Call Special Session To Enact “Omnibus Gun Violence And Gun Control Act”; Enact 10 Year “Firearm” And 5 Year “Lethal Weapon” Enhancement Sentencings; Enact Laws To Keep Guns Out Of Hands Of Children; Outlaw Citizen Militias

Because of Albuquerque’s and the State’s rising violent crime rates, strengthening the state’s crime laws and enacting anti-crime legislation became the number one priority of Governor Michell Lujan Grisham and the 2022 New Mexico legislature’s 30 day short session.

On March 9 Governor Michell Lujan Grisham signed into law the crime bill enacted by the 2022 New Mexico legislature. It is a sweeping crime package that was a result of significant compromising. The most controversial provisions in the crime package was the legislatures rejection of the “rebuttable presumption” in pretrial detention and it was replacing it with a 24-hour court monitoring program.

The enacted and now signed into law crime bill mandates the courts to provide greater supervision of defendants by requiring courts to share ankle monitoring data with law enforcement agencies upon request. It requires the courts to turn over GPS monitoring data to police and prosecutors during a criminal investigation to allow better tracking of pretrial defendants on electronic monitoring in an effort to prevent a charged defendant awaiting trial from committing another crime. The crime bill as enacted expands surveillance of criminal defendants as they await trial with 24-hour monitoring of ankle-bracelet tracking devices.

Other legislation signed into law by the Governor are:

1. Establish programs to recruit and retain law enforcement officers.
2. Allocate $50 million from the budget to establish an officer recruitment fund.
3. Strengthen penalties for gun crimes, including a felon in possession of a firearm and using a firearm to commit a felony.
4. Create criminal statutes for violent threats, property damage and chop shops.
5. Eliminate the statute of limitations for second-degree murder.
6. Increase to $1 million the death benefits for families of peace officers killed in the line of duty.
7. Establish the Violence Intervention Program Act and allocate $9 million from the budget to establish intervention programs statewide.
8. Allocate crime reduction grants, accompanied by $2 million in the budget for the grants.

Other provisions of the crime bill include:

The crime bill changes law enforcement training by banning choke-holds and teaching de-escalation techniques.

The crime bill bars the use of the “gay panic defense,” which involves defendants asserting the discovery of a person’s gender or sexual orientation caused them to harm the victim.

The bill redefines the role and composition of the Law Enforcement Academy Board and splits the board’s functions into two separate entities.

The legislation also creates new judges for the 2nd, 5th and 13th judicial districts.

In a statement after signing the crime package into law, Lujan Grisham had this to say:

“Every New Mexican deserves to feel safe in their communities – and they are demanding action from their government. … [This bill] expands upon the transformational work we’ve done in previous years, strengthening our state’s public safety system and making streets safer in every New Mexico community.”

Links to quoted news sources are here:

Notwithstanding the enactment of the crime bill, many within the legislature, the general public and prosecutors felt not enough was done to deal with violent crime and especially gun violence. The postscript to this article provides the sobering statics. If reducing violent crime in New Mexico is indeed the ultimate goal, more needs to be done that directly addresses gun violence and violent crime offenders.


A review of the state’s sentencing laws in the context of violent crimes is in order.

New Mexico uses what is referred to as determinate sentencing system. It means that if you’re convicted of a felony, the judge will sentence you to a fixed term in prison, up to the legal maximum for the crime found guilty. The sentencing judge may alter the basic sentence by either decreasing or increasing the basic sentence and can do so by as much as a third if evidence at the sentencing hearing shows that there were mitigating or aggravating circumstances surrounding the crime or in a defendant’s background. Use of a gun in the commission of a crime is an aggravating circumstance and their are aggravating charges when a firearm is used in the commission of a crime.

Pre-sentence reports are prepared by the state’s corrections department, probation and parole division, where detailed reports are prepared on a defendants background and the crime committed and making recommendations to the court for sentencing. The prosecution at the time of a sentencing hearing presents the aggravating evidence or circumstances justifying increasing the basic sentence. The defense at the time of sentencing presents the mitigating evidence or circumstance to reduce the basic sentence and to argue for suspended sentences and no jail time.

In New Mexico, misdemeanors carry potential punishment of less than a year in local jail and fines. Felonies are serious crimes that may be punished by a year or more in prison and fines. For purposes of felony sentencing, New Mexico categorizes felonies into five groups: Capital Felonies, 1st , 2nd , 3rd and 4th degree felonies.

Following is a short summation of New Mexico’s criminal penalty sentencings:

New Mexico law lays out the basic prison sentences for each of the different categories of felonies. Except for capital felonies, these basic sentences are the maximum term of imprisonment for that degree of felony before any sentence enhancements. … The law also specifies the maximum fines that judges may order in addition to a prison sentence.

Convictions for capital felonies, such as first-degree murder, carries a a sentence of life in prison.

First-degree felony convictions carry a basic prison sentence of up to 18 years, plus a possible fine up to $15,000. However, if the felony resulted in the death of a child or was for aggravated criminal sexual penetration, the maximum penalty is life in prison plus a fine of $17,500. Other examples of first-degree felonies include kidnapping and sex trafficking a minor under age 13.

The basic sentence for most second-degree felonies is up to nine years in prison, plus a maximum fine of $10,000. Examples of violent crime second-degree felonies include armed robbery, armed burglary and armed assault with a deadly weapon.

Third-degree felony convictions carry a basic sentence of up to three years in prison and a possible fine of up to $5,000. Examples of third-degree felonies include voluntary manslaughter, residential burglary, distributing marijuana to a minor, and aggravated assault on a healthcare workers.

A fourth degree felony convictions carry a basic sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $5,000. The maximum prison sentence is 10 years if the crime involved sexual exploitation of a child. Examples of fourth-degree felonies include larceny , or theft, of property worth more than $500 but no more than $2,500, personal possession of some illegal drugs , including methamphetamine and opiates.


In addition to the alterations in basic sentences for aggravating or mitigating circumstances, New Mexico law requires an increase in those basic sentences in certain situations, including when the defendant has previous felony convictions and when the current offense was a hate crime. Under New Mexico’s habitual offender laws, if someone convicted of a felony, other than a capital felony has previous felony convictions, the basic maximum sentence for the current crime will be increased by the following amounts:

• One year for one prior felony conviction
• Four years for two prior felonies, or
• Eight years for three or more priors.

Other factors that could affect a defendant’s sentence include criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the crime.

The link to quoted source material is here:,plus%20a%20fine%20of%20%2417%2C500.


Criminal Sentencing becomes complicated when there is a firearm involved with felony charges. New Mexico has also enacted what is referred to as a firearm enhancement provision when it comes to crimes committed. When the defendant is convicted of a felony and a firearm is used, securing deferred jail time or a suspended sentence does not exist.

“Under New Mexico law, it is important to note that a firearm is defined as a weapon “designed to propel an object by an explosion”. There is a significant distinction between a firearm and a deadly weapon. Many objects may be used as deadly weapons. Much of the classification of a deadly weapon depends upon intent. As such, a lamp if used with deadly intent constitutes a deadly weapon. Firearm classification is more restrictive. For instance, a bb gun or even a C-O2 air gun may constitute deadly weapons depending upon the intent and use, but neither are considered firearms.”

The link to quoted source material is here:

It is section 31-18-16 of the New Mexico Statutes that provides for enhance sentences for brandishing of firearm. The statute provides as follows:

“A. When a separate finding of fact by the court or jury shows that a firearm was brandished in the commission of a noncapital felony, the basic sentence of imprisonment prescribed … shall be increased by three years, except that when the offender is a serious youthful offender or a youthful offender, the sentence imposed by this subsection may be increased by one year.
B. For a second or subsequent noncapital felony in which a firearm is brandished, the basic sentence of imprisonment … shall be increased by five years, except that when the offender is a serious youthful offender or a youthful offender, the sentence imposed by this subsection may be increased by three years.”
C. …
D. As used in this section, “brandished” means displaying or making a firearm known to another person while the firearm is present on the person of the offending party with intent to intimidate or injure a person.”!fragment/zoupio-_Toc97025891/BQCwhgziBcwMYgK4DsDWszIQewE4BUBTADwBdoAvbRABwEtsBaAfX2zgE4B2ABgCYArAA4OARgCUAGmTZShCAEVEhXAE9oAcg2SIhMLgRKV6rTr0GQAZTykAQuoBKAUQAyTgGoBBAHIBhJ5KkYABG0KTs4uJAA


APD is saying they are seeing an increase in violent crime by increasingly younger offenders. All one has to do is look to the headlines in Albuquerque as proof of this fact. Those headlines include the following:

On August 1, 2020, 18-year-old Fedonta “JB” White, a Santa Fe High School basketball star and the state’s most highly recruited athlete was shot and killed at a house party in Chupadero. Authorities charged 16-year-old Estevan Montoya with the first-degree murder of White.

On August 13, 2021 Bennie Hargrove was shot 6 times by fellow classmate 13-year-old Juan Saucedo at lunch time during bullying incident outside Washington Middle. Saucedo was said to have taken his parents gun from home to the school on the day of the killing.

Late November 2021, a violent Halloween weekend left 5 dead around the Albuquerque metro area and left several others injured. A house party on the city’s west side left four people injured. Police say the shooting happened during a large house party on Fountain Court Northwest. Four people were shot in the leg, but police say none of the injuries were life-threatening. APD said a group of 4 young men that included a juvenile showed up at the apartment party and attempted to rob one man of his shoes before gunfire erupted. One of the shooting victims was a juvenile. When a detective asked an 18-year Acee who was one of the group of alleged intruders if it is a “normal thing” for people to be at a party with an AK-47, he reportedly replied, “This is Albuquerque.”

On February 25, 2022 16-year-old West Mesa High junior Andrew Burson was shot and killed just east of campus by a fellow student. Police say Burson and 14-year-old Marco Trejo were arguing over a “ghost gun” Burson had bought on the internet and assembled himself. Burson confronted Trejo near the football field, claiming Trejo had stolen the gun. Prosecutors say Trejo shot Burson with “no appreciation for human life.” On March 1, it was reported that 14-year-old Marco Trejo was charged with murder and tampering with evidence and is being held at the juvenile detention center while awaiting trial.

On March 4, 2021 it was reported that two Albuquerque High School students were shot at Santa Barbara Martineztown. According to the report, an Albuquerque High School student and his friends went to the park during their lunch break when a drive-by shooting broke out. According to APD, a freshman student was jumped by two other students in the parking lot of the school. The students agreed to continue the fight in the park during lunch. The freshman who was jumped brought two of his friends to the park as backup. However, instead of a fight, a silver vehicle with an unknown subject fired several rounds shooting the freshman’s two friends. Nearby schools were ordered to shelter in place after the shooting. Police said both shooting victims are expected to survive and detectives have tracked down and secured the vehicle related to this shooting.


New Mexico has enacted the New Mexico Children’s Code that deals with the charging and prosecution of children for all crimes, misdemeanor and felony crimes. The children’s code is complicated. It essentially establishes a separate and distinct criminal justice system to charge minors, defined as those under the age of 18, and determining juvenile delinquency with petitions for children in need of supervision and charging a child as a “serious youthful offender”.

The Children’s code provides the process of charging, trying, convicting and sentencing of minors to the juvenile detention facilities and not the adult prison system. Minors do have rights that adults do not have such as criminal records being sealed and not open to the public. The children’s code provides for the process for the determination if a minor should be tried and sentenced as an adult for crimes committed. At the core of the children’s code is what is in the best interest of the child, the child’s family and rehabilitation.

Under the children’s, crimes are defined in terms of a “delinquent act”. Under the children’s code, “delinquent act” means an act committed by a child that would be designated as a crime under the law if committed by an adult. A “delinquent child” means a child who has committed a delinquent act. A “delinquent offender” means a delinquent child who is subject to juvenile sanctions only and who is not a youthful offender or a serious youthful offender.

A “youthful offender” means a delinquent child subject to adult or juvenile sanctions who is 14 to 18 years of age at the time of the offense and who is adjudicated and found guilty for any number felonies. Those felonies include and are not limited to second degree murder, assault with intent to commit a violent felony, kidnapping, aggravated battery, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building or shooting at or from a motor vehicle, criminal sexual penetration,  robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, and abuse of a child that results in great bodily harm or death to the child.


After the 2022 thirty-day New Mexico legislative session, many elected officials, law enforcement and the public quickly expressed disappointment that not enough was done by the New Mexico legislature. The blunt truth is that many of those complaining are of the mistaken belief that the legislature plays the biggest roll in reducing crime, which is simply not the case. Strong criminal laws are only as good as those enforce them, especially by law enforcement and the prosecution.

Enactment of strong crime laws goes only so far. Enhancements and increases in penalties will work to reduce violent crime only if law enforcement and the prosecution do their part. As it stands now, law enforcement and the prosecution are failing miserably, at least when it comes to Albuquerque.


APD statistics for the budget years of 2019 and 2020 reflect that APD is not doing its job of investigating and arresting people. APD felony arrests went down from 2019 to 2020 by 39.51%, going down from 10,945 to 6,621. Misdemeanor arrests went down by 15% going down from 19,440 to 16,520. DWI arrests went down from 1,788 in 2019 to 1,230 in 2020, down 26%. The total number of all arrests went down from 32,173 in 2019 to 24,371 in 2020 or by 25%. Bookings at the jail have plummeted from 38,349 in 2010 to 17,734 in 2020. To have booking, there must be arrests. APD’s homicide unit has an anemic clearance rate of 36%.


