KRWG

New Mexico Legislature

KRWG Public Media coverage of the New Mexico legislature.  Major partners include the Associated Press and the Southern New Mexico Journalism Collaborative.

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico education officials are renewing a contract with a Utah-based education company to reduce chronic absenteeism among public school students. The $2 million sole-source contract avoids the competitive bidding process aimed at reducing costs for state services. A survey conducted by the company concluded that its services helped around 16,000 students. But neither the state nor the company has evaluated the success of the program using data on absenteeism or grades. A social worker at Santa Fe Public Schools says the program helps, but can’t say by how much because the district hasn’t had time to evaluate it.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An advisory board on political redistricting is deciding on recommendations to the state Legislature for realigning the boundaries of U.S. House and state legislative seats across New Mexico.

Scheduled for Friday afternoon, the recommendations of the Citizens Redistricting Committee are nonbinding. Several states, including New Mexico and Indiana, are using citizen advisory boards to temper political inclinations without taking redistricting powers away from state lawmakers.

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers routinely accept free lunches from lobbyists. This week, internet and testing companies are sponsoring education committee meeting lunches. The committee will consider writing legislation that pays for internet and school testing. Final decisions over which companies to choose are decided by school districts and state education officials, not legislators. But one former legislator who refused all gifts from lobbyists says the practice creates the appearance of wrongdoing. Current lawmakers on the Legislative Education Study Committee say they are not influenced by the free lunches, which can earn companies time to present products in private. A school testing service is presenting to the committee this week after buying them lunch on Monday.

  ALBUQUERQUE, N.N. (AP) — Retirements of teachers and other public education employees in New Mexico spiked by 40% this year, and the pandemic is thought to be one of a number of possible causes for the spike. The Albuquerque Journal reports that the state Educational Retirement Board reports handling 1,269 applications for July 1 retirement this year, up from 906 the year before and the largest number in seven years. July 1 is the start of the state fiscal year which often coincides with teacher contracts.

  ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New findings by University of New Mexico researchers indicate that just under 5% of Albuquerque-area defendants awaiting trial commit violent crimes while free from jail. A senior state courts official said the research indicates that the vast majority of defendants don’t commit new crimes pending trial but the top prosecutor for Bernalillo County and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham say its still troubling that some defendants  commit crimes while free. The Albuquerque Journal reports that the university’s Institute for Social Research analyzed more than 10,000 felony cases in Bernalillo County amid debate over the state’s system of releasing felony defendants.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Tuition-free college and more spending to secure abandoned oil wells are among the priorities from New Mexico’s Democratic governor on state spending amid a windfall in state income linked to federal pandemic relief and petroleum production.

September marks the outset of the Legislature’s grueling budget writing process in a state still grappling with high rates of unemployment and childhood poverty.

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A group of New Mexico House Democrats outlined a package of criminal justice bills intended to combat crime, including penalties for failing to safely store guns, enhanced pay for police and changes in the pretrial supervision and bail system. A record-setting number of homicides in Albuquerque this year is spurring concerns about violent crime and shortcomings of the police and justice system. Seventeen House Democrats including majority floor leader Javier Martinez and Rep. Antonio Maestas of Albuquerque announced in a Thursday statement a lengthy list of goals for next regular legislative session in January.

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State financial officials says about $38 million has been paid out in federal rental and utility assistance in an effort to stabilize the housing market and avoid future evictions. Finance and Administration Secretary Deborah Romero briefed a legislative panel Thursday on the pandemic relief program. The state has streamlined efforts to deliver rental assistance aid, allowing seven days for landlords to collect rental assistance before depositing money with tenants. The aid program can be used for a variety of housing obligations to pay off past overdue rent payments, bills for transitional housing in motels and even so-called rent-to-own contracts in which rent may counts toward purchasing.

SANTA FE – The Children, Youth & Families Department this week submitted the department’s 2023 state fiscal year general fund budget request of $258 million, a $44.6 million increase over SFY2022. When factoring in all funding sources, including federal dollars, the Department’s budget is more than $368 million.

The budget request reflects CYFD’s needs to align its funding with the department’s mission and strategic plan to help our children be safe and to thrive in the community and with a family whenever possible.

