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People Power And Democracy

The People, Power and Democracy project examines ethics, transparency and accountability in state government.

We are a collaborative, multi-media partnership between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, New Mexico In Depth and the New Mexico News Port. Stories from this project will also run in other media outlets across New Mexico.

 

Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

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The People, Power and Democracy project is funded by the Thornburg Foundation and by contributions from KUNM listeners. 

Ways to Connect

JHarrelson

Governor Susana Martinez gave her State of the State address Tuesday in Santa Fe. We'll have details during All Things Considered on KUNM. You can read her prepared remarks below. 

Thanks to New Mexico PBS for partnering with us on this coverage. Find analysis as it continues below, livestreaming from New Mexico PBS.

Arianna Sena

Gov. Susana Martinez stood before the state’s lawmakers to give her sixth State of the State address on Tuesday. She called for transparency and good government. 

Heath Haussamen / New Mexico In Depth

Gov. Susana Martinez delivered this year’s State of the State address on Tuesday, which also marked the start of the legislative session. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

KUNM Call in Show 1/12 8a: State lawmakers return to Santa Fe next week for a 60-day session during which they'll have to make some tough decisions about the budget, education, criminal justice, government accountability and more. 

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.

New Mexico’s unique way of paying for public infrastructure projects has been under fire lately. Critics say lawmakers often divert money as political pork, at the expense of statewide construction projects. 

Now some  government officials are taking steps to address the problem at the local level. 

Arianna Sena

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

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

https://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/460375914

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.

TaxRebate.org.uk via Flickr / Creative Commons License

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.

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.

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. 

Chris Goldberg via Flickr, Creative Commons

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

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. 

tomwsulcer / Creative Commons License

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.

Arianna Sena

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

revisorweb via Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons License

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.

Jen Gallardo via Flickr / Creative Commons License

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.

kenteegardin via Flickr / Creative Commons License

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.

Capital Outlay Reform Fails

Feb 13, 2016
Stephen Norman via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Lawmakers sidelined a proposal Friday to change the way New Mexico pays for public works projects.  

A broad coalition of business, labor and good government groups supported the proposal, which would have created a commission to evaluate and prioritize infrastructure projects.

Gwyneth Doland

The state auditor released a report Friday showing about $4 billion is sitting around across the state unspent—but it’s unclear whether that money could help with the current budget shortfall vexing lawmakers in Santa Fe.

401kcalculator.org via Flickr / Creative Commons License

People, Power and Democracy is a project focusing on state government ethics and transparency.  Gwyneth Doland spoke with KUNM's Chris Boros.

Bill Would Require Details From Lobbyists

Feb 12, 2016
Waferboard via Flickr / Creative Commons License

A recent poll found 89 percent of New Mexico business leaders want to know more about how lobbyists spend money to influence lawmakers.

A House committee is reviewing Democratic Rep. Jeff Steinborn’s bill that would require lobbyists to disclose exactly how much money they spend and which lawmakers are the recipients of that money. Currently, lobbyists are only required to disclose how much money they spent in all.

“Information is power,” Steinborn said. “It’s important for transparency so citizens can see who is being wined and dined, who is being given gifts.”

ANNAfoxlover via Wikimedia Commons / public domain

The state House voted Tuesday to create a statewide ethics commission. But will the proposal have time to get through the Senate? There are only eight days left in the session.

Flood via Flickr / Creative Commons License

We are more than halfway through the legislative session and the bills are starting to move more quickly on their way to the finish line next Thursday. Gwyneth Doland is covering state government for the People, Power and Democracy Project. She spoke with KUNM's Chris Boros.

revisorweb via Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons License

A new survey of New Mexico business leaders shows most think there is a real problem with money in politics in the state. And some business groups are getting serious about plans to clean up state government.

Commentary: When Will We Get An Ethics Commission?

Feb 5, 2016
JuditK via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico is one of only 8 states that doesn’t have an ethics commission and lawmakers are considering a proposal to create one during the legislative session this year.

Viki Harrison of Common Cause New Mexico wants to know how big the scandal has to be before our state has one here? She asks, "What are we waiting for?"

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You can read Harrison's full length op-ed published by New Mexico In Depth here

dan machoid via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Many people complain that big public works projects aren’t getting done in New Mexico because the system we use to fund them is dominated by politics. But that could change as two proposed reforms of the capital outlay system gain momentum this legislative session.

Julian Lim / Creative Commons via Flickr

 

There are less two weeks left in the 30-day legislative session. People, Power and Democracy's Gwyneth Doland has been up in Santa Fe covering state government. She spoke with KUNM's Chris Boros. 

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