Sandoval County Commissioners pass right-to-work ordinance, defying legal threats

Commissioners approved a county-level right-to-work ordinance even as detractors promised to sue. Early Friday morning, the Sandoval County Commission voted 3-1 to make the county the first to implement a right-to-work ordinance. Previous efforts at the statewide level repeatedly failed, while a citywide effort in Clovis decades ago was struck down by a federal court. “This is our time to lead the state,” ordinance sponsor Jay Block said in arguing for the ordinance. He said the bill would bring better wages, more jobs and would, in fact, help unions by increasing their rolls.

SF Mayor responds to Trump admin threats to arrest ‘sanctuary city’ pols

Santa Fe’s mayor has a message for the Trump administration after the Department of Justice floated the idea of arresting elected officials in charge of cities with “sanctuary policies”: You know where to find me. On Facebook Wednesday evening, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales linked to a Newsweek story about the controversial, and likely unconstitutional, idea. “The Trump administration can find me at the Santa Fe Mayor’s office from 8-6, Monday – Friday,” Gonzales wrote. “I will stand up for all New Mexicans keeping their families together.”

Gonzales, who is leaving the mayor’s office this year but running for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor, has been an outspoken supporter of sanctuary efforts. Santa Fe is one of the more progressive areas of the state.

NM’s Senators won’t back spending bill without DACA fix

New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators oppose any funding bill that does not include a fix for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. The program, known as DACA, has been debated since September when President Donald Trump announced he would he end the Obama-era program. Trump also stopped the federal government from processing new applications. The short-term spending bill proposed by House Republicans lacks immigration provisions. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, announced on social media he opposed the short-term 30-day spending bill.

Water attorney running for Congress in CD2

Another Democrat is seeking the party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Xochitl Torres Small, a water attorney from Las Cruces, announced Wednesday that she is joining a shrinking field of Democrats. “As the daughter of a teacher and a social worker in Las Cruces, I learned early the values of hard work and having your neighbor’s back – something that seems long forgotten in Washington today,” Torres Small said. “To solve our greatest problems, we need a new crop of leaders ready to bring New Mexicans of all backgrounds together to find common sense solutions. I’m running to expand opportunities for hardworking families and to strengthen our rural communities with better access to healthcare, broadband service and good-paying jobs.”

She also announced a number of endorsements, including Democratic state representatives in the Las Cruces area Doreen Gallegos, Rudy Martinez and Joanne Ferrary.

Legislators approve new anti-harassment policy

Lawmakers voted to update the State Legislature’s sexual harassment policy, the first such change in a decade. The 15-0 Legislative Council vote came a day before the start of the 2018 legislative session. The council adopted the policy crafted by eight legislators who rewrote it at a time where many industries and organizations, including political institutions, are grappling with sexual harassment. The policy allows for an outside investigator to look into allegations of sexual harassment against legislators. It also calls for “outside counsel who is experienced in harassment matters” to determine in consultation with legislative leaders if a complaint merits an investigation.

Analysts see NM as likely to flip in next gubernatorial race

Two election analysts say that New Mexico’s gubernatorial election is among the most-likely in the nation to switch parties. Politico and The Washington Post each recently highlighted the top ten gubernatorial races to watch. New Mexico ranked second for Politico and first for the Post. Incumbent governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, is term-limited and cannot run for a third consecutive term. She leaves office with low popularity and her party faces a headwind in the first general elections after the election of Donald Trump.

Trump allows states to require work-requirements for Medicaid, no immediate impact on NM

The Trump administration announced Thursday it would allow states to impose work requirements on “able-bodied” adults who receive Medicaid. In New Mexico, it’s not clear if the Martinez administration will pursue such requirements, but if so, it would likely take months to go through the process. “Medicaid needs to be more flexible so that states can best address the needs of this population,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. That center is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today’s announcement is a step in that direction.”

States would need to do so through a specific waiver with CMS.

New Mexico has been stopped from imposing such requirements in other programs. In 2016, a federal judge stopped the state from requiring people to work who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits because of a long-running federal lawsuit over the state’s inability to process aid.

Ranked-choice voting coming to Santa Fe, as state Supreme Court shoots down appeal

Santa Fe voters will rank their choices for mayor in a few months, avoiding the need for a runoff election. The State Supreme Court Tuesday denied an appeal of the city’s new ranked-choice voting system. This means the system will be in place for the upcoming March 6 election. Currently five candidates are vying for the position after Mayor Javier Gonzalez said he would not seek another term. Gonzalez is, instead, seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

One GOP candidate drops out of CD2 race, another replaces him

One Republican candidate announced he would no longer seek the party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District race, which covers southern New Mexico. But another candidate quickly took his place. Such is the turmoil in an open seat race, as candidates jostle for the nomination in the state’s most conservative district. Andrew Salas, a New Mexico National Guard brigadier general, announced on Facebook Monday morning he would leave the race because of his military service. “My military service has never stopped during this campaign and recently I received a new assignment that will continue to take me out of New Mexico during the homestretch of the campaign,” Salas said.

Federal judge slaps NM attorney in bail reform lawsuit

A federal judge has taken the unusual step of ordering a politically ambitious New Mexico attorney to pay back the state for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit aimed at undoing efforts to reform the state’s commercial bail system. The attorney, Blair Dunn, a Libertarian who earlier this week announced a run for state attorney general, must pay “reasonable costs and attorneys fees” to the office he seeks to occupy by year’s end, under the ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth. Junell, a George W. Bush appointee from the Western District of Texas, presided over the suit because the Attorney General’s Office represented the judges Dunn was suing, from the New Mexico Supreme Court, the Second Judicial District Court and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. Dunn sued last year on behalf of a group of state lawmakers, the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico and a woman who was released from jail last year.