Legislative Review: Things not done, things done
What government does not do can be more interesting than the actions of government, or any organization, for that matter. This year, an election year with some “new money” having appeared for legislators eager to please, the incentive to do something was greater than usual.
This week’s column offers things done and, mostly, things not done in the 2012 legislative session. The source is the annual “Highlights” publication of the Legislative Council Service (LCS), the staff for the Legislature.
In government lingo, capital outlay refers to spending on buildings, roads, water lines and even sculptures. “Reauthorizations” of capital outlay plans refer to extending the time for a project or shifting the money to another use.
A Bill Richardson favorite (totally unjustified in my opinion), the proposed Veteran’s and Military Technology Museum in Las Cruces, looks to be on its way to oblivion. Money previously allocated to the museum took five hits totaling $180,000. The money will go to repairing stuff the state already has, such as the Taylor Reynolds Barela Mesilla state monument in Mesilla. By contrast, two public art allocations in Albuquerque, neither necessary at all, got more time to get going.
Vetoes provide examples of specific choices. Capital project vetoes show choices about small items, as little as $10,000, instead of the grand policy considerations affecting the future of the state. That the state administration spends time on these micro decisions raises the question of the value of sending the money to Santa Fe in the first place.
Small projects in McKinley County, especially at Navajo chapter houses, proved especially attractive to the veto pen. Of 29 proposed projects, 22 were vetoed, including $15,000 to demolish a preschool building at the Manuelito chapter house.
Some other interesting vetoes were in House Bill 2, the General Appropriations Act. Eastern New Mexico University did not get money to prepare students in grades 3 through 12 to design, build, program and test robots, and produce a competition. Maybe the administration knew that two such programs operate in the state — First Lego League and Gear-Tech 21.
The Cultural Affairs Department did not get more money for adult literacy programs, though apparently it already does literacy programs. Such activity seems far from running the state museums.
Bills changed regulations for being an engineer, operating funeral homes, and being a collection agency based outside the state. The web of government regulation now includes scrap metal dealers.
Functions from the “defunded and diminished” Health Policy Commission were moved to the Department of Health and the University of New Mexico. The Commission seems to still exist. But two “now-redundant” education entities were abolished — the Office of Child Development and the Child Development Board.
Overall, the LCS report said, “Veterans appeared to be a favored class of taxpayer, with numerous tax benefits aimed at keeping them in the state once they leave the military.” Not that I disagree, but I’m not sure we ever had that policy discussion.
One of the best things done is converting the K-3 Plus pilot program to a permanent program. K-3 Plus extends the school year by 25 “instructional days” in participating schools. To join the K-3 party, a school must apply, be accepted and demonstrate that it is what the bill, House Bill 14, calls a “high poverty public school,” meaning that 85 percent of the students are eligible for a free lunch.
Rep. Mimi Stewart sponsored HB 14. She is a very liberal education-establishment person. Co-sponsors include the very conservative Rep. Jimmie Hall.
The logic is that more classroom time equals more learning. Could be. Eventually that logic may extend to non-high poverty schools.
Some things are possible.
© 2012 New Mexico News Service