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Confused About the Special Session?

An explainer about New Mexico’s next move

Local NewsThursday, September 29, 2016 by Steven Hsieh

What is a special session?

A special session is a legislative meeting held in addition to New Mexico’s annual January sessions. These meetings typically occur when there is something that needs to be addressed immediately. Only the governor may call a special session. She also gets to control the agenda.

Although the state constitution allows special sessions to go on for 30 days, our lawmakers usually finish business in a few days or less. New Mexico last held a special session in 2015 to address a capital-spending bill. It took a day.

What’s on the agenda for the session beginning Friday? 

As of this writing, Gov. Susana Martinez has not issued a formal proclamation calling for the session, but her office informed some media outlets and legislators of her planned agenda.

According to her communications office, lawmakers will address two general issues:

1. Finding a fix for New Mexico’s massive budget deficit.

2. Crime bills, including a proposal to bring back the death penalty.

How big is the deficit?

The short answer is hundreds of millions. The long answer depends on how you look at the numbers, and for those who don’t regularly read legislative finance reports, it depends on where you get your news. The New Mexican reports a $220 million deficit for the fiscal year ending in June, with a potential $430 million shortfall between expected revenues and planned spending for the next fiscal year, which began in July. The Albuquerque Journal, meanwhile, says we’re about $130 million in the hole, and facing another $458 million deficit in the next fiscal year. 

We asked Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), who chairs the Legislative Finance Committee, about this discrepancy. He says they’re both right. The $130 million figure likely assumes a fix that’s been bandied about already: that the Legislature will approve a transfer of money from a pool of cash called the tobacco settlement fund to cover last year’s gap and a bit of this year’s.

How do lawmakers plan to get us out of this hole moving forward?

That’s hard to say because they’re still working out a deal as I write this. But it’ll likely be some combination of budget cuts and closing tax loopholes.

Smith tells SFR that education, both public and higher ed, will probably take a significant hit, as it accounts for about roughly half of all appropriations. The question is how big that hit will be. Very generally speaking, House Republicans and the Martinez administration seem more inclined to cut more than Democrats and Senate Republicans. Democrats have also indicated that they want to limit cuts to social services like veterans programs and the Child, Youth and Families Department.

Along with cuts, lawmakers are looking at ways to bring in more revenue, primarily through closing tax loopholes. Sen. Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa) gives the example of a tax credit for employers who pay high wages. Another potential source would be limiting a tax credit for health practitioners in rural areas. On the Republican side, Rep. Conrad James (R-Bernalillo), who sits on the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, tells SFR that some of his colleagues are looking at capping a tax incentive for film production companies.

What is the crime component of the special session?

In addition to addressing the budget deficit, the governor plans to put a number of bills on the agenda that would increase penalties for people who commit crimes.

The big one, of course, is reinstating the death penalty, which has been off the books since 2009. Another bill would expand a law that makes life sentences eligible for people who commit three or more violent felonies. Finally, legislators will also discuss a bill that would impose a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of intentional child abuse that results in death.  

Why can’t they discuss these crime bills during the regular legislative session?

Good question. When talks of convening a special session popped up in July, the focus was solely on responding to the state’s budget crisis. But the killing of a police officer in Roswell in July, as well as the rape and murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens last month, helped fuel discussions over bringing back the death penalty. Martinez, a former state prosecutor, led the charge. She announced this month that capital punishment would be on the special session agenda.

Democrats right away accused Martinez of attempting to distract from the state’s budget crisis. They suspect that the governor wants to force them to vote against tough-on-crime measures before the November. Nationally, states are moving away from the death penalty and so-called “three-strikes” laws.

Oh yeah. The election.

Oh, that. Some of the state lawmakers who have to drop everything and come to Santa Fe for an unknown amount of time are fending off challengers for their seats. They won’t be able to raise funds during the session. Send that extra campaign cash to the state coffers? Couldn’t hurt. Might help.

This Weekend

The Days of Our Lives

Weekend PicksFriday, September 30, 2016 by SFR

SITE Center: Moebius Path by Francisca Benitez with Douglas Ridloff

Francisca Benitez engages directly with the public, creating programming and presentations based on interaction. For her SITE Center project for much wider than a line, Benitez connects the Deaf community of Santa Fe with the contemporary art world at SITE by instigating collaborative programming.

More Info >>

The Santa Fe Art Project: Part II

The second exhibition in the series brings works representing a variety of mediums, all made by artists living and creating in Santa Fe. See art by Caity Kennedy, Matrin Rixe, Chase Stafford and more.

