December 7, 2015

2015 Recap: January marked new day for NM House

Margaret Wright

Oil pumps behind a cemetery in New Mexico's oil patch.

January 2015 was the first month of NM Political Report and our site launched on January 7 with three writers: Margaret Wright as senior reporter, Andy Lyman as a reporter and myself as editor.

The month was jam-packed.

Note: Each weekday from here through December 22, we will be looking back at the top stories from each month here at NM Political Report. These could be the most-read stories, some interesting stories that didn’t get much attention or just plain important stories.

Oil pumps behind a cemetery in New Mexico's oil patch. Photo Credit: Margaret Wright.

Margaret Wright

Oil pumps behind a cemetery in New Mexico’s oil patch. Photo Credit: Margaret Wright.

Wright had a two-part series on an oft-ignored part of the state despite its economic importance: the oil patch in southeastern New Mexico, the first major stories in the site’s history. The first story looked at the “double-edged sword” of the population boom and the second looked specifically at how housing and road infrastructure didn’t keep up with the increased population.

The month also marked the start of the Legislative session and controversy came from the very beginning, as the new Republican majority made sweeping changes to the chamber’s committee structure over Democratic objections. The new leadership marked the first Republican majority since the Eisenhower era and the first conservative majority since the Cowboy Coalition that last held a majority in 1986.

While the new Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee largely went smoothly despite criticism from Democrats that disparate subjects were lumped together, new procedures in the House Education Committee caused an argument between committee chair Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, and House Minority Whip Sheryl Williams-Stapleton, D-Albuquerque. Oh, and a Holocaust reference and demands for more than just an apology. All in couple week’s work of a legislative session.

Outside of the Legislature, Wright wrote about being barred from a press conference by Albuquerque Police Department officers. KOAT-TV later picked up the story about Wright and ABQ Free Press reporter Dennis Domrzalski being barred from the event where Department of Justice officials were on hand to discuss reforms.

NM Political Report also took a look at life in a controversial tent city in Albuquerque. Throughout the year, those living in the tent city continued to move from location to location.

Meanwhile, a major point in the behavioral health saga came when Attorney General Hector Balderas released the behavioral health audit which had remained secret for over two years despite efforts by the press and open government advocates. The audit was the basis of taking funding from behavioral health providers, which resulted in Arizona firms taking over in the state.

All in all, it was a very busy January; but most of the action—in the legislative session at least —was just a prelude for the coming months.