2-6 Legislative tidbits

Days remaining in session: 12

Here comes the judge

A new district judge position would be created for the First Judicial District under a bill approved unanimously Friday by the Senate. The disrict includes Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, also creates a new magistrate judge position in Las Cruces.

According to a fiscal impact report, the new positions would be paid for out of savings from judicial positions in other parts of the state that were eliminated last year. Currently, there are seven district judges in the First Judicial District.

Santa Fe County is in the process of building a new courthouse. County officials have said the plans for the building anticipated a new judge.

The bill goes to the House.

Sunshine measure

The Senate has unanimously approved a bill (SB 195) that would post key government information online.

The so-called sunshine portal would include regular updates on the state’s cash balances and its investment accounts. It also would make available the yearly operating budgets for state agencies, listing expenditures by category.

The online database, sponsored by Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, would include a monthly list of the revenue received by the state — broken down by source, such as taxes, fees or fines. The portal would include tools for tracking the status of capital-outlay projects and public meetings.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who strongly backed the bill, released a statement saying, “This type of openness and transparency is a major step forward for New Mexico.”

It goes to the House for consideration.

Eliminating duplication

A measure of bills (SBs 230, 231, 241 and 245) would scale down state government by merging several duplicate boards and panels.

One measure (SB 241) would merge the Office of the Natural Resources Trustee; the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and the Department of Environment.

“It is unconscionable to me that we are being asked to cut the salaries of state employees and teachers, our key workers,” said Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana. “Yet at the same time, we are supposed to tolerate unnecessary spending on duplicative state government administration.”

The bills grew out of recommendations by a task force appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson to study ways to increase government efficiency.

Santa Fe’s water supply

The House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee has approved a measure (HM21) by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, that urges the U.S. Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to work with the Buckman Direct Diversion Board on water quality issues.

“The BDD Board is pleased with the House Committee on Agriculture and Water Resource’s unanimous passage of HM21, which will ensure we keep the momentum we have all worked so hard to build,” Rebecca Wurzburger, a city couincilor who chairs the BDD Project Board, said in a statement.

Among other things, the goals of the Memorandum of Agreement contained in the bill are to identify cost sharing, operation responsibilities, maintenance and sample testing for the system.

Quote of the day:

“To kill it now, it’s like an abortion in some ways.”

— Actor Wes Studi, referring to efforts to end the state’s film production incentives program. He was speaking at a New Mexico Film and Media day breakfast.