someone would try to shrink her paycheck -- and her slush fund.

LFC says state workers should contribute more

Under a proposal by the Legislative Finance Committee, state employees would put 1.75 percent more of their salaries into the state's pension plans to help shore up the state's budget crisis.

That and other plans are under consideration by the panel today. The average cut to state programs would be 3.5 percent, although some say larger cuts will be needed. Check out coverage here by Barry Massey.

With the shortfall at $400 million, expect pension plans to be just one benefit of state workers that gets an extra hard look this session.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Martinez chose former astronaut for energy department

Former astronaut and U.S. Sen. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt will serve as the state's secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Gov. Susana Martinez announced.

"Senator Schmitt’s diverse background gives him a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be helpful in guiding the responsible development and protection of New Mexico’s diverse natural resources," Martinez said in a statement. "Harnessing and developing energy sources right here in New Mexico is critical to reviving our economy and creating jobs."

Environmentalists are sure to not like Schmitt's stance on global warming. He says he disagrees with scientists who say it is caused by humans.

Martinez still has other Cabinet posts to announce, but has selected many already. If you are having trouble keeping track, check out this story I did last week on the appointees so far.

All her appointees face confirmation by the state Senate after the session begins Jan. 18.

Martinez names health secretary

Gov. Susana Martinez announced has nominated Dr. Catherine Torres as secretary of the Department of Health.

Torres is a pediatrician at the Rio Grande Medical Group in Las Cruces and has served on the U.S. – Mexico Border Health Commission and the New Mexico – Sonora Commission.

"It is a privilege to be asked to serve as the Governor’s Health Secretary," Torres said in a statement. "I look forward to applying the real-world experience I have gained working with New Mexico children and families to the administration of the Department of Health and the development of public policy in order to keep the people of our state healthy."

The appointment is a good sign for the state's children, who often are on the wrong end of too many bad lists. Having a children's doctor in charge of the DOH likely will mean kid's health will be a priority for the administration.

Some Cabinet secretaries to earn only a little less

All of the Cabinet secretaries in the Martinez administration will be earning less than those before them. How much less, you ask? I've got the details in my story here.

And while they are all less, some aren't much less. Human Services Department Secretary-designate Sidonie Squier will earn $117,000 a year if confirmed by the state Senate, while former Gov. Bill Richardson's human services secretary, Katie Falls, earned $117,277. Others will earn significantly less.

Speaking of the salaries, I've got to say that I easily received the information about who was making what, without having to file a formal records request. That is a refreshing change and a good sign that this administration intends to be accessible when it comes to public records.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Cabinet secretaries to earn less

Gov. Susana Martinez just announced that Cabinet secretaries in her administration will earn less than those under Gov. Bill Richardson. She also said that no secretary will earn more than $125,000 a year. No details yet, however, on specific salaries.

"Families and small businesses across New Mexico are being forced to balance their budgets and cut back on their spending," she said.

"It’s time for government to do the same and my cabinet will be leading by example."

Martinez also has said that the cumulative salaries for her administration will be 10 percent less than those of the Richardson administration.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Martinez has already signed four executive orders

Gov. Susana Martinez wasted no time in getting to work after taking office at midnight. Her office by 12:09 was sending out copies of the executive orders she signed.

I'm going to let you read them for yourself below, but in general they seem to point to a willingness to be with the media and the public, and to help investigators with any ongoing research related to Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. Another prohibits state agencies from hiring lobbyists while another aims to help small businesses by creating a task force that looks at how the state can be more business friendly.

Here's the info from her office on each executive order. I'm checking to see where they are posted online in case you want to look up future orders.


Executive Order Demonstrates Martinez’s Commitment to Responsibly Exercise The Claim Of Executive Privilege In Response To IPRA Requests

SANTA FE – Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed an executive order that demonstrates her commitment to responsibly exercising the claim of executive privilege in response to requests made under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The order ensures greater transparency and openness in the process used by the public and the press to access public documents, clarifying that the new administration does not intend to use executive privilege to unjustifiably block the public’s view of the activities of state government.

The full text of the Executive Order is below:



WHEREAS, the citizens of New Mexico are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of public officers and employees. To provide citizens with public information should be recognized as an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officers and employees;

WHEREAS access to public information should be the rule, and denial thereof the exception;

WHEREAS the executive communications privilege is a constitutionally-based privilege recognized by the New Mexico courts;

WHEREAS this administration will not allow the blanket assertion of privileges to avoid the production of public records that disclose or suggest criminal or questionable activity by public officials;

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:

1. “Executive Privilege” can only be invoked with written authorization from the Office of the Governor;

2. Requests to invoke the privilege shall be carefully considered and limited to circumstances in which:

a. the information sought to be held confidential consists of communications between or among the Governor, a Cabinet Secretary, an agency head or any of their high-level advisors;

b. the advice was rendered in connection to a pending or anticipated decision;

c. the Office of the Governor determines that the information sought to be kept confidential does not consist of evidence of potential or actual government misconduct; and

d. the Office of the Governor independently is satisfied that these conditions have been met.

