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'Different Conversation'

Sen. Peter Wirth addresses constituents after Republicans take over New Mexico House of Representatives

Local NewsSunday, November 23, 2014 by Justin Horwath
State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, told constituents gathered at Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse on a gray Sunday morning that before the election, he thought he'd be having a "different conversation" with them about the upcoming 60-day legislative session that starts in January.

But that was before Republicans took control of the New Mexico Legislature's lower chamber for the first time in more than 60 years.

With a 37-33 advantage in the House for at least two years and another 4 years in the governorship, the GOP now has more power to implement the party's legislative agenda than it has in decades.

The state Senate, where Democrats hold a 25-17 advantage, will see "a whole string of bills" previously stopped in the House when Democrats held the majority there now "screaming into the Senate," Wirth said.

Democratic senators, Wirth said, must focus on "core Democratic issues" and by setting their own agenda and "can't just sit here and play defense" against the House Republican agenda. He wondered "what kind of tone" the opposing party in the lower chamber will set. House Republicans, for instance, could finally clear a so-called parental notification bill that would require minors to notify parents they're getting an abortion, he said.

While Democrats control the Senate, majority lawmakers in that chamber often undergo ideological divides on core liberal issues, with rural Democrats exhibiting streaks of independence from urban colleagues and the state Democratic Party.

House Democrats "have a whole set of rules" that will protect the minority party, he said, recalling the days when former state Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, "a master at using the rules to assist the [Republican] agenda," would stall Democrats' agenda with filibusters by describing Roswell public works projects in "in detail" as Democratic lawmakers sat like "stool pigeons as we're watching Republicans run the show."

"I thought for a minute and I said, 'No, the Republicans are doing exactly what they were elected to do,'" Wirth said he responded to a question from a caller to a radio show denouncing Republican filibusters.

He also praised the House Democrats selection of Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, as the minority whip.

Wirth said Democrats and Republicans could find common ground on fixing a "completely broken" and "regressive" tax code.

In response to SFR's question about whether lawmakers would try to pass legislation that would force online retailers like Amazon that sell products to New Mexicans but don't have to pay gross receipts taxes on those sales because they're not located in the state, Wirth responded that's another "basic fairness issues" and that the state could "bring in a chunk of revenue" by taxing those entities. "Is she willing to engage in tax reform for the state of New Mexico?" Wirth asked of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

For the past two years, Wirth's legislation that would require outside groups making independent expenditures in elections to disclosure donors supporting those expenditures has passed in the Senate but died in the House, "right toward the end of the session," he said. Nonprofits on both sides of  the political spectrum, like labor and anti-abortion groups, have opposed the bill. It might get further this year, he said, noting that Rep. Jim Smith, R-Albuquerque, will co-sponsor the bill on the House side and naming Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, as another Republican ally in the House in his fight to pass the legislation. He encouraged the audience to personally interact with lawmakers instead of "through the mailer that comes every other day" during campaigns.

The bill would also etch a definition of illegal coordination between outside spending groups and campaigns, which is already prohibited on the federal level but is not enforced by Republican Secretary of State Diana Duran, who has cited a lack of a state definition in the law of coordination.

Journey Santa Fe organized the conversation with Wirth, who responded to audience questions.

A board member of New Mexicans for Gun Safety in the audience told Wirth that citizens have feared to testify on issues because citizens are able to open carry firearms in the Roundhouse. Wirth responded that last year he unsuccessfully attempted to amend Senate rules to restrict the ability of people to bring weapons into Senate committees.

Wirth, a state lawmaker for ten years, chairs the Senate Conservation Committee.

In response to questions about water issues, With says that while up to 77 percent of water in the state is used for agriculture, he doesn't view conservation as a rural versus urban issue. He questioned the project that would divert water from the Gila River and praised Gov. Martinez for signing his legislation that limits a subdivision's ability to use domestic wells, despite objections from oil interests.

Audience members cheered at a question about how the Democratic Party can better represent interests of its constituents.

Wirth responded that "what seems to have been lost are Democratic senior statesmen" and called the selection process of candidates during the primary elections "broken."

"I hope we can send a signal that the Democratic Party is not dead," he said

Rick May Headed Back To DC

The former New Mexico cabinet secretary will be staff director for the US House Budget Committee

Local NewsFriday, November 21, 2014 by Joey Peters

Rick May, the former New Mexico cabinet secretary who had a public falling out with Gov. Susana Martinez, is headed back to Washington DC to work on the federal budget.

May will serve as staff director of the US House Budget Committee, which he directed in the '90s under a similar Republican-controlled Congress. The incoming committee chairman is Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, who will replace Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. 

The new position is a political turnaround for May, went through several tumultuous periods during his brief career with the Martinez administration. 

Soon after her 2010 election to the governor's office, Martinez named May to head the state Department of Finance and Administration, where he worked to balance a $450 million shortfall. After the 2011 state Legislative session, May started clashing with the new administration, maintaining that Martinez' staff shut him out of key budget meetings for not toeing their line.

