Attorneys for Gov. Susana Martinez argued to the New Mexico Supreme Court that a legal challenge of her sweeping line-item budget vetoes should be dismissed. At a minimum, her lawyers argued last week, the case should be postponed until an upcoming special legislative session is complete. In response to a motion filed by the Legislative Council last month, Martinez’s lawyer Paul Kennedy argued that the governor did not exceed her power as governor when she vetoed the entire budgets for the Legislature and higher education. Kennedy, who has a high dollar contract with Martinez’s office, challenged the Legislature’s notion that the governor cannot legally veto two entire budgets. Related story: Gov’s office cites complex questions from reporters, busy schedule as defense in lawsuit
“The question presented is whether, during the bill-review period following a regular session of the Legislature, the Governor can veto items pertaining to the Legislature and state educational institutions in a general appropriations bill for the subsequent fiscal year without violating the principle of separation of powers,” Kennedy wrote.
Gov. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday her proposal to balance the state budget, which involves moving $268.5 million from various state agencies. “This is a responsible budget that reduces the size of government while at the same time protects the progress we’ve made in diversifying our economy, reforming our education system, and keeps our communities safe,” Martinez said in a press release. The proposal includes taking $120 million from public education in funds that Martinez’s press release referred to as “slush funds.”
Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, told NM Political Report that the proposal is a “starting point for negotiation purposes,” but that real discussions will happen in committee meetings once the legislative session begins next week. Smith, a fiscal conservative, also criticized Martinez’s proposed sweep from public schools. “I’m not as harsh on education as she is,” Smith said.
A candidate for the state House of Representatives will have to answer questions about one of her former employees who pleaded guilty to raping one child and molesting another, according to a ruling by a district judge. The ruling comes after Rebecca Dow, a Republican looking to win election to a House seat in Truth or Consequences, allegedly stonewalled the mother of one of the two child victims from seeking information about the employee who molested her child. That employee, Alejandro Hernandez, worked for the Sierra County chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. He is now serving a six-year prison sentence for harming both children. Dow is president and founder of Sierra County Boys and Girls Club as well as the president and CEO of AppleTree Educational Center in Truth or Consequences.
The owner of a controversial ranch for troubled youth filed this week to run for state representative in southern New Mexico. Scott Chandler, who runs Tierra Blanca Ranch in Hillsboro, is running as a Republican to replace retiring state Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming. Chandler’s name has come in the news often for the past few years, starting with an Amber alert New Mexico State Police made after raiding his ranch in 2013 after allegations of abuse and found nine missing teenagers. “You can look at that and see what came out of that,” Chandler told NM Political Report. “We had tons of scrutiny and were thrust under the spotlight and nothing came out of it.”
At the time, Chandler said the nine children were on a hike and soon delivered back to their parents.
New Mexico is the fourth worst state in America for violent crimes. Or maybe it’s the second. Both rankings were cited in testimony from Department of Public Safety Greg Fouratt in a Monday afternoon interim legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee hearing. The two numbers come from interpretations of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which measures eight different types of crimes in states on a yearly basis. The website 24/7 Wall St., for example, ranked New Mexico with the fourth-most violent crime per 100,000 based on 2012 data and second-most violent based on 2013 data.
There was more political finger pointing in Albuquerque on Thursday regarding recent shootings and killings in the city, giving a possible preview of the next legislative session. Both Democrats and Republicans held press conferences outlining their proposed solutions to increased crime in the city. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has previously said he would ask state lawmakers to revamp laws in order to better protect both citizens and law enforcement in Albuquerque. On Thursday afternoon Berry was joined by House Republicans as well as a group of police officers representing various parts of the state when he again announced that he would push for changes to the law. Berry said he promised citizens and officers he would “push hard for reform.”
About an hour later, Senate Democrats gathered across the street from the mayor’s office and said it is Berry himself that is making the issue political.
A current Santa Fe County Commissioner wants to go back to the Roundhouse. Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics announced today that she is running as a Democrat for the seat held until March by Phil Griego, another Democrat. Griego, who had held the seat for 18 years, resigned amid an ethics issue involving his vote for a bill that benefited his real estate client. Gov. Susana Martinez subsequently appointed Republican Ted Barela to fill the seat, which he currently holds. Stefanics held the same seat for one term in the mid-1990s.
Starting today, cops in New Mexico can no longer take personal property without convicting someone, child predators will face tougher penalties and frozen powdered alcohol products are now recognized as being under state liquor control. These are just a handful of the 62 laws passed earlier this year during the regular state legislative session. Seventy-nine other new laws went into effect last month, while others with the emergency clause went into effect even earlier. The new civil asset forfeiture law is perhaps the most impactful and passed both chambers of the Legislature with wide support, netting no votes against it from either the state House of Representatives or the state Senate. Before, law enforcement officers could arrest someone and seize a personal item, such as their car, without proof that this person committed a crime.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]DR. ANDRE HUFFMIRE is a family practice physician working in Albuquerque and Grants.[/box]
Imagine that you’ve scheduled an appointment with your doctor: you show up at the office, are ushered into the examining room, and wait to be seen. The door opens and, instead of your trusted family physician, in walks your state legislator. They tell you they are personally opposed to the procedure you are about to get and passed a law in the most recent legislative session banning it. Your doctor can now face a fine or lose their license if he or she provides you with the care you need. This may sound extreme, but when politicians pass laws to ban or restrict access to medical procedures like abortion, they are inserting themselves into a sacred relationship between patient and doctor and disregarding a woman’s ability to make important reproductive healthcare decisions.
After on-and-off negotiations since the end of the legislative session in March, state lawmakers recently came to an agreement with Gov. Susana Martinez on a capital outlay and tax package deal that will bring them back to Santa Fe for a special session next week. This, despite repeated statements from state Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, that a special session had to occur by May 18—more than two weeks ago. “We don’t think we can do that after the 18th,” Smith told New Mexico Political Report last month. From our May 14 report:
Smith said if legislators can’t strike a deal before a creeping deadline of Monday, May 18, all bets are pretty much off. That’s because New Mexico’s next fiscal year starts July 1, and bond sales for state infrastructure projects need 30 days to advertise before then.