The House debating a three strikes law expansion in the 2016 special session

Budget woes and beyond: Legislators have work to do this session

The biggest issue for legislators this session is New Mexico’s perilous financial situation—and how they plan to fill a projected $67 million budget deficit. Gov. Susana Martinez has proposed moving  $268.5 million from state agencies into the general fund budget. Of that $120 million would come from local public education reserve funds. Martinez’s plan also would require state employees to pay roughly 3.5 percent more into their retirement plans. This piece also appeared in this week’s edition of the Weekly Alibi.

Susana Martinez during the 2016 State of the State Address. Photo Credit: Andy Lyman.

READ: Susana Martinez’s 2017 State of the State Address

The following is the prepared text of Gov. Susana Martinez’s 2017 State of the State Address. Lieutenant Governor; Senate President Pro Tempore; our new House Speaker; Democratic and Republican leaders; esteemed members of the New Mexico Legislature; honorable members of the judiciary; former New Mexico governors; tribal governors; distinguished guests; the State’s first gentleman, my husband, Chuck Franco; my beautiful sister, Lettie and, my fellow New Mexicans. It is an honor to join you for the State of the State Address and open this legislative session. Related: Martinez calls for unity

Over the last six years, Republicans and Democrats have chosen to make tough decisions. We’ve resisted taking the easy way out.

Roundhouse

Watch: Gov. Martinez’s State of the State Address

Gov. Susana Martinez will give her seventh State of the State Address today as the legislative session kicks off. It will be Martinez’s final 60-day session. Thanks to New Mexico PBS, you can watch the whole thing from home livestreaming below. The legislative session is schedule to begin at noon, with Martinez’s address coming afterward.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (l) and Martin Heinrich (r)

Senators, do not vote to confirm Betsy DeVos

This was sent as a letter to U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. It is a joint letter from AFT NM President Stephanie Ly and NEA-NM President Betty Patterson. Senators Udall and Heinrich:

We write to you on behalf of tens of thousands of New Mexico’s public educators to urge careful consideration of the nomination of Ms. Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of Education by President-elect Donald Trump. It is our strong belief that a successful confirmation of Ms. DeVos would not be in the best interest of public education in the United States, nor in our State of New Mexico. Ms. DeVos has a long and well-documented history of opposing a robust system of public education in her home state of Michigan in favor of increased charter, private, and religious schools.

Photo Credit: mFlickr Flickr /cc

ABQ police watchdog: Feds investigating more than just video tampering claims

The scope of an ongoing federal criminal investigation into events surrounding the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old woman by an Albuquerque police officer in 2014 stretches beyond what has been previously reported. That’s according to the lead investigator for the city’s independent police watchdog group. Department of Justice officials took the rare step last month of confirming an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower that APD employees tampered with video from officers’ body cameras and other sources, including video from the early morning hours of April 21, 2014, when then-APD officer Jeremy Dear shot Mary Hawkes. But Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA), said in an interview that federal authorities are “looking into the entire case,” including whether the shooting itself was unlawful. In a series of presentations to Justice Department officials in early November, Harness and one of his investigators turned over information they had gathered during an administrative review of the shooting.

Ania Mendrek Flickr via Compfight cc

The Black New Mexico Opportunity

The timing of the release of WalletHub’s Report on Racial Progress in America 2017 is impeccable, correlating with the first African American president’s farewell address and the annual observation of the birth, life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The report lists the state of New Mexico as 12th-best in “racial integration” between blacks and whites and sixth-best in the level of racial progress realized over time. These occurrences seemingly unveil an opportunity unique to New Mexico as well as its black community when you consider that our state currently resembles the racially diverse culture and populace that the entire nation will maintain within the next 20 or so years. The opportunity then becomes to lead in creating a roadmap on how to achieve the hope of our Constitution to be a “perfect union”—complete with best practices and real-time experiences for the remaining 49 states. Furthermore, as we take part in annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities, it behooves the New Mexican Black community to swift our focus, energy and intellect on engaging activity that will make our community essential to and at the center of this transformation. Elder Michael Jefferson is a minister at Procession Ministries in Albuquerque.

gavel on stack of documents

We must properly fund New Mexico’s court system

New Mexico’s courts face a funding crisis that threatens to undermine the judiciary’s ability to protect our rights by delivering timely justice. We must act now to prevent further damage. As Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels recently told a legislative committee, “We are now basically on life support through the end of this fiscal year.”
Pete Campos is a Democratic state senator who represents the Las Vegas area. In courthouses across the state, New Mexicans can see the corrosive effects of budget cuts and underfunding of the judiciary. Most magistrate courts are closed to the public for at least half a day each week because the courts are unable to fill vacant staff positions.

Former Governor Rick Perry speaking with supporters of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz at a campaign event at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Flickr/cc

Rick Perry’s Texas giveaways

Donald Trump’s selection of Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy has prompted many Democrats to question Perry’s qualifications for the position. While he governed a state rich in fossil fuels and wind energy, Perry has far less experience than President Obama’s two energy secretaries, both physicists, in the department’s primary work, such as tending the nuclear-weapons stockpile, handling nuclear waste and carrying out advanced scientific research. That’s not to mention, of course, that Perry four years ago called for doing away with the entire department. However, there’s one realm in which Perry will have plenty of preparation: doling out taxpayer money in the form of government grants to the energy industry. What often gets lost in all the talk of the Texas job boom under Perry is how much economic development strategy was driven by direct subsidies to employers who promised to relocate to the state or create jobs there.

thumbs-down

There’s nothing to like about state giveaways to Facebook

The irony that this post will be shared on Facebook isn’t missed on me, but hear me out:

Arguably the most important responsibility government has to its constituents is providing equitable opportunity for self-sufficiency. Meaning that it is the duty of those in charge to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to be highly productive individuals who can work collectively towards a single goal: to create prosperous, thriving communities. Giving unneeded tax incentives to one of the most profitable companies in the world does little to attain that shared goal. New Mexico needs to start investing in us. Raphael Pacheco is a Policy and Research Analyst and State Priorities Partnership Fellow at New Mexico Voices for Children.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park

We don’t have to take this anymore

Anyone paying attention knows New Mexicans have it tough. Our state ranks near last in unemployment and income. We are one of the worst places in the country to be a child. Our income inequality keeps growing, and many families face chronic, multi-generational poverty. More people move away from New Mexico than from any other state in the region.