Saturday noon came and went with a whimper. The New Mexico legislature adjourned sine die, and I couldn’t care less.
Child welfare reform? Nope. Meaningful tax reform? Oh, hell no. Good government reform? Talk to the hand.
At first, I was pleased to see the state severance permanent fund funded to almost 30% of the total budget, or nearly $3.25 billion. Then the total funding amount recommended in the House budget to fund the severance permanent fund was slashed 44% by the Senate in the last week of the session to fund even more stuff in a budget bill totaling nearly $10 billion.
I absolutely hate that. The $375 million pulled out of the severance permanent fund funding by the Senate Finance Committee went to fully funding free college tuition and $500 tax rebates.
I really hate that.
Maybe we should work on our K-12 system and high school graduation rates before we go down the free college road (and what about some management accountability for our public universities as they keep raising tuition…talking to you, NMSU). And if we have enough money to give it back to the taxpayers, change the tax system or make the rebates recurring based on oil and gas revenues, like Alaska.
Even more egregious, the most basic accountability measures for our Child, Youth and Family Department (CYFD) failed to be heard for a full vote again. No independent entity to hear stakeholder or client complaints. No real reform. CYFD will remain a closed and dysfunctional department lacking accountability for its internal failures. Children will die in its care and we will read the heartbreaking accounts as the worst cases are exposed in the media.
Independent redistricting died with bipartisan support. I continue to shake my head at Republicans who believe after 110 years that somehow the Democrats will give them an equal seat at the table in 2031 when it’s time to redraw our political maps again. Voters should pick their politicians. In New Mexico, Democratic politicians carefully pick their voters every ten years with careful mapmaking.
Open primaries – where New Mexico’s decline-to-state voters would be able to vote in primaries, as they can in more than 40 other states – was stopped in the House Judiciary committee. Chairwoman Christine Chandler (D-43) represents Los Alamos County, which has the highest number of DTS voters in the state. She refused to give Senate Bill 73 its second hearing in the House, effectively killing it. One wonders what she is afraid of.
Then there is the generally futile Voting Rights Act which was passed. The only positive thing I can say about it is that the section that would allow 16-and 17-year-olds to vote in state and local elections was removed to separate legislation and did not pass. The Voting Rights Act accomplishes two things.
First, it automatically registers everyone to vote, which means a bunch of new DTS voters (if you are automatically registered, you won’t be enrolled in a party) are immediately disenfranchised because they can’t vote in publicly funded primaries. That’s hardly encouraging people to join in the electoral process.
Second, the automatic registration and ability to be permanently placed on a mail-in ballot list is going to encourage the GOP to challenge every election going forward, within reason or not. It will not statistically improve voter turnout and it will make a group already hostile about election integrity more so.
To be fair, the legislature had over 1,000 bills to hear in just 60 days. But the proposal to study professionalizing the legislature – considering longer sessions and paying legislators – also failed.
We will only get out of what we put into a part-time, unpaid legislature. In 2023 that looks to be the largest spending bill ever, no real tax reform, a state-funded abortion clinic, and free college in a state where nearly 1 out of 3 kids isn’t graduating from high school.
But cheer up, dear reader. It’s time to start fundraising for 2024.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appears regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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