Senators brief attendees on legislative outcomes. VDP photo
Hernandez Hosts State Association Of Counties Legislative Review Meeting
HERNANDEZ – The New Mexico Association of Counties held a 2015 post legislative session meeting for northern New Mexico member counties Thursday, April 23, at the Hernandez Community Center. Elected officials from county governments throughout the state and local legislators came together to review the 2015 legislative session, discuss what happened, what didn’t happen and and what are the next steps for the counties.
Local Senator Richard Martinez opened the presentations by discussing the accomplishments and difficulties of the 2015 legislative session. Senator Martinez, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee highlighted some of the bills he sponsored and important bills that went through his committee. In particular he spoke in detail about a new Indian Gaming Compact with five tribes and Senate Bill 226 which he sponsored to give landowners right of protection from individual using the rivers that are immediately next to their lands.
In addition, Senator Martinez stressed how the environment at the Roundhouse was very different this year than any previous year he has served. “This was the hardest session I’ve ever attended” Senator Martinez commented.
Senator Carlos Cisneros also presented his impressions of the 2015 session and echoed Senator Martinez’s comments saying “This was a very trying session for all of us. The cordial atmosphere in the legislature broke down and created an atmosphere of contention. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced over the last 20 years.”
In his review of the session Senator Cisneros, Vice Chair of the Senate finance committee focused primarily on the budget and capital outlay issues.
A $6.2 billion state budget passed in House Bill 2 and Governor Martinez line-item vetoed approximately $80 million is specific program funding, according to Senator Cisneros.
Senator Cisneros also provided a blow-by-blow recap of this year’s capital outlay bill failure. The capital outlay bill is the method the state uses to fund local and statewide construction projects and equipment purchases for local and state government projects. This year’s bill, Senate Bill 159 died in the last few minutes of the session taking over $260 million in appropriations for projects with it. The impact locally would cost Rio Arriba and surrounding communities over $3.5million (See earlier Valley Daily Post article on this topic HERE).
Senator Cisneros said that the legislature worked In cooperation with the Governor’s office to designate $112 million to “statewide projects” and designated $84 million for individual projects funded by the legislature. According to Senator Cisneros the Governor’s representative “demanded” more money be allocated to the Governor’s statewide projects but the Senate declined. When the bill reached the Republican controlled House, the Governor’s allies in the House reduced local legislator funding to senior centers, local colleges and Native American programs and reallocated that money toward unvetted projects.
Senators and House democrats protested but the changes were adopted and the bill sent back to the Senate with about 15 minutes left in the session. The Senate was unable to adopt or reject the changes in the short period of time and the bill died.
Over the last few weeks growing community outcry over this collapse appears to be pushing both legislators and the governor to consider a special session to take up this one issue. Senator Cisneros said that question on whether we will have a special session or not is the $64,000.
Other legislators attending and presenting their take on the session included Santa Fe’s Senator Nancy Rodriguez and Representative Jim Trujillo.
Paula Garcia, County Commissioner from Mora County and current president of the association of counties led an afternoon discussion around next steps and strategies for counties statewide to consider in promoting their interests at the state government level.
Thursday’s meeting is one of four post-legislative meetings the Association of Counties is holding throughout New Mexico. The next one is scheduled for Santa Rosa April 29.