Audit finds big problems at state insurance office

An audit of the embattled Office of the Superintendent of Insurance could not offer an opinion on the fiscal health of the department because of a lack of information. On Wednesday, the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor released the most recent OSI audit. “The annual audit highlights areas throughout the agency where safeguards of public funds are not adequate or existing rules aren’t being enforced,” State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement. “These are critical areas that concern the collection and administration of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars each year. They need to be addressed for the financial health of our state.

Balderas, other AGs ask DeVos to keep protections for students at for-profit colleges

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed onto a letter with ten other attorneys general asking Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to not change change protections for college students from for-profit colleges. The letter lists a number of for-profit colleges that were investigated and sued by attorneys general, many of which have since gone out of business. “I am urging Secretary DeVos and the Congress to protect New Mexico students from the great harm that is inflicted when these corporations put profits over people,” Balderas said in a statement announcing the letter. “I will continue to fight at the state level to protect New Mexicans from abusive practices that can ruin their finances and harm their families, but Secretary DeVos must act at the federal level to ensure federal protections for our students.”

The letter says that many of the for-profit colleges “engaged in a variety of deceptive and abusive practices.” The practices, the letter states, harmed both students and taxpayers. The attorneys general seek “new regulations and reformulating policies to help protect students and taxpayers.”

The letter comes even as the New York Times wrote about how for-profit colleges will likely benefit from those in the Donald Trump administration.

Challenging the myth of scarcity

As New Mexicans, many of us can attest to a common refrain when we talk about our most important programs: “We just don’t have the funding.” The underlying theme throughout conversations about our state’s most pressing needs is that resources are scarce and we simply don’t have enough of the pie to go around. Through our work at the State Auditor’s office, we’ve found a surprisingly different reality. While the plunging revenues certainly create a huge challenge in the near-term, the concept of long-term scarcity is more of a myth, one often perpetuated by those who control resources going back to colonial times. Over the last several years, we’ve researched three primary connections between government and economy that challenge the myth of scarcity.

House panel passes bill to block use of state land for border wall

A State House committee voted to pass a bill that would halt the state from aiding in the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico by stopping the sale or use of state land for such a wall. The bill passed the House State Government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee on a party-line vote, with all five Democrats voting in favor and all four Republicans voting against. Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, was one of the bill’s sponsors and said the wall would not prevent undocumented immigration. “If the purpose of this wall is to eliminate illegal immigration from Mexico, keep in mind that over 40 percent of those in this country illegally actually entered with a valid visa,” Martinez said. “So they arrived at an airport or arrived at a checkpoint with proper documentation and simply overstayed that documentation.”

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said that the legislation would also send a signal to Mexico, a key trade partner.

NRA tops lobbyist spending with $44K online ad

No issue in the 2017 New Mexico Legislature has drawn citizens to the Roundhouse like the push to expand mandatory background checks on gun sales. People on both sides of the issue have shown up in droves to committee hearings in both the House and Senate to testify about two bills that would require more gun buyers to go through background checks. And lobbyists for out-of-state organizations on both sides of the issue have spent thousands of dollars to push their positions. In fact, according to lobbyist expense reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, the biggest expenditure since the session began in mid-January was $44,377 spent by Tara Reilly-Mica, the Texas-based lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Reilly-Mica’s report, filed Feb.

Bill would stop NM National Guard from aiding in ICE immigration actions

One state legislator acted quickly after news that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly authored a draft memo calling to mobilize National Guard troops in several states, including New Mexico, to apprehend those in the country illegally. State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, introduced legislation that would keep New Mexico National Guard troops from conducting immigration operations. Related: Reported plan to use National Guard to apprehend immigrants included NM

“In New Mexico, we will not order our dedicated National Guard members, many of whom would be asked to deport their neighbors and possibly relatives, to participate in ripping families apart and terrorizing our immigrant communities,” McCamley said in a statement. “I hope and trust that our governor would support this legislation that protects New Mexicans from the divisive and hateful policies of the current presidential administration.”

Related: Bill would stop NM National Guard from aiding in ICE immigration actions

The Catholic Church in the state denounced the idea of using National Guard troops to apprehend those in the country without documents. From the AP:
Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Friday the Roman Catholic Church in the nation’s most Hispanic state would strongly oppose any effort to use National Guard troops to find and deport immigrants.

Reported plan to use National Guard to apprehend immigrants included NM

A draft memo from the White House to deploy National Guard troops in certain states to aid in rounding up those in the country illegally. One of those states is New Mexico. At least two spokesmen have denied the report from the Associated Press. The AP first reported on the existence of the draft memo this morning and said that Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wrote the memo himself. From the AP report:
Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Legislator gets letter telling him to ‘Go back to Mexico’

A Hispanic legislator born in El Paso received an anonymous letter in the mail telling him to “Go back to Mexico.”

State Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, received the letter in the mail Wednesday, after returning from the Roundhouse. The unsigned letter just read, “Go back to Mexico! You do not represent us!”

The Albuquerque Democrat is one of the sponsors of legislation aiming to stop the federal government from building a border wall in New Mexico and has been a harsh critic of rhetoric from President Donald Trump. “I think the president has elevated hateful rhetoric across the country to such a degree that it’s emboldening certain people to come out and say those types of things,” Martínez told NM Political Report, adding that he is not surprised by the letter. Still, he says that recent news on immigration keeps the letter in perspective.

Dems frustrated after meeting with ICE head over raids

House Democrats, especially members of the Congressional Hispanic Committee, were frustrated after a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director following news of increased enforcement actions by the federal law enforcement agency. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but ICE canceled the meeting in favor of today’s bipartisan meeting. At the meeting with Acting Director Thomas Homans, Democrats said in a press conference that not all those who wished to attend were allowed. “The meeting focused on the agency’s targeted enforcement efforts conducted across the nation last week,” a readout of the meeting provided by an ICE spokesperson said. The members also said they were disappointed that ICE didn’t provide all the information they asked for earlier this week.

Udall, Heinrich calling for investigations in wake of Flynn resignation

Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico are calling for investigations into Donald Trump’s administration—for two separate scandals, both involving national security. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall signed onto a letter with ten other Democratic U.S. senators asking for an investigation into communications between Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who was recently Trump’s national security advisor, and those with ties to Russian government officials. The letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions said an investigation is needed “to determine what General Flynn did, who knew about it, and when.”

Udall also previously called for an investigation into the influence of the Russian government on the election. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for an investigation into the handling of classified information. “We’ve seen a pattern of carelessness and lack of accountability from this administration that puts our national security and America’s standing in the world at risk,” Heinrich said.