Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9-17 State Government Busy Over Summer

WED, 9-17-08

SANTA FE -- As summer draws to a close, we look back on a period that certainly wasn't one of lazy, hazy days. Plenty was happening and much of it was new. Here's a sample.
Energy-saving measures were requested by Gov. Bill Richardson. Businesses and governments throughout the nation are experimenting with alternative work hours, mass transit, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, teleworking, state-owned bicycle pools and many other measures.
In New Mexico, each department of state government is designing policies to fit its needs so that it can continue to serve the public in the best manner possible. Those policies were to be submitted back to the governor by September 1.
Alarie Ray-Garcia of the State Personnel Office has contacted me wanting to make it clear that working from a home office will not be an option, but that some agencies may be able to allow employees to work in an office closer to their home.
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The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees began contract negotiations on August 12 for the 6,500 employees in the 14 state agencies it represents. This is the first contract that state employees are negotiating for themselves, without outside assistance. The team is made up of state employees from throughout New Mexico.
The union is seeking pay hikes, increased sick leave and health care benefits and additional payments for multilingual employees. The contract is set to expire on December. 31.
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A recent court case has brought to light the very serious question of whether candidates for county elective offices need to submit nominating petition signatures when they file for office. A 1996 law appears to require it but the secretary of state's office has not been advising that the law be followed.
There is ambiguity in other sections of the election code, which will take a state Supreme Court ruling to straighten out. That may happen because another suit has been filed in the past week. The offices of the Secretary of State, Attorney General and the Legislative Council Service must get together on some election code revisions before the 2009 legislative session begins.
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Bursting on the scene this summer was the situation of non-profit groups getting involved in what appears to be political campaigning. Unlike political action committees, non-profits are not bound by election laws, are not required to disclose their donors to the public and there are no limits on the amount of money they can accept or from whom they accept it.
In New Mexico, a group of non-profits went after several legislators last spring. Three of them were defeated in the June primary and now have sued. The attorney general and secretary of state are now attempting to clamp down on the groups.
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Complaints about SHARE, the state's two-year-old central accounting system, are decreasing. Employee problems with paychecks have long since been fixed. The problems now seem to be in getting the system fully adapted to each department's needs. An effort to roll out the system too quickly and with too little training and assistance for information technology staff in each agency seemed to be the major culprit.
A June progress report by Roy Soto, secretary of the new Department of Information Technology assured state employees that progress is being made. But Soto resigned in August, leaving many wondering what that might mean for the future.
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Governor Val Kilmer? It's a possibility, says the Hollywood star, who has a ranch near Pecos, just across the San Miguel County line. Kilmer says he'd be a better governor than Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, he says, he can pronounce the name of his state.
Would he run as a Republican like his big screen predecessors? Kilmer hasn't said but it is known that he contributed $2,300 to Democrat Gov. Bill Richardson's presidential campaign. And he almost appeared at a rally in Denver for presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

I'll be out of the office until Tuesday. I'll have computer and cell phone (505-699-9982).


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