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For Martinez, session brings wins and losses

The Roundhouse in Santa Fe

The Roundhouse in Santa Fe (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

The governor got her tax breaks and a budget she can work with, in addition to tougher penalties for corruption-related crimes. Democrats got their bill to close a corporate tax “loophole,” though it’s likely to be vetoed. PRC reform will be on the ballot in November.

Sen. Stuart Ingle (Courtesy Senate Minority)

Gov. Susana Martinez didn’t succeed on many of the issues she had endorsed, but she emerged from the 30-day legislative session with the tax breaks she most cared about and a budget she can work with. Democratic leadership succeeded in killing bills aimed at repealing licenses for undocumented immigrants and ending so-called social promotion, and quickly dispensed with moves to reinstate the death penalty and impose a restriction on abortion.

Senate Majority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said he leaves Santa Fe pleased that lawmakers approved a plan to reduce tax “pyramiding” in the construction industry and a fix to the unemployment insurance fund that is designed to save money for businesses. See more in the video.

Legislative Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, also touted the unemployment insurance fund fix.

“It is probably the largest reduction in cost to employers in the state of New Mexico, and it flew under the radar,” Smith said.

Lawmakers also approved Martinez’s proposed tax credit for business hiring veterans. But they rejected a proposal to provide legal immunity for supply and manufacturing companies involved in flights from Spaceport America.

Democrats succeeded in getting a bill they characterized as closing a gross-receipts tax “loophole” for-out-state corporations, but the bill seems destined to be vetoed by Martinez.

Education

Some were disappointed that legislators failed to address fears about long-term solvency of the educational pension fund.


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“Not doing pension reform was a big mistake,” said Carter Bundy of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We had a compromise that would have fully funded the Educational Retirement Board over the next 30 years, and this was a missed opportunity.”

A signature piece of Martinez’s education agenda also went down in flames in the session’s final hour as Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Tucumcari, led a last-minute filibuster because of the refusal to hear a bill that would have held back third-graders not reading at grade level. By the time the so-called social promotion bill came up for discussion, the session was near an end and another filibuster killed it.

Senate Democrats again declined to consider confirming Martinez’s education secretary designate, Hanna Skandera.

“I’m disappointed that this is not a state that cares about education reform,” Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, said after sine die. “This state is still beholden to the educational establishment.”

A move to spend some of the state’s permanent fund on early childhood education failed for the second year in a row, but lawmakers and the governor agreed on spending more on such programs.

“We put a lot more money into early childhood, early reading programs, K-3. We funded education about $89 million more,” said budget guru Sen. Smith. “That’s real generous with where we were with our dollars.”

Campaign disclosure and reform

In this election year, lawmakers also leave Santa Fe without a bill to require more transparency in political spending, after Democrats, Republicans, nonprofits and the Attorney General’s Office failed to compromise on a bill they all wanted.

Sen. Peter Wirth

“I think it’s a real setback for the voters, and I’m disappointed,” said Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, who worked hard to bring all concerned parties to agreement. In the end, Wirth said, the parties came pretty close but simply ran out of time. See more in our video.

As for reform, a Martinez-backed bill to impose steeper penalties for officials convicted of public corruption-related crimes was passed, as were three proposed constitutional amendments that would reform the scandal-tarnished Public Regulation Commission. A proposal to impose a cooling-off period before legislators can lobby their former colleagues died.

Democrat-sought legislation to ask voters to move the Public Defender’s Department out from under the governor and make it an independent agency passed, so that question will join the three related to the PRC on the November ballot.

On top of all that, lawmakers in the House and Senate took time to laud and applaud retiring Speaker of the House Ben Luján, who banged his gavel throughout the session despite saying in January that because of advanced lung cancer he might not be able to finish the session.

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15 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Dr. J – thank you I will start paying attention to that. When it comes to local politicians in New Mexico, I think more scrutiny should be put upon the politicians when they are in the process of running for office. Real time. And if they have long histories of campaign fundraising that should be looked at alongside their personal financials. There are rules that regulate campaign finances and fundraising and unless the public is aware of a candidate’s history and the current Secretary of State maticulous, criminal politicians can make a good (illegal) living off of innocent voters and then of all things represent them! Yikes!

  2. Exactly Stever.
    It is ridiculous to put the burden solely on teachers to turn all the kids around and put them on the path to righteousness.  The sheer numbers of kids that teachers are dealing with on a daily basis with very limited power makes that likelihood spotty at best.  Scapegoating teachers will not turn our kids into model citizens and neither will privatizing public education.
    More money DOES help the kids that are trying.  For example, technology in the schools will be expensive at at time when our kids need technological knowledge to survive.  More teachers and smaller classrooms also cost money but benefit those kids that are making an effort to learn.  Let’s focus on the half that could succeed and keep working on the other half to draw them in. 

