NM Supreme Court slaps down legislative suit over vetoes

The New Mexico Supreme Court denied the Legislature’s lawsuit against  Gov. Susana Martinez for her line-item budget vetoes, saying that the case is “not ripe for review.”

Their denial was announced Thursday morning, a day after the Legislature filed its response to the governor’s filing. All five members of the Supreme Court concurred with the order. Now, legislators and the governor will have to battle over the vetoes in a special legislative session, which Martinez called to begin on May 24. Note: This is a breaking news story and more information will be added as it comes in. The Legislature sued over line-item vetoes of the entire legislative and higher education budgets.

Guv open to bringing back food tax as part of tax overhaul

Gov. Susana Martinez would be willing to sign a food tax into law if it were part of a larger tax reform. The governor told media this after a speech at the Economic Forum of Albuquerque at the Hotel Albuquerque Wednesday. Purchases of food are exempt from the state’s gross receipts tax and have been since 2004. Those who support the exemption say the tax has a larger impact on poor New Mexicans, since food represents a higher percentage of their spending. Martinez did say she would oppose the food tax as a “standalone piece,” according to both the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Senate rejects repeal of methane waste rule

U.S. Senators voted against overturning a rule aimed at cutting methane waste from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands Wednesday morning. The surprise defeat of the effort was on a 49-51 vote, with Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voting along with Democrats to keep the rule. Note: This is a developing story and we will update as new information comes to light and members of New Mexico’s delegation react. As we reported yesterday, both of New Mexico’s senators oppose overturning the rule. Both Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are Democrats.

Dems in delegation compare Comey firing to Nixon’s ‘Saturday Night Massacre’

Donald Trump’s shock firing of FBI Director James Comey Tuesday led to comparisons of former President Richard Nixon and the infamous Saturday Night Massacre. Comey was leading the agency investigating allegations that some of Trump’s political advisers colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump said in his letter to Comey. It is unclear what three times Trump is referring to, and the New York Times reported White House officials did not elaborate. The administration cited Comey’s handling of the investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as a reason why he was fired.

Some Republican legislators back Martinez in veto lawsuit

Some House and Senate Republicans say that if the New Mexico Supreme Court overturns line-item vetoes by the governor the court would disenfranchise members of the minority caucuses in each chamber. Last month, the New Mexico Legislature filed a lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez, accusing her of violating the state constitution when she vetoed the entirety of the budgets for the state Legislature and all higher education in New Mexico. In a court filing, attorneys for the Republican members of the Legislature say they wish to file the amicus brief because they disagree with the lawsuit filed after approval by the Legislative Council.  That lawsuit says Martinez’s vetoes should be overturned. The Republicans—eight members of the Senate and 23 members of the House—say the legislative lawsuit seeks “to disenfranchise the minority caucus” and that the question raised by the lawsuit is a political issue, not a legal one.

Dems in delegation introduce bill to ban lunch-shaming nationwide

The Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation want to end “lunch-shaming” nationwide. The members introduced legislation in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to end the practice. The Anti-Lunch Shaming Act would ban schools from singling out children for their parent’s  inability to pay for school lunch. Some schools make children whose parents can’t afford lunch wear wristbands or stamps on their hands or perform extra chores. Earlier this year, New Mexico became the first state in the nation to outlaw the practice.

Wilson confirmed as Air Force secretary

Former congresswoman Heather Wilson was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Air Force Monday. The Senate voted 76-22 to confirm Wilson, who is the first service secretary nominee to get approval from the Senate, according to the Associated Press. Both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators—Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich—voted to confirm Wilson. Heinrich, who faced Wilson in 2012 as an opponent for his current Senate seat, voted to advance her nomination to the full Senate as part of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Udall served in the U.S. House at the same time as Wilson.

Martinez sets date for special session to deal with budget, other issues

Gov. Susana Martinez officially called the state Legislature into a special session beginning at noon on May 24 to draw up a spending spending plan for the coming fiscal year, among other issues. The special legislative session is set to occur roughly one week after the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case from the state Legislature challenging several of Martinez’s line-item vetoes on the budget passed earlier this year during the general session. Martinez’s actions included vetoes of the entire budgets for higher education and the state Legislature. Note: This is a breaking news story and more information may be added. In the proclamation, Martinez says there is “an essential and immediate need to enact a more responsible budget for the New Mexico higher education institutions and the legislative agencies that are provided for in state statute to assist New Mexico’s voluntary legislature for Fiscal Year 2018.”

Fiscal Year 2018 begins on July 1.

Pearce votes yes as House passes sweeping healthcare bill

House Republicans passed a sweeping health care bill that could reshape the American healthcare system for the second time in less than a decade. If passed by the Senate, the bill would put hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans at risk of losing their health coverage. The legislation passed today, the American Health Care Act, is the culmination of years of criticism by Republicans of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The bill to replace the ACA passed on a 217-213 vote. Only one of New Mexico’s representatives, Republican Steve Pearce, voted for the legislation.

In nationwide diversity study, NM cities rank high, with Hobbs the highest

A new study found New Mexico has six of the 100 most diverse cities when put up against all 501 of the nation’s largest cities. That comes from the latest Wallethub study, which examined not just racial and ethnic diversity as part of the “cultural diversity” section, but also socioeconomic diversity, economic diversity, household diversity and religious diversity. The southeastern city of Hobbs ranked highest among all New Mexico cities at 47th overall. The city ranked highest in economic diversity, at 43rd. The other New Mexico cities that ranked in the top 100 included Santa Fe (57th), Clovis (61st), Albuquerque (72nd), Las Cruces (81st) and Roswell (83rd).