David Silver thinks about the bad things: floods, fires, nuclear meltdowns, zombie apocalypses. As the city of Santa Fe’s emergency management director, it’s his job and, though that last one might sound goofy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a few years ago created a graphic novel about a zombie pandemic moving across the country. Silver chuckles at the campaign. It was a great way to get people thinking about emergency preparedness, he says. Whether preparing for roving bands of the recently reanimated or a natural or human-caused disaster, the steps are the same: have a communication plan, keep an emergency pack on hand and know who to trust.
State Auditor Tim Keller wants answers from the state Department of Health for delays in the processing of cards for medical cannabis program patients. In a letter to DOH Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher sent yesterday, Keller writes that that his office will audit the department’s compliance with the legally-required 30-day waiting period for processing applications of new and returning medical cannabis patients. Patients are required to renew their cards every year. As NM Political Report and other news outlets have recently reported, thousands of patients are waiting as much as two or three times the required time period to receive their card, despite a state statute requiring the department to process applications in no longer than 30 days. Patients waiting in the limbo period aren’t legally allowed to buy cannabis, even if they were members of the program and have been prescribed cannabis by their doctors.
At least three top-level state Public Education Department staffers recently resigned, among them a deputy cabinet secretary, NM Political Report has learned. They are Deputy Secretary for Policy and Program Leighann Lenti, Chief Information Officer Michael Archibeque and National Assessment of Educational Progress and Internal Assessments State Coordinator Stephanie Gardner. Lenti is one of two deputies under Secretary Hanna Skandera, pulling in a $105,000 per year according to the state’s Sunshine Portal. The department’s other deputy cabinet secretary is Hipolito “Paul” Aguilar, who had been rumored to resign but told NM Political Report in February that he wasn’t doing so. Archibeque, who handled the department’s IT division, earned close to $96,000 for his salary.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]THE ASSOCIATION OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY (ACI) is New Mexico’s statewide chamber of commerce and business advocate, representing hundreds of employers and thousands of employees statewide.[/box]
Last Thursday, Senate Bill 537, the transparency bill which the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry helped to draft, passed the Senate on a unanimous 39-0 bipartisan vote. But with less than a week remaining in the 2015 legislative session, this broadly supported bill has yet to be heard in its first House committee. SB 537 is a transparency measure to enhance the state Sunshine Portal by requiring that additional information on state contracts be available publicly through the portal. ACI President and CEO Dr. Beverlee McClure said last week’s vote is a testimony to the broad appeal of the proposal, and urged the House to take action on the bill. “Not a single vote has been cast against SB 537 from either party,” McClure explained. “With limited funds and only days remaining in the 2015 session, this is a prime example of something positive that we can still get done. SB 537 will increase transparency and create opportunities for New Mexicans.” SB 537 has been assigned to two House Committees: the House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee. The bill, which is sponsored by Republican Senator Sander Rue and Democratic Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard, represents a rare opportunity for agreement as this legislature draws to a close. In 2014, ACI member businesses expressed concerns that New Mexico companies were not being given a fair chance to compete for state contracts. Through a series of public inquiries in 2014, ACI discovered that it is extremely difficult or impossible to access information on factors used in awarding state contracts, or even the percentage of state dollars spent with New Mexico businesses versus out-of-state companies. Research has shown substantial economic benefits to in-state procurement, as up to 60% of money spent in-state is reinvested in the local economy, benefiting other local businesses and spurring local job creation.