May was eventually side-shifted to a job as CEO of the New Mexico Finance Authority, a quasi-governmental agency that provides local infrastructure with cheap loans. Shortly before heading NMFA, May came across a memo written by the Martinez administration outlining a plan to substantially downsize the agency. The point of the proposed downsize, May argued, was to outsource NMFA's work to private industry.

"They want the Finance Authority to be this sleepy little entity that only gives small loans to small communities, and…that these local communities should go through these private entities and pay higher interest rates,” May told SFR last year. “These other private entities are going to charge a lot higher fees than the Finance Authority ever did. They view the Finance Authority, I guess, as unfair competition.”

The Martinez administration downplayed the memo as "a sheet of notes" that only represented informal ideas. May disagreed and alleged that the administration was attempting to "dismantle and destroy" the agency. 

Soon, a scandal hit NMFA when it was revealed that May's comptroller, Greg Campbell, forged an internal audit of the agency. May's team at NMFA hired an independent investigator look into the matter. He also claimed that Campbell lied to him and NMFA staff on several occasions about the audit. None of this was enough to save his job. In August 2012, the board overseeing NMFA fired May. 

Last year, May filed a lawsuit against Martinez, alleging that her administration was withholding emails related to the board's decision to fire him (for the full story on all of this, click here and here). A separate lawsuit filed by May against Clifton Gunderson, the auditing firm hired to do NMFA's audit that May claimed also dropped the ball on the matter, was settled out of court earlier this year.

Earlier this year, May left New Mexico for a job in Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich's administration as executive director of the Ohio Broadcast Educational Media Commission. His new job in Washington DC is much higher profile and identical to the role he held in the '90s.

"It is truly an honor to be named to this important position and I look forward to working with Chairman Price and the members of the House Budget Committee in balancing the federal budget," May said in a statement. "This committee plays a key role in how Congress addresses the nation’s most pressing budget and economic issues and my previous experiences will hopefully assist the Chairman and the Committee in meeting their responsibilities to the American people." 

His lawsuit against Martinez is still pending. 

State Gets Green Light for Gila Decision

Judge says petitioner in open meetings case has to pay $62 million bond to keep restraining order in place

Local NewsFriday, November 21, 2014 by Laura Paskus

A District Court judge in Santa Fe has lifted a temporary restraining order against the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. The move allows the commission to move ahead with plans to notify the US Department of the Interior that New Mexico plans to build a diversion on the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico.

Although the commission has until the end of December to officially make that decision, it’s a likely move, given that at a public meeting in Silver City last week, state staff recommended commissioners choose that course of action.

Earlier this month, District Court Judge Raymond Ortiz told lawyers for the commission that it may hold meetings that comply with public-access laws and can discuss the Gila, but can't make any decisions about potential projects. The ruling continued a temporary restraining order he put in place after a former director of the commission, Norman Gaume, sued the state for alleged violations of the New Mexico Open Meetings Act.

Ortiz recused himself from the case on Nov. 13—for reasons that have not been made public—and the case was assigned to Judge Francis Mathew, who was appointed to the bench in January 2013 by Gov. Susana Martinez.

During the hearing’s proceedings, attorneys for the Interstate Stream Commission argued that if the restraining order stayed in place, the state would be damaged to the tune of  $62 million. According to Guame, the judge asked how much money he could put toward those losses.

When Guame's attorney said he could pay only about $500 toward the required bond, the judge found the offer insufficient and he lifted the temporary restraining order. A new trial is set for April 6, 2015.

“This is a setback, and it’s certainly not what I had hoped,” says Gaume. “But I’m not going to go away. And more important than that, the facts aren’t going to go away, the opposition isn’t going to go away, the ISC is not going to succeed—and they’re going to waste a lot of money before they inevitably fail.”

Representing the Gila-San Francisco Water Commission, three New Mexico counties, the Village of Columbus and the City of Deming, Pete Domenici, Jr. also spoke at the Thursday hearing, pointing out that the opportunity for southwestern New Mexico to glean water from the Gila River has been building for decades—and that the temporary restraining order deprived them of their rights to the water.

“A restraining order—which would be issued without any hearing, or the opportunity for anyone to present evidence—and to have an effect on something this far-reaching,” Domenici told SFR, “the court should not allow it to continue to hold up the process.”

In mid-November, the nonprofit Gila Conservation Commission had filed an Open Meetings Act violation against the Gila-San Francisco Water Commission with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General. In regularly-held a meeting a few days later, on Nov. 18, commissioners officially voted on actions already taken, including to intervene in Gaume’s lawsuit against the state.

By the end of 2014, the commission must decide the state’s role in the Arizona Water Rights Settlement, a federal deal that created a mechanism for potential conservation or diversion projects in southwestern New Mexico. In 2004, the feds set aside $66 million, pledging another $34 to $62 million if the state decided on a diversion project by the end of 2014.

Middle Ground

For some, president's immigration changes are good; for others, not good enough

Local NewsFriday, November 21, 2014 by Peter St. Cyr

For immigrants like Cinthya Chavez and Ivan Jimenez, who live and work in Santa Fe, President Barack Obama’s executive decision to protect millions of people from deportation couldn’t have come fast enough.
 
It’s the community’s biggest win since President Ronald Reagan provided relief in the mid-'80s.
 