Santa Fe - On Thursday, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) announced that it is seeking an additional $53.9 million for its Fiscal Year 2023 budget as part of an effort to strengthen health services and address the health needs of communities across the state.

“For many years prior to 2019, the state of New Mexico cut back funding in public health, and did not substantially fund services for the elderly and for people with developmental disabilities. Under Governor Lujan Grisham, we’re changing that,” said DOH Acting Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. “In addition, the maintenance and operations of state healthcare facilities has been chronically underfunded as well, and addressing this challenge is a key priority for DOH.”

Public Safety Budget Asks For a 9% Pay Hike For New Mexico State Police

Sep 2, 2021
NM State Police / Facebook

 SANTA FE - The Department of Public Safety (DPS) budget priorities for the coming year include new funding to accelerate a New Mexico State Police (NMSP) pay plan, salary increases for dispatchers and transportation inspectors, funding for two (2) enhanced NMSP Recruit Schools, two (2) Lateral NMSP recruit schools, security and infrastructure funding, staff, and operations enhancements.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A top education adviser serving the New Mexico Legislature has resigned over insensitive remarks she made about Native American students in 2019.

Legislative Education Study Committee director Rachel Gudgel had apologized for the remarks and complied with disciplinary measures over the past year. That included a temporary suspension and professional coaching. But Native American lawmakers and advocacy groups continued to raise concerns.

Laura Paskus

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A group of powerful New Mexico lawmakers has concerns about proposed rules that aim to cut smog-causing pollution across the oil and gas industry.

Leaders of the Legislative Finance Committee recently sent a letter to state Environment Secretary James Kenney, saying the rules would have a significant effect on revenues. One study puts losses to state and local governments at $730 million a year. Another independent analysis found the rules would cost operators more than $3 billion to comply in the first year.

Former Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton - (D)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Albuquerque school system has fired former state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton from her nearly $80,000-a-year occupational education position.

Williams Stapleton resigned her legislative position in July amid a criminal investigation into possible racketeering, money laundering, kickbacks and violations of a law governing the conduct of state lawmakers. A lawyer for Albuquerque Public Schools said Tuesday that Williams Stapleton had been “discharged" but declined to elaborate.

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Local governments will get a $50 million boost to resolve a 2018 lawsuit that accused the state of botching tax distributions to 44 counties and municipalities across New Mexico. The state Taxation and Revenue Department on Tuesday announced terms of the financial settlement on the sharing of gross receipts taxes. Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Roswell and Farmington were among the major plaintiffs to the lawsuit that alleged the state has short changed them revenue that pays for law enforcement, fire protection and other services. The state distributes more than $1.9 billion in revenues from gross receipts taxes to local governments each year.

  ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is flush with cash due mostly to the infusion of federal pandemic aid and higher than expected gross receipts tax revenues as consumers are spending again. A faster than expected recovery by oil and gas markets also has helped to boost the state's projected revenues to record levels for the coming fiscal year. Top state finance officials and legislative analysts briefed a key panel of lawmakers on the outlook Thursday. They're expecting nearly $1.4 billion in new money for the 2023 fiscal year. Still, officials warned lawmakers to be cautious since the pandemic remains a risk factor for continued economic recovery.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is seeing soaring numbers of deadly overdoses from fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Legislative analysts said in a report released Thursday that preliminary figures show fentanyl-related deaths increased by 129% between 2019 and 2020.

That percentage is expected to climb even higher as the data for last year is still coming in. The trend mirrors what's happening nationally.

SANTA FE, N.M. — State agencies in New Mexico already have spent billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief grants as they try to shore up household income, childhood nutrition, public education and internet service.

A briefing by the budget and accountability office of the state Legislature shows the state has spent more than half of its $10.1 billion share through 130 grants. Most of the money has gone to mandatory programs such as unemployment insurance and Medicaid.

www.kayfornm.com - Kay Bounkeua

  ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An environmental activist has been sworn in to fill a New Mexico House vacancy created by now-former Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton's resignation amid a corruption investigation.

The Bernalillo County Commission on Tuesday appointed Albuquerque Democrat Kay Bounkeua to fill the District 19 seat. Bounkeua was among 10 applicants considered by the commission and is currently the New Mexico deputy state director for the Wilderness Society. She also recently served as the executive director of the New Mexico Asian Family Center.