When Raul Torrez ran for DA the first time, he said our criminal justice system was broken. Torrez accused the District Courts of being responsible for the rise in crime and releasing violent offenders pending trial. Torrez accused defense attorneys of “gaming the system” to get cases dismissed against their clients. A report to the Supreme Court prepared by the District Court revealed it is the DA’s office dismissing more felony cases for various reasons than the courts. The DA’s office currently has the highest voluntary dismissal rate in its history, and plea agreements with low penalties are the norm. Data given to the Supreme Court revealed overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the DA’s Office contributes to a combined 65% mistrial, acquittal and dismissal rate.

District Attorney Raul Torrez is also guilty of mismanagement of office personnel and resources despite repeated increases in budget. As of January 11, 2022 Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez has a $27,778,800 million operating budget, a whopping $6.2 million more than in 2018. Of the $27,228,800, $16,890,059, well over half, is dedicated to salaries. The office employs attorneys, paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance divisions. As of January 11, 2022, the office is budgeted for 332 full time positions with 285 of those positions “active”, meaning filled, and with the office having an alarming 47 vacancies. According to the New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal, there are 16 vacant attorney positions within the DA’s Office. In addition to the vacant attorney positions, other noteworthy positions fully funded but vacant are investigator positions and legal assistant positions.


Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham needs to call a Special Legislative to deal exclusively with enactment of an “Omnibus Gun Violence And Gun Control Act” to deal with the ever-increasing violent crime crisis in the state. While they are at it, they should deal with citizen militias. The sobering statistics reflecting just how bad things are in the state are in the postscript. The enactment sweeping changes to the criminal code needs to send the strongest message possible to deal with violent crime and to send the clear message gun violence is not tolerated in the state.

The “Omnibus Gun Violence And Gun Control Act” would include the following sweeping legislation to deal with gun control, gun violence and violent crime in the state:


The following increases in enhancements should be enacted:

1.Increase the firearm enhancement penalties provided for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a noncapital felony from 3 years to 10 years for a first offense and for a second or subsequent noncapital felony in which a firearm is brandished 12 years.

2.Create a new category of enhanced sentencing for use of a lethal weapon or deadly weapon other than a firearm where there is brandishment of a deadly weapon, defined as an item or object used to inflict mortal or great bodily harm, in the commission of a noncapital felony with enhanced sentences of 5 years for a first offense and for second or subsequent noncapital felony in which a lethal weapon other than a firearm is brandished 8 years.

3.Enact legislation making it a 4th degree felony punishable up to 18 months in jail for failure to secure a firearm. Gun owners would have to keep their firearms in a locked container or otherwise make them inaccessible to anyone but the owner or other authorized users.


The New Mexico legislature could enact the following gun control measures:

4. Call for a constitutional amendment to repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote and no doubt generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby.

5. Prohibit in New Mexico the sale of “ghost guns” parts. Ghost guns are guns that are manufactured and sold in parts without any serial numbers to be assembled by the purchaser and that can be sold to anyone.

6. Require in New Mexico the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold as is required for all operable vehicles bought and driven in New Mexico.

7. Review additional bail bond reforms and statutorily empower judges with more authority and more discretion to hold and jail those pending trial who have prior violent crime convictions.

8. Institute mandatory extended waiting periods to a month for all sales and gun purchases.

9. Implement in New Mexico mandatory handgun licensing, permitting, training, and registration requirements.

10. Ban the sale in New Mexico of “bump-fire stocks” and other accessories.

11. Provide more resources and treatment for people with mental illness.

12. Limit gun purchases to one gun per month to reduce trafficking and straw purchases.


Given the severe increase of murders of children at the hands of children, the “Omnibus Gun Violence And Gun Control Act” needs to include provisions directed at keeping firearms out of the hands of children and holding adults owner of guns responsible for their guns. Provisions that should be considered are as follows:

13. Currently, you must be at least 19 years old to legally possess a handgun in New Mexico and there is no minimum age to possess rifles and shotguns. Expand the age limitation of 19 to rifles and shotguns

14. Currently, the unlawful possession of a handgun by someone under age 19 is a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of from 6 months to one year in jail. It should be classified as an aggravated fourth-degree felony mandating a 2-year minimum sentence.

15. Expand the prohibition of deadly weapons from a school campus to school zones.

16. The case of any juvenile arrested possession of a weapon and charged by law enforcement are to be referred the District Attorney for automatic prosecution.

17. Make it a felony, in certain circumstances, if a person recklessly stores a firearm and a minor gains access to it to threaten or harm someone. If a firearm is accessed by a minor and used in the commission of a crime resulting in great bodily harm or death, the person responsible for storing the firearm could be charged with an aggravated fourth-degree felony, carrying a 24 month prison sentence.

If a firearm were accessed by a minor and used in the commission of a lesser crime, the person responsible for keeping or storing the firearm could have been charged with a 4th degree felony punishable by up to a 18 months in jail.

18. Mandate public school systems and higher education institutions to “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, security measures, including metal detectors at single entrances designated and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers. Legislative funding needs to be provided to accomplish the requirement.


Citizens militias are becoming an ever-increasing problem not only in New Mexico, but across the country. A number of citizen militia, such as the “Proud Boys”, participated in the January 6, 2021 capital riot to stop the election certification of President Joe Biden.

The New Mexico Civil Guard is a heavily armed self-described militia group that has showed up at several protests around Albuquerque, including a June 2020 protest of the Juan de Oñate statue in Old Town where one protester was seriously injured. The New Mexico Civil Guard shows up to protests fully armed asserting they are there to protect public property and to keep the peace.

Citizen Militias are not regulated in the State of New Mexico and there is no comprehensive federal law that regulates them under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Those who take it upon themselves to associate and bear arms calling themselves “citizen militias” take it to the extreme when they attend protests fully armed in military attire proclaiming they are their to assume the responsibility law enforcement to protect people and property. Such attendance amounts to nothing but vigilantism.

As part of an Omnibus Enact legislation that either bans “citizen militias” entirely or regulate all citizens militias. Citizen militias need to be define along similar lines of how “gangs” are defined under federal criminal law or state law.

The link to a related blog article is here:

A “citizens miltia” could be defined as:

“An association of three or more individuals, whose members collectively identify themselves by adopting a group identity employing one or more of the following: a common name, slogan, identifying sign, symbol, flag, uniforms or military apparel or other physical identifying marking, style or color of clothing, whose purpose in part is to engage in the protection of private property and other people. A registered citizens militia may employ rules for joining and operating within the militia and members may meet on a recurring basis.”

A Citizen Militia Registration Act would require citizen militias to:

1. To allow only American Citizens to be members of a citizen militia.
2. Register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE) within the United States Department of Justice.
3. Require members to register their firearms with the ATF.
4. Pay yearly regulation fees and firearm certification fees and carry liability insurance.
5. Identify all their members by name, address and contact information.
6. Prohibit felons from joining.
7. Limit their authority and powers so as to prevent militias to engage in law enforcement activities.
8. Require members to pass criminal background checks and psychological testing.
9. Mandate training and instructions on firearm use and safety.
10. Require all militias and its members to agree to follow all local and federal laws.
11. Failure to register as mandated by federal would be a fourth degree felony


Funding must be considered a critical part of any ‘ Omnibus Control Gun Control And Violence Act”. To that end, the legislature needs to fund and strengthen diversion programs. This would include funding to expand court ordered treatment programs and increase funding and capacity for specialty courts. Funding should also be provided to the behavioral health system, incentivize new provider services and build peer support programs and increasing addiction treatment services.


It is more likely than not many of the proposals suggested will make more than a few legislators uncomfortable. Until aggressive action is taken to not only change the laws but to enforce and prosecute violations of the laws, the city and the state will see very little reduction in the states violent crime rates and an increase number of body bags and funerals.




The final tally of murders Albuquerque for 2021 is 117. It shattered the previous 2019 record by 36 murders. 97 of the homicides involved guns. The dramatic increase in homicides and robberies is drug related and involves guns.

The link to quoted source material is here:


According to the 2020 FBI Unified Crime Reports:

Albuquerque has a crime rate of 194% higher than the national average.
Albuquerque’s Violent Crime Index for 2020 is 346% of the national average.
Albuquerque Property Crime Index for 2020 is 256% of the national average.


Albuquerque has made the top 100 list of most dangerous cities 5 years in a row. Neighborhood Scout’s provides comprehensive database of real estate data and compiles a listing of what it considers are the 100 most dangerous cities in the United States based on violent crime rates and population. Over the last 5 years, the city has gone from the low rank of #74 to a rank of #21. Following is Albuquerque’s rankings out of 100:

2021: #21 Ranking
2020: #23 Ranking
2019: #25 Ranking
2018: #50 Ranking
2017: #74 Ranking


In 2021 and into 2022, New Mexico continues to have a higher-than-average crime rates across the board. New Mexico has the second-highest violent crime rate in the US, behind Alaska with 8.4 incidents per 1,000. In a recent poll of New Mexico residents, 56% of respondents named gun violence as a top safety concern and above the US average of 53%.

The link to news source material is here:


In an average year, 389 people die by guns in New Mexico. with a rate of 18.3 deaths per 100,000 people, New Mexico has the 8th-highest rate of gun deaths in the united states. In New Mexico, 67% of gun deaths are suicides and 27% are homicides. This is compared to 61% and 36% respectively, nationwide.

On December 21, 2021, The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) announced that 481 New Mexico residents died in 2020 from firearm-related injuries. This compares to 472 individuals who died by firearm injuries in 2019. The age-adjusted rate of firearm-related injury deaths in New Mexico in 2020 was 23.1 per 100,000 residents. This means that in 2020, for every 100,000 people in New Mexico, 23 individuals died by firearm. This rate is 3.4% higher than the age-adjusted firearm-related death rate of 22.3 deaths per 100,000 residents reported in 2019. However, compared to a decade ago, this rate is drastically higher. The 2020 rate is 55% higher than the rate from 2010 (14.9 deaths per 100,000 people).,100%2C000%20residents%20reported%20in%202019.

ABQ’s City Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair Resigns From $200,000 Job; No Reasons Given For Departure; Are There Any Others? Axe Grinding City Councilors

Friday evening, March 11, Mayor Tim Keller announced in a statement that his appointed Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair is resigning her position. According to the statement, she will be leaving in April, less than 4 months into Mayor Tim Keller’s second term. Nair has been the city’s chief administrative officer since late 2017. The city’s CAO is the city’s senior executive manager overseeing all 19 departments of municipal government and a budget of over $1 billion. Nair is the very first woman to have served as CAO.

The city declined the Albuquerque Journal’s request to interview CAO Nair on Friday evening.

The link to quoted news source material is here:

In the statement announcing her departure, Nair had this to say:

I have loved my time as CAO, and I am deeply grateful to the amazing team of diverse, smart, dedicated, compassionate people who make City government great.”

Mayor Tim Keller for his part had this to say:

“[Sarita Nair has had] transformative impact shepherding our city through the pandemic, revolutionizing our social justice efforts and championing both modern crime fighting and police reform. I join our whole community in expressing gratitude for her dedication to the Duke City.”


Nair is credited with helping create the Community Safety Department, assisted with significant economic development projects like Netflix, and open the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Sarita Nair was appointed Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) by Mayor Tim Keller in December 2017. As CAO, Ms. Nair is the City’s top senior executive manager, overseeing all 19 departments of municipal government and a $1.1 billion dollar budget. Sarita Nair is the very first woman of color to serve as Chief Administrative Officer for the City. Originally from Pittsburgh, Ms. Nair earned her bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University, a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico School of Community and Regional Planning, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of New Mexico School of Law. As Chief Administrative Office, Sarita Nair was paid $196,773.12 in 2021 and likely received a raise of at least 6% in December.

Prior to being appointed as the CAO, she was appointed by then State Auditor Tim Keller as the State Auditor’s Chief Government Accountability Officer and General Counsel. Prior to that, Ms. Nair was a shareholder at the law firm of Sutin, Thayer & Browne, representing private companies and public entities in business and governance matters since 2004. As a business lawyer, she worked for a wide range of small and family businesses across New Mexico, to represent both companies and governments in industrial revenue bond and Local Economic Development Act transactions. Prior to her law career, Nair worked in the field of international development and consulted on policy initiatives for a number of organizations including the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.


CAO Sarita Nair has been at the center of controversy, along with Keller’s other top appointees, between Keller and city councilors over which city appointees are required to be confirmed by the city council in Keller’s second term. City Councilor Dan Lewis, who lost to Keller in a landslide in 2017, insists the City Charter gives the city council the right to vote and confirm or reject the CAO, the APD Police Chief and Fire Chief. After being elected once again to the City Council on November 2, Republican Dan Lewis vowed, along with newly elected Democrat City Councilor Louis Sanchez and Republican Renee Grout, that the council would hold Tim Keller and his top appointees accountable and had every intention to conduct hearings on their confirmation and ask the hard questions.

Mayor Tim Keller strongly disputes that another confirmation vote is necessary, proclaiming all have been previously confirmed during his first term. Keller claims the fact that voters reelected him last fall in a landslide is a sign his team deserves reconfirmation. Notwithstanding his objections, Keller forwarded to the city council a single nomination “executive communication” nominating CAO Sarita Nair, Police Chief Harold Medina, Fire Chief Gene Gallegos, Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta. Keller expected the council to vote on the team as a whole rather than hold individual hearings.

