The 2020 Leadership Albuquerque class tours the New Mexico Supreme Court law library as part of New Mexico State Government Day in Santa Fe
Last week, the Chamber’s 2019-2020 Leadership Albuquerque cohort took part in this year’s New Mexico Government Program Day, visiting the Roundhouse, the Governor’s office, the state Supreme Court, and hearing from assorted government leaders, policymakers, and other observers and participants in state government.
The cohort of business and community leaders traveled to Santa Fe and gathered at the Roundhouse to hear from two of the more important figures in keeping the legislature running each year: Director of Legislative Council Services (LCS) Raúl Burciaga and Director of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) David Abbey.
First, Mr. Burciaga — who has spent two decades with Legislative Council Services and the past 10 years as Director — explained the vital role of LCS in drafting legislation, carrying out legal research for legislators, and maintaining and securing the Capitol. He also described the important role of the legislature in our government system and outlined – in detail – how legislation is crafted and passed.
LFC Director David Abbey spoke about the process of building the state budget, providing legislators with accurate revenue projections, and the need for maintaining reserves and limiting recurring spending in a state so dependent on the booming but still volatile oil and gas sector. He also praised the establishment of the new Early Childhood Education and Care endowment fund and the compromise reached on Opportunity Scholarships to help low-income New Mexicans afford college.
The Leadership Albuquerque class then climbed the stairs to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s offices on the fourth floor of the Roundhouse, where they met with Chief of Staff John Bingaman. Bingaman talked about the twin philosophies driving the executive branch in this past session: “Invest for tomorrow, and deliver today.” He described the progress made and lingering challenges in the Governor’s five focus areas — education, the economy, environmental protections, health care, and public safety.
Leadership Albuquerque next heard from a panel of lobbyists about the importance of their work in advocating for the interests of a wide range of clients, describing how they interact with New Mexico’s citizen legislature, wrestling with the public perception of their job versus the day-to-day reality, and offering thoughts on potential reforms to state government. J.D. Bullington, Rikki-Lee Chavez, and Joe Thompson all noted the need for lobbyists to represent the advocacy groups, businesses, and local governments that cannot be physically present in the Capitol for weeks on end to address the legislation that matters to them. The panel also discussed the importance of building and maintaining relationships with legislators, other lobbyists, and state officials to be successful in their roles, and the need to stick to high standards of honesty to keep those relationships intact.
After a brief walk to the New Mexico Supreme Court building, Senior Justice Barbara Vigil addressed the class on the history of the court, her role as the longest-serving justice currently serving, and the significance of the first female majority on the court in the state’s history. She led the class on a tour of the building and its artifacts, including the oldest law library in the state.
Finally, Dan Boyd, the Albuquerque Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief broke down the role of the press in keeping the public informed about activity in the Roundhouse during a busy legislative session, including how to choose which topics and bills to cover, keeping track of multiple simultaneous committee and floor hearings, and maintaining balance in coverage.
Dan Boyd, Capitol Bureau Chief for the Albuquerque Journal, gives the Leadership Albuquerque class perspective on how the media covers the legislature in the Senate Gallery