Legislators discuss draft sexual harassment policy update

A panel of New Mexico legislators discussed a draft version of an updated sexual harassment policy Friday, a month ahead of the 2018 legislative session. This marks the first time the policy has been updated since 2008. Legislators have not undergone sexual harassment training since then, before many current legislators were even elected. The Legislative Council expects to vote on a final version on Jan. 15, the day before the start of the session.

A big cost to NM if Congress doesn’t act on children’s health program

If Congress fails to reauthorize a popular health insurance program, it will cost the state big money. But unlike in some other states, New Mexico’s children won’t lose health insurance. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, lapsed on Sept. 30. Since then, Congress has failed to agree on renewing the federally-funded program.

Federal judge stops challenge against state rules on bail

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit by the bail industry, which was fighting rules established by the New Mexico Supreme Court on bail after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016. Judge Robert Junell dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice in an order filed Monday in federal district court. This means the case is effectively closed to another lawsuit. . The suit alleged that the rules adopted by the courts violated the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Lobbyist says ex-legislator asked to trade sex for a vote

The New York Times reported a former state representative in New Mexico told a female lobbyist he would vote for a bill a client supported if she had sex with him, then kissed her. That was part of a story the newspaper wrote about lobbyists facing sexual harassment in state capitals around the nation. The allegation brought up by Vanessa Alarid, still a prominent lobbyist, accused former State Rep. Thomas A. Garcia of making the proposition and the unwanted kiss. Garcia was a member of the Legislature for three terms, from 2006 to 2012. The Democrat denied the allegation.

Martinez backs congressional tax overhaul efforts

Gov. Susana Martinez joined 20 Republican governors in support of federal tax cuts. The letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, didn’t advocate for either plan passed by the House or Senate, but instead called for general principles in a tax overhaul. The House and Senate each passed different plans, necessitating a conference committee for the two to reconcile language. The narrow Republican majority complicates the measure, as does the House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of hardline conservative Republicans in the House, including New Mexico’s Rep. Steve Pearce. They touted tax cuts made since 2011, and the economic growth they say the cuts caused.

Metal mayor: Keller introduces metal band before ABQ concert

Just days after his inauguration, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller was onstage again. This time, in front of a crowd of screaming fans of the heavy metal band Trivium. “My name is Tim Keller,” he told the crowd. “I’m your new mayor and I love heavy metal!”

A KOAT-TV photojournalist was at the show and taped Keller, wearing a Trivium shirt, telling the crowd that Albuquerque “is an awesome metal city” and introduced what the mayor called one of his “favorite bands.”

Matt Heafy, the lead singer and guitarist for Trivium, said on Twitter it was “an unprecedented honor” to have Keller introduce the band. Keller is well-known as a fan of heavy metal music and has often attended shows in Albuquerque.

Ex-APS superintendent Valentino gets a new job

A disgraced former Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent got a new job in education, this time in Oregon. Portland Public Schools hired Luis Valentino to help guide academic strategy on a three-month contract, according to The Oregonian. Valentino was expected to officially sign his contract Monday. Valentino resigned from APS just two months into his job, after NM Political Report revealed he hired an Assistant Superintendent, Jason Martinez, without conducting a background check. NM Political Report found out that Martinez was facing trial for four felonies related to sexual abuse of a child.

Padilla drops out of Lt. Gov. race because of decade-old sexual harassment claims

State Senator Michael Padilla dropped out of the race for Lieutenant Governor Monday afternoon. The move came just two weeks after gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham said he should drop out because of past sexual harassment allegations which led to the city of Albuquerque paying out almost $250,000. Padilla has denied the allegations. “I do not want to be a distraction as we come together as New Mexicans to solve this unacceptable work place issue,” Padilla said in a statement to media, though not NM Political Report. Padilla is still the Senate Majority Whip, a leadership position.

Cautious optimism as state’s budget situation improves

New Mexico finally received some good news on the budget after two years of sharp downward trends. Of course, recovering from those losses will still take time. This morning, two cabinet-level secretaries and the Legislature’s top economist presented revenue estimates to the Legislative Finance Committee that project the state will have $199 million in new funds for the budget next year. Presenters warned they were only cautiously optimistic on the budget surplus because of a number of potential risks that the state has little to no control over. The news is better than what the committee heard in August, and the revenue is expected to come from larger-than-previously-expected growth revenues from personal income taxes, corporate income taxes and money received from the oil and gas industry.

Guv appoints Wayne Johnson as State Auditor

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Wayne Johnson will take over as State Auditor through the 2018 election on Friday. Martinez made the appointment a day after Tim Keller resigned from the position. Keller will be sworn in as the mayor of Albuquerque Friday after easily winning in a runoff election last month. Johnson, a Republican, is a Bernalillo County Commissioner and told the Albuquerque Journal he expects to resign from that position at some point. Johnson ran for mayor of Albuquerque as well, but did not receive enough votes to make the runoff election.