Morning Word: State Dems want IRS to investigate NM Competes
And the rest of New Mexico's news...
December 11, 2013, 8:00 am
- The State Democratic Party wants the IRS to investigate New Mexico Competes, a non-profit that was airing ads in favor of Gov. Susana Martinez's policies.
Martinez’s political consultant, Jay McCleskey, said Tuesday that neither he, nor the governor nor her political committee had anything to do with forming New Mexico Competes and does not control its activities.
With recent court rulings it seems unlikely that the IRS will see any wrongdoing by New Mexico Competes. The ads don't directly advocate for votes for Martinez or against her opponents.
In a letter to the IRS on Tuesday, state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman claimed New Mexico Competes “is illegally coordinating with and attempting to conceal campaign contributions on behalf of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez with the intent of violating New Mexico law limiting campaign contributions to candidates.”
- The Santa Fe Ethics and Campaign Review Board will hear arguments in a complaint against mayoral candidate Patti Bushee next week.
In a nutshell, Nix's complaint says Bushee raised over the $100 seed money personal contribution limit required for public financing by paying Nix $1,750 in June. In a response asking the ECRB board to reject the complaint, Bushee's campaign wrote that the personal check paid to Nix was nothing more than a "stopgap measure" made before the campaign decided to seek out public financing.
"Ms. Nix demanded payment before the seed money account was founded and before the decision to use public financing," Bushee's response reads. "Under those unique circumstances, Candidate Bushee had no option but to advance those funds personally."
- Those in southeastern New Mexico, where the bulk of the oil and gas is drilled, think the money will instead go to northern and central New Mexico.
"I never think it's enough," said State Senator Carroll Leavell (R-Jal). "I think we pay more than our fare share of expenses that are incurred in state government."
Eddy and Lea counties produce more oil and natural gas than any other regions in New Mexico.
- The Democratic Governor's Association met in Washington, D.C. this week. Gary King and Alan Webber did not attend. NM Telegram attempted to reach the other three Democratic gubernatorial candidates but did not receive an answer Tuesday.
- Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., is blaming Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., for the Senate stripping a provision that would have allowed WIPP to get nuclear waste from additional sources. Pearce said in a statement that Udall told environmental activists in Santa Fe that he was opposed.
"Sen. Udall never told environmental activists that he was opposed to Rep. Pearce's amendment," said Jennifer Talhelm, communications director for Udall. "Sen. Udall believes Rep. Pearce's amendment was poorly drafted and would hurt New Mexico and New Mexico jobs.
Udall defeated Pearce easily in the 2008 race for Senate. Udall is up for reelection again in 2014.
"He was in the process of working to improve Rep. Pearce's amendment so we could expand WIPP's mission and preserve New Mexico jobs and protect the cleanup effort at Los Alamos."
- The head of the state higher education department says the lottery scholarship is a legislative issue.
However, several lawmakers took issue Tuesday with the Higher Education Department’s stance on the long-term solvency of the lottery scholarship, which is expected to be a hot-button issue during the 30-day legislative session that begins Jan. 21.
“You’ve given a band-aid solution for the (spring) semester,” but offered no future solvency plan, Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, told agency officials during Tuesday’s hearing at the state Capitol.
- The interim CEO of the New Mexico Lottery had some problems in his previous job at the state lottery in Arkansas.
Auditors later uncovered a host of financial troubles at the lottery, including inadequately documented and improper travel expenses by Barden and others, according to published reports.
Auditors also questioned whether Passailaigue and Barden took proper leave from work for frequent trips back to South Carolina, and the lottery made late payments of federal taxes on prizes, resulting in an IRS assessment for nearly $100,000 in penalties and interest.
- Former State Sen. Manny Aragon is paying off his restitution with his state pension.
Aragon gets $2,321 a month from the legislative pension, to which both he and taxpayers made contributions. His restitution payments are at least $1,000 a month.
There was an outstanding balance of at least $426,000 for restitution owed by Aragon and co-defendants as of June 2013, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office court filing.
- Conservation Voters New Mexico released their annual legislative scorecards.
- Embroiled in controversy over his handling of county investments, the Bernalillo County Treasurer says he has an exit plan. And financial experts say the plan is risky.
- Bad news on the job front:
According to the report, New Mexico’s economy continues to lag behind the national economy. Employment growth in the state is slow in the private sector and flat in the government sector. Beyond that, legislators were told to expect a slowdown in mining employment, which will further injure the state.
The forecast relies in part on an analysis provided by UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER).
- New Mexico may never regain all of its lost construction jobs.
The sector has added some jobs lately, but Celina Bussey, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, said the industry might never reach its prerecession employment levels.
“That industry has started adding a small number of jobs, but we watch and wonder if we will ever again reach those prerecession employment levels in that industry,” Bussey said in an interview with Albuquerque Business First.
- The exact employment numbers are in doubt because households and businesses are not returning surveys at the rate they once did.
Government researchers develop workforce and employment estimates from surveys of households and businesses, and some of those surveys “have been problematic in recent months,” Reynis said.
There are indications households are not responding to surveys as much as they once did, and the survey sample is “very tiny,” she said.
- New Mexico Mercury and La Jicarita are taking a look at the education reform movement. Tuesday they posted part one of a two-part series.
- Farms are no longer exempted from workers compensation laws, per a state Court of Appeals ruling from last month.
The Workers’ Compensation Administration isn’t planning to challenge the Court of Appeals decision, but spokesman Van Cravens said the agency is trying to sort out the effects of the ruling. He said there are questions of whether the Albuquerque judge’s ruling will be binding on other district courts across New Mexico.
“We are still in the process of trying to figure out how we are going to follow this ruling,” said Cravens.
- A date for the Smiley Gallegos trial is set.
Monday in Albuquerque, attorneys for Gallegos and co-defendants Robert Strumor and Dennis Kennedy and prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office were unable to reach an agreement, prompting Judge Ross C. Sanchez to say the the trial will start in May.
- The City of Albuquerque's website now features the amount paid in settlements to lawsuits.
- Bloomfield's city council delayed a vote on a possible annexation.
- Students and faculty from Oregon State University are using turbines at Mesalands Community College for research.
Oregon State University’s School of Mechanical Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering is conducting this research as part of a multi-sector grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study the impact of coastal wind energy development on bird and bat species, said Roberto Albertani, OSU associate professor.
Albertani said the research is part of a larger study of the possible risks to birds and bats from wind energy development, including reduction in habitat, disruption of migratory pathways, injury and death through collision, and injury and death from eddy currents in the wake of revolving wind turbine blades. Albertani said the Mesalands project is designed to generate data that can be used as a standard in future research.
- Emerge New Mexico, the group that tries to get Democratic women elected, was in Ruidoso for a training.