Matthew Reichbach is the editor of the NM Political Report. The former founder and editor of the NM Telegram, Matthew was also a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation and formerly published, “The Morning Word,” a daily political news summary for NM Telegram and the Santa Fe Reporter.Matthew has appeared as a panelist for the Society of Professional Journalists’ New Mexico Chapter’s panel on covering New Mexico politics and the legislature.A native New Mexican from Rio Rancho, Matthew’s family has been in New Mexico since the 1600s.
Attempts to override Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes of money for higher education and the Legislature failed in the first hour of the special session. Both the House and Senate moved quickly to attempt the budget veto overrides, a rarity in New Mexico politics. In the House, state Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, was the only Republican to join all Democrats in voting for the override. The final vote tally was 39-29; the measure needed two-thirds of lawmakers present, or 45 House members, to vote yes to pass. The motion failed in the House with no debate.
Questions on what can be accomplished during a special session linger even as legislators head to Santa Fe today. The main priority for legislators is a budget. Legislators must pass a new budget after Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the entire budgets of higher education and the Legislature. If a new budget isn’t passed before the start of the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, New Mexico community colleges and universities will have no money. But Martinez also wants legislators to address a massive tax overhaul and confirm two University of New Mexico regents.
Large cuts to safety-net programs will have a large impact on New Mexico, which is near the top of the nation in those on Medicaid and who receive food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Over the next ten years, the proposed Trump budget would cut Medicaid spending by $610 billion and SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by $193 billion. These cuts would come in addition to those from the American Health Care Act. The president has also proposed reducing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, by $5.8 billion over ten years. How agencies will exact the cuts to programs, and what their impacts on states might be, is still unclear.
University of New Mexico Regent Jack Fortner resigned after nearly two decades in the position. The Farmington attorney submitted his resignation Tuesday, the day before a special legislative session in which Gov. Susana Martinez wants senators to confirm two new UNM regents. In a short resignation letter on his law firm’s letterhead, Fortner said he was “humbled and proud” to have been part of the UNM legacy. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my alma mater for nearly twenty years, and to have been able to contribute in various leadership roles to work to make our state’s flagship university an even more nationally recognized center of academics, research, medicine, and athletics,” Fortner wrote. Martinez had nominated Fortner’s replacement, and another regent to replace Brad Hosmer, but the Senate Rules Committee never held confirmation hearings for either.
National Democrats announced Monday they will target New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the 2018 elections. The move comes as part of an expansion of 20 more Republican-held House seats targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Already, Democrats announced 59 other seats are in their electoral crosshairs. With this second round of targets, Democrats are targeting nearly one-third of all seats currently held by Republicans. (Four seats are currently vacant.)
Republicans said earlier this year that both of the New Mexico congressional districts held by Democrats are on their list of targets.
For the third consecutive month, New Mexico has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. And once again, New Mexico is one of just two states with an unemployment rate over 6 percent. The April numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday showed the state’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent remains far above the national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent and nearly three-times the unemployment rate of Colorado, at 2.3 percent. Colorado has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and is one of three states to reach its lowest unemployment rate since the BLS’ state series began in 1976. This is also the third consecutive month that New Mexico’s unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent.
Sen. Martin Heinrich has asked the Trump administration for a damage assessment after news reports that the president revealed classified information to Russian officials during an Oval Office visit. Heinrich, along with two other Democratic senators, requested a review and damage assessment from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “We request that you determine whether classified information was disclosed or compromised in any way during the May 10, 2017 meeting, and if so, to designate the National Counterintelligence Executive, in consultation with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, as the lead agency for conducting a damage assessment,” the letter reads. The other senators signing onto the letter are Tom Carper of Delaware and Gary Peters of Michigan. Both are members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee while Heinrich sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts led 11 senators in calling for an investigation into Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey violated his recusal from any investigation into Russian ties with those close to President Donald Trump. The letter, which was also signed by New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, was sent to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday. In the letter, the senators said Session’s “recusal language itself could not be clearer.”
They also seek answers to three questions: to what extent Sessions was required to recuse himself from the investigation, the scope of his recusal and the timeline of his involvement in Comey’s firing. The letter notes that Sessions met with Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to discuss the removal of Comey on May 8.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday that he will not run for governor next year, ending months of speculation. Balderas, a Democrat, made the announcement in a statement to media where he highlighted work he has done in his first term as attorney general. “It has been an honor to serve New Mexico and I plan on running for re-election next year in order to continue to fight for our state,” he said. In addition to mentioning prosecuting “more than 100 cases of internet crimes against children and human trafficking” and recovering more than $6 million in Medicaid fraud cases in 2016, Balderas noted his more recent efforts against the Trump administration. “Since the November election, my office has a new responsibility—to stand up for New Mexico against President Trump,” Balderas said.
New Mexico’s U.S. senators and lone Republican member of the congressional delegation submitted names for New Mexico’s next U.S. Marshal and U.S. Attorney. U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce sent the letters to President Trump and copies to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The positions are subject to Senate approval. The U.S. Attorney position has been vacant for two months since the resignation of Damon Martinez. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for the resignation of all U.S. Attorneys at that time, a standard practice at the start of a new presidential administration.