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People Power And Democracy

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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. 

 

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

New Mexico Legislature

A plan to give individual voters more influence in elections hit a roadblock on Friday but is expected to get a hearing this week. The proposal (HJR 1) introduced by Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, would amend the state constitution to create an independent citizen group that would be in charge of redistricting.

davecito via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Lawmakers in Santa Fe are nearing the halfway point of this 30-day session.  Gwyneth Doland of the People, Power and Democracy project spoke to KUNM's Chris Boros to discuss the status of a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent redistricting commission. 

dmuth via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico’s 30-day legislative session is nearly at the half-way point. It’s a budget session where lawmakers focus on funding state government. Javier Benavidez of the Southwest Organizing Project says they’d like to see lawmakers take a laser focus to issues of poverty, injustice and inequality this year.

Daniel Kulinki via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico lawmakers are readying their infrastructure wishlists for this year’s session. But some believe the capital outlay system – that funds our roads, water systems and university buildings - is completely broken. Fred Nathan of Think New Mexico says more transparency and a merit-based system would be the best solution.

tiff_ku1 via Flickr / Creative Commons License

It’s the second week of the 2016 state legislature and lawmakers are considering a range of measures to increase transparency and accountability in  government. Susan Boe of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government says, in a time of growing mistrust of public  officials, transparency is more important than ever.

Johnathan Rolande via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Storefront lenders scored a win in Santa Fe Tuesday when the House Business and Employment Committee unanimously sidelined an effort to cap interest rates on installment loans. 

Commentary: New Mexico Needs An Ethics Commission

Jan 26, 2016
Flood via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Political science research suggests there’s a link between how much you trust your government and whether you weigh in during elections.

Voter turnout in Albuquerque’s recent city council election was the lowest in decades, and UNM Political Science Professor Gabriel Sanchez says that’s just one example of a dangerously low level of civic engagement in New Mexico. Inspire greater confidence in public officials, he says, and more people will go out and vote. 

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@jbtaylor via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico’s independent voters could be allowed to participate in primary elections if a proposed constitutional amendment is successful.

ROBERT SMITH VIA FLICKR / CREATIVE COMMONS

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 1/21 8a: 

  

In her state of the state address Tuesday, Gov. Susana Martinez told lawmakers that public safety should be their top concern. But she also mentioned the need to reform an old and entrenched system of political pork that's interfering with our ability to build things New Mexicans say we badly need: new roads, bridges and water systems.

ANNAfoxlover via Wikimedia Commons / public domain

Gov. Susana Martinez opened a 30-day session of the state legislature Tuesday with a speech urging lawmakers to make public safety their top priority. But that wasn’t the only item on her agenda.

After a year marked by high-profile public corruption cases, the two-term Republican used part of her state of the state address to encourage government reform.

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 01/14 8a: 

The state Legislature is getting ready to meet this month in Santa Fe and lawmakers will be focused on putting together a budget. But many people are hoping lawmakers will also address recent high-profile corruption cases and pass tougher measures to keep government clean. 

How A Reform Bill Loses Its Teeth In 60 Days

Mar 25, 2015
Flood via Flickr / Creative Commons License

For 60 days, New Mexico’s lawmakers debated in legislative committees and in hallways of the Roundhouse whether or not to reveal to the public how lobbyists go about influencing legislators.

The answer came back “not” last week.

Waferboard via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Lobbyists and their employers reported spending nearly $300,000 during the 60-day session that ended Saturday – and that’s just the spending that totaled more than $500 at a time.

State law requires lobbyists to report any spending of $500 or more within 48-hours. All told, lobbyists and employers reported spending $295,300 during the session. This session, that included spending on meals, receptions, teddy bears and more.

More lobbyists will report individual expenditures under $500 at a time in reports to be filed May 1.

Legislature 2015: What Bills Passed?

Mar 23, 2015
Arianna Sena/KUNM

KUNM's Floyd Vasquez chatted with Gwyneth Doland about bills from the state legislature that passed this session as part of our People, Power and Democracy reporting project. Our partners are New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico PBS and the UNM Communication and Journalism Department. 

KUNM: The session ended at noon on Saturday. Now that it’s all over, tell us what happened?

Arianna Sena

KUNM's Chris Boros chatted with Gwyneth Doland about bills that did not pass at the state legislature this session. It's part of our People, Power and Democracy reporting project. Our partners are New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico PBS and the UNM Communication and Journalism Department. 

KUNM: We heard from you this morning about some of the bills that passed and are awaiting the governor's signature. But that was only a couple hundred bills. And there are many, many more that did not make it.