More Info >>

HATERKIDS harvest with cpsquared and bubblz

The underground spot pours the strongest drinks and hosts an evening of electronic music, projection art and old school video games.

More Info >>


The story of trans man Fernando Reyes' life unwinds on the stage before you in Alix Hudson's historical fiction play. Directed by Malcom Morgan.

More Info >>

Round Mountain and Evet

Two bands who share a member and a reverence for traditional Balkan music perform together in a night of alt-folk heaven.

More Info >>

Duo Bohemia

Ron Romanovsky and Hillary Schacht are the band and they play a mix of indie and folk rock.

More Info >>

Santa Fe Community Orchestra

See the community group perform a program featuring Brahms' Symphony No 2 and Beethoven's Egmont Overture with students from the Aspen Magnet School's band.

More Info >>

UnShakable: Encore Performance

Composed by Performance Santa Fe's artistic director Joseph Illick, the opera tells the apocalyptic story, set 25 years in the future, of Wyatt and Meridian, lovers who have amnesia due to a viral pandemic. If you missed this the first time, here's your chance.

More Info >>

Jeff Volk: The Healing Power of Story and Song

Learn about the art and science of sound in this four-hour workshop led by Volk, a producer and poet.

More Info >>

Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Pay to Stay

Coalition seeks promise of tax support from national laboratories, no matter who gets the contract

Local NewsThursday, September 29, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

With the contracts for the Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories both in flux, the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has approached the state Legislature to ensure that whether a nonprofit or a for-profit entity secures those contracts, the $200 million in annual gross receipts tax from lab operations continues to flow into surrounding state and local governments. 

“We’re not introducing a new tax, that’s number one—this is not a new tax, and this is about continuing what our communities are able to contribute, both to infrastructure for their community members but also for the laboratory,” says Andrea Romero, executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, which represents nine cities, counties and towns surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory. She presented the issue to the Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon. 

“We know this is the largest organization supplying jobs to our regional community and we obviously want to see it maintained, but also want to know that we can see this gross receipts tax as an addition to our ability to serve them and our communities better,” she told SFR ahead of that presentation.

The coalition has drafted language for a bill Romero says she hopes to see considered as soon as the special session beginning Friday and in place well ahead of December, when Sandia’s contract should be awarded to the next contractor with an expected start date of September 2017. A draft of the Los Alamos National Laboratory operating contract is expected early next year. 

Both entities have been subject to gross receipts tax since 2010. If the next contract goes to a nonprofit entity that qualifies for a tax exemption, according to state policy, the recurring cash flow would evaporate overnight.

“If this goes away, it impacts everyone with the coalition,” Romero says. That includes Santa Fe County and the city of Santa Fe, which are both represented by the coalition. “What we’re trying to prevent from happening is this volatility in contractors that move into the laboratories. … The activities at the laboratory never change. Why does their tax status change based on the entity coming in? We’re just saying, we need to have some consistency.”

She also sees the shift as leveling the playing field so for-profit companies and nonprofits don’t need to differ in price based on taxes incurred.

“I think this helps on every front, to have consistent revenues within the state and local government and also to choose the best overall contractor regardless of their tax status,” she says.

With bids for Sandia’s contract in, Jack Jekowski, principal partner of Innovative Technology Partnerships and a DOE contractor for more than 50 years, told the Legislative Finance Committee, “What we’re facing right now with the re-competition for both Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories is the distinct possibility that the new manager of those laboratories will be a nonprofit.” 

As a for-profit entity, paying the gross receipts tax adds $60-$70 million a year in additional costs to the contractor, which the Department of Energy then had to bear. 

“There was no new money for that, so it had to basically come out of program,” Jekowski told legislators. “The DOE would, of course, really like to see that money go into the program as opposed to taxes.”

“I would be very concerned if an award were given and we lost GRT to the state of New Mexico, primarily because these facilities need state support. They need infrastructure support, and who’s going to pay for that?” Rep. Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) asked in response to the presentation. “If we don’t have some tax generated from this, how do we even help keep them supported in doing the job they need to do?”

The Fork

Truly Upsetting!

The ForkThursday, September 29, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

Here's something to distract you from your terrible day: 21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes. Yes, that's a link to a BuzzFeed listicle, but it is truly upsetting. It will make you glad to be alive and eating today. Just spend a minute really thinking about the idea of ham and bananas Hollandaise. Huuuurk.

Now clear your mind and move on.