Keller spokesman Daniel Jiron said the reconfirmation question was not a factor in Nair’s departure and had this to say:

The reconfirmation has nothing to do with this decision.”


CAO Sarita Nair is no stranger to past controversies at City Hall and especially when dealing with the Albuquerque Police Department.


City Hall confidential sources report that Mayor Tim Keller was in constant contact with CAO Sarita Nair during the June 15, 2020 Onate Statue Protest at the Albuquerque Museum where a person was shot. According to confidential sources, both Keller and Nair were contacted by a Keller political campaign advisor who was involved with the protest and who demanded that Keller and Nair give Chief Geier and Deputy Chief Harold Medina instructions on how they wanted the protest to be handled and how city property was to be protected. Neither Nair nor Keller have prior management experience with any law enforcement department and have no experience with law enforcement tactical plans nor how they are implemented. The Keller and Nair involvement, and especially listening to a political advisor, and giving instructions on how they wanted APD to handle the June 15 protest infused politics in the management of APD.


On Thursday September 10, 2020, APD Chief Geier and Mayor Keller quickly called a joint news conference to announce that APD Chief Geier was retiring for a fourth time from law enforcement after a 47-year career. During the September 10, 2020 press conference, Geier announced he was retiring and Mayor Tim Keller announced First Deputy Harold Medina as Interim Chief. Keller announced a national search would be conducted to find a new chief.

Within a few days, it was revealed that former Chief Michael Geier was indeed forced to leave by Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair. It was then First Deputy Chief Harold Medina that helped orchestrate Geier’s removal. Medina and Nair had formed a strong working relationship primarily because Medina was to act as an informant to Nair of virtually everything APD Chief Geier was doing in order to undercut Geier and for Medina to curry favor to become Chief.

Confidential sources provided information that APD Chief Michael Geier was summoned to a city park by Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair during the September 5 Labor Day Holiday weekend. The purpose of the meeting was that Keller had decided to let Geier go, that his services were no longer needed and it was time for Geier to leave APD. According to sources Keller told Geier he wanted to take APD in a different direction. Geier was given the choice between termination or retirement and Geier agreed that it was time for him to retire.

Soon after their walk in the park, sources say that Geier met CAO Nair in her office at city hall and the meeting became very hostile. On Thursday morning, September 10, the details of Geier’s “retirement” were worked out and the press conference was held by Keller where Geier read his statement.

A related blog article report is here:


According to the 2021 enacted budget, the City of Albuquerque employs 6,259 full time employees with an annual budget of $1.2 Billion dollars. The link to the enacted 2021-2022 budget is here:

Click to access fy22-approved-budget-numbered-w-hyperlinks-final.pdf

City Executives and Department Directors are considered “at will” employees and serve at the pleasure of Mayor Keller. There are 26 city departments. There are 30 City Hall Executive Positions and Department Directors identified in the top 250 wage earners for the 2021 calendar year. Each are paid a set salary they can negotiate or they take whatever is offered by the mayor. When Keller was first elected 4 years ago, beginning pay for Department Directors was approximately $116,000 but over the last 4 years, the pay has increase to roughly $130,000 a year.

Executive salaries and Department Directors individuals and what they were paid in 2021 are as follows:


Mayor Tim Keller is paid $125,278.72 a year and Albuquerque City Councilors are paid $35,860 a year with their salaries determined by the Citizens’ Independent Salary Commission.

Mayor Keller’s top senior executive staff were paid the following salaries for all of 2021:

Chief Administrative Office Sarita Nair: $196,773.12
Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael: $191,600.30
Chief Of Police Harold Medina: $177,562
Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow: $155,677 (NOW RETIRED)
City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr.: $150,724.32
Chief Financial Officer Bhakta Sanjay: $150,224.31
Chief Administrative Office Associate Kevin Sourisseau: $130,261.91
Chief of Staff Chief Michael Puelle: $139,445.91
Chief Investment Officer Daniel Christopher: $128,545.11
City Clerk Ethan Watson: $124,877.91
City Budget Officer Lawrence Davis: $116,733.91

EDITORS NOTE: There are at least 22 other Department Directors and Deputy Directors with those names and salaries for 2021 listed in the below postscript.


On March 7, City Clerk Ethan Watson was confirmed on a 7-2 bipartisan vote of the city council, but not until Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis and “Democrat in Name Only” Louis Sanchez crossed examined Watson over his job performance during the 2021 municipal election. Both Lewis and Sanchez questioned Watson’s impartiality in administering the city’s taxpayer-funded public campaign finance system.

Lewis focused on Watson’s move to reject mayoral candidate Manuel Gonzales’ application for the money on the grounds he’d submitted fraudulent documentation, questioning if he’d applied the same scrutiny to Keller’s campaign. Lewis ignored that a state judge ultimately upheld Watson’s decision. Lewis at one point became very condensing and mean spirited when he asked Watson “how we can trust you moving forward in future elections?”. This coming from Dan Lewis who engaged in smear tactics and lies against his opponent and paid Republican Political Operative Jay McClusky to run his campaign.

Not at all surprisingly, Sanchez claimed his own 2021 city council campaign race against incumbent Lan Sena was treated unfairly, even though Sanchez won the race. It was Sanchez who proclaimed he was the rightful city councilor to have been elected and demanded that Watson swear him before the term he was elected began on January 1, 2022. Sanchez wanted to vote against legislation that was pending and sponsored by Lan Sena, and his demands essentially was an effort to shame former city councilor Lan Sena.

Other councilors went to Watsons’ defense including Republican Renee Grout and Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn who participated in the city’s public financing program as candidates and they both said they had a good experience with Watson’s office. Democrat Councilor Karissa Peña said Watson’s office was “incredible” during the election and said the scrutiny he faced during the confirmation hearing made her “uncomfortable”.

The link to quoted news source material is here:



The positions of Chief Administrative Officer, the Chief Operations Officer, the City Attorney, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief of Police and the Fire Chief are all potions that have cross over duties and responsibilities to the Mayor and the City Council. The city council also has unique oversight authority when it comes to public safety such as the Police and Fire departments.

Cross over duties and responsibilities is not the case when it comes to Department Directors with little or no cross over duties. Given what Keller is paying the top 6 executive staff, Keller should not be at all reluctant to summit the names for another vote.

Keller should aggressively go to the defense of his appointments and call out “shaming tactics” and “grandstanding” from the likes of Republican City Councilor retread extraordinaire Dan Lewis who has an axe to grind against Keller after losing to him as Mayor in a landslide in 2017. Keller should do the same with the shaming tactics of “Democrat In Name Only” Louis Sanchez who also has an axe to grind.

Once Lewis was elected on November 3, 2021 to a third term on the City Council, Lewis made it known he intends to hold Keller and all of his appointees accountable for their conduct by asking the hard questions. Lewis has already made it known privately to many of his supporters he is running for Mayor in 2025. Lewis is also being enabled by “Democrat In Name” only City Councilor Louis Sanchez who has demanded Keller fire City Attorney Esteban Aguilar and City Clerk Ethan Watson for their refusal to swear Sanchez in before his term began on January 1, 2022 and his efforts to essentially shame former City Councilor Lan Sena who he defeated last November.


Democrat’s hold a 5-4 majority on the City Council. After the December 7 City Council runoff elections, the Democrat majority went from a 6 to 3 majority to a 5-4 majority. The new city council as of January 1, 2022 is:

District 1 Louis Sanchez (Elected on November 2 defeating Lan Sena.)
District 2 Isaac Benton
District 3 Klarissa Peña (Ran unopposed on November 2 .)
District 6 Pat Davis
District 7 Tammy Fiebelkorn

After the November 7 runoff election, the 4 Republicans on the new city council are:

District 5 Dan Lewis (Newly elected)
District 4 Brook Bassan
District 8 Trudy Jones
District 9 Renee Grout

Ostensibly, with a Democrat Majority, Democrat Mayor Tim Keller should have had no problem in getting all of his top city hall appointments approved by the City Council with a 5-4 vote. But that is probably not the case when it comes to CAO Sarita Nair. Confidential sources have said that Sarita Nair does not have the confidence and support of Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis and when you add Republican’s Dan Lewis and Renee Grout and “Democrat In Name Only” Louis Sanchez to the mix, it’s likely that CAO Sarita Nair would not have been confirmed.


There is no getting around it, Sarita Nair’s departure from City Hall is a major blow to Mayor Tim Keller and how he conducts business. Keller is known to be more interested in the attention he gets as Mayor while he lets Nair manage the minutia and the day to day work of the city. Without question Nair is Keller’s right-hand person and number one confidant.

It is common knowledge amongst elected officials and top government officials that whenever there is a controversial announcement or damaging story that a late Friday press release is used as a way to down play the story. Another way to down play a bad story is to simply not hold a press conference and to refuse press interviews. It is called “damage control”.

All three “damage control” measures exist with the departure of Sarita Nair: press releases, no press conference and the Keller Administrations refusal to allow Nair to be interviewed.

The fact that the city declined the Albuquerque Journal’s request to interview CAO Nair on Friday evening raised more than a few eyebrows and serious questions as to why now. This coming from a Mayor that never misses an opportunity to go on camera for his self-promotion. The general public deserves more that departing platitudes and compliments to Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair as to the reasons she is leaving.

The biggest question for Mayor Keller to answer is did he actually force Nair out as he did former Chief Michael Geier and are there any others, including Chief Medina, he wants gone?


Following are the names and salaries of other Department Directors:

Osterloh, Brian, Technology and Innovation Director, $144,118.55
DiMenna, Mark, Environmental Health, Deputy Director, $132,786.87
Leech, Mark , Technology and Innovation Deputy Director, $135,419.97
Simon, David, Parks and Recreation Director, $135,204.31
Ortega, Carolyn, Animal Welfare Director, $130,549.91
Martinez, Jennifer Renee, Finance Admin Svc Director, $130,041.12
Pierce, Carol, Family Community Services Director, $130,041.12
Martinez, Jennifer Renee, Finance Admin Svc Director, $130,041.12
Montoya, Charles, Municipal Development Director, $130,041.11
Daniel, Christopher, Chief Investment Officer, $128,545.11
Whelan, Matthew, Solid Waste Director, $124,877.92
Van Etten de Sanchez, Cultural Services Director, $124,877.91
Romero, Anthony, Human Resources Director, $122,747.91
Sandoval, Donna, City Controller, $125,989.90
Sanchez, Anna, Senior Affairs Director, $124,877.90
Rogers, Paul, Municipal Development Deputy Director $123,362.71
Varela, Alan, Municipal Development Deputy Director, $123,180.37
Stowell, Stephanie, Cultural ServicesE20BioPark Administrator, $122,468.86
Flores, David MPR-Parks and Recreation Deputy Director-Parks & Rec, $118,959.95
McCurley, Richard, Aviation Deputy Director Aviation, $118,005.92
Smith,Dean, Assoc Director Library, $116,776.07
Truong,Loc, Human Resources Deputy Director, $113,739.92

The link to the entire listing of the top 250 wage earners is here:

Governor MLG Signs $8.5 Billion Budget And $827.7 Capital Outlay Bills, Crime Bill, Education Funding Bills, Tax Cut And Relief Bill Exempting Social Security From Taxation, Payday Loan Interest Cap; Vetoes Sports Authority And $50 Million “Junior Bill”; “Extraordinary Session” To Override Veto On “Junior Bill” Gaining Momentum

March 9 at 12:00 noon was the deadline for Governor Michell Lujan Grisham to sign into law, or to veto any legislation enacted by the 2022 New Mexico 30-day legislative session that ended on February 17. This blog article reports on the legislation sign, vetoed or “pocket vetoed” by Governor Lujan Grisham.


Governor MLG signed off on the $8.48 billion state budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year that commences on July 1, 2022. It is the largest budget in state history. The budget bill boosts state spending by $1 billion, nearly 14%, over current budget levels. The oil and gas revenue windfall has created historical revenues for the state giving lawmakers the ability to increase spending in education and to fund starting teacher pay to $50,000 annually and provide state employees with 7% pay raises.

The Governor signed off on a budget that includes increases in spending for public education, raises salaries for educators, state employees and state police as well as funds going towards initiatives for local economic development projects and housing programs for homeless people.

The budget the Governor signed earmarks $130 million of unspent federal relief funds to bolster a lottery scholarship program so that college students who qualify would have all tuition costs covered for the next 4 years. The budget also appropriates more than $51 million to expand student enrollment and faculty numbers at New Mexico nursing programs, while also providing more financial aid for nursing students.


The Governor did use her line-item veto authority to eliminate some funding such as proposed spending for guardrails and $50 million for law enforcement officer recruitment and retention that was to be administered via stipends and only for law enforcement agencies that use a community policing model. She left intact funding for the State Fair and other entities negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Governor also vetoed several references to “public health orders” issued by her administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying some of the vetoed language unlawfully intruded into the executive branch’s managerial duties.


Lujan Grisham described the overall budget plan an “unprecedented opportunity” to bolster New Mexico families. She had this to say:

“This budget makes transformative investments exactly where they’re needed: From historic raises for New Mexico educators and growing the country’s most expansive tuition-free college program to creating a new fund to hire public safety officers and unprecedented funding to fight food insecurity.”

Democrat from Las Cruces Rep. Nathan Small, the vice chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said the spending infusions would fortify the state in key areas and has this to say:

“The historic investments we are making today will help us diversify our economy, create jobs, create our clean energy future, and ensure children across New Mexico get the high-quality education they deserve.”