The White House, under pressure from immigrants to take action to fix the nation’s broken immigration system after a bi-partisan Senate bill stalled out in the Republican controlled US House of Representative, says the president’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will help secure the border, hold nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants accountable and ensure that everyone plays by the same rules.
 
Santa Fe immigration attorney Allegra Love, who has been preparing asylum cases for women and children at a detention center in Artesia, says the president’s action has the potential to take pressure off families, who live in constant fear of being separated.
 
For others the actions don’t go far enough.
 
“We want a pathway to citizenship and we want it for everyone in our families,” David Garcia tells SFR.
 
Love herself worries that too many people are left out of this action.
 
“But it’s a start,” she tell SFR.
 
Elements of the Obama’s action include cracking down on illegal immigration at the border, deporting felons and conducting criminal background checks.
 
Obama told the nation his actions will hold undocumented immigrants accountable for illegally entering the country.
 
In order to get the limited protection over the next two years, immigrants will be required to pass a criminal background check and continue to pay taxes.
 
New Mexico Dreamers in Action member Juan Deoses, who watched the president's speech with others at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe, tells SFR his group is hopeful and excited, but “we are very aware that some work needs to be done.”


At least 6 million immigrants are ineligible for the protections announced last night, including Deoses’ own aunt and uncle.


 
New Mexico’s congressional delegation was quick to respond to the president’s announcement. To hear what they had to say, check out Matt Reichbach’s Morning Word.   

This fall, immigrant advocates warned that immigration consultants will likely take advantage of immigrants by illegally offering them legal assistance after the president took action.

Deoses encourages people to attend his group's free legal clinics to avoid getting scammed. Check online for NM Dreamers in Action clinic schedule.

Morning Word: Obama's Big Immigration Executive Order

Martinez gets RGA leadership position.

Morning WordFriday, November 21, 2014 by Matthew Reichbach
  • President Barack Obama made his big immigration announcement on Thursday night. The New Mexico delegation all responded to his executive order and, predictably, it fell along party lines. The Democrats were largely supportive while the lone Republican was adamantly against it. All said that they preferred for Congress to pass immigration legislation, but House Republicans have shown no indication that they have any desire to pass such legislation.

    Immigration advocates are preparing for the changes here in New Mexico. Meanwhile, many in Santa Fe will not benefit from the executive order.
    “This is a good thing, but at the same time I feel saddened for the people who won’t qualify,” said Minerva Pacheco, 44,who has a 13-year-old son born in the U.S. and has lived in Santa Fe for 17 years without legal immigration status. She said she has brothers in the city who won’t qualify because they don’t have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
  • There has been more national attention for Susana Martinez, as she was named Vice-Chair of the Republican Governors Association. The organization is made up of Republican governors and is dedicated to electing more Republicans in gubernatorial elections.
  • The Los Alamos National Labs director sent a memo to employees blasting a story by The Santa Fe New Mexican.
    According to McMillan’s statement, obtained by The New Mexican, he took aim at a portion of the newspaper report about the lab’s delay in sharing a memo with WIPP personnel that likened the contents of the burst waste drum to explosives. The story reported that a May memo by LANL chemist Steve Clemmons asserted he had determined the waste in the drum that ruptured held the same components as three patented explosives.
    The paper says that emails they uncovered disputed the memo that the director sent.
  • The brokers at the center of the scandal at the Bernalillo County Treasurer's office are facing some serious sanctions from the State Securities Division.
    State Securities Division Director Alan Wilson also plans to permanently ban two brokers – Thomas Wayne Hayes, of BOSC Inc.; and Royce O. Simpson, formerly of Oppenheimer and Co. Inc. — from trading securities in New Mexico. He wants to fine the brokers as well.

    Additionally, Wilson wants to temporarily suspend BOSC and Oppenheimer from trading securities in New Mexico until the two firms can demonstrate that they have safeguards in place to prevent future abuses against institutional clients.
    I would file that under "bad start to the weekend" for the two companies.
  • The Santa Fe New Mexican's Bruce Krasnow on what dropping oil prices mean for the state budget, at least in the short term:
    Unless things get a whole lot worse, however, New Mexico is not likely to see any spending cutbacks this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2015. And the $600 million operating fund reserve is largely to thank for that.
  • While former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella's legal team works to get a new trial, the prosecution who convicted him of civil rights violations asked the judge for strict sentencing because of Rodella's controversial past.
    The memo outlines years of miscues and controversies involving Rodella, most of which are common knowledge and have been reported over the years in the news media. “This time, the defendant’s criminal conduct stepped into federal jurisdiction. His conviction was just, and the United States asks the same for his sentence,” the memo states.
  • Guess who wants to run for President again? Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson says he would like to run again. He ran as a Libertarian Party candidate in 2012 and received just under 1 percent of the vote.
  • In his role as DCCC chairman, Ben Ray Lujan will be in charge of a massive PAC. The Santa Fe Reporter looks at whether or not this is at odds with some of statements he has made in the past opposing big money in politics.
  • The state legislature will consider at least two bills relating to e-cigarettes this session.
    The first bill, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Cisco McSorley, would impose a tax on vaping products and require nicotine-content labeling on vaping liquid. The second bill, introduced by Republican state Rep. Monica Youngblood, would prohibit the sale of vaping products to minors.
  • State legislators grilled the Executive Director of New Mexico Spaceport Authority over how it plans to reach its goals with its anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, not living up to its original promises.

