KUNM

NM Lawmakers Boost Spending, NM Gov Praises Budget

Feb 15, 2018

New Mexico Lawmakers Boost Spending, Wrestle With CrimeThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Legislature is wrapping up a 30-day session after approving a $6.3 billion budget bill that shores up spending on the criminal justice system and public education with pay raises allotted to teachers and state workers.

The Democrat-led legislature has until noon on Thursday to approve legislation.

New Mexico's rising crime rate has been a dominant concern of the legislative session.

Lawmakers approved an 8.5 percent pay raise for state police, prison guards and parole officers and are rallying behind an unconventional reform package that decriminalizes littering to focus on severe crime.

Lawmakers are boosting annual funding to early childhood education and public schools, but won't tap into a state sovereign wealth fund.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is generally supportive of the legislatures spending priorities.

The Latest: New Mexico Governor Praises Lawmakers' BudgetThe Associated Press

Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is complimenting state lawmakers for approving a fiscally responsible budget that provides more money for education, public safety and business incentives.

Martinez said Thursday that she believes her administration is leaving state finances and the economy in better shape than when she took office in 2011.

A budget bill sent to the governor would increase state spending by 4 percent in the coming fiscal year and leave 10 percent spending reserves in case of an economic downturn.

The former prosecutor praised criminal justice reforms approved by the Democrat-led legislature but lamented that it did not include broader child abuse penalties that she supports.

Martinez signed a bill Thursday to help shore up a man-made cavern on the verge of collapse underneath two highways on the outskirts of Carlsbad.

Lawsuits Against EPA Contractor Move AheadThe Associated Press

Legal challenges against a federal contractor involved in a mine waste spill that polluted rivers in three Western states are being allowed to move forward.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday that a federal judge is allowing the state's lawsuit and a similar claim brought by the Navajo Nation against contractor Environmental Restoration LLC to proceed.

State officials say they're looking forward to working with the tribe to recoup damages done to the environment, the economy and cultural sites.

Lawsuits also are pending against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado.

An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently triggered the spill while excavating at the mine's entrance. The spill tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with heavy metals.

New Mexico To Study Possibility Of Safe Injection SitesThe Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers have approved a measure that clears the way for the study of safe havens where people can inject drugs as states look for other ways to combat opioid overdoses.

The proposal calls for a legislative committee to take testimony on the possible creation of clinics where people could shoot up under the supervision of medical professionals who could administer an overdose antidote if necessary.

Injection sites are operating in Canada, Australia and around Europe. Philadelphia and Seattle also have plans for such sites.

Rep. Deborah Armstrong says New Mexico could serve as a model if a state program were to be developed. The Albuquerque Democrat says she's looking forward to learning more about the effort given the effects of the opioid crisis on communities around the state.

New Mexico Lawmakers Boost Spending, Wrestle With CrimeAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature is wrapping up a 30-day session after approving a $6.3 billion budget bill that shores up spending on the criminal justice system and public education with pay raises allotted to teachers and state workers.

The legislature, which is led by Democrats, has until noon on Thursday to approve legislation.

New Mexico's rising crime rate has been a dominant concern of the legislative session.

Lawmakers approved an 8.5 percent pay raise for state police, prison guards and parole officers and are rallying behind an unconventional reform package that decriminalizes littering to focus on severe crime.

Lawmakers are boosting annual funding to early childhood education and public schools, but won't tap into a state sovereign wealth fund.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is generally supportive of the legislature's spending priorities.

New Mexico Generally Pleased With Budget BillAssociated Press

A spokeswoman for Gov. Susana Martinez says she is generally pleased by a budget bill from the Legislature and how it prioritizes public safety and economic development.

Martinez spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell said in an email that the governor and her staff will review the $6.3 billion budget plan from lawmakers line by line and are skeptical of some wasteful projects, without specifying which ones.

Cantrell says the governor won't hesitate to use her line-item veto authority. She said any bills involving tax increases are dead on arrival at her office.

Approved by lawmakers on Wednesday, the budget bill would increase state general fund spending by 4 percent and includes base pay increases for public school teachers and all state workers.

New Mexico House Passes Bi-Partisan Crime BillsAssociated Press

A package of public safety bills has won approval in the New Mexico House and now heads to the governor's desk.

The bills were both praised Wednesday as a model for crafting bi-partisan criminal justice legislation and criticized for not going far enough in tackling the state's crime problem.

Rising crime rates in New Mexico, and especially in Albuquerque, have put public safety at the center of legislative debates this year. The wide-ranging omnibus legislation approved in the Senate and House on Wednesday has gotten the most attention among proposed crime bills.

The Legislature adjourns Thursday.

The omnibus legislation addresses multiple levels of the state's criminal justice system, starting with an attempt to bolster police ranks by providing retention bonuses to veteran police officers.

New Mexico To Study Possibility Of Safe Injection SitesAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers have approved a measure that clears the way for the study of safe havens where people can inject drugs as states look for other ways to combat opioid overdoses.

