Independents look to buck history, win legislative seats

Outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Thursday morning a small group of men and women gathered to spread the word that candidates should not need an R, D or L after their names to win a race. The group also hoped to reach the almost quarter of New Mexico voters not registered with a particular party and show them not everyone has to choose from established major-party candidates. “Buenos días de Dios. I’m Tweeti Blancett,” one of the candidates called to about a dozen people outside the Roundhouse, “I’m running for state representative for District 40 and I’m an independent.”

Blancett is a rancher from northern New Mexico and a former Republican legislator. Blancett’s campaign announcement also helped launch Unite New Mexico, a local partner of Unite America.

After commission passes right-to-work, Lincoln County DA vows to defend it in court

CARRIZOZO, N.M.—The home of Billy the Kid and Smokey Bear is now the third county in New Mexico to pass a right-to-work ordinance. All five Lincoln County Commissioners voted to pass the ordinance on Tuesday after less than an hour of public comment and no remarks from the commissioners themselves, except for the few words spoken during the vote. While the commissioners had little to say about right-to-work during the public meeting, the audience was peppered with political and elected officials. Lincoln County Clerk Rhonda Burrows, Carrizozo Municipal Schools Superintendent Ricky Espinoza, Ruidoso Village Councilor Joseph Eby, 2nd Congressional District candidate Gavin Clarkson and New Mexico state Rep. Greg Nibert supported the measure during the public comment period of the meeting. At the meeting, 12th District Attorney John Sugg also offered more than just his verbal support.

Marijuana

DOH: Reports on cannabis for opioid abuse are ‘poor in quality’

New Mexico, along with most of the U.S., is struggling to find a way to combat opioid abuse, overdoses and death, a problem often referred to as an epidemic or crisis. One possible solution, according to a recent study, is using cannabis to help fight the addictions to deadly addictive drugs like heroin or prescription drugs. New Mexico Secretary of Health Lynn Gallagher has already shot down the possibility of adding opioid use disorder or substance abuse disorder to the list of 21 qualifying conditions for medical cannabis numerous times. Internal documents show the New Mexico Department of Health, which oversees the medical cannabis program, will likely disapprove it for opioid use disorder again. The revelation that DOH officials have compiled more than a dozen studies that show cannabis not only doesn’t help addiction, but worsens it, has at least one producer in polite disagreement with the Martinez administration and two others openly frustrated.

Former chair files complaint against the Libertarian Party of New Mexico

A recently-minor political party in New Mexico may being seeing its first indication of political growing pains. At the very least, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico has shown that even a once-fringe party is not immune from accusations of impropriety. A former state Libertarian Party chair filed a formal complaint Monday against the New Mexico party alleging certain members violated state law, rendering its current candidates “illegitimate.”

Former party chair Elizabeth Honce filed the complaint with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, along with affidavits from five other people who were present at the convention. They recounted an act during the party’s 2017 state convention she says violated state law. In 2017, Honce said, some party members changed the convention schedule, effectively staging a coup d’état for a new group of party leadership.

Dept. of Health considers cannabis for opioid addiction

On April 20, a popular day for cannabis enthusiasts, headlines were filled with pot puns, promises of legalization from politicians and an announcement that Albuquerque ended criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But after the smoke cleared, some medical cannabis advocates are still holding their breath, waiting to hear from New Mexico’s top medical cannabis decision maker on whether or not opioid addicts can legally obtain derivatives of the plant to aid in trying to defeat an opioid addiction. New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher is expected to decide soon whether to accept or reject, for the third time, a recommendation from a board of medical professionals to add opioid use disorder to the list of 21 conditions that currently qualify someone to be a part of the state’s medical cannabis program. Gallagher has not indicated publicly if she will add opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions. Documents obtained by NM Political Report, through an Inspection of Public Records Act request, show staff discussions about recommended conditions an advisory board sent to Gallagher.

New right-to-work tactic: One piece at time

As the issue of compulsory union dues and fees for public employees is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, one New Mexico activist group is jumping from county to county, pushing local lawmakers to ban unions from requiring money to represent private sector workers. The libertarian non-profit Americans for Prosperity announced its reentry into New Mexico politics about a year ago. Funded by David and Charles Koch, Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4), which means most of the group’s work has to focus on advocacy or education, rather than support or opposition of specific political candidates. Other groups with the same tax category include the American Civil Liberties Union, AARP and the National Rifle Association. In New Mexico supporters of right-to-work laws haven’t been able to pass a statewide right-to-work law for decades.

ABQ mayor signs immigrant friendly ordinance

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed legislation on Tuesday that prevents federal immigration officers from using city facilities to detain or question people about their immigration status. The resolution, sponsored by city councilors Pat Davis and Klarissa Peña, also prevents city officials from investigating a person’s immigration status. In a statement, Keller announced  the legislation will bring city residents together and promote trust in local law enforcement officers. “Everyone in our city should be able to report crime or take their kids to the neighborhood park or library without fear of having their family torn apart,” Keller said. The new city ordinance comes months after the Donald Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to withhold federal money from “sanctuary cities,” although there is no official legal definition for the term.

Marijuana

Keller makes reduction of penalties for pot possession law in ABQ

Possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense under Albuquerque city code. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed city council legislation Thursday making cannabis possession a civil infraction. City councilors approved the measure earlier this month on a 5-4 vote. In a statement, Keller said the new ordinance will allow city police officers to focus on combating other crimes. “We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city,” Keller said.

Keller administration to review pending DWI vehicle seizure lawsuits against the city

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller this week told city police officers to stop the city’s DWI vehicle seizure program. Under existing ordinance, the police department can impound vehicles after DWI arrests, but before the driver has been convicted. Keller called on the city council to permanently change the policy, but there are still pending lawsuits by people who allege the city violated state law and the U.S. Constitution by taking vehicles and then charging owners to release them. Albuquerque’s Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said city attorneys are evaluating each case individually before taking any further action. “Our legal department is doing a case-by-case review of every case, whether it’s in the initial stages, whether it was set for a hearing at the city administrative hearing level or whether it’s in the district or higher courts, to make sure that we handle all the cases consistently, fairly and transparently,” Nair told NM Political Report.

Pelosi talks tax policy in Santa Fe

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke about what she sees wrong with President Donald Trump’s tax policy and encouraged New Mexicans to voice their concerns about the recent bill at a public roundtable discussion of federal tax policy Friday. New Mexico’s U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya and National Education Association of New Mexico director Charles Bowyer joined the California Democrat. Both the policy itself and  the process in which Congress approved it faced major criticisms over the hour-long discussion. Pelosi said extensive debates and discussions are generally expected on major tax bills. “None of that was accomplished in the dark of night, in the speed of light,” Pelosi said.