Looking for a fun dinner on Monday night? Head to Casa Chimayó (409 W Water St.) for a “Great Chef Face-Off” between Antonio Matus of Antonio’s A Taste of Mexico in Taos and chef Guisela de la Cruz of Casa Chimayó Restaurante (pictured below). The dinner will be five courses, including chipotle shrimp, chile relleno en nogada, pueblo tortilla soup and tres leches for dessert. The dinner costs $45 and a wine pairing is $15 more. Call 428-0391 for reservations.

There’s a new chef out at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. Kai Autenrieth will take over the kitchen for the resort’s restaurant, Terra. Originally from Germany, Autenrieth comes to Santa Fe from the Four Seasons resort on the Carribbean island of Nevis; he’s also worked in Tanzania, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Pam Roy of the Farm to Table project is the honoree at this Saturday’s Fall Fiesta, a fundraiser for the Santa Fe Farmers Market. The event includes a locally-sourced feast and live and silent auctions. Tickets cost $140 and support the Institute’s programs. Get tickets here.

And Santa Fe Spirits broke ground Monday on a new whiskey aging facility. The new 4,000-square-foot facility is a major expansion for the company, which now sells booze in eight states and four countries.

Learn how to be a biodynamic gardener at the New Mexico Biodynamic Farm and Garden Group workshop from 10 am-3 pm Sunday, Oct. 2 at the Santa Fe Waldorf School. The seminar will go over making and using biodynamic preparations and barrel composting. After the workshop there will be a Michaelmas celebration and a community potluck. Find out more here.

Check out Buck, Buck, Moose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Deer, Elk, Moose, Antelope and Other Antlered Things. I interviewed author Hank Shaw for SFR when his previous book, Duck, Duck Goose, came out in 2013. (I also interviewed him on New Mexico PBS. You can watch that here.) Shaw is a hunter, angler, forager, chef and former journalist who is obsessed with back-to-the-land eating. If you have some venison in the freezer, you need this book.

Speaking of foraging, don’t forget that cooking demo with Rob Connoley from The Curious Kumquat in Silver City is happening tonight at Las Cosas (Devargas Center, 181 Paseo de Peralta). Connoley will be signing his new book Acorns and Cattails. He is a super interesting guy and a great chef. Call 988-3394 and see if there are any seats left.

What news do you want to see in this newsletter? We want to hear from you! Let us know! Email

Morning Word: Lawmakers Return to Santa Fe on Friday

Still no deal to fix growing state budget deficit

Morning WordThursday, September 29, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Special Session Set for Friday
Lawmakers are headed back to Santa Fe on Friday for a special session to fix the state’s massive $600 million budget deficit and to consider the governor’s crime legislation, including a proposal to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico.

Funding Cutbacks
Santa Fe Community College, like other higher education institutions, is bracing for funding cutbacks up to $750,000. 
Earlier this week, state Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, told The New Mexican he is positive that lawmakers will be looking at higher education for a possible reduction. “Public education and higher education represent 57 cents out of a dollar. I know it will be there [for discussion],” said Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Last week, administrators at The University of New Mexico said they were taking pre-emptive steps to address a possible shortage of $22 million, including an immediate hiring freeze.
Insurance Firms on Hook for Back Taxes
John Franchini, the state insurance superintendent, told lawmakers on Wednesday that he vows to collect every penny of the $193 million insurance companies owe in back taxes, which would go a long way toward lowering the state budget deficit.

PRC Approves PNM Rate Increase
On Wednesday, Public Regulation Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to approve a rate hike for the Public Service Company of New Mexico. The approved rate hike was a little more than half of PNM’s requested increase of $123.5 million in annual revenue, but higher than the $41.3 million recommended by a PRC hearing officer. Parties on both sides of the issue say they’ll appeal the decision. PNM says it will file another rate increase request at the PRC by the end of the year.

State Drug Spending Increases
The Associated Press reports that state agencies spent a whopping $680 million on prescription medication for everyone from prison inmates to retired state workers, a 54 percent increase from two years ago.

Happy Talk ‘Encourages Complacency’
New Mexico Political Report editor Matthew Reichbach has inked a commentary and says that state leaders and economic development executives live in an alternate reality and should stop the happy talk about New Mexico’s economy, saying it encourages complacency and fails to deal with things like New Mexico’s high unemployment, small hourly wage increases and lack of private sector development.