    The Spaceport, meanwhile, says it will need $1.7 million in emergency funds because of the lack of Virging Galactic presence at the Spaceport.
  • A judge dissolved restraining order barring a vote on the Gila River diversion plan, clearing the way for the Interstate Stream Commission to vote on the controversial project. The vote will likely come during Monday's meeting.
  • The man identified as the shooter at Florida State University early Thursday morning worked as a prosecutor in the District Attorney's office in Doña Ana County as late as a month ago.
    According to the New Mexico State Bar Association, May began working in New Mexico in 2013. Spokeswoman D.D. Wolohan told News 13 that May started by working on a “limited license” with the Santa Fe Public Defender’s Office in May 2013. Several long-time employees at the Public Defender’s Office told News 13 on Thursday that they had never heard of May.

    May reportedly left his position in Santa Fe, and went to work with the Doña Ana County DA’s Office earlier this year, where he was a junior prosecutor. In May, May received his full New Mexico law license. The New Mexico State Bar Association says no disciplinary action was ever taken against May.
  • The Human Rights Campaign rated PNM very low on workplace equality when it comes to LGBT workers.
    Many of the report's complaints about PNM related to the company's alleged failings in assuring equal protections and benefits for transgender employees. According to the HRC, PNM diversity trainings do not cover gender identity and expression issues, and there are no written guidelines concerning employees who transition, or move from expressing themselves as one gender to expressing as another, while on the job.

    PNM provided Albuquerque Business First with a portion of their non-discrimination and harassment policy, which does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, but offers no more detailed guidelines than that.
  • New Mexico In Focus is on tonight, as it is each Friday night on KNME. This week's show will look at challenges faced by women's veterans, the impact of oil and gas prices dropping, the problems at the state labs and the changes to Democratic leadership in the state legislature.
  • The committee that helped defeat a judge in a retention election is asking the state Supreme Court to rule that he cannot be appointed to the same position.
    Allowing Mitchell to apply to fill the vacancy created by the voters, “makes a mockery of the entire judicial retention system,” reads a petition filed Wednesday.
  • You probably won't see a press conference for this. A defense contractor is shuttering its facility in Socorro and moving the jobs to Arkansas. The company operated largely on New Mexico Tech property.
    University officials were aware of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s plans to relocate “for some time and realize their decision to move was due to a whole host of reasons, but mainly to consolidate their operations,” Lopez said. “We have had time to see how many employees we are able to retain.”
  • An APS board member wants the board of the state's largest school district to back legislation relating to truancy. The legislation, which failed in this year's session, would take away drivers licenses from those who are habitually truant.
  • The Tennessee mother who was shot at by State Police officers in a video that went viral was indicted again on multiple charges.
    Farrell, 40, was indicted anew on counts of aggravated fleeing an officer, child abuse and possession of drug paraphernalia, said Taos District Attorney Donald Gallegos. “We’re just ready to move the matter forward and get it in front of jurors so they can decide,” said Gallegos. The jury took “just a matter of minutes” to reach its decision to indict Farrell, he added.
    The case was originally thrown out by a state appeals court because of problems with choosing a replacement on the original grand jury. The officer who fired at the van was fired.
  • The city of Santa Fe decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and then... not much has happened. As in, the new ordinance is still not being fully enforced.
  • Mark Bentley returns and writes about Lincoln County saying the EPA is trying for a "water grab."
  • An environmental activist from Grant County was honored by the New Mexico Community Trust Foundation in Santa Fe.
    Harris, who introduced Salmon at the award ceremony in Sante Fe, said he thinks of Salmon as the godfather of New Mexico's river protection movement. He added via email that Salmon organized the Gila Conservation Coalition, which he considers an important contribution to New Mexico's conservation efforts.
  • The state environment department approved a sewage lagoon for an RV park near Aztec. The leader of a group that opposed the approval said it was "too predictable."
  • Some schools with a high percentage of lower income students ranked high in the rankings of some website called niche.com. One school administrator said smaller class sizes were one reason for the high ratings.
  • There could me up to 70,000 petroglyphs on Mesa Prieta in northern New Mexico.
  • The Washington Post's The Fix blog pokes some fun at Bill Richardson's sartorial choices. That jacket, though... man.
  • UNM women's soccer coach Kit Vela will not return to coach in 2015. The 2014 season was filled with controversy over a hazing incident.

Slow Burn

Enforcing the city's new marijuana decriminalization law is taking forever

Local NewsThursday, November 20, 2014 by Joey Peters

Nearly three months after City Council approved decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, the new ordinance still isn't being fully enforced. 

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the city still hasn't provided its police force with forms that charge marijuana violators with civil infractions instead of criminal misdemeanors. City spokesman Matt Ross says they will come any moment now.

"The forms have been ordered and everything has been done on our end," Ross says. "We're just waiting for everything to be printed and delivered."

