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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

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.

taberandrew via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Five of the six senators who opposed legislation to cap what lenders can charge borrowers on certain types of loans took thousands of dollars in campaign money from the industry in 2013 and 2014, state records show.

MyTudut via Flickr / Creative Commons License

KUNM Call In Show 2/19 8a: 

When the New Mexico legislature convenes in Santa Fe, lobbyists flock to the Roundhouse to pitch their clients' issues and legislation. Often those pitches involve free food, drinks and other gifts.

We'll look at the industries that spend the most money to convince lawmakers to support their ideas. We'll also ask how lobbyists affect which bills are passed and which measures stall.

We'd like to hear from you! Email callinshow@kunm.org, post your comments online or call in live during the show. 

Guests: 

frankieleon via Flickr / Creative Commons

Storefront lending companies and affiliated associations gave nearly $140,000 to New Mexico public officials and political action committees in 2013 and 2014, according to an analysis of data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office.

The bulk of that -- $115,805 -- went to dozens of elected officials, including Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas and more than half of the members of the New Mexico Legislature, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Waferboard via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The New Mexico Legislature’s social calendar this year is packed with breakfasts, dinners, receptions and more.

The wining and dining of state lawmakers by individual lobbyists and organizations that have legislation before decision makers is an annual tradition in Santa Fe.

John Hartman via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico state representatives voted Thursday to repeal a state law that allows people to get New Mexico driver’s licenses even if they’re in the country illegally.  Some observers see this as a political battle in which winning the war isn’t as important as fighting the battle.

Pointing to several examples of fraud, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez asked state lawmakers again this year to stop allowing immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to get driver’s licenses here.

Gwyneth Doland

They don’t have big expense accounts or cozy relationships with powerful lawmakers. They don’t even know where the bathroom is. They’re citizen lobbyists, and they got some training at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe Wednesday.

Members of 20 conservation groups converged on the state capitol and a few dozen of them attended a training session held by the Sierra Club.

They were teachers, writers and retired engineers, passionate about ending coyote-killing contests, cleaning up uranium mines and preventing the diversion of the Gila River.

Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Skeptical lawmakers rejected a proposal Monday that would have given the public more information about lobbying at the state Legislature.

The bill (HB 155) would have required lobbyists to divulge their salaries, file reports of their estimated and actual lobbying expenses, and list the issues—but not the exact bills—they are working on.

ANNAfoxlover via Wikimedia Commons / public domain

Gwyneth Doland chatted with Chris Boros about happenings at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe this week. It's part of our People, Power and Democracy project, a reporting partnership between KUNM, New Mexico In Depth and New Mexico PBS. 

Sandra Fish / New Mexico In Depth

Ski passes. Dinner parties. Meals during committee hearings. Basketball and football tickets.

Individual lobbyists spent more than $1.6 million on gifts, meals and entertainment for New Mexico’s elected officials and staff in the four years from 2011 through 2014. Most of that went to the lawmakers in the New Mexico Legislature, but other elected officials and staffers benefitted too.

Over the same period businesses and organizations spent more than $379,000 directly to fete elected officials with parties, golf passes and more.

ChrisGoldNY via Flickr

Despite the vocal support of a group of religious leaders, a legislative panel decided on a party-line vote Wednesday to set aside two proposals (HB 24 and HB36) that would have limited interest rates on short-term loans.

Daquella manera via Flickr

The average person who takes out a short-term loan borrows about $650 and pays about 340 percent interest.  But rates on payday, title and installment loans would be capped at 36 percent if reformers get their way during the 2015 legislative session.

There were 657 small loan companies in New Mexico in 2013, many charging more than 175 percent, according to a report from the state Regulation and Licensing Department.  

Tax Credits via Flickr

Creating jobs is one of lawmakers’ top priorities this legislative session and dozens of proposals have already been introduced. Many of them will require the state to spend some money, either by giving up tax revenue or by investing directly.

House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Wednesday that he wants to create a Small Business Development Fund that would partner with community banks to lend money to in-state firms.

Rrrodrigo via Flickr

In December the National Institute on Money in State Politics graded all 50 states on how much information they require independent groups to disclose about their donors. New Mexico got an F. In fact, we were one of only four states to score a zero.

Creative Commons

New Mexico’s 60-day legislative session kicked off this week. KUNM’s Gwyneth Doland checked in with New Mexico In Depth’s Sandra Fish on what she’s seen so far.

Doland for KUNM: So Fish, what did you think of your first week at the capitol?

Fish: Well, Gwyneth, I was focused on the House where Republicans took over for the first time in 60 years. And to my knowledge no one around the Roundhouse had anything to compare that to.

James Willamor via Flickr

Steak dinners at fancy restaurants, breakfast burritos brought to committee meetings, lift tickets at ski resorts. Every year lobbyists spend big bucks on entertaining, many with the hope that they will get some time to talk with lawmakers about the issues they’re working on.

It’s been five years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which lifted restrictions on expenditures and gave rise to groups known as Super Political Action Committees that have pumped millions of dollars of special interest money into the political system.

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