Defense Secretary Praises Lab Workers During Tour
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter toured Los Alamos National Laboratory on Wednesday and viewed an area where molten plutonium is shaped into a pit, the plutonium core of a nuclear weapon. “A strong plutonium science and manufacturing capability is essential to the US nuclear deterrent and cannot be underestimated," Carter said. "I want to express my sincere appreciation for the difficult and vitally important work done at Los Alamos to help assure the development, assessment and security of the nuclear triad.”

APD Officers Still Face Murder Charges
“State District Judge Alisa Hadfield on Wednesday found insufficient evidence was presented during the prosecution’s eight days of testimony to support the third-degree felony charge of voluntary manslaughter against two former Albuquerque police officers on trial in the on-duty shooting death of a homeless camper in 2014,” reports Colleen Heild. “While Hadfield decided to throw out the manslaughter charge on a defense motion, she found 'enough evidence' to support the charge of second-degree murder and continue the trial."

Morning Word: Cabinet Secretary Held in Contempt

Morning WordWednesday, September 28, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Earnest Held in Contempt
Federal Judge Kenneth Gonzales is holding New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary Brent Earnest in contempt for failing to comply with court orders aimed at improving the administration of food aid and Medicaid health care benefits. 

Courts Reduce Mileage Reimbursements
The New Mexico Judiciary announced it will reduce court spending by about a half million dollars a year by lowering its mileage reimbursement rate for travel by judges, staff, jurors, interpreters and court-ordered witnesses. Matthew Reichbach reports, “Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels wrote a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez and a separate, though identical, letter to legislators last week stating that any further cuts would be detrimental to the courts system.”
“The Judiciary’s ability to protect public safety and provide an acceptable justice system for our citizens will be critically diminished by reductions of our current modest appropriates beyond an additional 1%,” Daniels wrote. “Even a 1% reduction could begin impairing operation of some drug courts and other important judicial services, although with our mileage reimbursement reduction and other self-imposed money-saving measures, we think we can function for this fiscal year with a 1% mandated reduction in general fund appropriations for the judicial branch.”
Senators Want State Considered for Defense Tech Hub
US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich want Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to consider opening a US Defense Department technology hub in New Mexico as part of the military's mission to widen the technology gap between the United States and its adversaries.

Clinton Outraises Trump in New Mexico, Again
Donald Trump’s campaign may be buying ad time in New Mexico ahead of the Nov. 8 election, but so far Hillary Clinton’s campaign is continuing to outraise him here. New Mexico In Depth reviewed the latest financial filings and found Clinton raised nearly $240,000; Trump $116,000; Gary Johnson got $25,000 and Green Party candidate Jill Stein only collected $5,000.

Climate Change Impacts Chile Crops
There’s no scientific doubt that climate change is impacting the world’s environment. And now SFR’s Elizabeth Miller reports warmer temperatures and more dramatic weather events will make it harder for state farmers to grow chile and may eventually mean higher prices at the market.

West Nile Virus Still a Threat
Summer may have come to an end, but the West Nile virus remains an active health risk until probably the first real frost. The New Mexico Department of Health reports three men have recently been hospitalized with a neuroinvasive form of the virus. That brings the total number of cases to five in 2016. Last year, the public agency recorded 14 nonfatal human cases.



MetroGlyphsWednesday, September 28, 2016 by SFR
Russ Thornton is a Santa Fe local who has replaced his first passion, cooking, with a new love interest, the weekly SFR comic he's created called MetroGlyphs. Reach him at

7 Days


7 DaysWednesday, September 28, 2016 by SFR


But will following @AcequiaUnderpas (yes, one S) help us understand how to get to the Rail Trail from the Acequia Trail?



Add a drop of vodka to that iced tea/lemonade.



What the hell else is going to happen around here?!



This is the worst episode of Portlandia we’ve ever seen. Wait...



One can never have too many brunch options.



Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not set fire to Old Man Gloom.



Trump shouts. Clinton laughs. Everyone else invents new drinking games.

We’re Going Through Changes

Local NewsWednesday, September 28, 2016 by Julie Ann Grimm

Last week’s masthead included a few important changes that we’d like to point out to readers who might not always read that fine print below the table of contents.

Julie Ann Grimm, who’s been editor of SFR for the past three years, now serves as both editor and publisher of the organization. Longtime sales expert Anna Maggiore leads the revenue side of things with a new position as both associate publisher and ad director.

After serving as publisher of the Santa Fe Reporter since July of 2013, Jeff Norris has stepped down to pursue other goals.