3. Information or documents requested that contain information subject to an appropriate invocation of the executive privilege will be redacted so that any other information on the document that is properly public is disclosed.

4. This Order does not create any legal rights on the part of any person or entity and shall not be the basis of any lawsuit or challenge to any public records determination.

THIS ORDER supersedes any other previous orders, proclamations, or directives to the extent they are in conflict. This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

_________ day of ___________________, 2011.





SANTA FE – Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed an executive order that requires all state agencies and employees to fully cooperate with a request or inquiry by a Federal civil or criminal investigative authority.

The full text of the executive order is below:



WHEREAS, state agencies of the State of New Mexico have in the recent past been subject to investigation and scrutiny by federal law enforcement agencies and federal civil investigative authorities;

WHEREAS, it appears that federal civil and criminal subpoenas have been required by state agencies and their employees before their producing documents to federal investigative agencies;

WHEREAS, it appears that executive privilege may have been invoked in partial resistance to compliance with the aforementioned federal subpoenas;

WHEREAS, it is the policy of this administration to expose corruption in state government at all levels;

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:

1. All state agencies and employees shall cooperate truthfully and in good faith with any request or inquiry from any federal civil or criminal investigative authority.

2. No state agency or employee shall require service of a subpoena before responding in good faith to a request for records from a federal civil or criminal investigative authority.

3. No state agency, its counsel, or its employees shall invoke executive privilege in response to any federal subpoena or request for information without express consent from the Office of the Governor.

THIS ORDER supersedes any other previous orders, proclamations, or directives to the extent they are in conflict. This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

_________ day of ___________________, 2011.





SANTA FE – Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed an executive order that prohibits state agencies, departments and boards from hiring lobbyists. The order ensures that taxpayer dollars are not expended on lobbyists to represent state entities, given that this is a key role and responsibility that taxpayers rightfully expect to be handled by elected and appointed public officials.

The full text of the executive order is below:



WHEREAS, as a matter of public policy, public monies should not be expended by state agencies, departments, or boards to hire lobbyists to procure additional state funding;

WHEREAS, during a significant fiscal crisis, the government of the State of New Mexico has the vested authority to be the good steward of state funds and taxpayer dollars;

WHEREAS, it is in the best interests of the State of New Mexico to prohibit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of hiring lobbyists by state agencies, departments, or boards.

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:

1. No state agency, department or board, over which the Governor retains authority, may retain or hire a lobbyist, as defined in NMSA 1978 §2-11-2.

2. Any existing contract between such a state government entity and any individual or entity for lobbying shall be terminated at the earliest opportunity.

3. This Order does not create any legal rights on the part of any person or entity and shall not be a basis for a challenge to rules or regulations or other action or inaction by any state governmental entity.

THIS ORDER supersedes any other previous orders, proclamations, or directives to the extent they are in conflict. This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

_________ day of ___________________, 2011.





Executive Order Would Also Freeze Pending And Proposed Regulations For 90 Days

SANTA FE – Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed her first executive order, which establishes a small business task force to identify red-tape regulations that are harmful to business growth and job creation in New Mexico and report its findings to the Governor. The task force, chaired by Secretary-designate of Economic Development, Jon Barela, will conduct its review over a 90-day period, during which all proposed and pending regulations will be frozen.

The full text of the executive order is below:



WHEREAS, New Mexico’s citizens, their government, and all persons doing business in this State have a mutual interest in the proper administration of government and business, requiring common sense administrative rules and regulations that are comprehensible, reasonable, consistent, predictable, responsive, and without undue redundancy;

WHEREAS, one of the priorities of the Governor of New Mexico is establishing a common sense approach to executive rules and regulations, in accordance with the constitutional authority to direct the departments and agencies of the State of New Mexico, by establishing a “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” chaired by the Secretary of Economic Development;

WHEREAS, most proposed and pending rules and regulations can be temporarily suspended without detriment to the health or welfare of the citizens of New Mexico;

WHEREAS, ninety days is a reasonable time to review such proposed and pending rules and regulations, to examine them from various perspectives as to their workability, reasonableness, and determine whether they are proper and necessary;

WHEREAS, such an effort is timely given current unemployment levels and state budget difficulties, in order to create economic opportunity for each and every New Mexican, while protecting and preserving the health, safety and welfare of our community.

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

1. All proposed and pending rules and regulations, excluding those not under the authority of the Governor, are suspended for a period of review of 90 days unless excepted as set forth below.

