Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Government waste wanted

The Government Restructuring Task Force says it wants the public to identify waste and then suggest ways to cut it.

You can submit your thoughts online here. Comments will be posted to start a discussion about the ideas.

The group is working to see what it can do to make government more efficient and effective -- words not usually used in the same sentence, unless of course there's a budget crisis.

"The members of the task force sincerely believe that some of the best ideas for improving state government performance will come from the public who receives services and from the employees who actually provide the services," Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, the task force's vice chairman, said in a statement.

The committee meets again in late July.

Report: Secretary of State's Office e-mails missing

Check out this piece from KUNM's Jim Wiliiams on how the Secretary of State's Office deleted or is hiding e-mails Williams asked for as part of a story he's working on.

The story raises the broader topic of e-mails in state government that aren't being kept and produced under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act as required. This issue has already come up at the Public Regulation Commission, where nobody is following the policy of forwarding public e-mails to an address for retention. The PRC has said it will revisit the issue and make changes to the policy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More legislative committees to be webcast

Chalk up another one for open government. The Legislative Council today approved a measure to allow the webcasting of interim committees. The meetings -- where actually a lot of leg work on key bills gets done -- are usually held around the state in the summer.
But to save money, the meetings this year are at the Capitol.

Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones pushed for the meetings to be webcast and wrote a letter urging the chairperson of every committee to do so. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, who also worked on webcasting legislation this year, applauded the move in a statement.

"This is another step in the right direction. We are always looking for ways to make government more transparent and accessible to the public. Webcasting is a useful service for our constituents," he said.

The webcasts and the schedule of upcoming interim meetings is on the Legislature's website.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Denver Post looks at the Spaceport

For all the money being spent at the Spaceport, we don't hear too much about the project these days. But the Denver Post has an interesting piece out on the endeavor.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PRC not maintaining public e-mails

The Public Regulation Commission will redo its policy dealing with public e-mails after one that requires employees to forward all public e-mails for retention wasn't working.

I came upon the story after asking for the e-mails of Mo Chavez, who recently resigned from his post as the state insurance superintendent. A response to the records request I filed turned up only e-mails sent to his account after he left the job. But it wasn't just Chavez who hadn't sent the e-mails on for retention. No one was forwarding e-mails to a specific address as the policy requires.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sloan removed from office

The state Supreme Court has voted to remove Public Regulation Commissioner Carol Sloan from office, a PRC spokesman confirmed.

One source said Sloan's belongings were being removed from her office in the PERA Building this afternoon.

Sloan is facing up to 12 years in prison and was ineligible to run again.

It's unclear at the moment who will fill out the rest of her term. Theresa Becenti-Aguilar won the Democratic primary election for the commission's District Four seat while Republican Gary Montoya won the Republican primary in June.

More trouble at the PRC

A former employee has sued two other former employees after he says he was wrongly fired for pointing out wrongdoing.

See the story here.

Former insurance compliance director Aaron Feliciano says Danny Mayfield and Mo Chavez orchestrated his firing because Felicano complained internally about "violations of New Mexico law, malfeasance, waste and abuse of authority" and sought Attorney General Gary King's help "to enforce the Insurance Code and to halt the practices that (Feliciano) reasonably and in good faith believed constituted unlawful and/or improper acts."

It also says he was fired because he told Chavez that he couldn't recommend a friend of Chavez's for the position of chief investigator, and that the State Personnel Act instead required him to recommend eligible candidates for the position based solely on qualification and ability.

In addition, Feliciano says he voiced concerns regarding "inappropriate hiring of political contributors to conduct insurance examinations and ineffective and costly insurance examinations for which (Feliciano) refused to approve invoices."

Neither Chavez nor Mayfield commented on the case Tuesday, although Chavez said "What can you say if people can sue anybody for anything?" he said. "That doesn't mean there's any validity to it."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Newspaper sues for public documents

It's a sad day when a newspaper has to sue for access to public information. But that's what has happened in the case of the 59 exempt employees who were laid off, about whom many in the media have been seeking information.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Denish puts two ads on tv

Does it feel more like October than June to anyone else? The rate at which Diane Denish and Susana Martinez are making new campaign ads makes it seem as if the general election is just days away. But it's not.

Check out these two Denish ads, released this morning. The first one is called 'Safe', the second one is called "Grain of Corn'

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Martinez ad a positive one

The ad focuses Martinez' work defending children in New Mexico, including Baby Brianna. No mention of Diane Denish. Could this mean there is a truce in the gubernatorial race?

