Enlace Communitario Launches Video

The advocacy organization Enlace Communitario has launched a new video that highlights the forgotten victims of anti-immigrant sentiment – the victims of domestic violence who are now too afraid to call the police for help.

The video was produced by local filmmaker Henry Rael of Arts of Aztlan.

You can check out the video  here – and if you want to know more about Enlace and the services it provides, visit Enlace online at enlace.org.

Rescind, Revise, Repeal: Read This if You Care About Clean Water, Air and Land in New Mexico

 

By Tracy Dingmann

Back in February, we did an Inspection of Public Records Request of Gov. Susana Martinez’s office that revealed documents showing that her “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” is packed with big-industry lobbyists who carry a distinctly anti-regulatory agenda.

 

Included in the documents was a “mid-point report” from the task force that contained a number of startling recommendations for the Governor regarding drastic rollbacks of environmental and construction rules.

The task force is due to issue a full report of recommendations to the Governor on April 1.

But just recently, our request yielded even more documents from another state agency that went into even greater detail about what the group wants the Governor to do about some very specific and crucial regulations.

Continue reading

Gov. Martinez Faces Fifth Suit in Supreme Court

By Claus Whiteacre

For the fifth time since she took office on Jan. 1, Governor Susana Martinez is being sued at the New Mexico Supreme Court.

This time, several unions are questioning the legality of her actions in firing all members of the state’s labor relations board.

Like the other four suits, this latest legal action revolves around the question of whether Gov. Martinez violated the state’s separation of powers by exceeding her authority as chief executive.

Unions Sue the Governor

In the suit, filed last week, the New Mexico Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and several of its affiliates challenge the legality of her dismissal of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board and its executive director.

In New Mexico, the Public Employee Labor Relations Board enforces public sector bargaining rights and handles disputes.

By law, the board consists of three members appointed by the governor: one recommended by labor, one recommended by public employers (effectively, the governor’s choice), and a third, jointly recommended by the other two appointees. The board itself then hires an executive director.

The Firings

Gov. Martinez fired executive director Pam Gentry on Feb. 5 and has interviewed prospective replacements — usurping the PELRB’s personnel decisions.

On March 1, Martinez removed board members John Boyd, recommended by labor; Martin Dominguez, recommended by public employers; and Duff Westbrook, who was jointly recommended.

State law guarantees unions the right to seek redress on behalf of wronged employees, but the removal of the labor board and its executive director means they have nowhere to go, union lawyers have said. Any negotiations, including collective bargaining, are also on hold.

In a statement last week, NMFL AFL-CIO president Christine Trujillo said:

“Governor Susana Martinez exceeded her authority in firing the entire Public Labor Relations Board in violation of state law. Her agenda is no different from that of Republican Wisconsin Governor Walker…she, along with the Tea Party-controlled Republican Party across the United States are attempting to pick off the rights of American workers to collectively provide safe and equitable work environments.”

What’s Next

In the lawsuit, the unions are seeking an order directing the governor to reinstate or reappoint the current PELRB members (specifically members John Boyd and Duff Westbrook) to their positions on the board.

Additionally, the unions are seeking an order prohibiting the governor from interfering in the board’s decision to hire an executive director of the PELRB.

The Supreme Court has ordered Gov. Martinez to respond to the union’s lawsuit by April 1. The court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for April 13.

Bill To Establish Suicide Prevention for Native American Youth Awaits Gov’s Signature

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

In the next days, as Governor Martinez’s desk piles high with legislation pleading for her signature, many advocates hope that Senate Bill 417 will get the precious signature and become a catalyst for increased support and resources to prevent youth suicide in American Indian communities.

Suicide is the third leading causes of death for youth in New Mexico, and the rate for AI youth is nearly twice as high as for other groups. In 2007, the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey revealed that 34.8% of Native youth in grades 9 through 12 reported feeling sadness and hopelessness.
The additional factors of isolation, poverty, loss of cultural and individual identity, historical trauma, substance abuse, and self-esteem issues all play into the increased risk for our Native American youth to take their own lives. For instance, 40% of American Indian children live in poverty – more than 3 times higher than the rate for white children.

SB417, sponsored by Sen. Lynda Lovejoy, (D-Crownpoint), creates a statewide clearinghouse to provide technical assistance and support to facilitate collaboration and establish sustainable suicide prevention programs in Native communities. The clearinghouse will also provide culturally appropriate suicide intervention and post-event assistance to Native American children and their families.

Funding for the measure was removed due to the state’s budget shortfall, but state officials will use grant money to fund the preliminary work of the clearinghouse.

Continue reading

Major Transparency and Accountability Measures Head to the Governor’s Desk

By Tracy Dingmann

Three bills aimed at ensuring more transparency and accountability for the people of New Mexico have been approved by the New Mexico State Legislature and are headed for the Governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Senator Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) and House Bill 161, sponsored by Representative Eleanor Chavez (D-Albuquerque), call for the state to establish a tax expenditure budget.  This innovative budget mechanism is a transparency tool that would allow the state to present a full and accurate accounting of the vast array of tax breaks and giveaways contained in the tax code, including those that have generated so much controversy, such as  for the  oil and gas, mining and film industries.

Moreover, it will give policymakers and the public a rational basis upon which to determine the fiscal and economic impacts of these tax expenditures.  Which ones are beneficial to New Mexico, and which ones are not? Which ones should be scaled back or even discarded?