The Governor signed into law 4 capital outlay bills, including Senate Bill 212, a $827.7 million public works projects package. The capital outlay package, primarily funded by bonds backed by future severance tax revenue, that appropriates $20 million for creation of a new state film academy and $20 million to rebuild the New Mexico State Veterans’ Home in Truth or Consequences.

The capital outlay bill includes $4.5 million for improvements at the State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque and $20 million for construction of a New Mexico Veterans’ Home in Truth or Consequences. The bill includes money for school repairs, watershed restoration efforts and the construction of a new state government building. The total dollar amount represents more than 3,600 different projects around the state.

Major public works projects included in the $827.7 million public works bill are:

$75 million from the public-school capital outlay fund to the public-school facilities to make a distribution to each school district in fiscal year 2023 for the maintenance and repair of public-school buildings. This is the single largest line.

$20 million for new administration building for the Department of Public Safety in Albuquerque.

$20 million to update the Veterans’ Home at T or C. The Governor had originally requested $60 million.

$4.5 million for state fair ground improvements.

$3,280,000 to purchase and equip a helicopter for the sheriff’s office in San Juan county.

$3,000,000 to plan, design and reconstruct the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater at the Santa Fe Indian School.

Lujan Grisham used her line-item veto authority to strike down $4.6 million worth of proposed projects, primarily smaller projects like $60,000 to study constructing a new building at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque.

Governor MLG also signed a separate $258.8 million package of university, senior center and library projects funded by property tax dollars that will go before New Mexico voters in November. She also vetoed some spending language that limited how proposed capital outlay dollars could be spent.


Governor Lujan Grisham signed off on the sweeping crime package passed that was a result of significant compromising. The most controversial provisions in the crime package involved the elimination of “rebuttable presumption” in pretrial detention and replacing it a 24 hour court monitoring program.

The Governor wanted major changes to “pretrial detention” which would have created a “rebuttable presumption of dangerousness” for defendants charged with certain violent crimes. Lujan Grisham wanted lawmakers to make it easier to keep defendants charged with violent crimes in jail until trial.

The “rebuttable presumption” bill shifted the burden of proof from state prosecutors, who must prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict, to the defendant who would have to show they are not a danger to the public in order to be allowed to be released pending trial. The legislature rejected the “rebuttable presumption” legislation due to its likely unconstitutionality and practical concerns and instead enacted expanded.

The enacted and now sign crime bill legislation mandates the courts to provide greater supervision of defendants by requiring courts to share ankle monitoring data with law enforcement agencies upon request. It requires the courts to turn over GPS monitoring data to police and prosecutors during a criminal investigation to allow better tracking of pretrial defendants on electronic monitoring in an effort to prevent a charge defendant awaiting trial from committing another crime. The crime bill as enacted expands surveillance of criminal defendants as they await trial with 24-hour monitoring of ankle-bracelet tracking devices.

New Mexico’s 14 district attorneys, though the District Attorneys Association, urged Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to veto language in the bill that provides the GPS information be shared without a warrant if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” to believe the data would provide relevant evidence. The state’s prosecutors contended the proposal would narrow their access to the location data of defendants who wear an ankle monitor before trial.

The District Attorneys and law enforcement argued “reasonable suspicion” makes it too difficult for them to obtain information about suspects’ recent whereabouts and could actually allow defendants to commit more crimes while on release.

But Senator Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said the governor could not partially veto the bill under the state Constitution, since it was not a spending bill. He also described the legislation as a timely response to recent troubling crime trends, citing specifically a provision in the bill banning choke-holds and making other changes to law enforcement training. Cervantes said:

“It’s intended to put an emphasis on a less-militaristic approach to law enforcement,”


Other legislation signed into law by the Governor are:

1. Establish programs to recruit and retain law enforcement officers.
2. Allocate $50 million from the budget to establish an officer recruitment fund.
3. Strengthen penalties for gun crimes, including a felon in possession of a firearm and using a firearm to commit a felony.
4. Create criminal statutes for violent threats, property damage and chop shops.
5. Eliminate the statute of limitations for second-degree murder.
6. Increase to $1 million the death benefits for families of peace officers killed in the line of duty.
7. Establish the Violence Intervention Program Act and allocate $9 million from the budget to establish intervention programs statewide.
8. Allocate crime reduction grants, accompanied by $2 million in the budget for the grants.

The crime bill changes law enforcement training by banning choke-holds and teaching de-escalation techniques.

The crime bill bars the use of the “gay panic defense,” which involves defendants asserting the discovery of a person’s gender or sexual orientation caused them to harm the victim.

The bill redefines the role and composition of the Law Enforcement Academy Board and splits the board’s functions into two separate entities.

The legislation also creates new judges for the 2nd, 5th and 13th judicial districts.

In a statement after signing the crime package into law, Lujan Grisham had this to say:

“Every New Mexican deserves to feel safe in their communities – and they are demanding action from their government. … [This bill] expands upon the transformational work we’ve done in previous years, strengthening our state’s public safety system and making streets safer in every New Mexico community.”

Links to quoted news sources are here:


On March 9, the Governor also signed into law House Bill 163 which is a $529.7 million tax package. The tax package was approved by lawmakers in the last few days of the session. The tax package will cost the state an estimated $529.7 million for the fiscal 2022-2023 budget year that starts on July 1. Legislators backing the tax legislation claim that spending will increase and will help New Mexico families and businesses, while also boosting consumer activity.

Some of the provisions take effect on July 1, the beginning or the new fiscal year, while others are delayed until later.

The major highlights of the tax bill signed into law are:

Social Security retirement income is exempt from taxation for individual retirees who make less than $100,000 annually and remains intake for those who make over $100,000 a year in retirement. The income cut-off for married couples filing jointly is set at $150,000 per year.

Until now, New Mexico was just one of 12 states that levied a tax on social security income. Critics of the social security state tax exemption said the proposal would primarily benefit higher-income New Mexicans, since the state’s personal income tax is only levied on income above $24,800 annually for a married couple filing jointly.

Reduction of the state’s gross receipts tax rate from 5.125% to 4.875% over two-year period. The reduction is phased in over two years by 0.125 percentage points in July and the same amount in July, 2023.

A one-time rebate of $250 or $500 for taxpayers who made less than $75,000 last year. According to the state Taxation and Revenue Department, upwards of 850,000 of New Mexico’s 1.1 million taxpayers, or about 77%, will receive the rebates.

A tax credit of $25 to $175 per child starting in 2023, depending on income level.

A $1,000 income tax credit for nurses who work full-time in a New Mexico hospital.

Extension of the solar energy tax credit for eight years and increase cap on credit payouts.

Creation of a new gross receipts tax deduction for tampons and other feminine hygiene products.


Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say about the tax legislation:

“Over the last three years, we’ve had more tax reform that benefits business and taxpayers than in the previous decade.”

State Representative Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, who helped craft the tax legislation and had this to say:

“We are putting half a billion dollars back into the economy.”

That money is available to be returned to taxpayers – both directly as rebates and more indirectly under other tax provisions – due to state revenue levels surging to an all-time high amid rising oil production levels in southeast New Mexico.

Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, said the rebates will aid New Mexicans dealing with high gas prices and rising costs for other basic expenses and said this:

“That was the goal – to rebate money to the people paying the taxes.”


Governor MLG and legislators hinted that more changes to the state’s tax code could be in the works for next year’s 60-day legislative session. Specifically, the changes could include eliminating existing tax breaks and lowering base rates in an attempt to simplify the gross receipts tax structure, which has been described by critics as a “Swiss cheese” due to the many allowable tax deductions and credits. State Representative Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos said she plans to start laying the groundwork for the changes in the coming months, and other lawmakers signaled they’re ready to join in on the proposals.

The link to quoted news source material is here:


A total of 64 bills passed in the 2022 legislative session and the the governor has signed 55 into law. As reported by KRQE News 13, the bills signed into law, followed by links to the legislation include the following:


HOUSE BILL 132, among other things, addresses predatory lending by capping loan interest rates. Before the enactment of the law, New Mexicans could be charged up to 175% in interest on loans. The new law effectively caps interest at 36% in most circumstances.

HOUSE BILL 46 Creates the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy. This agency will help provide legal counsel to people going through child welfare cases.

HOUSE BILL 95 aims to get more New Mexicans enrolled in Medicaid. It streamlines the process for enrolling individuals.


SENATE BILL 140 expands the state’s Opportunity Scholarship. The bill clears the way for New Mexicans, regardless of age, to attend college for free by providing scholarship funds.

HOUSE BILL 43 aims to help charter schools access funds to pay for improvements to their buildings.


SENATE BILL 1 boosts pay for New Mexico’s licensed teachers. Level 1 teachers (generally early career teachers) will now get a minimum of $50,000 per year. That’s up from $40,000. Other levels of licensed teachers get similar boosts.

HOUSE BILL 13 aims to diversify New Mexico’s pool of teachers by creating residency programs. Residents in the program will get an apprenticeship in a classroom and additional mentorship to become teachers.

HOUSE BILL 60 boosts pay to Native American language and culture teachers. Under the new law, they will now get the same salary as level 1 teachers in New Mexico, provided they work full-time in student instruction.


HOUSE BILL 104 creates the venture capital investment fund. The money in the fund will be used to invest in new and expanding businesses in New Mexico. Job-providing businesses are a key focus of the bill.

HOUSE BILL 148 extends the deadline for applications to the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund, born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline was May 31, 2022 but is now extended to the end of December.

HOUSE BILL 163 extends tax credits for solar projects, creates an income tax credit for nurses, and exempts social security income from income tax for some individuals.


HOUSE BILL 164 directs the New Mexico Environment Department to coordinate uranium mine cleanup across the state.

The link to the full KRQE quoted news story is here:


The following bills were vetoed by the Governor:

HOUSE BILL 134 would have re-instituted the state’s Sports Authority Division, the government division responsible with promoting sports in New Mexico. The Governor wrote in her veto message that the Legislature failed to provide funding to administer the division and it would usurp the Governor’s authority to appoint and remove members of the Sports Advisory Committee.

New Mexico Representative Moe Maestas has this to say about the Governor’s veto of House Bill 134 on the Sport’s authority:

“I am very disappointed and perplexed by the Governor’s veto of House Bill 134, Her reasoning does not make any sense. The appropriation originally contained in HB 134 was removed and placed into HB 2 and the ‘junior’ budget. The bill that reached the Governor’s desk was meant to provide more efficiency by reducing the sports advisory committee from 25 public members to a more manageable 7 member body. Moving forward, the Governor needs to hire a sports authority director and immediately fill all the vacancies on the Sports Advisory Committee.”

SENATE BILL 48 vetoed by the Governor would have sent a little over $50 million to state agencies. Supplemental spending bills, called “junior” budget bills, usually surface in years when the state is flush with windfall funding as is the case this year. The spending is far smaller than what’s outlined in the main state budget that authorizes $8.5 billion for spending on education, health care and other purposes. Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have in the past questioned the merits of allowing members to dole out money largely at their own discretion.

SENATE BILL 48 vetoed by the governor would have authorized about $25.2 million in one-time spending and another $25.2 million in ongoing spending. The money would have gone to a wide-ranging set of programs and priorities picked by lawmakers. Among the proposed items were law enforcement equipment, efforts to help homeless animals, student speech and debate clubs, medical equipment, meals on wheels for homebound residents and public safety programs and funding for food bank services in the East Mountains. Lawmakers have not taken up a supplemental spending bill in over 10 years before 2019, when an oil and gas boom resulted in surpluses.

In her veto message, the Governor wrote:

“It is littered with tens of millions of appropriations. Yet SB 48 circumvents the important budget and capital outlay process that forms the basis for other large appropriation bills. … “Fiscal responsibility must be a cornerstone principle … both in boom times and in times of economic uncertainty.”


The Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 48 has resulted in a very public clash between lawmakers and the Governor. There is a growing number of New Mexico legislators who are expressing support for calling themselves into special session through an emergency procedure that would allow them to override Governor Lujan Grisham’s veto of a $50 million spending bill.

Convening such a session requires support from three-fifths of each chamber of the Legislature. Democrats in the House and Senate, who have solid majorities in both chambers, will be meet privately to debate whether to pursue an extraordinary session. If enough lawmakers agree, it would be just the second “extraordinary session” in New Mexico history. It would represent a political rebuke of Lujan Grisham in an election year where she is seeking a second term.

Democratic Representative Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo said the bill gave legislators a chance to deliver resources to overlooked programs and parts of the state. Road safety and educational curriculum, he said, were among his priorities. Lente had this to say:

“To have it all just vetoed by our governor is extremely unfortunate.”

Representative Roger Montoya, D-Velarde had this to say:

“[The governor’s] disregard for the work me and my colleagues have done to fulfill our duties and responsibilities to our communities is deeply troubling.”

Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque had this to say about the veto:

“It was an unnecessary affront to the legislative process. It was picking a fight that she didn’t need to pick.”

The Governor’s spokes person Nora Sackett pushed back on criticism that the main budget failed to address priorities that made it instead into the smaller budget bill. She pointed out that the budget package approved by Lujan Grisham includes $24 million for initiatives that will help food banks, $15 million to double a Native American education fund and $10 million to help people without homes. Sackett said this:

“The governor agrees that those kinds of programs are priorities which is why they are funded in the budget.”

The link to quotes news source is here:


A “pocket veto” is where the governor takes no action to veto. For bills passed in the last three days of the legislative session, the governor has 20 days to take action. If there is no action from the governor, the bill does not become law. With a “pocket veto” the legislators have no right to vote to override the governor.

