Wilson nomination hearing set for Thursday

Former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson will have to divest herself of her and her husband’s stocks in defense contractors if she becomes Secretary of the Air Force. This came from financial disclosures that the Republican, now president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, filed ahead of her nomination hearing. The Senate Armed Forces Committee will question Wilson on Thursday. If Wilson clears the committee, which is likely, her nomination will go to the full Senate. Among the stocks Wilson disclosed were those for Raytheon, Honeywell International, Intel and Verizon Communications.

Santa Fe signs onto suit to block Trump order punishing ‘sanctuary’ cities

The city of Santa Fe joined 33 other cities and counties in a lawsuit against the federal government over President Donald Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, a Democrat, has been an outspoken opponent of Trump’s war on sanctuary cities. Trump promised to halt federal funding to the areas, arguing that by not aiding federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, the communities are protecting criminals. The amicus brief in the lawsuit brought by Santa Clara County in California says Trump’s executive order violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause and does not provide procedural due process. The brief asks for a nationwide injunction.

No charges after man wrote ‘terrorist’ in chalk outside Muslim-owned restaurant

The man who wrote “terrorist” outside of a restaurant owned by a Muslim in Santa Fe will not be charged. A photo of the message went viral on Facebook, with hundreds of shares by Monday morning. The Albuquerque Journal reported the man who wrote the message in “bright pink chalk” will not be charged, in part because of what police call “very apparent mental issues” and in part because the message was written in chalk and there was no property damage. The message was written outside the Pyramid Cafe, one of three restaurants owned by Mohamed “Ziggy” Rzig, the Journal reported. Rzig is originally from Tunisia and is now an American citizen.

Analysis: AHCA would reduce insured rate, increases costs in NM

An analysis of the health care bill currently floundering in Congress finds it would decrease the amount of New Mexicans with insurance and raise how much they pay for insurance. The Office of the Superintendent of Insurance predicts sweeping, largely negative, changes for New Mexicans if the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) is replaced by the American Health Care Act (AHCA). In other words, the Donald Trump-backed health care bill that the House is working on voting for (though it looks increasingly unlikely a vote will occur anytime soon) would have a negative impact on the current situation in New Mexico. Update: The House pulled the bill from consideration Friday before a vote. This post continues as originally written below.

Udall will vote against Gorsuch, says should need 60 votes

Senator Tom Udall will not vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and will support the need for 60 votes for the confirmation. The Democratic U.S. Senator made the announcement Friday in a statement to media. Udall, one of the more liberal members of the U.S. Senate, was never likely to vote for Gorsuch. But his decision to support the filibuster of Gorsuch is significant. If enough senators oppose cloture—which ends debate on the nomination—it would require 60 votes to move forward to a final vote, essentially blocking Gorsuch.

Martinez orders state hiring freeze to save money

Gov. Susana Martinez announced a hiring freeze Thursday, which goes into effect Saturday. The move, announced in a two-page memo to cabinet secretaries from State Personnel Director Justin Najaka, comes as Martinez indicated she will not sign the budget passed by legislators. “It is critical that Executive agencies take immediate action to control spending as we continue to refine the financial impact on state operations due to unprecedented budgetary challenges the State is currently experiencing,” Najaka wrote. Some positions will be exempted from the freeze, according to the memo, including wildland firefighters at the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, law enforcement officers and forensic scientists at the Department of Public Safety, tax collectors and auditors at the Taxation and Revenue Department and highway workers at the Department of Transportation. Related: NM’s revenue still hasn’t recovered from pre-recession high

The order asks secretaries to cease recruitment for all other positions not listed in the memo and to notify applicants by March 31, 2017 that the advertisements have been closed.

Report: After GOP opposition, no Skandera federal nomination

Objections by U.S. Senate Republicans ended talk that Hanna Skandera might join the Donald Trump administration, according to a report in Politico Thursday. The report, which led the outlet’s Morning Education tipsheet, said the New Mexico Public Education Department secretary’s support for the controversial Common Core standards were one reason Republicans were skeptical to confirm her as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “I am focused on continuing the great progress we have started and will continue in New Mexico,” Skandera said in a statement to NM Political Report when asked about if she had any conversations about joining the Trump administration. “When education focuses on students and not politics, everyone wins.”

Skandera is the head of the governing board of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which produces a standardized test in public schools aligned with Common Core. Republicans have largely criticized Common Core standards, which the Barack Obama administration supported. Common Core standards’ roots came out of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act.

After report on Russia ties, Heinrich says Senators should call Manafort in to testify

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich says a former Donald Trump campaign chairman should testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee after reports of the former campaign official’s ties to Russia. Heinrich, a member of the committee, said that Paul Manafort must testify “and give the American people the answers they deserve.”

Heinrich cited an Associated Press report that Manafort “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.”

Manafort worked for Oleg Deripaska, who is a close ally of Putin, for a reported $10 million a year contract. Heinrich said the work described by the AP was similar to recent Russian hacking actions during the elections in the United States. “I am alarmed by reports that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort created and then sold the Russians what appears to be a game plan to undermine democracy and further the interests of the Russian government – including inside the United States,” Heinrich said. “His reported recommendation to use political campaign tactics, establish front groups, and manipulate the press are strikingly similar to the actual tactics we know the Russians employed to undermine our presidential election.”

The Trump administration has attempted to downplay Manafort’s role, with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying Manafort’s role in the campaign was “for a very limited amount of time.”

As CNN reported, Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist for the summer of 2016 before the role went to Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon and political strategist Kellyanne Conway.

Pearce uncommitted on Obamacare replacement bill

As of Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Steve Pearce is still undecided on the Republican healthcare overhaul. Pearce isn’t tipping his hand as to which way he’ll vote, even as more Republicans begin to announce their intentions on the massive healthcare bill pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and President Donald Trump. The effort is the first major piece of legislation introduced during the Trump era. Both chambers of Congress are controlled by Republicans, who want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Some conservatives say the bill doesn’t go far enough to repeal the ACA.

ABQ Free Press ceases print publication, goes online-only

The ABQ Free Press is ceasing print operations and will go to an online-only format. Jyllian Roach, now the managing editor of FreeABQ.com, made the announcement in a short video on the website. Editor Dan Vukelich told NM Political Report he’s taking a step back from his daily duties, citing “burnout.” Vukelich said they are still figuring out changes to the editorial staff, but that reporter Dennis Domrzalski would remain at the paper. Roach, a former editor of the Daily Lobo and the CNM Chronicle, was the arts and entertainment editor for the Free Press. The staff has been notified of the changes.