Jan. 30, 2009 Legislature Tidbits

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Days remaining in session: 50

Denish raises almost half a million: Lt. Gov. Diane Denish raised $466,314 in the last quarter of 2008 for her 2010 bid for the Governor’s Office, her campaign announced Thursday.

Denish has $1,751,779 in the bank for the race, where she is seen by many as the leading Democratic contender. Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, a Republican, has said she is interested in running for the post as well.

Denish released the information as a way to be transparent, she said.

New Mexico campaign finance law requires a yearly filing; Denish has been filing them each quarter.

Pay-to-play legislation in the hopper: Along with a slew of other ethics bills introduced this session, a measure (SB258) introduced by Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, would prohibit state contractors from contributing to statewide candidates and their committees.

“This bill is very cut and dry — if you are a contractor, you cannot contribute to candidates who may be responsible for hiring your firm,” he said in a statement.

The bill is aimed at avoiding undue influence by state contractors or potential state contractors.

A federal grand jury is investigating whether contributions to Gov. Bill Richardson political committees by CDR Financial and its chief executive, David Rubin, influenced the authority’s decision to hire the firm for state work. CDR earned nearly $1.5 million in fees for its work on state bond deals in 2004-2005. CDR and Richardson deny any wrongdoing.

In-state tuition for out-of-state veterans: Veterans would be eligible to pay in-state tuition rates under a measure (SB136) introduced by Senate Minority Whip Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque.

The proposal would apply to honorably discharged veterans, their children and their spouses from any state.

“In addition to benefiting the honorably discharged veteran and his or her family, this bill benefits the state of New Mexico and the universities,” Payne said in a statement. “The state would be able to attract veterans to come to New Mexico to study and hopefully make New Mexico their home. The college educated veterans could help improve the state’s economic development efforts by attracting more businesses looking for a better educated work-force.”

Bolo ties allowed: New Mexico lawmakers gained a bit more sartorial freedom on Thursday when the House approved a rules change to allow its members and others to wear bolo ties in the House chambers.

Previously, bolos were banned when the House was in session. Members had to wear a regular cloth tie.

A bolo, often called a string tie, has a sliding clasp on a thin cord that’s sometimes made of braided leather. Some bolos feature heavily decorated silver or gold clasps with turquoise and other stones.

During a debate in the House on the rules change, bolo backers said the tie was appropriate attire for lawmakers. A bolo, they said, reflected New Mexico’s tri-cultural heritage — a mix of Hispanic, Indian and Anglo influences.

“I always thought and felt that the bolo is a very respectable tie,” said Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo. “The bolo tie represents New Mexico in terms of who we are.”

A 2007 law declared the bolo as New Mexico’s official tie, but House rules still banned them.

Quote of the day: ``The reason we’re even talking about this right now is because we’ve been lulled and duped and schemed and scammed into some of the most serious budget crises this state will ever know, and it’s because of an overzealous executive that had a personal agenda.” — Sen. Kent Cravens, D-Albuquerque, during the debate on the solvency package approved by the Senate on Thursday afternoon.