The Governor “pocket” vetoed the following legislation:

SENATE BILL 2 called for bringing the pay of Supreme Court justices in line with the salary of federal magistrates, or about $205,500 this year, a 33% increase. Appeals and district judges would have seen corresponding increases.

SENATE BILL 174 would have required semitrucks to stay in right lane

HOUSE BILL 15 revised a rule for tribal gross receipts taxes

HOUSE BILL 62 created a grant opportunities council

HOUSE BILL 219 increased salaries for county elected officials

The links to quoted news source material are here:


By all reports, it is clear that the 2022 thirty day short session was a success which included enacting a historical budget, tax deductions and passage of more funding for education and teacher raises and a crime package. What has thrown a wet towel on the success is the veto of SENATE BILL 48.

As a former Bernalillo County Commissioner, a 10 year congresswoman and now Governor, you would think the Governor would know how to “pick and choose” her fights wisely, especially in an election year where she is seeking a second term and where all 70 House representatives are also on the ballot with her. Legislators too want to be able to go back to their constituent’s and be specific that they have made a difference.

The veto of Senate Bill 48, also though easily justified by the “bean counters”, was a self inflicted damage that should have never of happened, not in an election year. If the legislature does indeed to decide to call themselves into and extraordinary session, it will be an embarrassment and a reflection that the Governor no longer holds sway over her own political party. The Governor needs to get on the phone with the leadership of both Chambers and discuss ways where they can go forward without an extraordinary session.

Links to a related blog articles are here:

2022 New Mexico Legislature Rap Up: Historic $8.48 Billion State Budget And $827 Public Works Bills Enacted; Anti-Crime Measures And Tax Reduction Measures Enacted; Hefty Raises For Teachers, Judges And Govt. Workers; Pre Trial Detention, Hydrogen Hub Development Act And Voting Act Rights Act Fail; Speaker Egolf Retires

Upwards of 14% Of New Mexico House Projected Not To Seek Another Term; Abolish Citizens Legislature; Create Full Time Legislature; $100,000 Funding For Study; POSTSCRIPT: Guest Columns

17 Contested New Mexico House Races; 12 New Mexico House Incumbents Not Seeking Reelection; 8 Democrats, 5 Republicans Have Contested Races After Redistricting; Balance Of Power Not Expected To Change Come November 8 General Election

Tuesday, March 8, was filing day for the New Mexico primary election for candidates to formally declare their candidacy for the New Mexico House of Representatives and to submit qualifying nominating petition signatures. All 70 seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives are on the November 5, 2022 election ballot. Democrats hold a 45-24 majority over Republicans, plus one independent.

There are a total of 16 contested house seats. A total of 12 House Incumbents will not be seeking re-election. Seven Democrats, in including Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, have said they will not seek another term. Five Republicans did not file and made it known they are not running for another term.

The 12 incumbents not seeking another term are:


Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, Albuquerque area Democrats Deborah Armstrong, Karen Bash, Kay Bounkeua and Georgene Louis, all of Albuquerque and Corrales Democrat Daymon Ely will not be seeking reelection. On February 14, Rep. Georgene Louis was arrested on charges of aggravated drunken driving and resigned her potions after serving five-terms.


Representative Phelps Anderson of Roswell was a Republican but changed to Independent after was the lone House Republican in 2021 to vote in favor of repealing New Mexico’s archaic criminal law that outlawed abortions. The other Republicans not seeking re-election are James Strickler of Farmington, Kelly Fajardo of Los Lunas, Zachary Cook of Ruidoso and Randal Crowder of Clovis.


In addition to all of the 12 departures, 8 Democratic incumbents and 5 Republicans incumbents will face challengers from their own party in the June 7 primary.

The 8 Democrats facing primary challengers are Anthony Allison of Fruitland, Doreen Wonda Johnson of Church Rock, Eliseo Alcon of Milan, Roger Montoya of Velarde, Susan Herrera of Embudo, Kristina Ortez of Taos, Andrea Romero of Santa Fe and Ambrose Castellano of Las Vegas.

The 5 Republicans facing primary challenges are Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales, Rachel Black of Alamogordo, Greg Nibert of Roswell, Randall Pettigrew of Lovington and Larry Scott of Hobbs.


There are 17 contested house races. Following is a breakdown of the contested houses races as gleaned from the Secretary of States listing of declared candidacies:

House District 5: Conservative Democrat Rep. Doreen Wonda Johnson has drawn a primary challenge from progressive Kevin Mitchell in McKinley County. No Republican has filed to run so the primary victor becomes state representative by default. With a vote for a new House Speaker next year, this is a race that will be watched closely.

District 7: This is a vacant seat caused by the retirement of Republican Representative Kelly Fajardo after serving 10 years. Democrat Danny Bernal, who lost the race for Belen mayor, and Republican Tanya Mirabal Moya have both filed and will face off in the November 8 general election. This is expected to be a very close race and a battleground district that leans Republican.

District 8: This is a Valencia County District that is decidedly Republican. Republican Brian Bacawas appointed to fill a vacancy and he drew no Republican and no Democrat opponents.

District 12: This is an Albuquerque South Valley District. Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz was appointed to fill the vacancy by the County Commission when Representative Brittney Barreras resigned. Two women who competed with De La Crus for the appointment are running against him in the Democratic primary. They are Nicole Olonovich and Melissa Armijo. The two Democratic woman are considered far more progressive than moderate to conservative De La Cruz. No Republican has filed to run so whoever is elected in the Democratic primary becomes the House Representative by default.

District 17: This is an open seat on the West Side of Albuquerque the result of the departure of Representative Deborah Armstrong. The district has been significantly redrawn from the North Valley and now includes Albuquerque’s North West side. It has attracted two Democrats, former City Councilor Cynthia Borrego and Darrell Deaguero in the primary. The Republican candidates are Ellis McMath and Joshua Neal. It’s a seat substantially redrawn during redistricting. Ellis McMath is politically aligned with Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis who defeated Cynthia Borrego.
This race is viewed as highly competitive with Democrat voter registration projected at just 51%.

District 19: This another open house seat the result of the resignation of progressive Democrat Kay Bounkeua. The district covers part of southeastern Albuquerque. Three Democratic candidates have filed for the primary and they are Janelle Anyanonu, an office manager and member of the New Mexico Black Central Organizing Committee, Colton Dean and Eric Sutton, managing attorney for the Fair Lending Center at United South Broadway Corp. Only one Republican has filed for the seat and she is Kathleen Jackson.

District 22: This district did include portions of Bernalillo, Sandoval & Santa Fe Counties. As a result of redistricting the new district boundaries are the East Mountains in Bernalillo County and nearly half of Torrance County. Democrat Augustine Montoya is running unopposed in the primary as is Incumbent Republican Stefani Lord and they will be on the November 8 ballot.

District 23: This House seat is vacant as a result of the retirement of 3 term progressive Democrat Rep. Daymon Ely in the Corrales/Rio Rancho area. Redistricting has made it much more Republican. Democrat Ramon Montano and Republican Alan Martinez are running and will face off in the November 8 general election. Political pundits are already predicting that this house seat will flip Republican because of a 43.9 percent Democratic performance rate.

District 26: This is an open seat cause by the resignation of 5 term Democrat Georgene Louis after her DWI arrest. Former Rep. Eleanor Chavez and Route 66 West Neighborhood Association President Cherise Quezada, who is the wife of Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, are running for the Democratic nomination in the Albuquerque-based House District 26 seat. Republican Patrick Sais is also running. This house district is also decidedly Democrat with the District having a 63% Democratic voter turnout history.

District 27: This is a far Albuquerque North East Heights District. Democrat Representative Marian Matthews flipped the District Democratic and won the District 2 years ago. Two Republicans are running and they are Bob Godshall, who lost to Matthews last time, and Elisa Martinez who ran for the Republican US Senate nomination in 2020. Matthews has moved decidedly right on crime having sponsored major crime legislation in the last session. The Republicans are expected to launch an aggressive campaign to take back the house seat. has the wind at their backs this will be an obvious seat for them to snatch.

DISTIRCT 28: This is an Albuquerque area house seat. Progressive Democrat and attorney Pamelya Herndon was appointed to fill a vacancy. She is opposed by Republican Nicole Chavez in November. Nicol Chavez’s son was the victim of a high profile murder and she’s running on a stern anti-crime platform which may be enough to oust Hendron given that Democrat performance in the District is 49.5%.

District 30: This is an Albuquerque NE Heights District. Democrat Representative Natalie Figueroa running for another term in a District once represented by Republican Representative Nate Gentry who served as a Republican House leader. Nate Gentry Nate stepped down in 2018 in large part because the district became more Democrat. Republican Kurstin Johnson, a realtor and the wife of former Bernalillo County Commissioner Republican Wayne Johnson is running in the hopes of flipping the District back to the Republican column.

District 38: This is the House seat district that Republican Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences is vacating to run for governor. This Socorro area district is one that could impact the race for House Speaker. Longtime Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker, a moderate Democrat, is seeking the nomination against Tara Jaramillo, a Socorro school board member who is a progressive. Bhaskar has served as Socorro mayor for a record breaking 32 consecutive years. Redistricting has made the district more Democrat. Republicans running in the primary are Sandra Hammack and educator Melba Aguilar.

District 39: This is a Silver City and Las Cruces area area district. The seat has been on and off for Democrat Rudy Martinez since 2005 but Republican Representative Luis Terrazas won two years ago and is not opposed in the primary. Martinez faces Karen Whitlock for the Democratic nomination. Republican performance in redistricting fell to only 44% so the winner of the Dem primary could oust the incumbent in November.

District 40: This a northern New Mexico house district. Democrat first term State Rep. Roger Montoya is being challenged by former state Rep. Joseph Sanchez. Montoya is the progressive and Sanchez moderate. The Secretary of State has lists Gerald Steven McFall as the Republican candidate but the the Secretary of State also lists him as a Republican candidate for the northern congressional seat. It is far more likely than not that the Democrat will win the race come November 8.

District 41: This is a northern house district that include parts of Rio Arriba County. First term Representative Susan Herrera is seeking another term and she is the sponsor of the payday loan bill that lowered interest rates. She is being opposed by moderate Democrat and former Probate Judge Marlo Martinez. No Republican is running.

District 42: This is a Taos area house seat. Progressive first term Representative Kristina Ortez is being challenged by moderate Democrat Florence Miera. Ortez was appointed to fill a vacancy. No Republican is running .

District 46: Two term progressive Democrat Representative Andrea Romero has drawn 3 democratic primary challengers and one Republican is also running. Democrat Henry Roybal is a well-known moderate Dem Santa Fe County Commissioner. The district is heavy Democrat.

District 47: This is the Santa Fe area house seat being vacated by Speaker of the House Speaker Brain Egolf who has endorsed his top aide, Reena Szczepanski, to succeed him. Democrat Francisco Lopez is also running and no Republicans are running.

District 48:District 48 is a Santa Fe County District and is represented by Tara Lujan and she is running unopposed for a second term.

District 51: This district is in heavily Republican Alamogordo area. Republican Representative Rachel Black is seeking her third term and is opposed I the primary John Block, the editor of a conservative news site. The Democrat in the race is Sharonlee Cummins. The District is likely to remain in the Republican column.

District 53: This is a Las Cruces area House District. In 2016 Republican Ricky Little beat Willie Madrid to win the seat, but in 2018 and 2020. Democrat Willie Madrid returned to beat Little. In 2022 both are running again, but Republican Ricky Little faces another Republican Elizabeth Lee Winterrowd in the primary. Willie Madrid is the lone Democrat running.

District 56: This is an Otero-Lincoln County seat. Republican State Representative. Zach Cook is not seeking reelection. The only candidate to file for the seat is Republican Harlan Vincent, the Ruidoso fire chief.

District 64: This a house seat where Republican Rep. Randall Crowder is not seeking another ter. Only Republican Andrea Reeb of Clovis has filed filed and no Democrat has filed. Reeb served 7 years as the District Attorney from the Ninth Judicial District and retired last year.

District 68: This is an Albuquerque area house seat. Democrat Rep. Karen Bash won the heavily Republican seat in 2020 mainly because her Republican predecessor was arrested for DWI. Bash has decided not to seek another term. Two candidates have filed. Democrat Charlotte Little is running and will face off with Republican attorney Robert Moss in the November general election. to keep the seat in the Dem column? Those are the two candidates who have filed for the seat. The district’s performance is rated is split almost evenly and it is a race to watch.

District 70. This is a Las Cruces area district. Conservative Freshman Democrat Representative .Ambrose Castellano is being challenged by Progressive Democrat Anita Amalia Gonzales. This is a repeat of the 2020 election where they both ran and Gonzales narrowly lost the Democratic nomination to Castellano. No Republicans have filed in the heavily Democratic district.

The link to the Secretary of State office candidate statewide filings are here:

The link to quoted news source material is here:


The Democrat majority in the New Mexico House of Repetitive is not expected to change much. What will change for sure is who will be elected the new Speaker of the House after the November 8 general election and will the new speaker be a progressive or a moderate to conservative Democrat. Another big issue is will the progressive incumbents such be able to hold on to their seats.

Stay tuned and best wishes to all those who make the private sacrifice and have the dedication to run for public office.

