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New Mexico Telegram » Morning Word » Morning Word, 02-07-13

Morning Word, 02-07-13

The budget picture should come into clearer focus in the next couple of weeks.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the legislative budget proposal, including a one percent pay increase for state employees, could see a committee as early as next week.

This means the focus will fade away from some of the social issues and other bills that are more small-ball (though that isn’t to say unimportant) to the larger picture issues.

The budget is the main reason for the legislature to meet every year; each year, the legislature must pass a balanced budget — something that is no walk in the park when the budget weighs in at nearly $6 billion.

On to the Word:

  • The Santa Fe New Mexican’s legislative roundup is up.
  • State Rep. Donald Bratton, R-Hobbs, finally released a letter that Milan Simonich was looking for. There really isn’t much in the letter — but the cover up is worse than teh crime, as they say. Bratton’s initial refusal to release the letter, which was the Legislative Council Service apologizing for the wording of the controversial bill that many say would have made criminals of women who had abortions of pregnancies made from rape or incest, made a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Steve Pearce was mocked by a Huffington Post writer for missing President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to attend a public hearing on the lesser prairie chicken.
  • The Media Economy Review says that Rep. Moe Maestas’ TV incentive bill will go to committee next week. I spoke to Maestas on Wednesday and may have a story up soon on the film incentive bill.
  • The Albuquerque Journal notes that Albuquerque has dropped to 8th in a ranking of top cities to be moviemaker.
    According to MovieMaker Magazine’s new list of the “Top 10 Cities to be a Moviemaker: 2013,” the city comes in at No. 8. It had ranked first in 2010, second in 2011 and third in 2012.

  • KRQE’s Alex Goldsmith writes about the many ways to kill a bill. Goldsmith was writing about the Republicans in the House trying to kill a bill that would index the minimum wage to inflation, which NM Telegram also covered.
  • The Santa Fe Reporter blogs about the big fight over PRC qualifications. Voters added a constitutional amendment to require the legislature to increase qualifications to sit on the PRC. But, the devil is in the details. And now the legislature must figure out what exactly those qualifications will be — and how high they will be.
  • New Mexico Compass looks at the “elephant in the room” in the state budget.
    Only brief mention was made of what House Education Committee Chair Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) called “the elephant in the room.” She referred to the the Education Department’s >major shortfall on special education spending requirements, a gap which could mean a loss of up to $93 million. States are required to spend a certain amount on special education in order to get grant money from the feds. Skandera’s office asked feds to waive the requirement for 2010 and 2011 but received notification in December that approval of the waiver isn’t likely.

  • New Mexico Capitol Report says that the experience needed will be significant.

    It would require a college degree or degrees in fields relevant to regulatory work, professional experience, or a combination of both totaling at least 12 years.

  • One bill that isn’t going anywhere is the bill by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, that would prohibit texting while driving. Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the bill died on a 5-5 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • The Santa Fe County treasurer has to defend himself for hiring a longtime friend as his deputy treasurer according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • I have a theory that water rights litigation never ends. Another data point, from the Farmington Daily-Times:

    A decades-old battle over water rights continues between the Navajo Nation and San Juan County water users.
    Both sides are proceeding with challenges to a settlement case, which has been in the courts since the 1960s. Although there was a Monday hearing in the case, it is not expected to go to trial until August.
    “We could lose it all,” said Victor Marshall, attorney for the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Organization, one of the organizations opposing the settlement.

  • The new Dona Ana County District Attorney retained the outside prosecutor in the bribery case of former judge Mike Murphy. The outside prosecutor, Matt Chandler, was appointed by former DA Amy Orlando.
  • The state Supreme Court tossed out a case that allegedly involved prostitution solicited from the internet, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

    In August, 2nd Judicial District Judge Stan Whitaker dismissed the cases, finding that a website does not constitute a “house of prostitution” under state law.On Wednesday, the five high court justices deliberated for 25 minutes before announcing, without explanation, that Whitaker’s ruling “remains in effect.”

    There is a bill in the legislature to amend the law to make such a website illegal.

  • Embattled Albuquerque Downs commissioners are quick to declare victory on the way a controversial contract was signed. But the audit isn’t yet done.
  • KRQE is the latest to report on $45,000 in welfare funds being taken from ATMs at or near bars, strip clubs or liquor stores. A bill to end this practice passed the House unanimously today. KRQE continues:

    That program handed out nearly $77 million dollars last year, so a very small percentage went to booze, casinos and strip clubs. But under a new federal law, all states must prevent cash withdraws at bars, liquor stores, gambling establishments and adult entertainment by February 2014 or face federal cuts.

  • More bad water news from John Fleck:
    While there is still uncertainty about how wet or dry the next few months will be, the mostly likely runoff, if we get normal precipitation through spring, is 39 percent of the long-term average flowing into Elephant Butte Reservoir, according to forecasters at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • The Taos News has a report on the area school board races — including the highly-anticipated Questa races. The Questa school board was so dysfunctional that the state Public Education Departmetn stepped in and suspended the entire board until the elections.

    Questa voters came out in force Tuesday (Feb. 5) in the midst of a months-long suspension of the Questa school board, ousting Mathew and Daryl Ortega and re-electing suspended board president Bernie Torres.

  • The Deming Headlight reports on the blowback over a new trial being called in the Deming gun smuggling case. It involves the Luna County Sheriff denying that he had knowledge of corruption in his department. It is hard to excerpt any one part and make it make sense, so just go read the whole piece — it isn’t that long.
  • Oil companies expressed willingness to share in the costs of maintaining roads that their heavy equipment puts more-than-the-usual wear and tear on in Eddy County, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reports. But, I’ll say it again, the devil is in the details.

    “We need to throw out a number as a starting point,” Eddy County Commission Chairman Jack Volpato said. “We need to decide what percentage we will pay and what the oil and gas companies should pay. As it is now, it’s still open-ended. If I was one of the companies, I would be looking at what I would be getting in to.”

  • The Rio Rancho Observer reports on the Sandoval County Commission’s actions on the budget.
  • Headline of the day, no doubt: “Woman pleads guilty to horse embezzlement.” It is almost better if you don’t know the story and just see the headline, but if you want, click on through to the Farmington Daily-Times website.
  • Dan McKay at the Albuquerque Journal reports on an email from city councilor Isaac Benton to a friend that called a business owner a “lying sack of (expletive).” The business owner, well, he may have overreacted.

    Carrasco, describing himself as a victim of a “hate crime,” said he is seeking a federal investigation and has contacted the White House.

    Bo Obama will be put right on that case, I’m sure.

Written by

Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.

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