Here are the subtitles:

Susana Martinez: I became a prosecutor to fight in defense of the most innocent among us.
For example, “Baby Brianna” was six months old when she was murdered by members of her own family.
Her picture hangs in my office to remind me why we must work to improve our community each and every day.
I’m running for Governor to make New Mexico a better state for every child.
I’m Susana Martinez. Join me in this fight.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New documents shed light on laid off exempts

We don't have a complete picture of who all was laid off in January. But we're getting closer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three cabinet secretaries leaving

Department of Education Secretary Veronica Garcia and Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Dorian Dodson are retiring July 1, Gov. Bill Richardson's office just announced. In addition, Energy and Natural Resources Secretary Jon Goldstein is leaving state government to pursue his master's degree.

"It is with a heavy heart that I announce the departures of Secretaries García, Dodson and Goldstein. All three have been invaluable assets of my administration, working day in and day out to improve the lives of all New Mexicans,” Governor Richardson said in a statement. “While they will all be missed, these types of departures nearing the end of an administration are typical. I want to assure New Mexicans that the leadership transitions in these departments will be smooth and that there will be no impact to services."

More info here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Martinez ad

Susana Martinez' campaign just released this ad. I guess now is a good time to be in the political campaign business, given that we've seen three ads in the week since the primary.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Denish airs another ad

If this is how the pace of the campaign will be, it's gonna be a loooong summer.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has unleased another campaign ad against Republican GOP gubernatorial nominee Susana Martinez. This after another ad just last week. (Yes, the same week as the primary.)

A message from the state Republican Party, meanwhile, said Martinez is sticking to issues like jobs, smaller government and education. The e-mail message includes an article from the Alamogordo Daily News, outlining Martinez' recent campaign stops in Española, Las Vegas, Farmington, Albuquerque, Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tax amnesty time

The state Taxation and Revenue Department this morning announced that it's giving temporary tax amnesty to those who haven't paid.

"New Mexico Tax Relief is a win-win for all New Mexicans and for our state," Tax and Rev Secretary Rick Homans said in a statement. "It gives families and businesses that have fallen behind, perhaps as a result of the recession, a one-time opportunity to avoid penalties and interest on their tax obligations. And it gives New Mexico a better opportunity to collect much-needed revenues for essential services both at state and local levels."

It also gives the state much needed cash. You already know the budget mess we're in.

So here's the lowdown from the department:

"Starting today, the Department has begun accepting applications for the Tax Relief program that will conclude Sept. 30, 2010. The program does not provide tax forgiveness, but allows qualified individuals and businesses to disclose unreported, under-reported and un-assessed taxes that were due prior to 2010 without incurring penalties. Also, no interest will be applied as long as the tax liability is paid in full within 180 calendar days of assessment." Contact the department if you owe.

The move is expected to gin up nearly $7 million in new revenue -- of which $5.5 million will go into the state's general fund and $1.5 million to various local governments, according to the department.

No word on what the state will do if the idea doesn't bring in that much cash, or how exactly the money will be spent.

The state hasn't offered amnesty since 1999, when some 10,000 taxpayers fessed up about not paying.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Republican wants to help Lujan-Trujillo recount, if there is one

Republican House candidate Bob Walsh said this morning he'll chip in for a possible recount between House Speaker Ben Lujan and LANL technologist Carl Trujillo. More on the latest about that race here.

Walsh is the Republican running against Santa Fe Rep. Lucky Varela in the November election. He said he'd pitch in $20 for a deposit on the recount and an additional $200 toward the cost of a recount if it doesn't change the current result.

"Both Ben and Carl are dedicated to public service,” Walsh said in a statement. “Either would be a fine representative for their district. We just want to reassure the voters that their votes have been counted accurately."

Trujillo hasn't decided whether to seek a recount and was waiting for the Santa Fe County Canvassing Board to meet Friday to see what the results look like. The unofficial results showed Lujan up by 80 votes.

Walsh, in case you are wondering, "is an applied mathematician who describes himself as a centrist, a social liberal and fiscal conservative," according to a release he sent this morning.

Just when you thought the campaign ads were over . . .

After election night, I naively thought we'd get a break for a while from the TV ads in this year's gubernatorial race.

I was wrong.

Out this morning is a new ad from the Denish camp, setting the tone of her gubernatorial bid against Susana Martinez . The ad looks at Martinez' record as district attorney.

Check it out. I'll be posting all the campaign ads between now and the November election.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Election Day...we're live blogging

Starting at about 7:30 this morning, we'll be blogging live with the latest information from reporters and community members about today's primary election. Join us!

In the meantime, read how independent voters still can't vote in the primary here and our Sunday analysis of the gubernatorial race. I also penned this piece about how immigrant driver's licenses play into the governor's race.