Interstate Stream Commission resignations expose conflict with state’s water boss

This week, three members of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) resigned, including Chairman Caleb Chandler, Jim Wilcox and longtime director, Jim Dunlap. In his resignation letter, Dunlap wrote that he was leaving the ISC with “great concern for lack of direction from the State Engineer and adherence to New Mexico State Statutes.”

Dunlap explained that decision to NM Political Report Thursday evening. “I felt like our state engineer was trying to take over and be totally in control of the ISC and wouldn’t let us do our job in the sense that the statutes call for,” Dunlap said. “He fires our director without any of us knowing why or anything—and she was working out quite well, I thought. But she didn’t take orders from him, and he didn’t like that, and he up and fired her.”

The commission consists of nine directors by the governor, including the director of the ISC and the state engineer, who serves as secretary.

State budget proposal passes House

The newly empowered Republican House majority approved a proposal for the upcoming fiscal year’s state budget, over protestations by Democrats who pushed two failed late-hour alternative proposals they said reflected their priorities. Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, sponsored the chamber’s ultimately successful budget bill, which totals more than $6.2 billion and includes an increase of $81.7 million over last year. Three hours of debate centered on divisive spending priorities, particularly the House Appropriations and Finance Committee’s apportioning of $36.5 million in new money for public schools. All but $8.3 million of those new funds would be directed toward program priorities of Gov. Susana Martinez and her Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, many of which have received criticism by teachers and some school district leaders. Larrañaga described his budget measure as “balanced” and “well thought-out,” with increases for road projects, child protective services and higher education endowments, plus $9.5 million more for college financial aid.

Meet the 2015 legislative leaders

The 2015 legislative session starts in less than one week and some lawmakers are settling into new leadership roles. Republicans hold a majority in the House for the first time in more than 60 years and that means new minority and majority leadership. In addition to the shakeup in the House, former Senate Minority Whip Tim Keller won the election for State Auditor and left his leadership role open. New Mexico Political Report reached out to leadership in both chambers over the last month to find out what they expected this session. *New Mexico Political Report was unable to reach some leaders for comment.