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Column: Billions Sitting on the Sidelines While Critical Ideas Lack Funding

on February 18, 2014 - 6:12am

Senate Majority Whip

As the legislative session winds down and the final budget is crafted, I can’t help but reflect on one of the great tragedies of current state government. With every tax break, education program, special interest and critical line item being accounted for, it is easy to forget that our state government is awash in cash.

There are hundreds of millions of unused tax dollars, excess bonding capacity and thousands of unfilled jobs, tucked away throughout state government.

Lottery Solvency Bill Passes Senate Finance

on February 18, 2014 - 6:03am


SANTA FE—New Mexico’s Lottery Tuition Fund could be a little closer to getting its solvency issue resolved as Senate Bill 347 (SB 347) passed the Senate Finance Committee Monday.

The bill appropriates $11 million from the general fund for fiscal year 2014, appropriates $11.5 million in general fund revenues for fiscal year 2015, and in fiscal year 2016 creates a distribution from the general fund portion of revenues resulting from the liquor excise tax.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Bernalillo and Valencia, who sponsored the bill, was the lead sponsor of the

Senate Passes Memorial Celebrating Fifth Anniversary of International District

on February 18, 2014 - 5:59am


SANTA FE–The New Mexico State Senate passed Senate Memorial 90, recognizing the fifth anniversary of the “International District,” previously known as the “War Zone.”

Sen. Tim Keller, D-Bernalillo led the charge in 2009 to erase the negative “War Zone” label by changing the name of the area in Albuquerque to the “International District.” That was accomplished with the 2009 passage of Senate Joint Memorial 24, which mirrored county and city legislation.

“Our desire for a new identity truly came from the ground up.

Legislators Ask AG to Expand Investigation of Controversial Lease Award

on February 18, 2014 - 5:54am
New Mexico Roundhouse


SANTA FE—A group of 14 state legislators, prompted by information learned in the Senate Rules Committee (SRC) this week, sent a letter to the Attorney General Thursday requesting that the office expand its investigation of the controversial lease award to The Downs Racetrack & Casino.

The letter, signed by eight senators and six representatives, is based upon statements made public from three former and current State Fair Commissioners, all Republican appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez.

Senate Passes Legislation to Help State Permanent Fund

on February 18, 2014 - 5:39am

State News:

With bipartisan support, the Senate passed legislation Saturday that, if voters approve, will allow state investors to take greater advantage of a burgeoning global economy, which throughout the last decade has proven to outperform current investment strategies required by law.

Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR4) seeks to let voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to remove the current 15 percent cap on what can be invested on international securities.

'Helping Our Middle Class Entrepreneurs' Act Introduced

on February 18, 2014 - 5:32am

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

U.S. HOUSE News:

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, N.M.-1, has introduced the Helping Our Middle Class Entrepreneurs (HOME) Act (H.R. 4052), legislation to support small businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.

Specifically, the bill would simplify the income tax filing process for small business owners who operate primarily out of their homes by creating a permanent $1,500 standard home office deduction. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, home-based enterprises make up 52 percent of all small businesses.


Bill to Crack Down on Rampant Copper/Metal Theft Unanimously Passes House

on February 17, 2014 - 10:17pm

Rep. Bobby Gonzales


Legislation allows for arrest, prosecution, and sentencing for disruption of Communications and Utilities

SANTA FE—A bill that criminalizes the theft of or intentional damage to communications and utilities, including copper theft, has passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 60-0. 

House Business and Industry Committee Substitute for House Bill 239 (Disruption of Communications and Utilities) as amended, sponsored by Rep.

Skandera Fails to Receive Confirmation Recommendation

on February 17, 2014 - 12:43pm

Hanna Skandera


SANTA FE–Hanna Skandera failed to receive a favorable recommendation for confirmation as New Mexico’s Public Education Department Secretary in a Senate Rules Committee hearing today.

A motion for “No Recommendation” stalled in a 5-5 vote. A motion to recommend her confirmation to the full Senate failed on a 4-6 vote. Another motion to reject her confirmation was made but failed to receive a second. The effect of the tie vote means that the full Senate will not consider her nomination for confirmation.

Rules Chair Sen.

Today Marks 129 Presidents' Days

on February 17, 2014 - 11:00am

Happy Presidents' Day:

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government.

