Unexplained vetoes rile lawmakers

Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday vetoed six bills that cleared the Legislature with overwhelming support, rankling lawmakers who complained that she never explained any of her decisions. Martinez’s own tone was equally sharp when she called a Senate override of one of her vetoes a stunt, even though that challenge to her was initiated by a fellow Republican. But when it came to issuing veto messages, Martinez didn’t give legislators any idea of why she rejected bills ranging from an uncontroversial proposal that would have given local governments a new option to pay for expanding broadband networks to arcane changes in horse-racing regulations. Spokesmen for the governor did not respond Wednesday to repeated requests for comment. Related: Senate votes to override Martinez veto on teacher absences bill

The day before Martinez spiked the six bills, the Senate voted 34-7 across party lines to override her veto of a bill to let teachers use more sick days without being downgraded on their performance evaluation.

Gov. vetoes computer science bill

Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed two bills Tuesday that passed the Legislature with overwhelming support, including legislation that would have allowed high school students to count computer science classes toward math and science credits needed for graduation. The second vetoed bill would have made what appeared to be a minor change to state law dealing with tax increment development districts. Such districts are formed by local governments as a means to finance public infrastructure, like streets and utilities, for new development

Martinez did not provide explanation in her veto messages to legislators. The governor also signed two bills Tuesday. House Bill 230 allows horse-racing tracks that are combined with casinos, known as “racinos,” to change the number of days it hosts races each week.

House Dems propose tax, fee hikes to raise state revenues

With the state still running a deficit and reserves depleted, Democrats in the New Mexico House of Representatives have identified four tax or fee increases they say would prevent more cuts to education and put the state on better financial footing. The initiatives — taxing all internet sales, raising the permit fee on heavy trucks, closing a loophole that benefits nonprofit hospitals and increasing the tax on vehicle transfers — could raise more than $200 million in ongoing revenue. Some of it would go to avoid cuts in state agencies and some to beef up reserves. The move to bring together the House Democratic caucus came on the same day as state economists restated a revenue forecast from December that shows the economy has stabilized but reserves are far below the desired level of $300 million, or 5 percent of recurring revenue. The reserve account for the $5.6 billion budget at the end of the fiscal year on June 30 is projected at 1.6 percent.

After expanding Medicaid, New Mexico deals with uncertainty

Despite uncertainty about future federal Medicaid funds, more and more low-income New Mexicans are expected to receive health care under the government insurance program, Health and Human Services Cabinet Secretary Brent Earnest told state lawmakers Wednesday. By the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, Medicaid is expected to cover about 44 percent of the state’s population, or 922,000 residents, including 388,000 enrolled children. The program is now the second largest item in the state general fund after public education and will need some $940 million of state money in the next fiscal year to go along with the federal matching funds that pay most of the cost. Medicaid’s growth comes as New Mexico, which has high poverty rates, struggles to recover from an economic recession that continues to hamper government revenues. But Earnest said cost cutting such as reduced reimbursements to providers as well as taking a larger share of health-care money from county governments should sustain any cost increases in the coming year without bringing in revenue from other sources such as a tax on hospital services.

DOH skips discussion on medical pot program

The state Department of Health was in the hot seat at an interim legislative committee meeting—despite the fact no one from the department was actually in the room. The interim Disabilities Concerns Subcommittee met with a number of people involved with the state’s medical cannabis program. The topic of discussion was the renewal and issuance of patient cards. No representative from DOH showed up, even though the department oversees the program. The committee’s vice chair, Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, expressed her concern that DOH was unable to send anyone to speak about the delays many patients are seeing when applying for medical cannabis cards.

School clinics want answers after state pulls funding

Five health clinics located in public schools will see a complete stripping of their state funding, likely leading all five to shut down. The cuts, announced by the state Department of Health earlier this month, come as part of several money-tightening measures placed in the state budget this year amid declining oil and gas revenues. The budget, passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, cut $300,000 for school-based health clinics. Now critics are panning state health department officials for a lack of transparency in how they decided to issue all of the cuts to a handful of 53 such clinics across the state. “The criteria they used is still unknown to us,” state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said in an interview.

School health clinic cuts final; more may come

Among the many cuts in this year’s coming state budget signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Susana Martinez are $300,000 for school-based health clinics. As NM Political Report wrote earlier this week, the 53 health clinics in public schools across the state funded by the state Department of Health were facing the cuts in the upcoming budget, which Martinez signed into law on Tuesday. The clinics, which are located on school grounds, offer free health care on the spot for children and adolescents, who in New Mexico statistically tend not to receive care. As governor, Martinez has the authority to line-item veto items in the budget, including the $300,000 of cuts to school-based clinics. But when she signed the budget on Tuesday, she left in the cuts to clinics, which while comparatively small compared to other cuts in the budget are still enough to completely shut off state funding for six school-based health clinics.

Health clinics in schools on budget chopping block

Monique Vallabhan, a certified nurse practitioner, recalls recently treating a student with a headache referred to her by the school nurse at one of Albuquerque’s largest public schools. The student left class to get ibuprofen from the school nurse, which Vallabhan prompted her to conduct a brief checkup. It turns his headache came after his dad kicked him in the head. Vallabhan connected him with the school health clinic’s resources, which includes a psychiatrist and a behavioral health therapist. “If he just took ibuprofen, those kind of things would be missed,” Vallabhan, who coordinates a full health clinic in Albuquerque High School, told NM Political Report in a recent interview.

Campaign finance, capital outlay and more: Pre-filed legislation

On Jan. 19, legislators will gather in Santa Fe to launch the second session of the 52nd State Legislature. While the short session is primarily for budget issues, Gov. Susana Martinez will provide messages deeming other legislation germane to discussion this year. Already, some pieces of legislation have been introduced through pre-filing by legislators. We will be taking looks at pre-filed legislation up through the end of next week and highlight bills that could be a big part of the legislative session and others that just seem interesting.