Legislators’ last attempt to balance this year’s budget relied heavily on across-the-board cuts to state programs, but some critics of the new effort say lawmakers are placing the burden of a projected $69 million deficit on local institutions ranging from school districts to fire departments. Discussions on a package of solvency measures continued Friday with the House of Representatives meeting for less than an hour before recessing until Saturday morning to vote on the legislation. With an eye toward stopping cuts to schools and economic development programs, Republicans plan to propose a series of amendments. “We don’t want to vote ‘no’ on something and not have an alternative,” said House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.
The state department that has been criticized for letting child abuse cases slip through the cracks is now under fire from some Albuquerque parents and school administrators for a lack of discretion when looking into student absences. Days before Albuquerque Public Schools teachers, students and parents were gearing up for a two-week winter vacation, one mother said she got an unexpected visit from Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) case workers. The mother recounted her story in an email to APS board members. NM Political Report obtained the mother’s email from CYFD, but the state agency redacted her name. “I asked through the door who it was, and a woman yelled in a very loud voice, ‘WE ARE WITH THE CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT DEPARTMENT AND WE ARE INVESTIGATING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY,’” the mother wrote.
A one-sentence provision in state law is emboldening at least one agency to keep public information from seeing the light of day. All officials have to do is accuse someone of having a political agenda. For more than a year, retired Interstate Stream Commission director Norman Gaume has wanted to know how much water farmers and others currently draw from the Gila River. That’s where the state plans to build a controversial new project that would divert more water from the river. Specifically, he wondered if water users are using the maximum amount of water they’re already allotted from the river.
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.
The president of a New Mexico business advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the state Republican party for defamation. Carla Sonntag, the president of the New Mexico Business Coalition alleges the Republican Party of New Mexico falsely accused her of attacking party chair Ryan Cangiolosi in a series of anonymous emails to party members ahead of the state party’s election. In December 2016, the state’s Republican Party sent an email to committee members apologizing for a series of anonymous emails disparaging Cangiolosi. In the email, the party blamed Sonntag for sending the emails. “The Republican Party of New Mexico, in consultation with our legal team, has done its investigative research and has uncovered that these emails come from accounts registered to Carla Sonntag and family,” the email from the party read.
The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a rule related to the state’s regulation of groundwater beneath copper mines last fall. There’s no saying exactly when the court, which heard the case at the end of September, will issue its opinion. But it could be this year. This comes as the price of copper is on the rise after two years of declines. At the end of last year, the metal rallied—and some analysts expect it to do well in 2017.
As Democrats gear up for a legislative session after retaking the state House of Representatives and expanding their majority in the state Senate, several members are looking at ways to increase New Mexico’s minimum wage. Two lawmakers have already pre-filed legislation to do so ahead of the session, which begins Jan. 17. One measure would double New Mexico’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $15 an hour by January 2018. Another more cautious bill ups the minimum wage to $8.45 an hour.