2. Proposed and pending regulations shall not be suspended if doing so would:

a. Adversely impact public health;
b. Adversely impact public safety or security;
c. Fail to comply with a judicial order or deadline;
d. Prevent the respective department or agency from carrying out its essential functions and duties; or
e. Prevent qualification for any federal funds or certifications.

3. Each department or agency shall submit to the Office of the Governor a comprehensive listing of proposed and pending rules and regulations, for review not later than January 14, 2011.

4. Any proposed or pending rules and regulations to which this Order applies and the department or agency believes should be treated as an exception pursuant to paragraph 2, shall be separately identified as such, with a statement as to the basis for the exception and how it applies.

5. The Office of the Governor may, with the advice of the head of the department or agency affected, determine whether any rule or regulation initially excepted under paragraph 2 shall remain excepted. The Office of the Governor may, with the advice of the head of the department or agency affected, determine whether any rule or regulation not initially excepted under paragraph 2 shall also be excepted.

6. Each department and agency shall also review all of its existing rules and regulations with a view to enhancing the purpose of this Task Force, and no later than January 31, 2011, identify to the Secretary of Economic Development each rule or regulation, the rescinding or revision of which could significantly enhance the business environment in New Mexico through economic development and employment growth.

7. The Task Force shall, at a minimum, consist of the Secretaries of Taxation and Revenue, Workforce Solutions, General Services, and others whom the Governor may designate.

8. The Task Force shall make a report to the Governor no later than 90 days from the effective date of this order, and shall continue, as needed, to make specific legislative and regulatory recommendations to achieve economic growth and stability in New Mexico.

9. This Order does not create any legal rights on the part of any person or entity and shall not be a basis for a challenge to rules or regulations or any other action or inaction by any New Mexico governmental department or agency.

THIS ORDER supersedes any other previous orders, proclamations, or directives to the extent they are in conflict. This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

_________ day of ___________________, 2011.




Full text of Martinez speech

Just in case you didn't brave the cold to see Gov. Susana Martinez be sworn in this morning, here's a copy of her speech.


SANTA FE – The following is the full text of the Inaugural Address of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, as prepared for delivery on January 1st, 2011 at the Santa Fe Plaza.

Governor Susana Martinez’s Inaugural Address

Fellow citizens of New Mexico, thank you for the great privilege of high office you have granted me and the important responsibilities you have entrusted to me. I am grateful to you beyond expression, and determined to make a difference on behalf of every one of you.

I assume the duties of Governor understanding this is a challenging time. Our state and its leaders must have the courage to make the kinds of changes that will positively impact people’s lives and put us back on a course toward prosperity.

I ask for your prayers today, and every day of my term in office that I might deserve your continued trust and support as I work with other public servants to move our beloved state in a new direction.

I am proud to be your new Governor. I am proud to have your trust at the beginning of my administration. But I will be much prouder if four years from now, I still have it. That is my highest aspiration: to prove worthy of your strength and support; to be fair and faithful and useful to the good people of New Mexico who have given me this opportunity.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the first gentleman of the State of New Mexico, my husband, Chuck Franco, in addition, my step son, Carlo who now becomes our state’s first son.

We are fortunate to have many distinguished guests with us today including Congressman Steve Pearce, Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez, Secretary of State Dianna Duran, among others. Unfortunately, the chairman of my inauguration, former Senator Pete Domenici, could not be with us today.

It is human to think on an occasion such as this of the personal journey that took you here. But it is a mistake to consider winning an election a personal triumph. You’ve given me the opportunity to help you make this beautiful state an even better home for our children. That is our shared ambition, and its accomplishment will be our shared success.

From this moment on, we must aspire together. Work together. Fight together. Triumph together. And today, only marks the first day of our journey together.

I am not a private citizen. I am your servant. And I am bound by duty and gratitude to put your interests before mine. The personal journey that brought me here has equipped me with the strength, determination and courage to be your good servant.

My family didn’t have a lot of money. My parents struggled much like families around New Mexico do today. But I was a child of privilege because I was born in the greatest country in the world. My parents gave me every advantage it was in their power to give: their love, their faith, their encouragement, their dreams and their courage. They grew old before their time working themselves so hard for us; so that we might live the dreams they dreamed for us.

I had teachers who cared about me, and wanted me to work harder for bigger goals than I thought I could achieve; to be more than I thought I could be. With so many blessings, so much love and encouragement, how could you not succeed in a country such as ours?

No matter the material circumstances of your birth, in America, anyone with hope, determination and courage should have the opportunity to succeed. Because I received those gifts from the people who loved and cared about me, I now have the privilege of being your Governor. And because I believe every child in New Mexico should have the opportunity to succeed, I asked for the privilege, and am very grateful to have it.

This is a great country, and New Mexico is a very special place. And though we are living through trying times, I can’t imagine any place on earth I would rather live.

