Deadline nears for ABQ city council candidates seeking public financing

Potential candidates for Albuquerque City Council who aim to run using public funds are up against their first deadline later today. To qualify for the public financing, the city requires candidates to collect a certain number of $5 contributions, depending on how many people are registered to vote in the district. So far, about 60 percent of city council candidates are seeking public financing. Only one mayoral candidate qualified for public financing. Coming into the final day to collect the qualifying donations, about half of the city council hopefuls attempting to qualify for public financing are on track.

Tax overhaul effort fails in committee

A complex tax overhaul bill failed to clear its committee, and that’s going to further complicate the special session in which legislators are supposed to address the budget in New Mexico. Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, presented his 430-page tax overhaul bill Thursday morning. It took him nearly an hour to describe the bill to the House Labor and Economic Development Department. “That in very high-level, broad terms is what is in this bill,” Harper said when he finished describing the bill and how it differed from a similar bill legislators already passed in March. After public comment and questions from the panel, the committee voted 6-5, on party lines, to table the bill.

Legislature fails to override governor’s vetoes

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.

ABQ mayoral candidates face off in forum

Six Albuquerque mayoral candidates faced off Tuesday evening in one of the the first forums of the campaign and answered questions on a wide range of issues like community policing, immigration and economic development. While there were many nuanced differences in the candidates’ answers, they also agreed on a number of issues. During a “lightning round” of yes or no questions in front of an audience of 250 people, all candidates agreed that the Albuquerque Police Department wasn’t doing enough to meet the Department of Justice consent decree and that the department’s chief, Gorden Eden, should be replaced. Each candidate also said they would support relocating Syrian refugees to Albuquerque. The forum was sponsored by the community group Dukes Up Albuquerque and the two moderators were from the Weekly Alibi and NM Political Report, which helped organize the event.

Dems targeting NM’s 2nd Congressional District

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.

Medicaid renewal delays balloon as HSD gets control of SNAP backlog

Tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients in New Mexico are not receiving their health benefits on time, according to numbers from state government. As of February of this year, more than 48,000 Medicaid cases up for renewal are not being processed by the state Human Services Department (HSD) on time, according to a federal court filing in April citing HSD’s own numbers. And that number of Medicaid renewal delays has only grown to more than 59,000 as of May 10, according to Maria Griego, a staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “They’re pretty bad,” Griego said of the delays. While the number of New Mexicans who haven’t received their Medicaid benefits on time has been expanding, HSD erased a large part of the backlog of renewal applications for the federal Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

The Heart of Darkness: A walk through the scorched landscapes where our forest used to be and a glimpse of our future fires

First there’s a spark, and then the fire. We all stare at the sky, smell the smoke. After the trees and brush and roots are gone, floods roar through arroyos and down hillsides. Weeds invade as soon as the ground has cooled. Often, the long-term changes aren’t that obvious, especially when compared with flames and floods.

State blames five-month bungling of Medicaid case on ‘computer glitch’

Last month, 82-year-old Viola Weir received a letter from the state that rejected her request for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home care. The letter from the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) said she had not provided the state agency with “the mandatory documents we need to decide if you can get benefits.” As a result, the department denied Viola Weir her Medicaid benefits. The very same letter also said her income levels and assets met the qualifications to receive such care. That’s according to documentation that Tom Kovach, Weir’s son-in-law, sent to NM Political Report from HSD, the state department which processes federal benefits. To Kovach, the letter didn’t make sense.

State approves contract change after Gila diversion plans shift again

On Monday, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) voted to amend an engineering contract for the proposed Gila River diversion. The change was necessary because the company’s earlier work, done at the direction of the state and the entity planning the diversion, didn’t take into account crucial information. The ISC and the New Mexico Central Arizona (CAP) Entity has been moving diversions plans forward, even though the proposed infrastructure would cross lands owned by The Nature Conservancy and the state of New Mexico. Last week, the CAP Entity’s board of directors  confirmed their latest plans weren’t going to work, and voted on a new scope of work for the engineering company, AECOM. According to a presentation by ISC Gila Basin Manager Ali Effati, the cost of the revised tasks and deletion of former tasks will offset each other.

Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’

For three days Yusef Casanova hunted for methamphetamine and a gun. On June 4, 2016, a friend met a man in the heart of a hardscrabble area of Albuquerque pocked with pawn shops but dotted with well-loved front yards. They stood outside the Allsup’s convenience store at Zuni Road and Kentucky Street SE. The stranger wanted meth, firearms; the friend brought Casanova in. Like Casanova and his friend, the man was black.