Note: Until the end of the year, we will be counting down the top stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. 9 (tie). Budget surplus
New Mexico is in the midst of a budget surplus amid record oil and gas activity in the state. And with that increased spending means debate on how to spend the “new” money. The state increased spending on education and many other areas of the state budget, including extra money for road projects, in a budget that hit $7 billion.
You may have noticed a new byline earlier this week on our story about the New Mexico Environment Department deciding not to move the Los Alamos National Laboratory Oversight Bureau from Los Alamos: Kendra Chamberlain. Chamberlain is our new Environment Reporter at NM Political Report, talking over from the foundation set by Laura Paskus over the last two years. She will lead our coverage of environmental issues around the state and write the weekly NM Environment Review email newsletter. Chamberlain will continue covering much of what Paskus did over the past two years, but will also expand our coverage with other environment issues. Chamberlain, who grew up in Santa Fe before going to college in New York and began her journalism career in Louisiana.
Yesterday, we published Laura Paskus’ last story as our environment reporter. Paskus is leaving NM Political Report to pursue other career interests, including finishing a book. In her more-than two years at NM Political Report, Paskus won a number of state and regional awards.
Paskus led the state in reporting on the environment, spending nearly her entire time at NM Political Report as the only statewide reporter with a focus on the environment. In 2018, Paskus won a first-place award in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 9 competition for her story, “The Heart of Darkness: A walk through the scorched landscapes where our forest used to be and a glimpse of future fires.”
The story, which was reported along with the Santa Fe Reporter, looked at the aftermath of the 2011 Las Conchas fire and what the intense, destructive fire meant not only for the landscape in the Jemez Mountains but for other intense wildfires in the state and region. And in 2019, Paskus won two first-place awards in the same competition, one for her story “Federal climate report shows how climate change will impact U.S. economy, infrastructure and more” in the “Science and Technology: General Reporting” category and another in the “Public Service” category for her coverage of the Texas v. New Mexico water lawsuit in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
NM Political Report won four regional awards at the annual Top of the Rockies contest—including two first place awards. The Society of Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies awards are for the best journalism in the region—Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. NM Political Report competes in the category against print outlets in the region with circulations between 10,000 and 29,999. Laura Paskus won first place for her story “Federal climate report shows how climate change will impact U.S. economy, infrastructure and more” in the “Science and Technology: General Reporting” category. The judge wrote, “Laura Paskus does an excellent job of explaining a federal report that looks at climate change and its impact on the U.S. economy and infrastructure.
NM Political Report won eight awards at the annual New Mexico Press Women’s Communications Contest, including one first place award. The number of awards put NM Political Report in second place in the organization’s Sweepstakes contest, which assigned points for each entry that won or placed in the competition. Laura Paskus won first place in the Specialty Articles – Green/Environmental category for her story “Federal climate report shows how climate change will impact U.S. economy, infrastructure and more.” The story examined a federal report on the climate from a New Mexico perspective. The story from November of last year is part of NM Political Report’s full-time environment coverage. Paskus also won second-place in the Continuing Covering or Unfolding News category for her coverage of the Texas v. New Mexico Supreme Court case.
New Mexico In Focus invited NM Political Report’s Laura Paskus to talk about her recent story about the contamination of water under Holloman Air Force Base. The story focused on a U.S. Air Force site inspection report showing contamination from hazardous compounds known as PFAS in groundwater underneath the Air Force base. PFAS—or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of human-made chemicals which includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)—were found at thousands of times the levels deemed safe for humans. According to the report, the groundwater in the area is brackish and not used for drinking water at the base or in nearby communities. See the segment below.
Today will be Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s first State of the State address. Thanks to KNME-TV, we will have a livestream of her speech available below. We are also live blogging everything happening today here.
A new legislative session begins today, with a new governor and a revamped and enlarged Democratic majority in the state House. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will deliver her first State of the State address to a joint session of the state Legislature some time after the Legislature starts the session at noon. Legislators, including many freshman, will be sworn into the House. We’ll be following it all day through our liveblog below. Note: The live blog should automatically update, no need to refresh the page.
The following remarks are those as prepared for delivery. From this moment on, the podiums in this state are all exactly this tall. Thank you. Thank you all for being here. I want to especially thank my beautiful family for their unyielding love and support – Erin, Taylor, my brother Gregory, and the first Manny.