Traditionally celebrated Feb. 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers.

While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays

Steinborn Introduces Bill to Study Water Conservation

on February 17, 2014 - 9:23am
Rep. Jeff Steinborn 


Legislation Brings Together Top Water Programs at NMSU and UNM to Study Best Water Conservation Ideas Across the Globe

SANTA FE—In an effort to develop new ideas to better conserve our limited water resources, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Dona Ana, has introduced House Memorial 83 to conduct a significant far reaching study.

Legislation Passed to Address Kirtland Fuel Spill

on February 17, 2014 - 9:11am

Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton


SANTA FE–The New Mexico Congressional delegation is being asked to fund and assemble an independent task force of experts to address the Kirtland Air Force Base bulk fuel spill cleanup—the largest toxic spill into a public water supply in U.S. history (Associated Press 2012). 

House Consumer and Public Affairs Substitute for House Joint Memorial 13, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Bernalillo-19), was passed Friday in the House of Representatives by a vote of 39-16. 

The findings are to be reported by November 2014 to the

Jobs Bill Gets Unanimous Vote in House

on February 17, 2014 - 9:05am

Speaker of the House W. Ken Martinez


SANTA FE–The pledge to create jobs in New Mexico has picked up steam in the House of Representatives. House Bill 273a (Economic Development Grant & Program), an initiative put forth by the bipartisan interim Jobs Council, passed the House on a vote of 67-0. 

HB 273a creates a grant program that allows the Economic Development Commission (EDC), which is attached to the Economic Development Department (EDD), to make grants to local economic development organizations. 

The grants will be used to hire economic development professionals (up

Bill to Establish Bilingual Seal Passes House

on February 17, 2014 - 8:49am

House Majority Leader Rick Miera


SANTA FELegislation that would cement New Mexico’s reputation as the nation’s leader in bilingual multicultural education has passed the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote 67-0.

House Bill 330 “Diploma Seal of Bilingualism,” sponsored by House Majority Leader Rick Miera, D-Bernalillo establishes a State Seal of Bilingualism-Biliteracyon New Mexico Diplomas of ExcellenceIt honors graduates who are proficient in speaking and writing a language other than English. 

Several school districts and individual schools have a bilingual

Ranchers May Sign up for Farm Bill Drought Disaster Aid within 60 Days

on February 17, 2014 - 8:35am


WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture will soon enable livestock producers to sign up for disaster assistance, which the senators helped to pass in the Farm Bill earlier this month.

The assistance is being expedited—signups will begin in 60 days—at the request of Udall, Heinrich and several other senators from western states, where producers have been struggling with several years of drought.

Senate Finance Approves Substitute Budget Bill

on February 17, 2014 - 8:21am


SANTA FE–A substitute bill for the General Appropriations Act (SB 313), which proposes a $6.2 billion budget package, was approved by the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) and is now on its way to the Senate Floor for debate.

The substitute bill was presented to SFC Sunday with an amended proposal of $17.5 million appropriated to the Department of Education for the Administration’s education reforms. The budget has an increase from last fiscal year of 5 percent in spending and a reserve of 8.7 percent.

The committee’s action to propose a budget is in response to the stalemate

Senate Passes Minimum Wage Constitutional Amendment

on February 17, 2014 - 7:42am

Sen. Richard C. Martinez


SANTA FE—In a 24-17 vote, Senate Joint Resolution 13 (SJR 13), which proposes a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage in New Mexico, has passed the Senate. The resolution will now be making its way to the House Floor.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Richard C. Martinez, D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval & Santa Fe, said he couldn’t be happier that his fellow senators recognized the importance this resolution carries.

“Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do and passing this resolution is a great thing for the people of New Mexico who will

Amendment Would Cover Fund Gap in Hospital Solvency Bill

on February 17, 2014 - 7:19am

Sen. Tim Keller


SANTA FE—Earlier this week, the Senate Public Affairs Committee (SPAC) passed a substitute bill for three senate bills focused on hospital solvency. The bill allows counties to impose an excise tax of 1/12 percent of gross receipts and requires that no action for collection of claims shall be allowed against any patient deemed indigent.

SPAC Chairman, Sen. Ortiz y Pino, D-Bernalillo said that no one was completely happy with the substitute bill, which represented a compromise.

