Legislators discuss draft sexual harassment policy update

A panel of New Mexico legislators discussed a draft version of an updated sexual harassment policy Friday, a month ahead of the 2018 legislative session. This marks the first time the policy has been updated since 2008. Legislators have not undergone sexual harassment training since then, before many current legislators were even elected. The Legislative Council expects to vote on a final version on Jan. 15, the day before the start of the session.

Lobbyist says ex-legislator asked to trade sex for a vote

The New York Times reported a former state representative in New Mexico told a female lobbyist he would vote for a bill a client supported if she had sex with him, then kissed her. That was part of a story the newspaper wrote about lobbyists facing sexual harassment in state capitals around the nation. The allegation brought up by Vanessa Alarid, still a prominent lobbyist, accused former State Rep. Thomas A. Garcia of making the proposition and the unwanted kiss. Garcia was a member of the Legislature for three terms, from 2006 to 2012. The Democrat denied the allegation.

Martinez backs congressional tax overhaul efforts

Gov. Susana Martinez joined 20 Republican governors in support of federal tax cuts. The letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, didn’t advocate for either plan passed by the House or Senate, but instead called for general principles in a tax overhaul. The House and Senate each passed different plans, necessitating a conference committee for the two to reconcile language. The narrow Republican majority complicates the measure, as does the House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of hardline conservative Republicans in the House, including New Mexico’s Rep. Steve Pearce. They touted tax cuts made since 2011, and the economic growth they say the cuts caused.

Cautious optimism as state’s budget situation improves

New Mexico finally received some good news on the budget after two years of sharp downward trends. Of course, recovering from those losses will still take time. This morning, two cabinet-level secretaries and the Legislature’s top economist presented revenue estimates to the Legislative Finance Committee that project the state will have $199 million in new funds for the budget next year. Presenters warned they were only cautiously optimistic on the budget surplus because of a number of potential risks that the state has little to no control over. The news is better than what the committee heard in August, and the revenue is expected to come from larger-than-previously-expected growth revenues from personal income taxes, corporate income taxes and money received from the oil and gas industry.

State Rep ‘witnessed instances of harassment’ in Roundhouse

One state representative says the Legislature needs to do more to address sexual harassment. Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, wrote a letter to leadership in both the House and Senate, saying there is an “anything-goes” culture in the Roundhouse. She described “deliberate, often serial, offensive actions intended to intimidate, humiliate, or coerce” in the Roundhouse. She said that she has “personally experienced harassment in her time as a legislator.”

“I have also witnessed instances of harassment where colleagues and lobbyists have been subject to repeated profane comments and innuendo,” Fajardo wrote. “I heard stories of sickening quid pro quo propositions where legislators offered political support in exchange for sexual favors.” Fajardo did not name who harassed her or others.

Toulouse Oliver calls for sexual harassment training for NM lobbyists

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced a plan today for lobbyists to take sexual harassment training before each session of the New Mexico Legislature. “Sexual harassment in any form is never acceptable,” Toulouse Oliver said in emailed statement to reporters. “This is just a first step, but it is my hope that by giving lobbyists the opportunity to enroll in sexual harassment training programs, we will be able to prevent some instances of misconduct from happening in the first place.”
The current lobbyist registration forms will be amended to include a checkbox for lobbyists to confirm they have taken the training. Those forms will be searchable and online. The training would be voluntary, but Toulouse Oliver hopes it could someday be mandatory.

Ten bills Martinez invalidly vetoed become law

Ten bills invalidly vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez are now law. A judge declined Martinez’s effort to keep the bills from becoming law while they appealed a previous decision against Martinez. And shortly thereafter Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced she chaptered those ten bills into law (all ten are listed below). “As ordered by the Court, my office has swiftly chaptered all ten of the bills that the Court determined were improperly vetoed during the 2017 legislative session,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. This is a breaking news story and reactions will be added as we receive them.

Gov. Susana Martinez

Judge rules ten Martinez vetoes invalid, says they will become law

A judge ruled that ten of Gov. Susana Martinez vetoes from this year’s legislative session were invalid–and ordered that the bills become law. Earlier this year, the Legislature sued the governor, arguing she failed to follow the state constitution by not providing an explanation of her vetoes. Judge Sarah Singleton in the 1st Judicial District Court made the decision Friday. “We’re disappointed in this decision because there is no question the governor vetoed these bills,” spokesman Joseph Cueto said in an email Friday afternoon. “It’s telling how some in the legislature love running to the courts when they know they don’t have the support to override a veto.”

Will Democrats expand House majority in 2018?

After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and Democrats failed to take control of the Senate, many saw 2016 as a disastrous election for Democrats. At least nationwide. But in New Mexico the party retook control the state House of Representatives and expanded their majority in the Senate. Statewide, Clinton defeated Trump by 8 percent, even though over 9 percent of voters backed Libertarian nominee and former Gov. Gary Johnson. While the election took place ten months ago and may seem like old news, the results can provide a glimpse into which races will be competitive in 2018.

Feds to look into behavioral health services in NM

The federal government will take a look into New Mexico’s behavioral health services, according to the four Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation. In a letter last month to Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján, the federal Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson confirmed the upcoming review. “OIG will review the extent to which behavioral health providers are included in the States’ managed care plans and the types of care offered by these providers,” Levinson wrote in the June 28 letter.