Another reason for the delay is the slow rollout of the law. City Council voted to reduce marijuana penalties from misdemeanors punishable with prison-time to infractions punishable with a $25 fee on Aug. 27. The ordinance didn't go into effect until Sept. 10—five days after it was fully published in the local newspaper, per city rules. Even after that, City Council still didn't agree on how to actually enforce the decriminalization law until the night of Oct. 8, during one of its meetings. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican last week reported that the Santa Fe Police Department still continued to issue citations under the old city ordinance after the new ordinance was passed on Aug. 27. The newspaper cited 31 misdemeanor citations being filed since then in total, with 40 percent of them being filed under the tougher state law, which still views marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor. 

But roughly a dozen of those citations occurred before Sept. 10, the date the new ordinance became official. None them occurred during or after Oct. 8, the night City Council agreed on administrative guidelines to enforce the decriminalization ordinance. 

Because she no longer has jurisdiction over marijuana violations, Municipal Judge Ann Yalman threw out about a dozen citations that were given to people after Sept. 10. She says they stopped coming to her court recently. 

SFR took a look at many of the citations. One of them that stood out featured officer Trace Evridge, who appeared in SFR's September cover story about decriminalization. On Sept. 19, Evridge gave a citation to a woman for having a blue pipe with marijuana in it. Evridge apparently had trouble bringing the pipe to police headquarters.

"The marijuana pipe was lost during transit and I was unable to enter it into evidence," his report reads.

You're Better off at the Hanging Tree

'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' squanders…everything

MehThursday, November 20, 2014 by David Riedel

Does the creative team behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 see the parallel between its characters’ cynical use of propaganda and the movie studio’s cynical marketing decision to turn the final book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two movies? Probably. But who’s to blame for this travesty of marketing and greed? The makers of the Harry Potter series or Francis Ford Coppola? After all, The Godfather is only one novel.

That’s a diversion from stating not much happens in Mockingjay Part 1. It’s a half-story, and the cliffhanger ending feels made for TV, not the big screen. In this installment, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, duh) is convinced to join the rebellion, shoot some agitprop for Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and make out briefly with that dope Gale (Liam Hemsworth) while secretly pining for that wimp Peeta (Josh Hutcherson trying and failing to bring life to a role no one could make good).

The only reason this movie doesn’t rate a barf is because Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland show up for, respectively, welcome comic relief, smarm and beaming evil. Woody Harrelson is wasted, and Katniss cries. A lot. There’s an interesting story about politics buried beneath the boo-hoo YA-ness of it all, but the Hunger Games gang knows where its bread is buttered. Thirteen minutes of the running time is end credits.

 

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1
Directed by Francis Lawrence
With Lawrence, Hemsworth and Hutcherson
Regal Stadium 14
PG-13
125 min.

Morning Word: NM, Country Prepare for Obama Immigration Order

BernCo Treasurer's office slammed by state audit

Morning WordThursday, November 20, 2014 by Matthew Reichbach
  • The Associated Press looks at immigrants in the state and around the nation making preparations in advance of President Barack Obama's immigration executive order.
    Allegra Love, a Santa Fe-based immigration attorney, said she expects her services will be in high demand after Obama’s announcement. In response, she will be participating in immigration legal clinics to help potential applicants get their paperwork in order.


    Three immigrants, with the backing of immigrant rights groups, are suing San Juan County in federal court over detention following traffic stops.
    Earlier this year, immigration attorneys warned New Mexico counties that they could face litigation from inmates kept in custody for no other grounds than receiving a hold request from federal immigration authorities.

    Lawyers said the immigrant holds amounted to false imprisonment.
  • A state audit found some pretty serious wrongdoings in the Bernalillo County Treasurer's office, both by the current and previous treasurer.
    “What we found was that there were practices and preferential treatment that may have benefited investors or Patrick Padilla, rather than the county,” state Auditor Hector Balderas told KRQE News 13.

    The audit report, released Wednesday, points to financial record keeping by Padilla and Ortiz that was, at best, shoddy. At its worst, it may have been criminal.
  • How much could the slump in oil prices cost the state? The Albuquerque Journal says up to $100 million. One big reason why New Mexico had to slash its spending to balance the budget was declining oil prices. The prices went back up and the state budget went back up. Now, the oil and gas money is going back down and the available amount the legislature will be able to spend will be lower than expected. So some big priorities of the Martinez administration will have to be delayed.
    “We think the budget is simply not going to be big enough to accomplish major tax reform,” Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford, a Gov. Susana Martinez appointee, told members of a key legislative panel Wednesday.