The link to a related blog article is here:

Upwards of 14% Of New Mexico House Projected Not To Seek Another Term; Abolish Citizens Legislature; Create Full Time Legislature; $100,000 Funding For Study; POSTSCRIPT: Guest Columns

Upwards of 14% Of New Mexico House Projected Not To Seek Another Term; Abolish Citizens Legislature; Create Full Time Legislature; $100,000 Funding For Study; POSTSCRIPT: Guest Columns

Tuesday, March 8, is the deadline to formally declare candidacy for the New Mexico House of Representatives and to submit qualifying nominating petition signatures. All 70 seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives are on the November 5, 2022 election ballot. At least 10 members of the New Mexico House, in including 2 that have already resigned, or 14% have announced plans to forgo reelection. The departures include State Rep. Georgene Louis who said she will not seek reelection after being arrested on charges of aggravated drunken driving and Speaker of the House Brian Egolf who said on the last day of the session he will not seek another term . All have cited the toll on their family, employment and personal life.


On January 28, 2022, Representative Brittney Barreras (D-Albuquerque) resigned from the New Mexico House of Representatives . In her resignation statement, Barreras has this to say in part why she resigned:

“First, I want to say that I am completely honored that my neighbors and community have trusted me to represent them. I have done my best to stay true to them and true to my roots in the South Valley. The huge amount of pressure in such a big job has become increasingly difficult for me. All of the pressure and stress has taken a toll on my mental health.

Two years into a pandemic, I know that many of us are experiencing stress, anxiety, and negativity. I want you to know that I feel you, I see you, I hear you, and we’re in this together. I know that I need to take care of myself right now in order to be a good mom, daughter, co-parent, and community member.”

On February 3, 2022, Art De La Cruz, who previously represented the same district from September 2020 to January 2021, was appointed by the Bernalillo County Commission to replace Barreras.

Santa Fe Democrat Tara Lujan is serving her first term and is seeking a second term. Lujan gave up a state job to join the Legislature, which is required by law that provides state government employees cannot serve in the New Mexico legislature. After being first elected, she decided to dedicate 100% of her time as a state representative knowing full well it would be difficult to find a private sector job that would allow her to take the breaks necessary to serve in the House and allow for 30 day and 60 day absences for legislative sessions. She saved money to ease the transition, and family help was critical to allow her to serve in the legislature. Lujan said she had to draw down on her savings and received help of family members to be able to serve in the legislature. Lujan opined that the public is not well-served by the crush of the final days of a session when separate bills are rolled together, surprise amendments pop up and sleep-deprived lawmakers make final decisions on what to support.

Notwithstanding, Lujan is dedicated and is seeking a second term and she is looking for employment in the private sector. Lujan had this to said this about seeking another term:

“It’s almost undoable, to be honest with you. … There have been many moments where I’ve thought, how long – what’s the sustainability of doing this kind of work at the pace it calls for? … My extended family is really the heart of how I get everything done.”

Representative Kay Bounkeua, a Democrat who represents the International District in Albuquerque, said serving in an unsalaried legislature is simply too difficult, especially with a 3-year-old daughter at home. Bounkeua said her the decision to step down came after two exhausting, combative sessions, one focused on redistricting last year, the other a regular 30-day session. Bounkeua, said she exhausted her vacation time and will take unpaid days off work to attend committee hearings held the rest of the year. In announcing she would not seek another term she had this to say:

“You have to put the kiddo first. … It was really hard for me to do that while also juggling a full-time job, my day job, as well as doing legislative duties. … To get everything done in 30 days … it’s nearly impossible. You want to make decisions that you feel like are very informed and are community backed. You can’t do that if things are so rapid-paced.”

Republican Los Lunas area Representative R. Kelly Fajardo had this to say about not running for another term:

“It’s not easy, but public service isn’t easy. … It’s a sacrifice we all make. There’s a balancing act we all have to do. … That’s just the way it is.”

In a surprise and unexpected announcement, New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, announced at the conclusion of the 2022 New Mexico Legislative Session, that he will not run for reelection this year for his District 47 seat. Speaker Egolf told the House of Representatives shortly before noon and the end of the session:

“This is the last time I will speak to you from this rostrum during the conclusion of a regular legislative session. … It’s time to put my young family first [my 11- and 14-year-old daughters, and my wife Kelly.] … Neither District 47 or the [House] leadership belong to me. I will always count you as my colleagues but also, more importantly, as my friends.”

The link to quoted news source material is here:


The New Mexico Legislature is what is referred to as a “citizen’s legislature” meaning that it is not a full time, paid, professional legislature. The New Mexico convenes only once a year with sessions commencing in January.

In even number years, the legislature convenes for 30 days, known as a “short session”. The 30 day sessions are dedicated to budget legislation and the agenda is set by the “Governor’s Call”, meaning the Governor dictates was legislation can be considered. In odd number years, the legislature convenes for 60 day sessions and legislators can introduce legislation on any topic or matter they choose and not subject to the Governor’s call.

New Mexico legislators are the only state lawmakers in the country who don’t draw a salary, though they get daily payments during legislative sessions, reimbursements and the option to participate in a retirement system. This year’s daily rate, based on the federal per diem, is $173 to $202, depending on the time of year. The small pay means most legislators are retired or hold jobs that allow them to take breaks for annual sessions of 30 or 60 days in Santa Fe, in addition to less-formal meetings held throughout the year.

The work of a legislator is intense, and usually towards the end of a session. During the last week of this 2020 thirty day session, two times the House worked overnight, including 26½ hours straight before adjournment.


While a handful of legislatures are similar to Congress in the way the function, most are very different. In most states, legislatures meet part-time and have smaller staffs than Congress. In these states, the legislature may meet anywhere from two to six months out of the year, and in four states the legislature only meets once every other year. These bodies are considered citizen legislatures, and members receive part-time pay. Most members have another job outside of the legislature. Because of the short sessions, legislation in these states tends to move very quickly.

Ten states are considered to have full-time legislatures. These states tend to function similarly to Congress, as legislative sessions last longer, and members and their staff are usually well paid. The states with a full-time legislature are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Session length tends to vary in these states, and legislation in states with longer sessions tends to move more slowly as the legislative bodies have more time to deliberate.

Fifteen states impose term limits on members of their legislature. There are two distinct types of term limits imposed by these states:

1. Consecutive term limits restrict the consecutive number of years a member can be in one chamber of the legislature. In these states, it is not unusual to see a member of the legislature bounce between chambers after reaching the consecutive term limit.

2. Lifetime term limits prohibit a member from running for an office they’ve held after they have served a specified number of years.

Some studies have found that lifetime limits tend to increase turnover and can limit institutional knowledge of members. Without institutional knowledge built from years serving in a legislature, the influence of long-term staff and advocates tends to increase as legislators often turn to staff and advocates for information.

A link to source material is here:,staff%20are%20usually%20well%20paid.

New Mexico is the only state that doesn’t offer a specific salary to lawmakers, though a salary isn’t a guarantee of good compensation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Hampshire, provides an annual salary of $100 with no per diem. California and New York, by contrast, pay salaries of at least $110,000 a year. Many states offer a mix of mileage reimbursements, per diem and a salary.

Arizona legislators, for example, get $24,000 a year, plus mileage and per diem, depending on where they live. New Mexico lawmakers draw daily payments of $170 to $200 a day based on federal per diem or about $5,200 for the recently adjourned 30-day session. Legislator’s also get a mileage reimbursement and an optional pension plan.


Repeated attempts have been made in the past to establish a salary for lawmakers or to revise the length and structure of legislative sessions and all have failed.

During the 2021 legislative session, a proposed constitutional amendment focusing on pay cleared one Senate committee and died in its second without reaching the floor of either chamber. The legislation called for the newly created State Ethics Commission to review and set salaries for elected officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government.

In 2021, another proposal called for the creation a Legislative Process Review Commission. It would have created a panel to develop policy recommendations on transparency, compensation, staff support, session rules and the funding of capital outlay projects. The commission concept won House approval but did not advance through any Senate committees and never reached the full Senate for a vote.

Also in 2021, legislation calling for extending even year legislative sessions from 30 day session to 45 days and removing the limitations on what could be put on the agenda also failed. It passed the House, advanced through a Senate committee but was never voted upon by the Senate before the session ended.


During the 2022 legislative secession that ended February 17, Senate Bill 48 passed that allocates $100,000 to study legislative staffing needs, compensation and the structure of legislative sessions. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature. The study would be done by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. The Governor has until March 9 to sign the legislation or veto it.

Representative Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque, Democratic Representative Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces were sponsors of the legislation. Representative Garratt is a retired teacher and she said she saw first hand this during this years’ session the difference between holding a day job while serving and being able to focus full-time on the session. She said she no longer spent evenings calling parents and instead devoted more time talking to experts and going over legislation and she had this to say:

You have time to more deeply understand a bill, its impact, its possible unintended consequences. … You have more time to craft good legislation.”

The link to quoted news sources is here:


New Mexico became a state in 1912. At that time, a part time all-volunteer legislature made sense and was about all that could be expected. A full 119 years later, it no longer makes sense. During the 2022 New Mexico 30-day session there were a plethora of very complicated bills and resolutions that generated fierce debate, but with only 30 days, there simply was not enough time to seriously consider enactment. It is time to abolish New Mexico’s archaic citizen’s legislature and create a full-time salaried legislature and staff it properly.

All too often, controversial bills never make it through assigned committees and onto both chambers’ floors for final debate and enactment. With only 30 or 60 days sessions, it is very foolish to believe that part time legislators have a thorough understanding of legislation they are voting on and they are force to place too much reliance on paid full time legislature analysists.

During the 2022 legislative 30 day session, the New Mexico legislature enacted a historic $8.48 Billion State budget, the largest budget in the state’s history, and a $827 Public Works Bill. It also also attempted to deal with tax reform, historic education funding, environmental issues, crime and punishment issues, energy issues and the courts. Complicated and very controversial legislation that simply failed because there was not enough time included “voting and election rights” legislation, “pretrial detention” legislation, and the hydrogen hub development act that would have created a whole new industry in New Mexico.

Simply put, the general public is not at all well-served by the rush of the final days of a session when separate bills are rolled in to one, “ghost bills” introduced or surprise amendments are added while tired and weary lawmakers make final decisions on what to support. Clearly, lawmakers deserve to be adequately compensated and it should be tied to stronger ethical regulations prohibiting conflicts of interest.

As things stand now, lawyers, teachers, farmers and energy executives all serve in the Legislature and vote on legislation affecting their industries or profession. Disqualifying themselves from voting is required in limited circumstances. Expanded staff is an absolute necessity to help legislators evaluate bills and serve constituents. A predictable schedule of committee hearings and floor sessions would go a long ways to help lawmakers plan their time and give the general public sufficient notice of pending matters that will be voted upon.

The postscript to this blog article provides other commentary on the needs for a full-time legislature.



On January 19, 2022 and before on November 29, 2021, the Albuquerque Journal published guest editorial columns on the topic of the need for a full time legislature. The later was written by Albuquerque resident Jason Barker and the former was written by Hannah Burling, President of the New Mexico League of Women Voters. When read together, both columns make a compelling case as to why there is a need for New Mexico to abandon its part time legislature and create a full time, paid legislature.

HEADLINE: “Is a part-time NM Legislature the problem?”

“How equitable and effective is New Mexico’s part-time Legislature?

It is essential that residents, officials and lawmakers focus on legislation that will make a positive difference in the lives of all New Mexicans and outcomes in New Mexico. An independent legislative improvement task force can be that positive difference.

A part-time legislature is no longer benefiting New Mexico; it’s time for reform. New Mexico is the last state in the U.S. without a (salaried) legislature (and) we are also the state – among those with many – with the most last-place rankings.

In the 2021 legislative session … lawmakers made four different attempts to pass bills to pay themselves. Before this happens, a responsible legislative body would create an independent legislative improvement task force similar to the one in 2020, House Memorial 32.

A responsible legislative body would have UNM and NMSU political science departments and other state universities conduct political science research into our citizen Legislature to determine if the current structure has been the root cause of all the problems for New Mexico in recent years. No member of the Legislature or Governor’s Office should have any say in the selection of the task force membership.
How effective is our part-time “citizen” Legislature?

For example, the 30-day/60-day style in a two-year period means it takes New Mexico almost 2.5 years to equal one year of legislative work that is done in Colorado.

It clearly appears not having a professional legislature is holding our state back. And the current structure of the legislature has evolved into a legislature of elite retirees, excluding the people the citizen legislature was intended to serve.

According to the Legislative Council Service, the most recent formal study of the legislative process was in August 2006.

The following must be considered by any task force created for this:

• Length of legislative session compared with states of similar size;
• Compensation of legislative members compared with states of similar size;
• Strategies to reduce conflicts in the legislative process;
• Staff for legislators during the session and in the interim;
• Developing a primer for citizen participation in the legislative process;
• Limiting introduction of guests and performances on the floor;
• Improving alignment of policy initiatives proposed by interim committees with the development of the general appropriation act;
• Transparent planning and prioritizing capital outlay funding; and
• Structure and efficacy of statutory and interim committees.

A report of recommendations (should be) made available to legislators and the general public by Sept. 1.
New Mexico chooses to be a very poor state, despite how cash rich the state government really is, but there’s no reason for that.

It’s the sixth-richest state in the union when it comes to natural resources, with massive potential in solar energy. So, why are we failing as a state?

It’s such a huge, beautiful state with a rich history and culture. New Mexico can proudly claim one of the most diverse landscapes in the world – just like the people that make up our great state.

Currently, our “citizen” Legislature … does not allow all citizens an equal or equitable chance to serve.”

The link to the JASON BARKER guest column is here:


HEADLINE: “NM needs a full-time, paid legislature”

“Now is the time to make substantial and desperately needed changes in the operation and procedures of the New Mexico Legislature.

