An incoming Democrat is replacing a Republican in the governor’s office, and will get to work with a large Democratic majority in the Legislature. The new governor will have a large budget surplus and many potential projects to fund, both those sought by legislators and by the governor. No, this isn’t a preview for next month’s legislative session, the first with Michelle Lujan Grisham as governor, but a look back at 2003. When Democrat Bill Richardson replaced Republican Gary Johnson, “it was like a dam burst,” former State Sen. Dede Feldman said, speaking of the laws enacted. In the 2003 session alone, 439 bills became law, compared to 110 the year before.
Albuquerque voters are one step closer to voting on a change to the city charter that would increase city funds to some municipal candidates. At a press conference outside city hall on Tuesday, a coalition of local non-profits announced they collected nearly 28,000 petition signatures aimed at getting a public finance voucher program on the general election ballot in November. The proposed program, called Democracy Dollars and more recently dubbed Burque Bucks, would provide each Albuquerque resident a $25 voucher to contribute to the publicly-financed candidate of their choice. Former state senator Dede Feldman is a proponent of the proposal. The Albuquerque Democrat said political races get bogged down in high-spending corporations and political special interest groups.
As we have seen in the current presidential race and in recent local elections, big money still dominates the way we fund campaigns at all levels. From the Koch brothers spending millions in the Republican presidential primary to the Santolina developers spending tens of thousands in the recent Bernalillo County Commission Democratic primary, powerful wealthy individuals and organizations seek to influence elections by spending big money in campaigns. But we have a chance to reduce that influence in next year’s mayoral race. On an 8-1 vote, the Albuquerque City Council recently passed legislation to make the City’s public financing program workable again. Our thanks go to City Councilors Don Harris and Pat Davis* for reaching across the aisle to fix the current system, which was originally approved by about 69 percent of the voters in 2005.
In a room with about 100 people—a mix of students and older adults—Gary Johnson signs pocket constitutions, takes selfies with young people and literally kisses the cheek of at least one child. Johnson just finished an hour-long forum at the University of New Mexico hosted by the Young Americans for Liberty. Some of the older people in the crowd ask about his family and reminisce about his tenure as the governor of New Mexico in the mid to late 1990s. “There were no pizza parties,” one woman says, smugly referring to an event in Santa Fe involving beer bottles thrown off a hotel balcony and a possibly intoxicated Gov. Susana Martinez. This piece also appeared in the April 20 edition of the ABQ Free Press.
If approved into law, the latest push for creating independent ethics commission would be the culmination of a decade of efforts to combat corruption in New Mexico. But if history is any guide, the road to agreement could still be long and rocky. Update: Add this one to the list of failed attempts: The legislation died in the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday morning. This piece continues as originally written below. The impetus came in a mirror image to the current situation, just a decade earlier.
The issue of driver’s licenses and who in New Mexico should be able to have them is a long-running topic in the New Mexico Legislature. Indications say, an agreement should happen this year thanks to pressure from the federal government. However, it is only one such issue with a long and winding road towards passage. Many lawmakers in the Roundhouse agree that it is common for bills to see years of debates, years of committee assignments and years of failure before they make it to the fourth floor and the Governor can sign them into law. A number of current laws have spent years being fine-tuned and changed in order to gain more traction.
Dede Feldman is an author and former state senator. Is consistency the bane of small minds? Or is the lack thereof a sure sign of hypocrisy? It’s a question that came to mind as I recalled the many bills to enhance penalties for public officials introduced into the legislature in the later days of the Bill Richardson administration. Starting in 2009, in the wake of several investment scandals, Republican senators in particular introduced a number of bills to that effect, which most of us voted for.