New Mexicans have known hardships before, and overcome them. They’ve suffered setbacks before, and faced them undaunted. No generation has been free of adversity or excused from the responsibility of making our great state better. We can, we must and we will prevail over the adversity that confronts us now. We have a debt to honor from the generations that preceded us and a promise to keep to the generation that follows. Our parents built a future better than their past, and we must do the same.

We cannot just hang on. We cannot just endure misfortune and wait for our luck to change. We don’t wait on destiny here. We make our destiny. In New Mexico we will shape our own destiny and we won’t stand still. We will act. We will make our opportunities. We will dream. We will work. We will risk. We will improve. We will try. And if we fail, we will try harder.

We have much to do. Our challenges are many. And as each generation discovers for itself, our time is briefer than we once thought it would be. But there is no problem too hard for our imagination, our industry, our confidence and our freedom to overcome. We are equal to the task before us. We are bigger than our troubles. We are stronger than our obstacles. Have faith and courage, we will leave our state, our country and our world better than we found them.

We will grow an economy that offers opportunities to every New Mexican willing to seize them; that attracts new businesses and encourages existing businesses to grow and create new jobs; that rewards hard work and initiative; and that competes successfully with neighboring states because we have as much and more to offer.

No matter what steps we take to create jobs and increase opportunities, we cannot create sustained economic growth without rescuing public education. For years, we have bred a culture of poor performance and low expectations in New Mexico that denies our children the knowledge they need to have a fair chance to live their dreams.

By every measurement, we are failing them. Eighth grade reading and math scores are among the lowest in the nation. High school graduation rates are not acceptable. Turning this crisis around will not be easy and cannot be accomplished overnight. But it will be done. It must be done. There is no excuse; no hope for a better future, and no escape from the harsh judgment of history if we continue to fail in the critical responsibility of preparing our children for the challenges and opportunities that await them.

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.

Your government will represent your interests and reflect your character. We will share the same goals. We will share the same values. We will share the same sacrifices.

Government won’t ask New Mexicans to do what government itself is not willing to do. As families struggle to reduce their household budgets, so will your government. We won’t take more of your money from you or grow the deficit because we are not willing to make the same tough decisions you have had to make. We won’t shy away from tough decisions in this administration.

You are accountable for your actions. You take responsibility for your decisions. So will your government. We aren’t going to hide anything from you in the hope of escaping your fair judgment of our performance.

For too long, government has not been willing to shine the light of scrutiny upon itself. We will shine a light into the dark corners of state government in order to regain the public trust and to ensure that public officials are putting the people’s business first.

For too long, politicians have acted as though taxpayer money belonged to them, not to you, the taxpayer. As Governor, I will endeavor to move New Mexico away from the waste and excess that has defined our past.

Transparency and accountability will be core values of my administration. I will ask for nothing more than to be judged on our record. Your government will serve no interest but yours.

Appointments to my administration will be made with strict attention to the skills, qualifications and character of prospective candidates. It won’t be who they know, but who they are that will determine who I ask to join my administration. I want the best people to serve with me; people with impressive records of achievement, reputations for honesty, proven reliability and no other objective than to serve the people of New Mexico with distinction and integrity.

As we enforce without fear or favor the ethical standards of our administration, so will we enforce all the laws in this state. Those who violate the public trust will be prosecuted and punished. Lawbreakers will have no stronger adversary. Honest citizens will have no greater advocate.

I’ve dedicated my life to fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves … fighting for justice and fairness. I intend to make certain they are the priorities of our administration.

There is no worthier or more satisfying work than to serve others in a just cause. Not every New Mexican voted for me. But every New Mexican deserves and will receive my best efforts to protect and promote their interests. I serve you all, and I am grateful to you for the privilege.

I cannot promise we will always agree on methods, but we will share the same goal of a just, prospering and limitless New Mexico; a place where every mother’s child has the encouragement and a fair opportunity to succeed as my mother’s child has; a place where dreams are made real.

I can’t promise you perfection. I will surely make mistakes, but I can promise you I will do all I can to make our home a better, stronger place. I will need your guidance, your help, your patience and your courage. Without them, I will fail. With them, we will succeed together.

“Courage,” Winston Churchill said, is “the first of human qualities because it’s the quality which guarantees all others.” My parents taught me that before I ever heard of Mr. Churchill. Standing up for what’s right always requires courage. That is never truer than in difficult times like these.

We must act boldly and quickly to overcome our challenges and make our opportunities. That will take courage from all of us. If mine ever flags, I will look to your example to restore it; and to the example of those whose courage and love gave me every advantage I needed to succeed in the greatest state in the greatest country on earth.

Let us be brave together, my fellow New Mexicans, and always remember the history of our state … be true to our inheritance … be true to ourselves … and be true to those we have been entrusted to serve. I am humbled by the privilege, and ready to begin.

God bless you and God bless New Mexico. Thank you.