A coalition of good government and other civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, is proposing some major improvements, namely lengthening the legislative sessions, creating a salaried legislature and providing year-round staff for all legislators.

Efforts to improve New Mexico’s operations and effectiveness have been afoot for decades, in recognition that today’s Legislature faces demands not contemplated when the 1912 constitution was created. In 2007, the Legislative Structure and Process Task Force produced a report with many practical recommendations. Many of them concerned such operational reforms as increased transparency, scheduling and workload. A 2017 report by the League of Women Voters of New Mexico and Common Cause New Mexico made many similar recommendations concerning transparency and public participation, and efficiency and effectiveness.

… The Legislature meets for 60 days in odd years and 30 days in even years. During both of these sessions, the body must deal with a huge workload. In the 2019 regular 60-day session, there were 1,663 bills, memorials, joint memorials, resolutions and joint resolutions. In the 2020 regular 30-day session, they had 919 legislative items.

New Mexico has the only unsalaried legislature in the United States. Legislators receive a per diem when meeting. The legislators do receive a pension if they choose to participate. Although legislators do not receive a salary, they are expected to perform constituent services, study all legislative items, participate on interim committees and more. Legislators, other than the leadership, do not have (year-round) staff assistance to help them with the above duties.

Our legislative sessions are among the shortest in the nation, preventing many good bills from being passed. The sessions are too short to permit thoughtful study and debate on the large amount of legislation introduced. They enable delaying tactics to run out the clock, leaving many bills to die at the end of each session.

The fact that most legislators do not have staff, especially when the Legislature is not in session, limits legislators’ ability to respond to constituents. In addition, legislators lack the time, and often the expertise, to study and decide on a wide variety of topics. This increases their reliance on paid lobbyists for information on the bills.

The League and the other coalition members believe the public would benefit greatly from these reforms. Legislators will be able to perform more constituent and community services, and receive more independent research and advice on legislation. In addition, temptations for ethics violations would be reduced. Importantly, there would be potential to increase diversity in the Legislature. Currently, many prospective candidates are deterred from running for office because they have to work and don’t have jobs that allow flexible schedules.

We hope all New Mexicans will join us in advocating for these legislative improvements. Ask your legislators to enact legislation to amend the New Mexico Constitution to lengthen sessions, pay legislators and provide staff for all in order to modernize the Legislature and allow the members to perform their work more effectively.”

The link to the HANNAH BURLING guest column is here:

2021 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book; Report On Economic Well-Being, Education, Health And Community Of New Mexico’s Children; Solutions Offered, Funding Enacted

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

— Matthew 19:13-14

On January 19, 2022, the New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2021 Kids Count Data Book. The annual “Kids Count” data book is prepared by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Casey foundation is a nonprofit based in Maryland focusing on improving the well-being and future of American children and their families. It assesses how New Mexico children are faring in a number of areas including economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The “Kids Count Data Book” is a 90 page document with an extensive number of tables, graphs charts and statistics listing and counties in the state.

The links to the Kids Count Data Book is here:


EDITOR’S NOTE: The term “child” refers to the age group from birth through 17 years. Poverty is defined as those living at or below the federal poverty level (FPL). The FPL for a family of three was $21,720 in 2020, the year the most recent data were collected.

Following are New Mexico’s rankings in the nation gleaned from the 2021 Kids Count Data Book:

50th in the nation for education.
29th in the number of young children not enrolled in school.
45th with children living with families where the head of the household lacked a high school diploma.
49th in the nation for child well being.
48th in the nation for child poverty.
49th in the nation for eighth grade math proficiency.
50th in the nation for fourth grade reading proficiency.
37th in the nation for health care for children.
48th in the nation for Family and Community.
29th in the nation for children without health care insurance.
48th in the nation for children living in single-parent families.
43rd in the nation for child and teen death rates.

Following are the state’s percentages gleaned from the 2021 Kids Count Data Book:

32% of New Mexico children have parents that lack secure employment.
25% of New Mexico Children are living in poverty.
76% of New Mexico’s fourth graders are not proficient in reading.
79% of New Mexico’s 8th graders are not proficient in math.
25% of New Mexico’s high school students do not graduate on time.
9.3% low birth weights for children born in New Mexico.
2,124 total children born in New Mexico with low birth weights.
6% of New Mexico children are without health insurance.
29,000 total New Mexico children without health insurance.
36 is New Mexico’s child and teen death rates per 100,000.
44% of New Mexico children live in single parent families or 195,000 children living in single parent families.
14% of New Mexico children live in families where the household head lacks a high school education or 69,000 children.
24 is New Mexico’s teen birth rate per 1,000 with 1,659 births.


Emily Wildau, the New Mexico Kids Count Data Book coordinator, said the biggest surprise that come out of the annual assessment is New Mexico saw 20,000 additional children enrolled in Medicaid in 2021. The increase in Medicaid coverage for New Mexico children is likely due to job losses leading to a loss of private-employer insurance.

Currently, New Mexico ranks 49th in the nation for child wellbeing, but the January Kids Count Data Book does not assess national rankings. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, in many ways, New Mexico’s response to the pandemic has been “a success story”. Improvements for families with children made before the pandemic include the development of the Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD), a minimum wage increase, increased K-12 funding and teacher pay increases and “crucial” COVID-19 relief for families, workers and businesses.

A key piece of new information for 2021 is that hardship data shows that many New Mexico families spent the monthly federal Child Tax Credit money to pay down debt. This was especially true for Native American and Hispanic families.

The Kids Count Data Book shows that child food insecurity increased from 24% in 2020 to 26% in 2021.

Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the New Mexico legislature should continue to enact legislation that will positively impact families and children, particularly families of color. Wallin said other areas of public policy where lawmakers should focus on to help families with children and provide equitable relief for communities of color include “strategic investment in food insecurity,” continuing to “invest in early childhood education” and support of the Early Childhood Trust Fund which augments federal funding for prenatal-to-five-years of age.

The link to quoted news source material is here:


Following are the narratives on the major findings of the Kids Count Data Book for 2021:


The rate and number of New Mexico children living in poverty appears to have decreased from 2019 to 2020. It is likely that policies such as pandemic economic relief prevented increases or, in some cases, resulted in decreases in child poverty. However, with 116,000 or 25% of our children living at or below the Federal Poverty Line, New Mexico still ranks poorly at 48th in the nation in child poverty. By the onset of the pandemic and its resulting recession, most other states had recovered from the Great Recession, but New Mexico’s economy had not quite fully rebounded, which means more families were vulnerable to falling into poverty than had the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty. New Mexico’s future economic success and the quality of our future workforce is determined, in large part, by what sorts of opportunities our children have today


Between 2018 and 2019, the number of young children not enrolled in school decreased slightly, bumping our national ranking up from 30th to 29th. However, New Mexico’s rate of young children not enrolled in school has not changed much over the long term and is actually only slightly better than it was in 2009. While the state is continuing its planned rollout of the NM Pre-K program, insufficient funding for the child care assistance program over the last several years has meant that fewer families have been able to afford child care in a setting that is education oriented. While an influx of federal COVID-19 relief has allowed policymakers to make improvements and increases in some areas, these improvements will need to be sustained and made permanent after one-time federal money is spent to adequately address the pressing needs in this policy area.

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This Measures the percentage of fourth graders who scored below proficient in reading as measured and defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Children need to be able to read proficiently by fourth grade in order to be able to use their reading skills to learn other school subjects. In fact, kids who are not reading at grade level by this critical point are more likely to drop out of school and less likely to go to college. New Mexico ranks 50th in the nation in fourth grade reading proficiency. The state had been making progress in this indicator, but this marked the first year since 2009 that the rate of students reading below proficiency increased. Reading proficiency is a crucial element of scholastic success, but in New Mexico, 76% of our children are not proficient in reading by the fourth grade. As has been the case in the past, boys, children of color, and children from families earning low incomes have proficiency rates that are below the state average in fourth grade reading.

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This Measures the percentage of eighth graders who scored below proficient in math as measured and defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Math proficiency by the eighth grade is necessary for students to do well in high school math courses and attend college. As more and more jobs in today’s increasingly high-tech work environment depend on science, technology, engineering, and math skills, students not proficient in math are at a real disadvantage. New Mexico ranks 49th in eighth grade math proficiency. The 79% of New Mexico eighth graders who are behind in math are likely to struggle in high school and college math courses.

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One-quarter of New Mexican high schoolers do not graduate on time. This rate is significantly worse than the national average of 14%. For the sixth year in a row, New Mexico is ranked 50th among the states on this indicator. Though New Mexico continues to rank very poorly on this measure, the state has made improvements in this indicator over the long term, going from 35% of students not graduating on time in 2009 to 25% not graduating on time in 2019.

The biggest improvements in this indicator over that time period were seen among Native American and Hispanic students. Graduating on time is important because those who don’t are more likely to drop out altogether and those who don’t dropout are less likely to go on to college. Adults without a high school diploma are more likely to be employed in low-paying jobs, not have benefits like paid leave and health insurance, and have higher unemployment rates than those with higher levels of educational attainment.

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According to 2020 data, 6% of all New Mexico children were uninsured, and 2019 data show that Hispanic and Native American children are more likely to be uninsured. Although New Mexico has seen an increase in the number of children on Medicaid during the pandemic, households with children delayed or did not receive needed medical care at higher rates than the rest of the nation.

People of color in the state delayed getting care at higher rates than non-Hispanic whites, with 26% of Hispanic households with children delaying care compared to 20% of non Hispanic whites. Nearly 40% of those identifying as two or more races or other race, a category that includes Native Americans, also delayed care. Similar racial and ethnic breakdowns can be seen for households with children who did not get medical care at all. This is likely correlated to unemployment rates, as families lost employer-provided insurance or became unable to afford health insurance or medical care due to financial hardship.

The rates of women receiving no prenatal care while pregnant improved from 2018 to 2019. While all rates improved, they remained higher among teen mothers and mothers with less than a high school diploma than among the general population of mothers. Hispanic and Native American women in New Mexico are the least likely to receive prenatal care during pregnancy, while non-Hispanic white mothers are the most likely to receive prenatal care early on in pregnancy.

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Mental health during the pandemic has improved both in New Mexico and the nation. This year 30% of adults in the U.S. felt anxious – an improvement from 35% this same time last year. New Mexico saw an even bigger improvement in this indicator, with 26% of adults feeling anxiety – compared to 46% who felt this way last year.

The rates for adults feeling depressed in the U.S. also improved to 19% from 23% last year, while that rate in New Mexico improved even more significantly to 16% this year from 34%. What’s more, this year New Mexico flipped from faring worse than the nation on both of these indicators to faring better. Similarly, we’re seeing a switch in anxiety rates based on race and ethnicity.

While rates are lower across all races and ethnicities this year, non-Hispanic white adults are now reporting the highest rates of anxiety – at 32%, from 38% last year – while those rates dropped to 28% from 50% for Hispanic adults and to 9% from 52% for adults identifying as two or more races or another race. (Data for depression by race and ethnicity are not available this year.)

The reasons for these flips in data are not clear-cut, but may stem from multiple causes, including a decline in responses during collection resulting in data that may not reflect lived experiences, as well as a variety of public policy improvements. For example, an easing of the state’s pandemic restrictions due to our high vaccination rate may play a part, as may the return to in-person schooling, as well as 2019 state tax improvements for low-income families and additional 2020 state pandemic relief – all of which may have had different benefits along the lines of race and ethnicity.

In addition, parents could choose between receiving the increased federal Child Tax Credit in one lump sum in 2022 or receiving it in advance, with installments paid out periodically in 2021. The decision of when to receive CTC payments could also account for some of the change. However, we do not see a similar switch along the lines of race and ethnicity in any of the measures of economic well-being during this time frame.

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New Mexico children face some major challenges but ensuring that they have health insurance can help address a number of the issues that can threaten children’s health and well-being, and this is one area in which New Mexico does comparatively well. Thanks to the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, New Mexico has seen some of the biggest improvements over time in the nation – dropping to 6% from 14%.

Although the 2020 data are not strictly comparable to earlier data, the share of children without health insurance remained at 6% in 2020, ranking us 29th in the nation on this indicator. Medicaid likely played a part in keeping children covered during the pandemic when families were losing their health insurance benefits. However, Medicaid coverage rules will change once the pandemic ends. In long-term trends, the biggest improvements in this measure have been among Native American and Hispanic children. However, Native American children in New Mexico, with uninsured rates around 11% in 2019, were still at the greatest risk of being uninsured.

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New Mexico’s child and teen death rate is 36 deaths per 100,000 children and teens. This is significantly worse than the U.S. average rate of 25 per 100,000 and ranks New Mexico 43rd among the states on this measure. Rates among Native American children in New Mexico (at 56 per 100,000) are significantly higher than the state and national averages. Over the long term, New Mexico’s child and teen death rate has decreased, from 40 in 2009 to 36 deaths per 100,000 in 2019, following a national overall trend of gradual improvement on this indicator. Rates have remained the same among Hispanics and decreased among non-Hispanic whites but have increased among Native Americans.

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New Mexico entered the pandemic with a significant lack of internet access in households compared to the national rate, according to 2019 data. Data from 2020, which are less representative of New Mexico and the nation due to pandemic data collection issues, still show that 9% of New Mexico households had no internet subscription compared to 6% of all households in the country.

