Throughout the state Saturday, activists and others marched as part of the worldwide “March for Science” that coincided with Earth Day. The largest rally in New Mexico took place in Albuquerque, at the Albuquerque Civic Plaza. In Las Cruces on Saturday morning, more than 500 people marched around downtown, then joined a rally with speakers and music. In Santa Fe, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, addressed the crowd, saying that science isn’t a partisan issue and that all “policymakers need scientists so we can make good decisions.” He also said the federal scientists, working at agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, should “be able to do their work for the American people without worrying about political interference.”
Udall said that climate change is the “moral, political and scientific challenge of our time, and we must face it head on, aggressively.”
Albuquerque’s event featured several people wearing colorful costumes, including one person dressed as a dinosaur and a couple dressed as both the Grim Reaper and a medieval plague doctor. Jackie Coombes, a microbiologist dressed as the plague doctor, said she is worried about the consequences of the federal government cutting funding on vaccines.
The New Mexico Legislature filed a lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez Friday morning. The suit accuses Martinez of violating the state constitution when she vetoed the entirety of the budgets for the state Legislature and all higher education in New Mexico. Filed by the Legislative Council’s lawyer Tom Hnasko, the lawsuit calls the line-item veto of legislative funding an “attempt to eviscerate the ability of the other branch [of government] to perform its essential functions.”
In his filing, Hnsako asks the court to invalidate Martinez’s line-item vetoes of both the Legislature and higher education. “They’re suing the Governor because they want to raise taxes, and she’s the only one standing in their way,” Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan said in a statement. “It’s disappointing because it shows a refusal to compromise as this is nothing but an attempt to bully her by short-circuiting the legislative process before a special session.
A state agency that helps compensate victims of crimes was called out by the U.S. Department of Justice for using federal grant money to reimburse victims for medical cannabis purchases. The U.S. Office of the Inspector General released its audit of the New Mexico’s Crime Victims Reparation Commission this week, and criticized the agency. Cannabis, the federal agency said, is still illegal on a federal level. “While medical marijuana is legal in the State of New Mexico, federal law does not recognize or protect the possession or use of medical marijuana,” the audit read. “As a result, medical marijuana is an unallowable expenditure and cannot be paid for with federal grant funds.”
The Office of the Inspector General recommended the state commission change its procedures to make sure federal money does not pay for cannabis.
There’s still more than a year until New Mexicans vote in the primary election and general election for the U.S. Senate, but one local commercial building contractor said he’s already prepared to take on incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich. Mick Rich, owner of Mick Rich Contractors, said his plans for the Senate don’t go past two terms, or 12 years. “I am not moving to D.C.,” Rich told NM Political Report. “I want to make it clear, two terms and I’m done.”
A registered Republican, Rich speaks highly of former Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and said the six-term senator’s career is a “great road map” for serving New Mexico. “He made sure that our labs and bases had a mission,” Rich said.
Candidates for the Albuquerque mayoral election filed their campaign finance reports over the weekend. The financial reports shed some light on which privately-financed candidates have raised the most money and from whom they’re getting their contributions. Right now, 16 official candidates are running for the city’s top office, but only four have raised significantly large amounts of money. Brian Colón Former Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman and one-time candidate for lieutenant governor Brian Colón leads the pack in fundraising. Most of his $350,000 haul came in large donations from business owners and executives.
An Albuquerque man who was denied Social Security benefits from his deceased husband intends to bring the issue to federal court. Anthony Gonzales* married his long-time partner Mark Johnson in 2013 in a mass public wedding in downtown Albuquerque. It was the first time same sex couples could legally marry in Bernalillo County**. Almost six months later, Johnson died from cancer. When Gonzales initially filed his claim for Johnson’s benefits, the Social Security Administration denied his request on the grounds that he and Johnson were married for less than nine months, the minimum time required to qualify for benefits.
The ex-owners of an Albuquerque restaurant and bar want a state district court judge to throw out a wage theft lawsuit against them and argue the ordinance that raised the city’s minimum wage is invalid. If a judge were to rule the ordinance was not validly enacted, it would lower the minimum wage to the state’s rate of $7.50 per hour. Currently, the Albuquerque minimum wage is $8.80 per hour. The current owners are not part of the lawsuit. “Santa Fe Dining purchased Kelly’s in August of 2016 and since that time all Kelly employees are paid by the rate required by law, including the Albuquerque ordinance at issue in the lawsuit between the former owner of Kelly’s and some of its employees,” Jim Hargrove, president of Santa Fe Dining, wrote in an email to NM Political Report Tuesday.
A prominent Albuquerque medical cannabis producer will not have to shut its doors next week during what he says is one of his busiest days of the year. This comes after Santa Fe Judge David Thompson ruled Monday that Ultra Health must pay a $100 fine for bringing a cannabis seedling plant to the New Mexico State Fair last year. But Ultra Health will not have to close down for five days, as the state originally ordered to punish the medical cannabis producer for putting the plant on public display. The ruling comes after a nearly seven-month long legal battle between the company and the New Mexico Department of Health. Ultra Health brought a non flowering cannabis plant to the New Mexico State Fair in September 2016 and was quickly told to remove it by fair officials.
Friday at noon was the deadline for Gov. Susana Martinez to act on bills. Any bills not explicitly signed or vetoed are automatically vetoed without explanation.These are called pocket vetoes. If we learn of any more actions on important bills, we will add them to this story. Previously, we wrote about her actions on the budget and the veto of the tax package. Here are some of the bills Martinez took action on today: Senate Bill 259 – Vetoed This bill, sponsored by Sen. Josepth Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, would have required courts to prohibit people charged with domestic abuse and who “present a credible threat” from purchasing or possessing firearms.
In her veto message, Martinez explained that judges “already have the power to prohibit individuals that are subject to a restraining order from possessing a firearm.” She added that she encourages judges to “exercise this power whenever the facts and circumstances before them require it.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence denounced Martinez’s veto as “disgraceful” for defending “armed abusers” rather than protecting domestic abuse victims.
“By removing guns from domestic abusers, this law would have helped protect the lives of New Mexican women,” Coalition General Counsel Kelly Roskam said in a statement.
After reviewing hundreds of pages of protests, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said the agency is almost set to release a payment of nearly $70 million dollars for oil and gas leases to the state of New Mexico. The spokeswoman, Donna Hummel, told NM Political Report Thursday afternoon that an oil and gas internal review process is complete and New Mexico could see the money in a few months. “We feel confident that the state will have its lease payment of about $70 million by June 1,” Hummel said. Hummel added the dollar amount New Mexico receives could change, though it’s unlikely. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, and the Democratic members of the delegation sent letters to the BLM urging the agency to release funds owed to the state.