Crowd at the Albuquerque Women's March

[PHOTOS] Albuquerque Women’s March

An estimated 6,000 people showed up in Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza Saturday to join in a nationwide women’s march against newly sworn-in President Donald Trump. Below, NM Political Report caught up with a few of the protestors. Anna, pictured right: “I’m here because I don’t like the new president. I’m living here temporarily, but I still think that I can’t not protest again him. There are so many things I dislike about him.

Southwest Womens Options

Congressional panel studies ‘born alive’ problem that doctors call ‘medically inaccurate’

A year-long congressional investigation that opponents dismissed as “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care” criticized two Albuquerque abortion providers. Both the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options, according to the congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights’ Final Report released earlier this month, lack protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.”

Anti-abortion activists use the term “born alive” abortion to describe the scenario, which involves an infant that is alive after a botched medical abortion. But there’s one big problem with this conclusion in the estimated $1.5 million investigation: ”born alive” abortions don’t actually occur, according to medical professionals. In a written statement to NM Political Report, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) dismissed the term “born alive” as “medically inaccurate.”

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U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Official photo.

Heinrich votes against prescription drug imports

Martin Heinrich was one of 13 Democratic U.S. senators who voted against legislation earlier this week that would have allowed Americans to buy prescription drugs from other countries. The measure, a health care reform idea often supported by progressives, came as an amendment to legislation aimed at changing Senate rules to allow majority votes on budget bills. The procedural changes, which the Senate narrowly approved in the early hours of Thursday, are the first step in Republican plans to repeal as much of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, as they can. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent senator who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination last year, sponsored the amendment with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota. Senators rejected the amendment on a 52-48 margin, with 12 Republicans casting their votes in favor.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (l) and Martin Heinrich (r)

Udall, Heinrich vote against first steps to repeal Obamacare

Both U.S. senators from New Mexico voted this week against the first steps the Senate took to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The Senate vote, held Thursday during early morning hours, changed procedural rules to allow majority votes on so-called reconciliation bills. Such reconciliation bills are limited to actions on the federal budget and are filibuster-proof, meaning they just need 51 votes from senators to pass instead of the usual 60 votes. Republicans plan to use this reconciliation process to repeal as much of the ACA as they can. Sens.

Albuquerque Public Schools

Lawmakers look at slicing APS into smaller districts

Near the end of his announcement for mayor last weekend, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis took a shot at the city’s public school district, saying it needed “radical repair.”

“I believe now is the time to deconstruct this large unaccountable school district and replace it with smaller, more accountable school districts,” Lewis said at the business incubator ABQ Fat Pipe, which is located in the old Albuquerque High School building. “As your mayor, what I’ll do is lead the charge to fundamentally change education in our city.”

With more than 95,000 students in the school system, APS ranks as the 31st largest public school district in the nation—outsizing the public school systems in bigger cities like Detroit, San Francisco and Boston. Lewis is making the idea of breaking up the school district a part of his mayoral platform. To do so requires action from the state legislature. State Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, could be the lawmaker that takes on the issue this legislative session, which starts next week.

Albuquerque City Hall
Photo: Andy Lyman

The line starts here: ABQ’s crowded mayoral race

The race for Albuquerque mayor became a major focus for a group of Democrats, one Republican and one independent over the weekend. On Saturday, a group of Democrats spoke about their respective visions of what the next mayor of Albuquerque should focus on, while Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis officially announced his intention to run for the city’s top office on Sunday afternoon. Lewis told supporters gathered at the business incubator Fat Pipe ABQ that he will focus on public safety, economic development and education. More specifically, Lewis said he wants the city to hire roughly 300 police officers under new leadership at the Albuquerque Police Department. As for paying for more police officers to bring the APD street officer total to 1,200 cops, Lewis suggested that the department could cut “duplications” in dispatch and instead focus on “one professional dispatch center.”

Lewis added that APD must “get ahead of the [federal Department of Justice] reforms” rather than being “dragged” into them by the federal government and the courts.

Open carry rally in Richmond, VA in 2010. Photo Credit: formatted_dad cc

Gun bills coming this session

With less than two weeks to go before the beginning of the 2017 state legislative session, four lawmakers have already filed bills on a controversial reoccurring topic—guns. One bill from two prominent Democratic senators seeks to mandate background checks on gun owners who transfer firearms between each other. That bill, filed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and longtime Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, would exempt background checks for gun transfers between family members, licensed gun dealers and law enforcement officers and agencies. Opponents of the current process often call it the “gun show loophole,” since some of these background check-free firearm transfers occur at gun shows. State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, has also prefiled a similar bill in the state House of Representatives.

Minimum Wage

Dems aim for statewide minimum wage increase

As Democrats gear up for a legislative session  after retaking the state House of Representatives and expanding their majority in the state Senate, several members are looking at ways to increase New Mexico’s minimum wage. Two lawmakers have already pre-filed legislation to do so ahead of the session, which begins Jan. 17. One measure would double New Mexico’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $15 an hour by January 2018. Another more cautious bill ups the minimum wage to $8.45 an hour.

Photo Credit: Paul Sableman cc

2016 Top Stories #1: SNAP fraud scandal at HSD

In April, five employees of the state agency that processes key federal benefits to the poor made explosive testimonies in court—that their bosses instructed them to doctor emergency food aid applications to hurt the very people they’re supposed to help. The following month, four more Human Services Department employees added their voices to the allegations. Then, three top state officials were called to the stand and pleaded the Fifth, refusing to answer nearly 100 total questions about their role in the scandal. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6; #5: NM Dems buck national trend, retake House; #4: Demesia Padilla resigns; #3: AG clears final behavioral health providers; #2: State budget situation worsens

“In my opinion, we’re cheating those families,” Angela Dominguez, one of the HSD employees, said in her court testimony. The underlying question next became, why?

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2016 Top Stories #4: Demesia Padilla resigns

A year and a half after a preliminary probe from the State Auditor’s office concluded that Demesia Padilla used her state position to benefit her former private client, the Taxation and Revenue Department secretary resigned from office this month after nearly six years on the job. The revelations of an ongoing investigation by Attorney General Hector Balderas revealed far more potential misconduct from Padilla. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6; #5: NM Dems buck national trend, retake House

First, TRD employees interviewed corroborated previous reports and evidence that Padilla, as head of the department that taxes New Mexicans, did insert herself into the audit of a company she previously did accounting work for. But a search warrant affidavit filed by Attorney General Special Agent Ed Griego revealed that Padilla may have also embezzled money from the client, Harold’s Grading and Trucking—more than $25,000 in all. Padilla told investigators that this money, which was transferred directly to her personal banking account between 2011 and 2013, was owed to her by Harold’s Trucking from previous work.