“With passage of SB47 we’ll be able to measure the costs and benefits of these tax breaks,” Keller said.  “Some of these tax expenditures play an important economic development role and some support vulnerable segments of the population. The challenge is right now we don’t know which ones are beneficial to our state and which ones aren’t needed.”

This could benefit all New Mexicans by freeing up money for necessary services for all, including healthcare, education and public safety.

Senator Keller estimates that the state maintains approximately 107 carve-outs that make up a whopping  $1 billion in uncollected annual taxes each year.

Another bill headed to the Governor now is Senate Bill 208, which calls for the state to establish a much stronger process for reviewing insurance rate increases. The bill, sponsored by Senator Dede Feldman (D-Albuquerque), gives consumers fair and more transparent ways to hold insurance companies accountable.

Continue reading

Gov., Legislature Miss Opportunities on the Budget

By Tracy Dingmann

This 2011 legislative session is not yet over, but already its legacy has been written.

The Governor and a majority of New Mexico lawmakers could have chosen solutions that would have helped ease the burden of the current budget shortfall by spreading the responsibility fairly among all New Mexicans and those who do business here – rather than balancing it on the backs of the middle class, teachers, public employees and the working poor.

Instead, the Governor and most legislators chose to ignore solutions that could have made out-of-state corporations and the rich pay their fair share.

Here’s just one example.

Because of a loophole in the tax code, large, out-of-state corporations like Wal-Mart and Target do not have to pay taxes on the money they make in New Mexico.

Senate Bill 6 called for the state to close that loophole through a process called combined reporting, which could have raised up to $77 million annually for New Mexico simply by forcing corporations to pay their fair share to support infrastructure, education and community services from which their New Mexico based operations benefit. The bill was introduced by Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Albuquerque). But legislators failed to pass it.

Continue reading

Kochtopus Bill Has Its Tentacles In The New Mexico Legislature

By Tracy Dingmann

Error-ridden language from a bill crafted by the billionaire Koch Brothers and served up as a template for a number of states has surfaced in the New Mexico Legislature.

Language for the legislation, which would have states pull out of regional climate accords they’ve formed to reduce the effects of climate change, was created by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and circulated to conservative lawmakers in a number of states.

ALEC is a powerful lobbying group that is financed by large corporations, including ExxonMobil and a number of oil and gas companies who strenuously oppose taking any action against climate change.

In New Mexico, the ALEC measure is House Joint Memorial 24 and is being carried by freshman Representative Tim Lewis (R- Rio Rancho).

Continue reading

ACLU Files Massive Public Info Request With Offices of Governor, SOS in Connection with ‘Voter Fraud’ Claim

By Tracy Dingmann

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has filed a massive public information request for records from Governor Susana Martinez and Secretary of State Dianna Duran in connection with Duran’s announcement that her office has uncovered possible instances of voter fraud by foreign nationals.

The request, filed today (March 16), is seeking all records and correspondence related to Duran’s announcement on March 15.

By making the requests, the ACLU-NM, said, it is seeking to ensure the transparency and objectivity of the Secretary of State’s investigation.

“We want to know the motivations behind this investigation and the validity of any assertions that the New Mexico law allowing drivers licenses for all immigrants contributed to voter fraud,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson.

“We take claims of voter fraud seriously because they undermine voter confidence in our electoral system and tend to discourage participation in elections. We also wish to ensure that any exchange of records in this investigation did not violate voter privacy guarantees that are written into state law.”

Continue reading

Night of the Living Budget: Senate Passes HB2

By Claus Whiteacre

In the early hours of Wednesday morning with the legislative session heading into its final three days, the Senate passed its amended version of the General Appropriation Act of 2011, AKA House Bill 2. The state budget.

Uncharacteristically, introduction of the bill, amendments, and final vote took less then 30 minutes. The final vote was 27-14.

Going into this session, the legislature faced the task the task of closing a looming budget gap of about $250 million, due in part to a loss of federal stimulus funds. From the outset, the leadership opted for an approach that concentrated solely on the spending side — taking the revenue part of the equation off the table completely.

Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), Finance Committee Chair, proudly announced that the resulting legislation produced a balanced budget without layoffs, furloughs, or across-the-board cuts. Under the proposal, overall state spending will decrease by about 2.7 percent.

Not all senators agreed on this one-sided attempt to balance the budget – especially in the wake of almost a billion dollars in expenditure cuts already on the books. Three Democrats offered amendments. While acknowledging the gargantuan task of coming up with a balanced budget in tough economic times, they maintained that the discussion had neglected a more balanced approach.

Continue reading

An Obsessive and Frightening Zeal

Gov. Susana Martinez

By Tracy Dingmann

As the 60-day legislative session winds to a close and Gov. Susana Martinez completes her first few months in office, the people of New Mexico still lack a coherent plan from the executive-in-chief to generate jobs and stimulate the economy.

What New Mexicans DO have from Gov. Martinez is a solid, three-point plan to persecute undocumented immigrants.

She’s been working overtime on that.

Today’s Albuquerque Journal detailed the Governor’s plan to give Secretary of State Dianna Duran a list of New Mexico driver’s licenses issued to foreign nationals so they can be cross-checked against the state’s voter registration rolls.

Continue reading