SFR has been providing free news and culture journalism and commentary to Santa Fe readers for more than 40 years. One of three newspapers in the City of Roses chain, its sister papers are the Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon, and INDY Week in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

Got feedback about how we’re doing or have a story idea? Write

Straight from the Source

Panhandlers take the mic at upcoming community forum

Local NewsWednesday, September 28, 2016 by Steven Hsieh

The last time Ernie Barela panhandled, he made about 30 bucks. That cash lasted him two weeks.

Barela usually gets by in Santa Fe on his monthly checks: $245 in welfare and $150 in food stamps. But every once in a while he’ll order more fast food than he can afford and find himself short at the end of the month. To get over the hump, Barela might “fly a sign” somewhere on Cerrillos Road.

Panhandling takes preparation. As Barela explains, “There’s an art to it.” He’ll stop shaving for two days and throw on some raggedy clothes to engender sympathy. He served in the Army years ago, which makes for effective signage. “You could try to smile or you could look sad. If you look at somebody rudely, they’ll call the police on you,” Barela says.

Barela plans to speak on a panel this Friday titled “Why Am I Homeless? Why Do I Panhandle?” Organized by the grassroots group Santa Fe Need and Deed, the forum offers locals a chance to hear straight from the people who spend time on the street.

“It’s for people to hear what it’s like and to stop making assumptions based on what they think it’s like,” says Martha Hamblen, executive director of Need and Deed.

Christ Church Santa Fe will host. Homeless attendees can obtain a monthly bus pass or $10 gift card to Smith’s. Pizza 9 plans to deliver eight pizzas and plates and napkins, which will be available before the event kicks off at 1 pm.

To get ready, Sylvia, a community outreach coordinator for Need and Deed, hands out fliers for the forum to bench-sitters outside Pete’s Place, the nickname for the city-owned Santa Fe Resource and Opportunity Center. They read: “Your life experience is priceless. Your story matters.”

Another stack of fliers intended for the general public advertises that city police Chief Patrick Gallagher plans to attend. (Gallagher did not return requests from comment. Santa Fe Police spokesman Greg Gurulé tells SFR the department plans to send a representative, but could not confirm whether it would be Gallagher.)

City Council in 2010 passed an ordinance outlining where (on public property, but not near bus stops or ATMs), when (whenever, except for in the business capitol zoning district—which encompasses downtown and stretches of the Cerrillos Road corridor near St. Francis Drive and Baca Street—where it’s restricted before dusk and after dawn) and how (not aggressively) panhandlers may ask for money.

According to the ordinance, those who panhandle outside the parameters for the first time get a warning. Second offenses prompt a citation. Third time’s an arrest. The rules overturned a blanket ban on the practice that civil rights groups called unconstitutional.

Police officers earlier this year handed out their own fliers listing the panhandling provisions to downtown shopkeepers and members of the chamber of commerce. “Remember, panhandling is legal in certain situations and people should be judged by their criminal or outrageous behavior,” it reads. Officers may hand out the same flier at the community forum, according to Gurulé.

Before heading to Pete’s Place, Sylvia stopped by the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce office on St. Michael’s Drive to present a personal invitation to the largest business group in the city.

“I just want you all to have a voice,” she tells Simon Brackley, chamber CEO and President. Brackley asks Sylvia to post a flier in his window and says he’ll try to get someone at the event. No promises, though. He notes that a week’s notice is a bit short. Sylvia replies that she’s emailed the chamber several times.

"I need them to hear it from the horse’s mouth. It can’t always come from the police."

“I need them to hear it from the horse’s mouth. It can’t always come from the police,” she says later.

Sylvia lived in a tent when the going got rough, but now she lives in Section 8 housing. She got hooked up with Need and Deed years ago when Hamblen stopped by the shelter to hand out bus passes (the group no longer does this).

Friday’s forum evolved out of community meetings held every Monday at 2 pm by Need and Deed at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where volunteers serve hot meals (this week, beef stew) and distribute bags stocked with soap, shaving cream and toothbrushes. Racks of donated clothes are available for the taking. Hamblen invites homeless attendees to say whatever they’re feeling, with the expectation that nothing leaves the room: “We just let them talk because a lot of times people don’t have somebody to talk to that cares about them all week long.”

Hamblen, who founded the group five years ago, aims to bring in regulars for long-term mentoring. She says, “As a society, we can always do more than what we’re doing. It behooves us to care more.”

“Why Am I Homeless? Why Do I Panhandle?“
1 pm Friday Sept. 30. Free.
Christ Church Santa Fe,
1213 Don Gaspar Ave.,

Confused About the Special Session?

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