Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

Lawsuit alleges clinic donated fetal tissue without woman’s consent

A woman who underwent an abortion at Southwestern Women’s Options is suing the Albuquerque clinic for allegedly not informing her and receiving permission before providing fetal tissue from her terminated pregnancy for research at the University of New Mexico. The lawsuit, filed late last month in district court in Albuquerque, also accuses the clinic’s director, Curtis Boyd, and physician, Carmen Landau, of negligence for not informing Jessica Duran the fetal tissue would be donated for medical research. Landau, according to the lawsuit, treated Duran when she underwent an abortion in October 2012. “Women are supposed to be informed, supposed to be given information about the nature of the research, the benefits of the research, and given the opportunity to decide what happens,” Elisa Martinez, executive director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, which supports the lawsuit but is not part of the legal proceeding, said in an interview. Related: GOP congressional panel wants abortion investigation in NM

Martinez described the lawsuit as “a result” of public records requests Alliance for Life made with UNM and a congressional panel’s investigation into the Albuquerque health clinic.

Roundhouse

State budget deficit at $69 million this year, could be higher next year

The latest update on the state’s budget situation was filled with negative news, including a large reduction from previous budget projections released in August. The current year’s budget is projected to be $69 million in the hole. For the fiscal year starting July 1, 2017, state budget experts project $300 million less money to spend than the budget in the current fiscal year—which itself saw massive cuts during the special session, with 5.5 percent cuts to most agencies. The update, presented by experts from the Department of Finance and Administration and the Taxation and Revenue Department Monday morning to the Legislative Finance Council, comes a month and a half before legislators go back to work during a regular legislative session to deal with next year’s state budget. During a special session in September and October, the Legislature plugged a $600 million budget deficit that encompassed last year’s budget and the current budget through a combination of tapping into reserves and making cuts.

Donald Trump at Arizona rally in March, 2016. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore cc

What do Trump’s trade proposals mean for New Mexico?

Just months before Donald Trump’s surprise victory to the nation’s top office, Gov. Susana Martinez penned an op-ed about a bright spot in New Mexico’s otherwise weak economy. That bright spot is also a geographical location—the border. “We are quickly positioning our state as a gateway of international trade throughout the Americas,” Martinez wrote in June, “and we are embracing our newly found leadership role, which wouldn’t be possible without the cross-border relationships we’ve built.”
Related: Why Trump would almost certainly be violating the Constitution if he continues to own his businesses (by ProPublica)
Last year, for example, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, respectively, ranked as the two metropolitan areas in the nation with the highest economic growth in exports. In 2012 and 2014, New Mexico also led the nation in export growth. Nearly half of these exports—45 percent—are shipped south of the border.

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Chief public defender held in contempt after turning down cases, says office can’t afford it

Years of budget cuts to the state’s Offices of the Public Defender came to a head this week in a rural town in southeast New Mexico. A judge found New Mexico’s lead public defender in contempt of court earlier this week after his office failed to appear in five cases in a Lovington district court. District Court Judge Gary Clingman found Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur in contempt on Monday and issued a $5,000 fine after Baur failed to represent clients in five different criminal cases. Related: Citing ‘resistance’ top Public Defender resigns

The notices of non-appearance, Baur said, stem from a strained public defender’s office. “We really cannot effectively represent people,” Baur told NM Political Report.

Oil rig in southeast New Mexico.Margaret Wright

Land Commissioner to pitch expanding drilling to fund early childhood education to ALEC

New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands is slated to speak Friday with a group of conservative-minded state lawmakers in Washington D.C. about his proposal to transfer federal mineral rights on private lands to the state. Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is also planning to meet with members of Congress in order to urge them to approve the transfer, according to spokeswoman Emily Strickler. In an email to NM Political Report, Strickler said Dunn is promoting his Early Childhood Education Land Grant Act to state lawmakers at an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) policy summit. Related: BLM finalizes rule to limit methane emissions

“The group Commissioner is presenting to at ALEC would not be voting on this legislation, but may be interested in using the legislation as a model for legislation in their states,” Strickler wrote. “Also, Commissioner will be meeting with New Mexico’s congressional delegation while in D.C. to discuss this legislation because it needs congressional approval.”

ALEC members use model legislation to spread laws throughout states, with the most high-profile example perhaps the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that are in place in several states.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Sen. Tom Udall.Photo Credit: Talk Radio News Service cc

Udall also wants Dakota Access Pipeline moved, denounces violence

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall weighed in on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, joining his fellow U.S. Senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich. The incoming vice-chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking the president to consider re-routing the pipeline and also said he was “disturbed by the increasingly aggressive and violent tactics that have been used against” protesters. Udall noted that he condemned the use of violence against protesters in a letter to Obama three months ago and said he appreciated Obama temporarily halting the project. Related: Heinrich concerned over violence against Standing Rock protesters

“[T]he violence at the protest site has continued, with law enforcement and private security forces using inexcusable means against peaceful demonstrators, including rubber bullets, attack dogs and even water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures,” Udall wrote. “Many of the protesters are from New Mexico Tribes, and one of those seriously injured was a Navajo woman from Arizona who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet.”

The Navajo Nation spans across large portions of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as part of Utah.