We know these estimates are low, and in many cases, when families have internet access, it is often poor quality, making it challenging for students to complete online assignments and for parents to monitor their child’s academic progress since grades are posted online. Poor internet connectivity and lack of internet service continue to be significant barriers for students who must quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure and those adults who are still working remotely or who are enrolled in postsecondary courses online.

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The rate of children living in single-parent families in 2020 is not comparable to the rate in other years. Data indicates that 39% of children in New Mexico were living in single-parent families in 2020, and our rate is still much higher than the national average of 29%. Our ranking is based on 2019 data and we remain 48th among the states on this measure. Our high rate of children living in single-parent families is likely part of the reason so many of our children live in poverty, are food insecure, and face educational and health challenges. That single-parent families and poverty are linked is well understood, but what receives far less attention is the question of which situation is the cause and which the effect.

Essentially, not only can being a single parent lead to a life of poverty, but the converse – that financial instability within a relationship can lead to its dissolution – is also true. However, public policies that seek to increase marriage rates among families earning low incomes rarely take this fact into consideration and too frequently fail to take a holistic approach to ensuring all families can thrive, no matter their structure. Partly because centuries of systemic discrimination have forced a higher share of people of color into poverty, children of color are more likely to live in single parent families than are their white and Asian counterparts.

Work to ensure that more children of color live in two-parent families must begin by dismantling the race- and ethnicity-based barriers that their parents face; barriers to quality and culturally appropriate education, jobs that pay family sustaining wages, and safe housing. Public programs that use a two-generational approach – meaning they create opportunities simultaneously for both parents and children and in doing so address both groups’ needs – are also crucial for improving indicators like this one. Some public programs, such as TANF, have unproductive policies, such as requiring mothers to name their child’s father regardless of a pattern of abuse. These policies may not only put children in traumatic and sometimes dangerous situations, but they can also jeopardize financial assistance and exacerbate a single-parent family’s poverty.

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In 2019, 14% of New Mexico children – or 69,000 kids – lived in families where the head of the household lacked a high school diploma. These numbers rank New Mexico 45th in the nation on this indicator. This rate has been improving in New Mexico and nationwide since 2009, when 21% of New Mexico children lived in families headed by a parent without a high school diploma. In New Mexico, rates are highest among Hispanic children at 21% and Native American children at 18% – compared with 5% for non-Hispanic white children and 7% for Black and Asian children as well as children of two or more races. Still, the biggest improvements in this indicator since 2009 have been among Hispanic and Native American children.


A high-poverty area is defined as a Census tract where at least 30% of the population lives at or below the federal poverty level. This indicator measures all children living in such areas, including those whose families earn incomes higher than the poverty level. Regardless of their own family’s income, children who grow up in neighborhoods where poverty rates are high are more likely to be exposed to drug use and be victims of violent crime. They are less likely to have access to fresh and healthy food, adequate high-quality housing, and community resources like great schools and safe places to play. Studies show that children in high-poverty areas are more likely to start school behind and will need more individual attention. All of these factors can negatively impact their health and development.

With New Mexico’s rate of children living in high-poverty areas – 20% – more than double the national average – 9% – our state ranks 49th in the nation on this indicator. New Mexico improved from 2018 to 2019 when the percentage was 21%, a difference of approximately 9,000 children. Moreover, longer-term trends have improved, with 4,000 fewer New Mexico children living in high-poverty areas in 2019 than did in 2010 – compared to 5,000 more in 2018. Native American children are most likely to live in high poverty areas (at 45%), followed by Hispanic and Black children (at 20%). Non-Hispanic white children are least likely to live in high-poverty areas (8%).

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The teen birth rate is the number of births to teens (ages 15 to 19) for every 1,000 females in that age range in the population. Teen births are associated with negative impacts for both mothers and children. Teen mothers are less likely to graduate high school, to receive adequate prenatal care, and to be economically secure. Babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be born at a low birthweight, be malnourished, face developmental delays, do poorly in school, become teen parents themselves, and live in poverty. Far from being an isolated issue, teen births affect the well-being of mothers, children, and society as a whole.

Following a national trend, the teen birth rate in New Mexico has improved significantly over time, dropping from 60 per 1,000 female teens in 2009 to 24 per 1,000 in 2019 – its lowest point in a decade. This represents an improvement of 60%, although New Mexico keeps its rank of 41st among the states on this indicator. Moreover, teen birth rates have declined across all races and ethnicities, improving most dramatically among Hispanic and Native American teens, with the rate of Hispanic teen births dropping from 81 per 1,000 in 2009 to 28 per 1,000 in 2019, and the rate of Native American teen births dropping from 73 per 1,000 in 2009 to 32 per 1,000 in 2019.

Teen birth rates are higher for teens of color in part because they are more likely to live in poverty and face systemic discrimination, both of which are barriers to receiving health care and pursuing college and a career and, therefore, delaying child bearing until they are older. Just as poverty and racism can lead to the formation of single-parent families, they can also lead to teen births.

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The Kids Count Data Book offers the following specific solutions in the following major 4 areas:


• Expand funding for home visiting programs, especially for teen parents. Home visiting provides parents with early emotional support, parenting skills, developmentally appropriate activities, and aids in accessing community economic, health, and educational resources.

• Maintain income eligibility for child care assistance at 350% the federal poverty level (FPL) and provide continuous eligibility so parents can accept pay raises without suddenly losing benefits that are worth more than the pay increase; eliminate copays for families earning less than 100% FPL and, for families between 101% and 350% FPL, scale copays to their incomes so payments do not put an undue burden on families earning low incomes.

• Invest in broadband infrastructure so that families and communities can better access health, wellbeing, family support, and education services.

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• Support career pathways approaches that better align adult education with post-secondary education opportunities and industry needs while providing a clearer ladder to economic self-sufficiency.

• Expand access to high school equivalency programs, adult basic education, post-secondary education, and job training through a career pathways approach.

• Provide need-based financial assistance to these programs for adults lacking skills and earning low incomes who don’t qualify for many forms of financial aid and may have a family to support while they advance their education.

• Expand funding and access for English as a second language (ESL) classes to help parents increase their level of education.

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• Increase access to affordable housing in safe areas with prospects of work for families earning low incomes, especially families of color, including through the creation or expansion of incentives for developers to build mixed-income housing developments.

• Promote community change efforts that integrate physical revitalization with human capital development. Combining investment in early childhood care and education programs for children with workforce development and asset building activities for parents can benefit lower income families.

• Increase funding for Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), which help parents and children save money for buying a home or paying for college.

• Target additional school funding towards schools in high-poverty areas.

• Incentivize teaching, expand community schools, and reduce class sizes in schools in high-poverty areas.

• Enact targeted economic development initiatives to communities that need them most and require accountability for tax breaks to corporations so that tax benefits are only received if corporations create quality jobs with decent wages and benefits for New Mexico residents. Tax breaks that do not create jobs should be repealed so the state can invest more money in support services for our children.

• Target federal WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds to support education and job training programs that help parents increase their educational attainment and workforce skills to create pathways out of poverty.

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• Increase funding for teen pregnancy prevention and support programs to help at-risk young women avoid pregnancy and see alternative opportunities for their future. Parenting support programs such as home visiting also help young mothers delay second pregnancies, improve their parenting skills, get a high school diploma, and access community supports.

• Expand funding and support for school-based health centers. Students reaching sexual maturity need access to physical and behavioral health professionals to help them make informed decisions.

• Expand evidence-based, age-appropriate comprehensive sex education and defund abstinence-only programs.

• Fund service-learning programs that provide students with civic engagement and work-related experience and have been linked to decreases in teen pregnancy rates.

• Support the creation of and funding for county and tribal health councils in order to better integrate health care with social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development for teens.

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The biggest accomplishments of the 2019 Legislative session were the dramatic increases in public education funding, creation of the Early Childhood Department (CYFD), the mandates to Children, Youth and Families and Public Education departments, not to mention raises for educators and increasing CYFD social workers by 125 were clearly the biggest accomplishments of the 2019 Legislative session.
It was almost 2 years ago on July 1, 2020 that the Lujan Grisham administration launched its new Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD).

The new department is charged with preparing children for school, promoting healthy families and developing a labor force to carry out the agency’s work. Creation of the new department was a major priority of Governor Lujan Grisham during the 2019 legislative session where it won approval. The agency formally began operation on July 1, the start of the 2021 fiscal year. About 270 employees from other departments were transferred into the new one. The sponsors of the legislation were Democratic Senator Michael Padilla of Albuquerque and Representative Linda Trujillo of Santa Fe.

New Mexico is 1 of just 4 states with a stand-alone department dedicated to services targeting children through age 5. The initial operating budget for the new department was $419 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The new department is tasked with overseeing the state’s growing investment in prekindergarten, home visiting programs for new parents, childcare and similar services that previously were scattered across several departments. One of the key goals is to better coordinate the state’s network of early childhood services by housing them in one department rather than having them overseen separately by other departments.


On Friday, July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled in the case of Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Governor Suzanna Martinez that the state of New Mexico was violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. The consolidated lawsuit was filed by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit, brought on by a coalition of parents, students, lawmakers and others in 2014, charged New Mexico had not done enough to address the needs of Native Americans, English-language learners, disabled and low-income students. The Plaintiffs argued that the New Mexico public schools were inadequately funded. All those student groups typically lag behind Anglo students when it comes to math and reading proficiency. While the court ruling did not apply a price tag to its mandate, it said New Mexico has to begin providing remedies for that problem.

In a 75-page decision, the Court ruling centered on the guaranteed right under the New Mexico Constitution to a sufficient education for all children. The lawsuit alleged a severe lack of state funding, resources and services to help students, particularly children from low-income families, students of color, including Native Americans, English-language learners and students with disabilities. The court rejected arguments by Governor Susana Martinez’s administration that the education system is improving and for that reason it does not need more funding. The Court found that the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) did not do the best it could with the funding it has given by the legislature to the education system.


During the 2022 New Mexico Legislative session, a trio of bills to fund programs to help Native American students succeed in school past. The house bills provided more than $70 million to tribal entities to help offer culturally relevant lesson plans and access to virtual and after-school programs for those students.

On bill appropriated $20 million from the state’s general fund to the Indian Education Act to provide educational funding for tribes starting July 1, 2024. That money will be used to create culturally relevant learning programs, including Native language programs, for students in the K-12 system. A Legislative Education Study Committee report says if the bill becomes law, each of the state’s 23 tribal entities would receive $547,826 per year.

A second bill appropriated $21.5 million to help tribal education departments develop learning plans and programs for students, extend learning opportunities and support tribal school libraries. That bill also would take effect July 1, 2024. Each tribe and pueblo would get $250,000 a year, with the exception of the Navajo Nation, which would get $500,000, according to the bill’s fiscal report.

The third bill is aimed at higher education. It appropriates $29.6 million to four state colleges and three tribal colleges for 53 initiatives, such as building a Native American teacher pipeline and expanding high school-to-college programs to encourage those students to attend college. The bill’s fiscal impact report says it is assumed the bill would go into effect 90 days after the last day of the Legislature once Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed it into law.

There was no other legislative bills filed in the House of Representatives regarding the Yazzie/Martinez case. Lente said he thinks the push to address the court ruling has been led by Native Americans because “if we don’t do this, nobody is going to make it a priority.”

In the Senate, three Democrats have filed Senate Memorial 12, which asks the state Public Education Department to develop a “comprehensive plan” to address the needs of the student groups tied to the Yazzie/Martinez case and then annually report to the Legislature about the plan.

The link to quoted news source material is here:


The rankings and financial numbers are depressing and staggering. Notwithstanding the statistics, a glimmer of real hope came out of the 2022 legislative session building on the progress of the past two legislative sessions.

On February 17, the 2022 New Mexico Legislature 30-day legislative session came to an end. The 2022 New Mexico Legislature approved an $8.48 billion state budget, the largest budget in state history. The budget bill boosts state spending by $1 billion, nearly 14%, over current budget levels.

The enacted budget includes significant increases in spending in areas that should have a direct impact on major areas identified by the New Mexico Kids Count Data Book. The enacted budget includes increases in spending for public education and raises for educators, as well as funds going towards initiatives for local economic development projects and housing programs for homeless people.

Annual spending on K-12 grade public education is increased by $425 million to $3.87 billion, a 12% boost.

Annual Medicaid spending is increase by roughly $240 million to $1.3 billion as the federal government winds down pandemic-related subsidies to the program that gives free health care to the impoverished.

The budget contains salary increases of 7% for school districts and state government staff across the state. A minimum hourly wage of $15 for public employees and higher base salaries for teachers is provided.

The enacted budget extends free college tuition to most New Mexico residents pursuing two- and four-year degrees. $75 million is allocated to the “opportunity scholarship” program, providing free tuition and fees for New Mexico residents. Unlike the existing lottery scholarship, it would be open to adults long after high school graduation and could be used for part-time course loads.

The enacted budget fully funds home-based care for thousands of people who have had severe disabilities since childhood.

Pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage is extended for a year after births, up from two months, by spending $14 million. Most births in New Mexico are covered by Medicaid.


The creation of the Early Childhood Education and Care Department was long overdue and it still offers the best potential in investing in New Mexico’s future that promises the biggest returns: our children. The new department is now focusing state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the department, coupled with other investments, will be more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.


When it is all said and done, and the money spent and long gone, there is no guarantee that New Mexico rankings will get any better when it comes to children living in poverty. Notwithstanding, Albuquerque and New Mexico, and all of its leaders, have a moral obligation to do something to address poverty, children living in poverty and to protect our most venerable population, its children.