    But Clifford said some “targeted” tax breaks aimed at improving the state’s economy – with a smaller revenue hit – will still be pursued during the coming 60-day session.
  • New Mexico In Depth mapped the votes of the races for governor, U.S. Senate and each state House race. New Mexico Telegram will also have some more maps coming up in each race, either later in November or in early December.
  • The APD officer who shot James Boyd and is now retiring will be required to participated int eh Internal Affairs investigation into the shooting until his December 1 retirement. If he does not comply, he can be terminated.
  • A managing partner at an Albuquerque real estate firm was named the new chairman of the board of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank for 2015.
    "I'm honored; it's an incredible institution. I've met some amazing people, and so I feel very privileged to be in the room and part of the conversation," he told Business First on Wednesday. "I think it's important that the business community and general public understand the important role the Fed plays, particularly the fact it is an apolitical institution."
  • The Public Education Department has hired 11 people to act as liaisons with school districts to avoid the data errors that have plagued the teacher evaluations in the state so far.
  • The Las Cruces City Attorney who made controversial and widely-spread comments on a wish list for civil forfeiture is now on leave from the city. The city wouldn't provide any other details to the Las Cruces Sun-News about the leave by Harry "Pete" Connelly. Connelly's comments were made at a conference in Santa Fe and were reported in a New York Times article.
  • The Washington Times printed an opinion piece by Susana Martinez on immigration reform. The conservative newspaper had a special section on immigration from a conservative perspective. It shows that Martinez is showing an interest in national politics.
    Until our representatives in Washington stop acting like politicians and start leading, the immigration issue will continue to go unaddressed. As a result of inaction, we have a dysfunctional system. Our border is porous and insecure and, as each day passes, the problem grows larger and the cost of inaction higher. What we need in Washington are public servants who are willing to come together in a bipartisan way and tackle the issue head-on.
    And yes, she mentions drivers licenses and criticizes Bill Richardson. No Martinez political piece would be complete without at least one of these two, if not both.
  • She is being named as a potential 2016 presidential candidate. She is at the Republican Governors Association.
    Jindal is one of at least seven Republican governors being talked about as potential candidates for 2016. The others are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rick Perry of Texas, Ohio’s John Kasich, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Indiana's Mike Pence and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.
  • Santa Fe mayor Javier Gonzales is traveling as well. He will be headed to a meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. The meeting is in San Diego next weekend, so mayor Gonzales, like Martinez who is in Florida, will be able to avoid the winter weather of Santa Fe for at least a few days.
  • An APD officer sent an email to other officers about his "killology" course.
    “Are you prepared? Are you prepared for battle?” Grossman says in a promotional video.

    “Are there people who wake up every morning, determined to send your family in a box?” he says in another video. “Then you are in a war and you are a warrior.”
  • Farmington wants an exemption from laws that govern the amount of salinity in rivers. The city says domestic water softeners make it impossible for the city to reach an acceptable level of salinity.
    Since the regulations took effect, Rosen said the city has done much of what the EPA has asked, trying to reduce how much salt its sewage plant discharges. It restricted the effluent industrial businesses are allowed to discharge into the rivers. It ordered 25 oil and gas wells to stop discharging their waste, eliminating about 13,000 pounds of salt a day that was discharged into the rivers. It mailed informational flyers to residents.
  • How long will it take for New Mexico to recover all the jobs lost due to the recession? In New Mexico, at least, it will take until 2018 according to an economist with the Department of Workforce Solutions.
  • Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich asked Congress to spend #113 million more on WIPP. The facility is currently closed after a February radiation leak.
  • Former State Sen. Rod Adair is back in the Secretary of State's office. Adair had left the office to run Dianna Duran's campaign. Now that she won, Adair walked the other way through the revolving door back into her office and is the new press contact for the office as of Wednesday afternoon.
  • A decline in college enrollment nationwide is also taking place in New Mexico. The trend isn't skipping New Mexico and is putting UNM in a pinch.
  • The best success stories from the Sandia Science and Technology Park were celebrated on Wednesday. The biggest? Emcore.
    Emcore was the first tenant in the park, a 300-acre business and research center that launched in 1998 next to Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base. Since then, Emcore has become a premier supplier of fiber optics for high-speed telecommunications and Cable TV, and the world’s largest supplier of photovoltaic cells for satellites and spacecraft.
  • An oil rig explosion in southern New Mexico killed one rig worker and injured three others on Friday night. The explosion took place in Eddy County, which is in the middle of the oil patch that is experiencing an oil drilling boom.
  • Voter registration is open on the Navajo Nation for the special election to determine the new president.
  • Students in Deming may be receiving laptops as part of going to school.
    "I saw what it did for students and teaching in that district," said Lere. "The teachers came back and thought it was a great idea. The feedback we are getting from students is that they would prefer a laptop, as opposed to an I-Pad."
  • New Mexico News Port looks at the position of Lieutenant Governor and how important — or not important — the position is in state politics.
    “The position is not particularly important, the office doesn’t come with much in the way of power,” Krebs said. “It’s really just somebody who can replace the governor or when the governor can’t fulfill the duty of the office.”
  • KOB finds that TSA agents at the Sunport had 29 complaints filed against them under the American with Disabilities Act in 2012 and 2013.
  • The ride-sharing service Uber, riding a wave of bad publicity, is expanding into Santa Fe with the full support of mayor Javier Gonzales. The local cab company is not happy with Uber coming into town.
  • Longmire will be back for a fourth season. The drama was canceled by A&E but Netflix is bringing it back for at least one more season of ten episodes.
    "When Warner Horizon Television came to us with the idea for a new season of Longmire, we were intrigued because the series is so unique, and consistently great. We are thrilled to help continue Walt Longmire’s story for his large and passionate following," blurbs Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content at Netflix.
    The TV series films in northern New Mexico.