Arianna Sena

Lost in the drama of Saturday was the death of legislation that would have exposed so-called "dark money” groups to more public scrutiny.

The cause of death?

Late-session disagreements and wariness in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

starreyez024 via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The New Mexico state Legislature this week passed a $6.23 billion budget (HB 2) that increasing funding for education, job training and other programs. It also includes a tenfold increase in the Local Economic Development Act fund, one of the rare proposals this session that were supported by Democrats as well as Gov. Susana Martinez.

Legislature May Require Public Comment

Mar 16, 2015
opensourceway via Flickr / Creative Commons License

You may not want to listen to your nutty neighbor badger the city council about chemtrails or aliens, First Amendment advocates say allowing public comments—even wacky comments—is essential. A bill moving through the state Legislature would make it the law.

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Guy Bowers imagines his phone ringing off the hook if New Mexico were to return to the days of contributors giving unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.

Brak Perkins via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The cost of tuition at New Mexico public universities is rising and more students are taking advantage of the lottery scholarship, which pays almost full tuition for qualifying students—but fewer people are buying the scratch-off tickets that fuel the scholarship fund.

That’s one of the factors contributing to a slow-building crisis in scholarship funding.

nathangibbs via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Campaign cash may be as much at the heart of the the fight over union membership laws in New Mexico as the dispute over union dues, though no one will directly say so.

Labor unions spent nearly $2.8 million in the 2013-14 election cycle, virtually all of that going to Democratic political action committees and candidates, a New Mexico In Depth analysis shows.

The bulk of that money – more than $1.7 million – went to Patriot Majority New Mexico, a political action committee, or super PAC, supporting Democratic House candidates.

ANNAfoxlover via Wikimedia Commons / public domain

KUNM's Chris Boros chatted with Gwyneth Doland on recent news from the state legislature as part of our People, Power and Democrayc reporting project. Our partners are New Mexico In Depth and New Mexico PBS. 

KUNM:  Let’s start with the two bills that would restrict abortions. One would ban abortions later in pregnancy and another would require teens to notify their parents. The Catholic bishops are pushing this hard and so are groups that oppose abortions who tried for the ban in Albuquerque last year.

Arianna Sena

International students could get a big discount on eligible university tuition if an economic development idea succeeds in the state legislature.

The proposal (HB 481),  introduced by Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell,  would give in-state tuition to students from outside of New Mexico who come here to study science, engineering, technology and math.

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After stalling in committee last month, a bill requiring more transparency from lobbyists cruised through the state House Saturday after hitting only one last speed bump.

On Saturday, state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill on the floor and put some of those requirements back in.

But with just two weeks left in the session, supporters of more transparency for lobbyists say even a stripped-down bill is an important first step.

Arianna Sena

The state’s Whistleblower Protection Act went into effect in 2010 and since then the state has had to spend a lot more money dealing with lawsuits. A bill in the state legislature would address that by making it harder to make a whistleblower claim.

Under current law, public employees who face retaliation for exposing corruption can sue the state for double back pay. State Senator Joseph Cervantes sponsored the original measure.

ChrisGoldNY via Flickr

KUNM Call In Show 3/5 8a: 

Critics say short term loans trap New Mexicans in a cycle of poverty. Often borrowers end up paying more than the amount of the loan in interest. But lending industry supporters say people who take out storefront loans know exactly what they are getting into and that there aren't other easy ways to get small loans quickly.

State lawmakers in Santa Fe are considering changes to how the storefront loan industry is regulated. Should we let the free market work it out or do New Mexicans need protection from what some call predatory lending? 

kmillard92 via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Most New Mexicans think their state government is full of bad apples. The problem is, it’s really hard to tell which ones are good for us—and which ones are rotten.

According to a poll released Monday, three-quarters of New Mexico business leaders say they want the state to have an independent ethics commission. Two proposals moving through the state legislature would do just that.

Democratic Representative Brian Egolf says unlike many of our neighbors, we don’t have an organized way of investigating officials accused of corruption.

Arianna Sena/KUNM

Scanned copies of all state contracts should be available on the Sunshine Portal, say two lawmakers who are proposing an update to the state transparency website.

Posting original documents would give New Mexicans a bigger window into state contracts, something that’s important to business owners, says one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque.

593D ESC via Flickr / Creative Commons License

    

Whether they’re shopping for a refrigerator, a laptop or a used car, most people do some comparison shopping before making a big purchase.

But that’s not the way healthcare works in New Mexico, where comparing prices for a hip replacement or asthma treatment is practically impossible. 

Gwyneth Doland

New Mexico is one of only a handful of states that don’t restrict late-term abortions. But that could change if a bill moving through the state Legislature is successful.

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