“But there is still a bit of a gap of about $10 million that we’re hoping the

Tom Church Confirmed as NMDOT Cabinet Secretary

on February 16, 2014 - 11:13am

Tom Church


SANTA FE–The State Senate unanimously confirmed Tom Church Friday as the Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Church was appointed as Cabinet Secretary-Designate by Gov. Susana Martinez in April 2013.

Church has extensive experience in the NMDOT. The many roles he’s served in at the department include chief of staff, deputy secretary of business and financial operations, deputy director of administrative services and quality management bureau chief.

“Secretary Church has demonstrated his knowledge and expertise in the transportation

Officials Comment on Radiation at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

on February 16, 2014 - 10:04am

Operators prepare drums of contact-handled transuranic waste for loading into transportation containers. Courtesy/


CARLSBAD—U.S Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich issued the following statement after an air monitor detected higher than usual radiation levels around 11:30 p.m. Friday on the underground levels of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad:

"We are in close contact with officials at the Department of Energy and WIPP, and we will continue to monitor the situation as more information becomes available.

House Highlights from Saturday, Feb. 15

on February 16, 2014 - 8:38am


House Highlights from Saturday, Feb. 15:

On the Floor

House Bill 330, Diploma Seal of Bilingualism sponsored by House Majority Leader Rick Miera (D-Bernalillo-11), has passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 67-0. HB 330 provides for a State Seal of Bilingualism-Biliteracy on New Mexico Diplomas of Excellence for graduates who are proficient in speaking and writing a language other than English. HB 330 requires the Public Education Department to adopt rules to establish criteria for students to earn the state seal of bilingualism-biliteracy.

Stand Up Against Violence Toward Women

on February 15, 2014 - 9:38am

'I want to see a world where those who commit gender crimes are treated with outrage while those who survive are treated with empathy and respect. I want a world where the media and social norms reinforce how wrong it is for a man to take advantage of a woman’s space, mind or body.

State Fair Director Avoids Subpoena

on February 15, 2014 - 8:55am

Dan Mourning. YouTube PrintScreen/Rob Nikolewski 


SANTA FE–New Mexico State Fair Director Dan Mourning avoided a threatened subpoena from Senate Rules Committee (SRC) Chair Linda M. Lopez, D-Bernalillo, by showing up to a Thursday morning hearing.

After a string of absences, Mourning finally spoke about State Fair business, specifically the ongoing issue of the controversial racetrack and casino lease awarded to the Downs at Albuquerque.

Two previous SRC hearings left glaring gaps of information about the State Fairgrounds after senators heard previous testimony from three

Democrat Lawrence Rael Files Candidacy for Governor

on February 15, 2014 - 8:27am

Lawrence Rael officially files candidacy for Governor. Courtesy/Rael Campaign


Lawrence Rael has filed with the Secretary of State's Office to become a Democratic candidate for governor of New Mexico.

“Growing up in a tiny town in Northern New Mexico, in the kind of poverty too many of New Mexico's children are battling—few would have imagined that I would be here today,” Rael said. “Before I believed in myself, I was surrounded by a community that believed in me. That's why I believe we can be a global leader in renewable energy.

Senate Committee Votes Unanimously For Hospital Solvency Bill

on February 14, 2014 - 8:36am

Jerry Ortiz y Pino, chair of the Senate Public Affairs Committee


SANTA FE – Wednesday, the Senate Public Affairs Committee, in a straight party line vote, passed a substitute bill for Senate Bills 314, 368 and 268, designed to allow counties to come up with funding solutions to cover Medicaid and Medicare cuts to hospitals statewide.

The compromise provides for counties to impose an excise tax of one-twelfth percent of gross receipts. A representative from the New Mexico Association of Counties said counties were in agreement with the proposal.

Bills Improving Transparency of Legislature Clear First Hurdle

on February 14, 2014 - 8:21am
Rep. Jeff Steinborn


Bills Would Require Webcasting of Interim Committees and Archiving of Session Webcasts

SANTA FE—Two pieces of legislation that would increase the accessibility and transparency of the New Mexico Legislature passed unanimously in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee last night. 

House Resolution 2 (HR2), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña Ana, would require that all webcasts of committee meetings and floor proceedings during the legislative session be archived.