Budget fix coming soon for colleges, universities; time to renew efforts to create jobs

Funding for New Mexico’s colleges and universities, which was vetoed by the governor following this year’s regular legislative session, will soon be restored, ending the confusion and consternation that has bedeviled students and faculty for months. The Legislature, which will either restore funding for higher education in the special session or win in court to overturn the governor’s veto of its funding, will return its attention to creating jobs and repairing New Mexico’s ailing economy. As a retired college president and, before that, a public school superintendent, I understand the problems our colleges and universities are facing with absolutely no funding as of July 1. Students are reconsidering plans to enroll; professors, instructors and support staff have no assurance that they will have jobs after July 1; and the reputation of New Mexico’s higher education system suffers across the country. The only good news is that the Legislature is committed to restoring funding for our colleges and universities — without any strings attached.

Administrative next step to capital outlay reforms

Reforming New Mexico’s process for selecting and paying for public works projects, which is nearly universally criticized as inefficient and wasteful, will continue through administrative steps despite the lack of an appetite this year to enact reforms into law. Those of us who believe the state’s capital outlay process can be improved will not be deterred from pursuing statutory changes in the future, such as requirements for better vetting, complete funding and prioritization of those projects that directly improve the safety, well-being and health of New Mexicans. Pete Campos is a Democratic State Senator from Las Vegas representing District 8. We will move forward with administrative reforms, including efforts by the Department of Finance and Administration and the Legislative Finance Committee, as well as the New Mexico Municipal League and the New Mexico Association of Counties. Those entities have been working diligently to improve the process, mindful of how important capital outlay projects are to local communities, our state’s economy and the health, safety and well-being of New Mexicans.

Handful of Senate Dems help Republicans defeat aid-in-dying bill

The state Senate on Wednesday night defeated a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. In a 22-20 vote, seven Democrats joined 15 Republicans to stop the measure. Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, sponsored Senate Bill 252 to allow people expected to die within six months to obtain a prescription for drugs meant to end their own lives. In addition, a patient would have to be deemed mentally competent by two doctors. The bill called for a mandatory 48-hour waiting period between the time the prescription was written and filled.

Infrastructure funding reform would lead to significant change

Memorials to honor veterans, Bernalillo County public safety officers and gun violence victims.

“Shade structures” at schools and parks. Improvements for tracks, baseball fields, and basketball and tennis courts and baseball fields. This piece originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Those are some of the “infrastructure” projects lawmakers funded by divvying up capital outlay money in 2016. Meanwhile, a state-owned reintegration center for troubled young people in Eagle Nest requested $673,400 last year for renovations.

Bill to ban traps on New Mexico public lands stalls

A bill to ban most trapping of animals on public lands in New Mexico probably is going nowhere this year because it’s caught in a clash between ranchers and advocates for animals. The bill stalled Tuesday in a Senate committee, prompting the sponsor to say he does not expect to reach a compromise in the last four weeks of this 60-day session. That means the practice of trapping in public forests is likely to continue for at least another year. “I believe it’s going to take much more time than a couple of days,” Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, said after the Senate Conservation Committee asked that he rewrite parts of Senate Bill 286. The bill would outlaw setting traps to capture or kill animals on public land.

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.

Six ways to help solve New Mexico’s economic crisis

New Mexico faces an economic crisis—not a budget crisis—that can be solved, but not easily, quickly or cheaply. We have not recovered from the Great Recession of 2008. Wages are up slightly in New Mexico, even considering inflation, but the number of jobs is well below pre-recession levels. And the state’s population is essentially unchanged since 2010 as people in their 20s and 30s move to other states in search of work. This is all reflected in the state’s budget, which is, as expected, about the same as it was in 2008.

Working together, we can solve New Mexico’s health care crisis

Pete Campos is a Democratic state senator who represents the state’s 8th Senate District. New Mexico’s health care crisis demands our attention. Now. No person should suffer even one day of serious illness or injury because that person cannot find or afford to pay for good health care, yet that is exactly what happens each day in New Mexico. Months-long waits for medical appointments, hours-long drives to Albuquerque or across the state’s borders once appointments are made and the worsening shortage of health professionals throughout New Mexico are becoming routine and, sadly, expected.

Dems take brunt of capital outlay vetoes

Nearly two-thirds of the 155 severance tax bond projects vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez were sponsored solely by Democrats, while only 14 projects sponsored solely by Republicans got the ax. On Wednesday, Martinez’s veto pen eliminated dollars meant to pay for capital appropriations for zoo animals, golf courses, rugby equipment, a dog park, a bicycle recycling program and more. In a sharply worded veto message, the governor explained her vetoes by slamming the Legislature for continuing the practice of earmarking dollars for pork-barrel projects while defeating proposed reforms of the system during the just-ended 30-day legislative session. Her vetoes totaled almost $8.2 million in a bill that now allocates $157.8 million in infrastructure projects around the state. Her vetoes included 17 projects of less than $10,000 and 15 projects funded at $10,000.

Here are the key legislative races to watch

Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.