  3. I also noticed that yesterday Qui Tam. But remember, when McCain berates the court it is about ALL the outside special interest money released (including unions, enviro-pressure groups and their trust babies, Soros, MoveOn, etc.).  When people like Udall, Marty, or Lujan do it it is only about the corporate and conservative money, they approve of all the rest of course.  At least McCain is not a partisan hypocrite of incredible proportions like the others.

  4. Dr. J – it was a real relief to hear John McCain berate the Supreme Court and the insane Citizen’s United decision on National television yesterday. He did so with Jake Tapper on This Week with George S. . One day I expect Mr. Haussamen to be interviewed on a national political talk show during a presidential election season. Perhaps this year? I think it will be fun to see as Mr. Haussamen has become privy to so much of what goes on in the statewide scene. Campaign finance is a huge issue and getting larger as voters become exposed to the importance of disclosure and who is buying who. I think Secretary Duran is doing some investigations in the arena but I doubt Attorney General Gary King will prosecute if crimes have been committed. In any case, at least a larger number of voters will be better educated.

  5. Unfortunately those who are behind in the early elementary grades probably won’t benefit from either staying behind, or being socially promoted.  It has nothing to do with teachers, and how much money we spend on education. 

    Those who insist on making these issues about politics are simply ignoring the real problems which have been in place for a very long time. 

  6. Very true QuiTam, and luckily Wirth and his identical twin Egolf (like Marx and Engels as we say) were only 2 for 23 in bills passed.  However, one of Wirth’s was a doozy of capital destruction, luckily Madam Guv will veto it.

  7. EW-aif,
    That is exactly what I was thinking.  It will happen in the 5th grade.  The fifth graders are tiny and undeveloped.  They are still essentially little children with baby mentalities.  The 6th graders are undergoing puberty and by Spring, 3/4 are sexually mature.  They are not babies.   Sixth grade boys turn twelve which is the age in which many cultures separate the boys from their mothers and taken to be with the men.  They are thinking about sex.  They are gaming with M rated violent games and watching the worst that comedy central has to offer in crude humor and misogyny and they are watching porn on the internet. Twelve year olds are incredibly stupid barely able to contain their self imposed Tourettes.  The difference between a 5th grader and a 6th grader is more than size.  It is going to be like throwing lambs in with the wolves.
    Trust me.  It is not always going to be the “good” kids with the “good” parents that are having trouble reading.
      
    Teachers may be assuming that the hold backs will be given their own classroom and teacher.

  8. Duly elected Senator Peter Wirth is not alone in his dissappointment.

    Another sad day for constituents, voters and the law abiding citizenry of New Mexico.

  9. Hemmingway is right.  Furthermore, when these children are held back, there is a definite possibility that they can turn into overgrown bullies on the playground, being bigger than their fellow students. 
     
    Re the videos, when I clicked on the link you provided, Heath, I got an “Error-404″ message.  Maybe my Mac G4 is defective??

  10. Mimi Stewart should receive plaudits for questioning the social promotion bill in the House. I really applaud her for standing up against the poorly conceived social promotion bill. Retention research has failed to prove any academic advantages for retained students. Governor Martinez made the silly statement – that this is “impossible.”  Yet you still have Governor Martinez advocating the simplistic and costly educational program of flunking third graders as the answer. This is not education reform. Frequent standardized testing does not increase learning and educational quality. Investing in professional development, curriculum research, materials and technology at the classroom level is the right way as demonstrated by world-class education programs. The Governor and her inexperienced education chief, Hanna Skandera, will probably push this defective bill again. Thanks to Mimi Stewart for looking for the right answer and for opposing a bankrupt policy that will only hurt our children.
    Mimi Stewart is a retired teacher who started teaching in 1977. Ms. Skandera has never taught in any classroom. Ms. Stewart knows more about real education reform than Ms. Skandera and her political mentor, Governor Martinez combined. Democrets should unite around Ms. Stewart to oppose the social promotion bill in the future.

  11. One other thing the live blogging was useful for, maybe two, was how active and aggressive the lobbyists and special interests like “THINK NEW MEXICO” were, and how lazy and procrastinating the legislators are.  What a bunch of slackers, and they want salaries for this?

  12. They work for me. Anyone else having problems? Also EW, do the videos in this post work for you?

    http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2012/02/prc-reform-may-hit-snag-in-senate/ 

  13. Thanks  for the explanation.  Now I can’t get the videos to work?  No sound, and they don’t play when I click on the arrow.

  14. The first was a bond bill, which ended up passing. The second was a social promotion bill that died.

  15. “A signature piece of Martinez’s education agenda also went down in flames in the session’s final hour as Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Tucumcari, led a last-minute filibuster because of the refusal to hear a bill that would have held back third-graders not reading at grade level. By the time the so-called social promotion bill came up for discussion, the session was near an end and another filibuster killed it.”
     
    This is rather confusing.  Which bills were filibustered?

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