KUNM

2016 Legislature

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For a decade, local nurses lightened the load on the state’s emergency rooms by answering health questions via phone 24/7. But due to a lack of funding, the hotline will go dark on Dec. 31.

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Lawmakers wrapped up a special session this week and passed measures to address a budget deficit of about $600 million. KUNM’s Elaine Baumgartel got some of the details from Matt Reichbach, editor of NMPoliticalReport.com

Priorities For The Special Session

Sep 26, 2016
Gwyneth Doland

KUNM Call In Show 9/29/ 8a: Governor Susana Martinez expected to soon call lawmakers back to Santa Fe for a special session. They must deal with a budget deficit from the last fiscal year and a projected drop in revenue for the current fiscal year. But the governor also wants them to consider her proposal to bring back the death penalty in some cases. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009.

Dystopos

Five health clinics housed in public schools are set to lose their state funding this summer. Now the state health department is trying to decide where they’ll send students who use the school-based health centers.

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A new state law that governs ride-booking companies like Uber goes into effect next month. But before it becomes official, state regulators have to write the regulations.

Ethics Enforcement Gap Remains Unaddressed

Mar 9, 2016
Arianna Sena/KUNM

Polls show New Mexicans believe their government is corrupt. State lawmakers say that while there may be a few bad apples, the system we have is working.

But the facts show just the opposite: New Mexico has the widest gap in the country between the laws on the books and the way those laws are actually enforced, according to a 2015 report from the Center for Public Integrity.

Arianna Sena/KUNM

During the 2016 legislative session, the People, Power and Democracy project tracked efforts to address ethics, accountability and money in politics. This year lawmakers met for only 30 days and were charged first and foremost with preparing a state budget. Most of the bills we followed failed, but many sponsors and advocacy groups pledged to return again in the longer 2017 session and try a gain. Here’s a summary of the proposals we watched most closely.

What Passed

House webcasts to be archived

Bid To Raise Gas Tax Stalls Over Politics

Mar 4, 2016
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Over the past few years New Mexico has used short-term solutions to balance the budget without raising taxes. But if oil and gas prices stay low, it will become more and more of a challenge to find the money the state needs to pay the bills.

Raising at least some taxes might not be politically popular, but Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, argues it’s the fiscally conservative thing to do. And he wants to start with the gas tax.

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New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas on Monday brought felony charges against a former state senator accused of using his office to make money on a land deal.

Governor Signs Campaign Finance Open Data Bill

Feb 29, 2016
Zack McCarthy via CC

In front of a group of commercial real estate developers, Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill she said will make the campaign finance system more accurate and transparent, and make it easier for the public to access the information.

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Budget woes at the New Mexico Department of Health are forcing a public health office in Albuquerque to close. 

The Alamosa Public Health clinic in southwest Albuquerque provides immunizations, STD screening, family planning and other services. Clients seeking help there are often low-income or uninsured.

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New Mexico has one of the highest overdose death rates in the country, and recent spikes in the state’s numbers have been linked to the abuse of prescription opiates. But a drug that reverses overdoses is about to become more widely available.

Wrap Up: Public Health In 2016 Legislature

Feb 22, 2016
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Study Low-Cost Loans To State Employees — PASSED

Zack McCarthy via CC

Behavioral health funding in New Mexico took about a $4 million hit at the end of last week’s legislative session. But the Human Services Department may have asked for even less money than that.

Did Lawmakers Act To Improve Public Trust?

Feb 22, 2016
Gwyneth Doland

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 2/25 8a:  

State legislators passed a budget, created a REAL-ID driver's license fix, cracked down on DWI and child porn and advanced bail reform. But did they do anything to reverse the tide of indicators that New Mexicans have lost faith in state government? We look at what lawmakers did, or didn't do, to restore the public trust. 

2016 Legislative Session Wraps Up

Feb 19, 2016
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The NM Legislature wrapped up another session. KUNM's Chris Boros speaks with Gwyneth Doland about what happened and what didn’t happen.

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Lawmakers voted Wednesday to study a plan that would make small dollar loans available to state employees. At 26 percent interest, the loans would offer options for low income borrowers who have traditionally turned to high interest storefront loans.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

The legislative session ended at noon on Thursday, Feb. 18, and even though funding was scarce, lawmakers found money to process sexual assault evidence that’s been piling up around the state. 

Why No Ethics Commission This Year?

Feb 18, 2016
Arianna Sena

Lawmakers are wrapping up a 30-day session in Santa Fe Thursday. They’ve hammered out a budget, moved forward on some crime-fighting bills and spent time debating anti-corruption proposals. 

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In the final hours of the 2016 session, lawmakers are scrambling to push legislation through and finish the budget. Several measures would address the almost 5,500 untested rape kits in the state, including one that creates a task force to help survivors and ensure their rights.

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A bill to toughen curfew rules for kids in New Mexico failed in the legislature Tuesday night. 

House Bill 29 would have let local governments set their own curfews for minors. It made it through the House of Representatives, but got derailed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week when it failed on a 6-4 vote.

Candidates Could Face Tighter Spending Rules

Feb 17, 2016
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A state House panel on Tuesday approved a bill that would give political candidates and elected officials clearer guidelines on how they can spend money from their campaign accounts. It's been an embarrassing problem for the state.

Lobbyist Reform Proposal Fails

Feb 17, 2016
Marissa Higdon

A senate committee killed a proposal Tuesday that would have required lobbyists to disclose more about how they influence lawmakers in Santa Fe.

No Ethics Commission This Year

Feb 17, 2016
Arianna Sena/KUNM

The state Senate halted an attempt to create an ethics commission on Tuesday that would have overseen the legislative and executive branches.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

More than 20 organizations joined together Tuesday to call on lawmakers not to cut funding for behavioral health services. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

In the final days of the 2016 session, lawmakers are trying to figure out how to deal with a tight budget caused by plummeting oil and gas prices. 

Campaign Finance Reform Proposals Advance

Feb 16, 2016
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The People, Power and Democracy project is focusing on state government ethics and transparency in the 2016 legislative session. Correspondent Gwyneth Doland spoke with KUNM's Chris Boros.

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UPDATED 2/16 7a:

Several groups that were in favor of a bail reform measure are yanking their support after a House committee amended it Monday, Feb. 15. 

State House Votes for More Lobbying Disclosure

Feb 15, 2016
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The state House voted Saturday to peel back the curtain a little on lobbying in Santa Fe, but it was a small step toward revealing how money flows through the halls of the Roundhouse.

Ask 'Does It Work?' To Make Better Budget

Feb 15, 2016
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The state Senate has passed a proposal that would ask parts of state government to start doing more research on which of their programs delivers the best return on investment.

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