The proposal calls for a legislative committee to take testimony on the possible creation of clinics where people could shoot up under the supervision of medical professionals who could administer an overdose antidote if necessary.

Injection sites are operating in Canada, Australia and around Europe. Philadelphia and Seattle also have plans for such sites.

Rep. Deborah Armstrong says New Mexico could serve as a model if a state program were to be developed. The Albuquerque Democrat says she's looking forward to learning more about the effort given the effects of the opioid crisis on communities around the state.

Advocate Says Racism Killed New Mexico Early Childhood Ed Bill - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

The head of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops says he believes racism helped kill a proposal to expand early childhood education in the state.

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the group, said Wednesday that mainly wealthy whites opposed the plan that would have helped the state's poor Hispanic and Native American children.

The constitutional amendment to increase annual distributions from the $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education programs would have gone to the voters in November. But the proposal died in the Senate Finance Committee after panel chair, Sen. John Arthur Smith, declined to give it a hearing.

Sanchez says the all-white Senate Democratic leadership could have brought the proposal to the whole Senate floor for a vote.

Romero Steps Down As University Of New Mexico RegentAssociated Press

University of New Mexico Regent Alex Romero has stepped down after publicly voicing concerns about communication problems on the board.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez had appointed Romero to the board of regents at New Mexico's flagship university last spring. It was announced on the Senate floor Wednesday that her office was removing his name from the list of appointees awaiting confirmation hearings.

Romero told the Albuquerque Journal that he tried to work with regent leadership but was unsuccessful. He said it was time to move on.

He also encouraged the regents to gather to discuss priorities and how the board can support incoming President Garnett Stokes, who starts March 1.

Romero last year retired as president and chief executive of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

Group Sues DOH, Claims Neglect Of Boarding House Oversight Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A nonprofit group is suing the New Mexico Department of Health for failure to enforce rules and regulations pertaining to the oversight of boarding homes.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Disability Rights of New Mexico, a group that advocates for the rights of people with mental illness, claims the department is neglecting its responsibilities, which "poses a dire public health and safety risk to some of the state's most vulnerable populations."

The group is asking a judge to issue an order requiring the department to begin enforcing provisions of the state Public Health Act on boarding homes or show cause why not.

Disability Rights visited multiple boarding homes in Las Vegas and Albuquerque and found "a multitude of egregious residential conditions.'

A health department spokesman would not comment on the lawsuit.

New Mexico House OKs Guardianship ReformsAssociated Press

The New Mexico House has approved a bill aimed at overhauling New Mexico's guardianship laws.

House members voted late Wednesday for reforms designed to increase state oversight and public access to information regarding professional guardians and conservators who manage finances and care for vulnerable elderly and disabled people. The amended bill now moves back to the Senate.

The measure includes more stringent reporting and financial accountability measures. It also requires that conservators be bonded or secure other asset-protection.

Those placed under guardianship or conservatorships are typically elderly, those with dementia or Alzheimer's or others who need help with their decision-making or finances.

Currently, guardians and conservators proceedings are secret and families have complained about being barred from visiting or communicating with their loved ones once a professional guardian is appointed.

Key New Mexico Lawmaker Calls For NMSU Regents To Resign - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A top leader in the New Mexico Legislature is asking for New Mexico State University's regents to resign following a recent vote to limit the administrative powers of the school's outgoing chancellor.

Democratic Senate President Mary Kay Papen drafted a letter calling out the regents and asked her colleagues to sign it Wednesday.

Fellow lawmakers voiced their concerns about the politicization of regent appointments over the years. Regents are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The developments come after lawmakers last week failed to move forward with a proposal to overhaul the selection process for regents who oversee the state's public universities and flagship medical center.

Supporters of the effort have argued that the nominating system has long emphasized loyalty to the governor over experience in higher education and accountability to local communities.

Lawsuits Against EPA Contractor Move AheadAssociated Press

Legal challenges against a federal contractor involved in a mine waste spill that polluted rivers in three Western states are being allowed to move forward.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday that a federal judge is allowing the state's lawsuit and a similar claim brought by the Navajo Nation against contractor Environmental Restoration LLC to proceed.

State officials say they're looking forward to working with the tribe to recoup damages done to the environment, the economy and cultural sites.

Lawsuits also are pending against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado.

An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently triggered the spill while excavating at the mine's entrance. The spill tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with heavy metals.

New Mexico House OKs Income Tax Credit For Rooftop SolarAssociated Press

The New Mexico House has approved a tax credit that would offset costs of solar energy systems for households, small businesses and farms.

The House voted 40-26 on Wednesday for a bill that offsets income taxes to reward investments in small-scale rooftop solar investments.

The proposal now heads to the GOP Gov. Susana Martinez, who has indicated she is unlikely to support stand-alone tax measures.

Bill sponsor and Democratic state Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque says the bill reinstates tax credits that expired in 2016 and cap annual credits at $5 million. The new credit would gradually decline from 10 percent of costs to 6 percent over a 15-year period.

Rep. Jimmie Hall, an Albuquerque Republican, says it was a rich man's tax credit.

Tags: