Bill to Encourage Candidates to be Honest – Passed 1 st Committee This Moring


Senator Lee Cotter sponsoring ethics bill: “Do voters want a criminal or a lawmaker?”

  • Encourage honesty in campaign finance reporting
  • Assist the auditing of the reports by providing an effective, new tool
  • Allowing SOS to examine campaign bank accounts without a court order
  • Require SOS to alert candidates their campaign accounts are being examined

 

SB 261- Release of Bank Records by Candidates, passed first committee (Senate Rules) on to Senate Judiciary.

Senator Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) is committed to ensuring candidates be honest when they run for office.

He is sponsoring a bill he believes will encourage candidates for public office to be more honest in how their campaign dollars are spent by knowing the auditors of their campaign reports have an effective tool that they currently don’t have easy access to.

That tool for the Secretary of State’s office (SOS) is easy access to campaign bank records without a court order. That tool will make it  actually possible to verify if how a campaign check was written was actually paid out that way.

Currently, the Secretary of State’s  office has the legal obligation to audit ten percent of campaign finance records.  But the SOS does not have the ability to verify how the checks were actually written and paid out. The SOS auditors can only look at campaign reports that the candidates fill in, they don’t have access to campaign bank accounts, unless they go to court for a court order. Senator Cotter’s bill makes it easier for the SOS to verify the checks without having to get a court order.

“Do voters want a criminal or a lawmaker? I am committed to pushing for more honesty in campaigning,” Senator Cotter said.  “Candidates running for office would be encouraged to be honest and more  accurate when writing campaign checks if they knew the audit of their accounts would actually include examining  checks and campaign checking accounts, not just looking at their reports they filled in.”

Senator Cotter’s bill requires the SOS to alert the candidates their campaign records are being examined.  It does not  infer wrongdoing, only that there will be an examination.

Bill to Encourage Candidates to be Honest – Relevant this Session


Senator Lee Cotter sponsoring ethics bill: “Do voters want a criminal or a lawmaker?”

  • Encourage honesty in campaign finance reporting
  • Assist the auditing of the reports by providing an effective, new tool
  • Allowing SOS to examine campaign bank accounts without a court order
  • Require SOS to alert candidates their campaign accounts are being examined

Governor sent message that was read on the Senate floor today that Senator Cotter’s bill is germane, relevant for the session.

Senator Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) is committed to ensuring candidates be honest when they run for office.

He is sponsoring a bill he believes will encourage candidates for public office to be more honest in how their campaign dollars are spent by knowing the auditors of their campaign reports have an effective tool that they currently don’t have easy access to.

That tool for the Secretary of State’s office (SOS) is easy access to campaign bank records without a court order. That tool will make it  actually possible to verify if how a campaign check was written was actually paid out that way.

Currently, the Secretary of State’s  office has the legal obligation to audit ten percent of campaign finance records.  But the SOS does not have the ability to verify how the checks were actually written and paid out. The SOS auditors can only look at campaign reports that the candidates fill in, they don’t have access to campaign bank accounts, unless they go to court for a court order. Senator Cotter’s bill makes it easier for the SOS to verify the checks without having to get a court order.

“Do voters want a criminal or a lawmaker? I am committed to pushing for more honesty in campaigning,” Senator Cotter said.  “Candidates running for office would be encouraged to be honest and more  accurate when writing campaign checks if they knew the audit of their accounts would actually include examining  checks and campaign checking accounts, not just looking at their reports they filled in.”

Senator Cotter’s bill requires the SOS to alert the candidates their campaign records are being examined.  It does not  infer wrongdoing, only that there will be an examination.

Bill to Encourage Candidates to be Honest


Senator Lee Cotter sponsoring ethics bill: “Do voters want a criminal or a lawmaker?”

  • Encourage honesty in campaign finance reporting
  • Assist the auditing of the reports by providing an effective, new tool
  • Allowing SOS to examine campaign bank accounts without a court order
  • Require SOS to alert candidates their campaign accounts are being examined

Senator Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) is committed to ensuring candidates be honest when they run for office.

He is sponsoring a bill he believes will encourage candidates for public office to be more honest in how their campaign dollars are spent by knowing the auditors of their campaign reports have an effective tool that they currently don’t have easy access to.

That tool for the Secretary of State’s office (SOS) is easy access to campaign bank records without a court order. That tool will make it  actually possible to verify if how a campaign check was written was actually paid out that way.

Currently, the Secretary of State’s  office has the legal obligation to audit ten percent of campaign finance records.  But the SOS does not have the ability to verify how the checks were actually written and paid out. The SOS auditors can only look at campaign reports that the candidates fill in, they don’t have access to campaign bank accounts, unless they go to court for a court order. Senator Cotter’s bill makes it easier for the SOS to verify the checks without having to get a court order.

“Do voters want a criminal or a lawmaker? I am committed to pushing for more honesty in campaigning,” Senator Cotter said.  “Candidates running for office would be encouraged to be honest and more  accurate when writing campaign checks if they knew the audit of their accounts would actually include examining  checks and campaign checking accounts, not just looking at their reports they filled in.”

Senator Cotter’s bill requires the SOS to alert the candidates their campaign records are being examined.  It does not  infer wrongdoing, only that there will be an examination.

Senator Cotter Reappointed Interim Committees


Santa Fe- New Mexico State Senator Lee S. Cotter  (R-Las Cruces) was reappointed to serve as a voting member on two legislative committees during the interim when the legislature is not in session.  He was also appointed as an advisory member on six additional  committees.  Legislative Council, which is made up of the leadership and of both the Senate and House as well as additional legislators,  made the appointments this week in Santa Fe.

Senator Cotter  was reappointed to serve as a voting member on the Mortgage Finance Authority Oversight Committee and the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee. Cotter was also reappointed as an advisory member to  the Legislative Education Study Committee,  Economic and Rural Development Committee and the Water and Natural Resources Committee. He was appointed for the first time as an advisory member to the powerful Legislative Council, and Legislative Finance Committee and the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee.

During the interim, the committees examine the effectiveness of state government, including the operations of  all of its departments and agencies, and how they can be improved to serve the citizens of New Mexico. The committees also consider proposed legislation for endorsement.

When the legislature is in session, Senator Cotter serves on the powerful Senate Education Committee and the Corporations and Transportation Committee.

Because Republicans are in a minority in the Senate, no Republican was appointed  Chairman  of any of the legislative interim committees.

There are currently  18 Republican Senators  and 24 Democratic Senators in the New Mexico State Senate.

 

Bill Would Save 97-Year-Olds $390,000 Per Year


SB 200  Income Tax Exemption Age

Senator Lee Cotter

Desired outcomes:

  • Relieve persons age 97 and older from paying State income tax.

Santa Fe  –  A bill to save New Mexicans age 97 and older approximately $360,000 each year in New Mexico State income taxes has passed Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee and has moved on to Finance Committee.

SB 200 lowers the age of a person who is exempt from paying State income tax, starting with the 2014 tax year.  Current law exempts persons age 100 and older.

“These are tough financial times for people who came of age decades ago.  People of earlier generations could not have imagined what the cost of living would be in the 21st century,” said Cotter.  “This bill will make things somewhat easier for people age 97 or older.”

There are about 250 New Mexicans age 97-99.  Taxation and Revenue Department estimates that under this bill, the cost to the State’s General Fund would be about $390,000 in FY15, increasing to about $425,000 in FY18.

Currently, only about 75 people have applied for the current exemption for 100-year-olds.

 

Session Successful: Focuses on Education, Continuing Reforms, Job Growth, Water Projects


Santa Fe–The 2014 Legislative Session was a success. A new $6.2 billion budget to run state government next year and address critical needs in the State passed the New Mexico State Legislature.

Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) said it is a good compromise budget that continues to increase its investment in public education and school reform, encourages jobs growth with incentives for business development, addresses health concerns in rural areas, and provides for essential government services in the State.  Monies are also being invested in numerous water infrastructure projects throughout the state. In the final minutes of the session, a fix to the insolvent Lottery Scholarship program was passed.

The budget was also crafted to protect over 8% of the budget in reserves. The budget for fiscal 2015 invests about 5% more, or $293 million more in important government products and services than the current year’s budget.

“We had a deliberative session that resulted in a true compromise budget that provides for continuing education reforms, incentives for job creation, assistance for rural health and investments in water projects throughout the State.  All in all, it is a good balanced budget and it was a good session,” Senator Majority Leader Stuart Ingle said.

A large portion of the new money is invested in public education.  Public schools will receive $2.63 billion for the coming year, which is more than a 6% increase in funding. Teachers and all public employees will receive an average of a 3% increase in salary and ongoing educational reforms supported by the Governor also received funding.

To encourage business development and more jobs, the Senate passed bills to eliminate gross receipts for various industries to attract them to do business in the state.

 Senator Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) said “Our accomplishments have included laws and funding for our children’s education and tax measures to encourage job-creating businesses to come to New Mexico and stay here.  As for my own priorities, I will continue to watch out for the taxpayers’ money to keep a smaller and more accountable State government.”

Passing a budget in the 30-day legislative session is the only constitutional responsibility the Legislature has in the even-numbered years.  In addition to passing a budget, the Senate passed a number of bills, while some bills that many of the 17 Republican Senators wanted were voted down or were not even debated.

 

 

Senator Cotter’s Bill to Stop Taxpayers from being hurt by taxpayer dollars diversion


SB 172- Spaceport Gross Receipts Tax Uses

Sponsor:  Senator Lee S. Cotter

  • Bill to stop diversion of tax dollars from repaying debt to paying for general operations of Spaceport
  • Voters supported repaying debt with increase in gross receipts, not anything else
  • $774,498.83 diverted over 3 fiscal years (2011,12,13)  means debt not paid off faster, increase in gross receipts continues until debt is paid off

Senator Lee Cotter of Las Cruces stops short of calling it stealing when hundreds of thousands of Dona Ana County and Sierra County taxpayer dollars were  diverted last year  in a way voters did not intend. “It has to stop, and I have a bill to do that. Taxpayers are being hurt, until it does stop,” Senator Cotter said. 

Senator Cotter has a bill that would  no longer allow gross receipt tax dollars in Dona Ana and Sierra Counties from being  diverted to pay for the general operation of the Spaceport rather than  repaying the debt of the construction of the Spaceport as originally intended.

Cotter said voters in Dona Ana and Sierra Counties a few years ago supported an increase in their gross receipts tax to go towards repaying the  debt for the construction of the Spaceport in Sierra County over 20 years. Last year, Senator Cotter said nearly $800,000  more were raised in taxes  than  were needed to pay the debt that year.  Instead of saving the excess tax dollars  for this year’s debt payment  or paying down the debt faster,  the $739,000 in taxes were diverted to pay for the general operation of the Spaceport.

“This wasn’t illegal, but it certainly went against the spirit of what the voters wanted. My bill will make it illegal to spend this increase in gross receipts for anything other than what the voters chose,” Senator Cotter said. “Dona Ana and Sierra County taxpayers are hurt when their taxes are diverted and do not go towards paying down the debt faster. The faster it is paid off, the sooner we won’t have to pay this additional gross receipts tax.”

Cotter said the New Mexico Finance Authority and the Spaceport Authority chose to divert tax dollars to fund the general operations. His bill would stop that from happening.

New Law- New Long-term Insurance Program Would Allow


 New Mexicans to Keep More of their Assets While Qualifying for Medicaid- takes effect June 14, 2013

  • Gives New Mexicans more choice to do with their own money
  • Incentive allows estate to retain value of policy that could be passed to heirs
  • Saves Medicaid program when people are on private insurance.

(Santa Fe)  It is now law. A person does not necessarily have to be destitute in order for  Medicaid to pay  their nursing home expenses.

Freshman Senator Lee S. Cotter (R-Las Cruces) sponsored  SB 196- Long Term Care Insurance Partnership and it has been signed into law.

It allows New Mexicans with private nursing home insurance to be able to exempt the amount of their insurance benefit from the amount of assets they can retain in order to qualify for Medicaid. They could still qualify for Medicaid if their assets total only  $2,000. The amount of the insurance benefit would be separated out and would not be taken into consideration for qualifying purposes.

“New Mexicans who have invested in long-term care insurance  will have more choices in how to spend their own money.  They will not have to spend their assets, including their insurance benefit,  down to that last $2,000 in order to qualify for Medicaid if they need to go into a nursing home,” Senator Cotter said. “They can keep amount of their insurance benefit and use it how they like.  They can use it to improve their lives while in a nursing home or they can leave their assets to their heirs.  The value of the insurance  benefit is theirs to spend it as they see fit.”

Senator Cotter said the new law, which will go into effect June 14, 2013, will also help save the federal Medicaid program dollars. He said New Mexicans will appreciate the incentive of purchasing their own private insurance and might not ever  go on the federal program. Others wouldn’t have to be on the federal program, until their private insurance is exhausted.

Senator Cotter said the long-term insurance incentive program has been passed by 42 other states. Senator Cotter reiterated, “The program allows New Mexicans to have a choice. It gives them an incentive to save assets and provide for their long term health care instead of forcing New Mexicans to reduce their assets to $2,000 before they can apply for Medicaid.”

He said it modifies Medicaid eligibility rules by requiring that, individuals’ assets counted when considering Medicaid eligibility, exclude the amount of qualified long-term care insurance. The lower the “counted assets” the higher the chance the person will qualify for Medicaid.

SB 196 requires that the Human Services Dept. (HSD) modify the state Medicaid Plan and create a long-term health insurance partnership program in consultation with the Superintendent of Insurance to give incentives for individuals to obtain long term care insurance.

Letter from Cotter


Dear Friends,

You can’t imagine how state government wants to dominate your life.  I see it every day at the legislature.

Government tries to take away freedom by controlling every move you make. (It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it?)  Like you, however, I prefer to maximize individual freedom and restrict government control.

Let me tell you what is going on at the State Capitol.

  • There are many unnecessary bills passing- far more than we need in southern New Mexico. If you can believe it, there are bills to limit your freedom to choose what you eat, how you choose to protect yourself, and how much of your own money you get to keep. Bills being voted on in this session restrict the use of genetically-modified foods, restrict the sale of guns, raise your personal income taxes and increase the minimum wage. If you haven’t guessed it, I oppose all of these bills because they restrict your freedom.

The most important activity at the legislature is the decision about how your tax dollars are spent.

  • Education consumes most of the budget-almost 60%, followed by Medicaid at almost 30%. That leaves only approximately 10% for everything else. Startling, isn’t it? Now you know the numbers. How do you feel? By the way, New Mexico’s budget continues to expand, being 4% higher than last year and now approaching $6 billion.

In an effort to improve these budget numbers (while maintaining your personal freedom) I am sponsoring an innovative bill. It provides incentives (rather than mandates) to buy long-term care insurance. Additionally, it protects your estate for your heirs.   For your sake and mine, I hope this bill passes the House. It has already passed the Senate.

If there is anything on your mind, please let me know. Call me at (505) 986-4377.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state senator.

 

Respectfully,

Senator Lee S. Cotter

P.S.  Above all, your freedom matters the most to me.

Not a Prediction, a Guarantee: State Loses Greatly if SB 547 Ruins New Mexico’s Oil and Gas Industry


Letter to the Editor

Not a Prediction, a Guarantee: State Loses Greatly if SB 547 Ruins New Mexico’s Oil and Gas Industry

This will do it. SB 547 will ruin New Mexico’s oil and gas industry. It is more than a prediction, it is a guarantee.

SB 547 prohibits the oil and gas industry from being able to produce the tax revenue our state so heavily depends on. The industry provides upwards of 30% of the revenue our state relies on to fund schools, roads, public safety and healthcare.

SB 547 prohibits hydraulic fracturing in horizontally drilled wells. Currently, a vast majority of the oil and gas comes from hydraulic fracturing. If this technology is banned in horizontal wells by SB 547, the bill kills the economic future of New Mexico.  SB 547 will eliminate nearly all of the drilling in New Mexico and any future drilling. New production will not take place. Companies with high paying jobs will close down, companies with even higher paying won’t consider relocating here.  There will be reduced future production to tax to pay for schools, roads, public safety and healthcare.

The bill, sponsored by Senator William Soules of Las Cruces, is being presented by a Senator with little knowledge of the oil patch areas of New Mexico.  I appeal to those New Mexicans who understand that New Mexico cannot afford to lose these revenues.   Our state has barely begun a recovery from the recent hard times and we cannot afford to lose any revenues now or in the future.  Consider the number of private industry high-paying and middle income jobs that will be lost if this industry is shut down.  That takes personal income tax right out of the state’s coffers as well.

This bill is on the calendar for Senate Conservation.  If it passes, kiss goodbye the 30,000 high paying jobs directly attributed to oil and gas activity in the state. Kiss goodbye funding for schools, roads, public safety and healthcare in the state. Kiss goodbye our economic future.