Money Machine

In Congress, Rep Ben Ray Luján has sought to stifle big-money influence on elections. In politics, he takes helm at multimillion dollar PAC

Local NewsThursday, November 20, 2014 by Justin Horwath
US Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, reportedly mingled with Democratic benefactors at the Hyatt Regency in Washington DC Tuesday night, earning an introduction to "more than 150 attendees from the [political action committee] and donor community" by outgoing chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Steve Israel for a reception that welcomed new members of the 114th Congress.

A lot of ink's been splashed about the national recognition Luján will receive as the leader of the political arm of US House Democrats. It's a "plum assignment." It's "another sign of his rising name in politics." The position is "high-profile."

Not mentioned: As the head of the DCCC, Luján has now become a cog in the modern-day election money machine that raises and spends millions of dollars to influence your vote.

'Floodgates for special-interest, corporate money'
It's a machine that Luján, in  theory, supported dismantling just months ago, when he introduced a companion bill in the US House to New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall's constitutional amendment that would have given Congress and states the power to regulate the raising and spending of unlimited amounts of cash in elections. He says in a statement through the DCCC that he supports the DISCLOSE Act, legislation that seeks to shine more sunlight on groups raising and spending unlimited amounts of cash. 

“Citizens United opened the floodgates for special-interest, corporate money from hidden donors that seeks to influence elections," Luján said in a statement about his bill, referring to the US Supreme Court's 2010 decision Citizens United v the Federal Election Commission that granted individuals, corporations, unions and other organizations the ability to raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash in elections—as long as they don't coordinate how that cash is spent directly with candidates. “This amendment would take a critical step toward removing corporate influence in our elections and reaffirm the bedrock principles of our democracy by giving voice back to the people.”
 
But as the newly appointed leader of the DCCC, Luján will be tasked with overseeing a heavy hitting political action committee with a multi-million dollar balance sheet.

The DCCC is designated as a "party PAC" that must adhere to contribution limits of up to $32,400 from individuals and PACs. But there are no contribution limits on what political party committees and campaigns give to the DCCC.

Federal contribution limits for the year 2014
www.fec.gov

 

Asked how his chairmanship at the DCCC squares with his advocacy for campaign finance reform, Luján reaffirmed his support for the DISCLOSE Act through one of the group's spokeswomen, adding in his statement that a "huge portion" of the DCCC is "funded by grassroots donations averaging about $20, which stands in stark contrast to Republican outside groups run by Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers."

The Republican political operative and two industrialist brothers—veritable liberal boogymen—do run a network of groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash without having to disclose contributors. During the 2014 election cycle, conservative nonprofit groups that don't have to disclose donors spent nearly $130 million to the liberal dark money nonprofits' $32 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

But the party self-professed to support campaign finance reform isn't immune to the influence game, and certainly not fat checks given by the same fat cat corporate types liberals love to loath. According to that data, super PACs with a liberal viewpoint spent $192.6 million—$43.1 million more than conservative super PACs. Often heavy-hitting Democratic and Republican groups share the same donors, as companies attempt to spread influence across the political spectrum. 

From Jan. 1, 2013, to Oct. 15, 2014, the DCCC raised nearly $154 million dollars, according to FEC reports. The campaigns of Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, gave the DCCC just over $1 million each, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. PACs associated with corporations like Planned Parenthood, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Herbalife International, UnitedHealth Group, AT&T, Boeing Corp, Walmart, McDonalds, Wells Fargo and Bank of America each chipped in $30,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The National Republican Campaign Committee, the DCCC counterpart, raised $109 million in that period. Campaign finance numbers here are likely deflated since disclosures following the period after Oct. 15 have not yet been filed.

Independent expenditures
Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts in elections. Unlike nonprofits, they must disclose donors. 

The DCCC isn't a super PAC, and it's designation as a party committee forces it to disclose its donors and adhere to contribution limits. But it does have an arm that's allowed to spend as much as it wants in elections, so long as the campaigns it's supporting don't know how and when the groups makes those expenditures.

During the 2014 election cycle, it used nearly $69 million to make "independent expenditures" in congressional races across the nation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The vast majority—nearly $67 million—of the DCCC's independent expenditures during the 2014 election cycle financed advertising buys targeting Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Ads the group runs against Republicans, of course, don't tend to shed the opposition party in a positive light. The DCCC focused a $4.5 million independent expenditure blitz against Republican House candidate in California's 7th Congressional District, Doug Ose. The ads against Ose drew scrutiny from local media outlets, earning this headline from The Sacramento Bee: Democratic ad hitting Doug Ose Goes too far. Ose narrowly lost a $20 million race—reportedly the most expensive in the nation.

US Rep. Luján's group fights big-money in politics with big-money
www.dccc.org

Contributors and constituents

Luján's statement didn't directly address the Hyatt Regency reception—including SFR's question about what contributors attended—but he does invoke his New Mexico roots when asked if his chairmanship of the group will grant well-heeled donors more access to the congressman than his constituents back home. "This new responsibility will increase my ability to fight for my constituents and all New Mexican families with the principles and values I was raised with," he argues, adding, "just last night I met with President Obama to discuss his upcoming action on immigration reform." Constituent services is at the top of his list as a congressman, he says, and "nothing about my new role will change that." 