Earlier this month, KUNM reported about an online portal, Districtr, where New Mexicans can draw and submit their own maps to the Citizen Redistricting Committee, or CRC, for consideration. Kathleen Burke, project coordinator of Fair Districts for New Mexico, spoke with KUNM about the importance of newly-released 2020 Census data now available on the portal.

SANTA FE, N.M. — The state Legislature won’t revert to remote, online proceedings despite close encounters with the resurgent coronavirus and at least one new infection among lawmakers.

Leading state lawmakers on Monday weighed whether it was still prudent for legislative committees to hold in-person hearings across the state in the waning days of summer and early autumn.

As New Mexico redraws the district boundaries for its state legislature, U.S. House and Public Education Commission, pueblos across the state are collaborating on maps that reflect their peoples’ issues and needs. Tribal leaders are calling on the state’s redistricting committee to adopt the maps they put forward. 

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Leading Republican state legislators are calling for immediate reforms to enhance sentences for violent crime and place new limitations on pre-trial release from jail. The push is in response to violent crime in Albuquerque. The lawmakers urged Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to call a special legislative session to send a strong signal that criminals will be held responsible. A letter from House Republicans including minority leader James Townsend calls for reconsideration of 11 GOP-sponsored bills on public safety that were rejected in 2020 and 2021 by the Democrat-led Legislature. Lujan Grisham wants public safety reforms high on the agenda when the Legislature convenes in January 2022.

  The City of Las Cruces is hosting its second town hall meeting on potential cannabis zoning and retail sales at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, August 12 at Council Chambers, in City Hall, 700 N. Main St. The town hall is one of several opportunities that the public has to provide comments.
 
Members of the public can further participate by taking a survey that closes at midnight on August 15. Information for the survey, which is in English and Spanish, may be found on the City’s website at www.las-cruces.org/Cannabis.

New Mexico Governor announces new CYFD Cabinet secretary

Aug 10, 2021
Barbara Vigil

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday announced a new member of the state Cabinet:

  • Barbara J. Vigil, recently retired senior justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court and long-time advocate for juvenile justice reform, as secretary of the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Vigil will relieve Secretary Brian Blalock, who is stepping down this month to support his wife’s pursuit of new work opportunities in California.

New House Majority Leader to be Elected in Coming Weeks

Jul 31, 2021
House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces)

  

Santa Fe, N.M. – Today, the New Mexico House Democratic Caucus announced that it will hold elections in the coming weeks to select its new House Majority Floor Leader. House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces) will serve as Acting Majority Floor Leader in the interim.  Here is a statement from the New Mexico House Democrats:

 

The news follows a meeting by the Caucus today to discuss the resignation of Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton and the future of her vacated leadership role.  

Rep. Brian Egolf

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A State Ethics Commission hearing officer has dismissed the third and final ethics complaint accusing New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf of a conflict of interest. The hearing officer says the complaint failed to prove any claim upon which relief can be granted. Retired Judge Sandra Price filed the complaint earlier this year accusing the Santa Fe Democrat of failing to disclose a conflict of interest when he pushed for civil rights legislation approved earlier this year. She claimed Egolf had a conflict because he works as an attorney whose business would benefit from the state Civil Rights Act that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law in April.   

Following last year’s Census, New Mexico lawmakers will redraw congressional and state legislative districts this fall. A coalition of community organizations has launched a campaign to ensure the public have a say in where those lines are drawn.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The State Auditor’s Office says New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s spending from her contingency fund for items such as food and alcohol apparently didn’t violate the law. But the office's report released Wednesday suggested that lawmakers should consider clarifying or tightening up on what spending is allowed. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the report said state law is unclear on whether particular expenses are directly connected with the governor’s duties or are privileges or allowances for state employees,  Auditor Brian Colon said lawmakers should consider reviewing the law and changing it “if they’re uncomfortable with the current approach....”

  ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico spent $1.5 million to advertise the state during the Virgin Galactic space launch Sunday. KOV-TV reports that the state paid the money to display New Mexico's logo on video of the flight. A third of the money came from a $500,000 special appropriation by the New Mexico Legislature to market and promote the state during the flight. Tourism Department spokesman Cody Johnson said the rest came from the department’s budget. The flight saw Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson briefly rocket into space aboard the company’s winged space plane for the first time.

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