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.