It's worth mentioning that because Luján's 3rd Congressional District leans heavily Democratic, he doesn't face stiff challenges and unlike other House members, he doesn't have to spend as much time dialing for dollars for his own reelection. But as chairman of the DCCC, he's shouldered the responsibility to see that Democrats across the nation take seats back in the 2016 election. And to do that, he'll need to see to it that the DCCC is well-funded. 

While Luján's position is unpaid, he'll have a staff of about 100 people working for him there. The committee spent $15.2 million on salaries, wages and benefits during the 2014 election cycle, and as of October 15, it had $15.8 million in the bank, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

The front page of the DCCC's sleek website urges visitors to sign its petition to "End Citizens United" while another link leads to a page where the group exhorts visitors to "demand Citizens United be overturned for the 2016 elections." 

"Stop big money in politics," it says. 
another sign of Luján's rising name in politics.
another sign of Luján's rising name in politics
another sign of Luján's rising name in politics
another sign of Luján's rising name in politics

Ride Sharing Arrives in Santa Fe

Despite controversy with PRC and local cab operator, Uber makes surprise launch with mayor's support

Local NewsWednesday, November 19, 2014 by SFR
The ride-sharing taxi alternative Uber is making a surprise launch in Santa Fe today, giving a lift to Mayor Javier Gonzales from the Plaza as its “Rider Zero.”

"We know that particularly in the evenings people prefer to have access to convenient public transportation. The more options that we can have available to them, the better," Gonzales says after taking a short ride just before 10 am. He notes that he's excited about "the business model that Uber brings."

The company allows riders to call for a driver using a smart phone and charge the purchase directly to a credit card on file.

Steve Thompson, Uber's general manager for New Mexico, says the company came here after seeing thousands of potential users logging onto the app from around the city.

"Individuals want more more options on how to get around Santa Fe," he says, noting that hundreds of people also expressed interest in being Uber drivers here.

Santa Fe’s taxi scene has been dominated by Capital City Cab for the past 30 years. Company owner Matt Knowles first heard the news about the city cheerleading for Uber from SFR.

Ride-sharing companies can be detrimental to established businesses that have gone through the state’s regulation process, says Knowles, who argues that for the same reason, they can also be risky to riders.  

“The way we look at that is if you walked out of a bar, Evangelo’s or whatever bar downtown, and some guy wrote 'taxi' on the side of his car with white shoe polish, you probably wouldn’t get in that car,” he says. “As near as I can tell, all Uber or Lyft is offering is a way for that guy not to have to write “taxi” on the side of the car. He’s just connecting to you with an app. He’s still a stranger, you know nothing about his car inspection, nothing about his background. You don’t know about what kind of insurance he’s got. You are taking your chances if you ride with someone who is not a regulated entity.”

Although it’s too soon to tell what the effect could be here for his 70 employees, based on what happens in other cities, ride-sharing drivers “cherrypick” customers from hotel and bar areas. Knowles says that takes away lucrative business while the licensed cab company still has to serve customers in the far reaches of the city.          

“The [Public Regulation Commission]  has decided that the public is best served by one entity that can then get all the customers and keep prices down and service relatively high, whereas if you get multiple entities, those entities tend to focus on the denser areas and the outlying areas don’t get the same service,” says Knowles.

“They are all focused on smart phones, and they will be hanging around the bars and the expensive hotels for the most valuable customers,” he says, “and somebody whose grandma who doesn’t have a smart phone and wants to go to Kmart, they are not going to get Uber.”

Knowles says Capital Cab will also soon get in on the smart phone scene with its planned launch of an app for iPhone and Android.

Uber’s arrival on the transportation scene has made waves across the nation. When both it and Lyft kicked off in Albuquerque this year, the debate finally hit New Mexico.

In late September, a state District Court judge refused to order a halt to those rides when five taxi cab and limousine owners in Albuquerque sought relief in court. New Mexico Watchdog also reports that the PRC issued a cease-and-desist order earlier in the summer, but the companies have kept on rolling, and now the commission is taking public comment on the situation with an eye toward rulemaking in the upcoming legislative session.

Uber also landed in the news this week for comments one of its executives made to a Buzzfeed editor about conducting opposition research on journalists who dole out critical coverage. The company’s PR office was quick to issue a retort that those statements don’t reflect its values.

Here’s a blog post that the same spin machine issued this morning about coming to Santa Fe.
Rebecca Reynolds, whom Uber named as its first New Mexico driver, says she went through a background check before getting permission to be a driver. She says the job offers flexibility that will supplement her income from the hospitality industry. 

Thompson says riders should feel assured that drivers have been vetted.

"Of hundreds of applicants, there's very few of them who make it through the process because of how stringent our background check process is," he says, noting that the company looks at federal, state and local-level criminal databases and driving record histories. 

Cars used by approved drivers, he says, also must undergo a 19-point vehicle inspection, must have four doors and must be model year 2005 or newer.

Julie Ann Grimm and Nick Martinez collaborated on this story.

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