Heinrich: ‘White House is attempting to cover up a murder’

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and two other Democrats want a public report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Heinrich says that by not saying Saudi Arabia was responsible for Kashogghi’s death, the “White House is attempting to cover up a murder.”

Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in October. While Saudi officials at first denied Khashoggi was dead, they later admitted he died in the consulate. The New York Times reported the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing. President Donald Trump disputed the finding, and received pushback from lawmakers of both parties, including some who said the president lied about the findings by U.S. intelligence.

Overshadowed by opioids, meth is back and hospitalizations surge

The number of people hospitalized because of amphetamine use is skyrocketing in the United States, but the resurgence of the drug largely has been overshadowed by the nation’s intense focus on opioids. Amphetamine-related hospitalizations jumped by about 245 percent from 2008 to 2015, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That dwarfs the rise in hospitalizations from other drugs, such as opioids, which were up by about 46 percent. The most significant increases were in Western states. The surge in hospitalizations and deaths due to amphetamines “is just totally off the radar,” said Jane Maxwell, an addiction researcher.

Support local journalism this Giving Tuesday

After Thanksgiving last week, we survived Black Friday and then yesterday Cyber Monday. But today is something very different: It’s Giving Tuesday, a day to at least temporarily shift away from consumerism and instead support worthy causes, including non-profits. NM Political Report is local non-profit news outlet. We’re a small team, currently with just three reporters and one regular freelancer. Why is supporting us so important?

Businesses urge action to preserve NM’s special places

SILVER CITY, N.M. – Canyons, deserts, lava flows, badlands, monuments. When it comes to public lands, New Mexico has it all, and a group of local business owners wants to make sure it’s all preserved by calling on Congress to renew and fully fund the lapsed Land and Water Conservation Fund. Dan Roper, a community coordinator for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, spearheaded a letter as well as a video to show the importance of LWCF funding to gateway communities. He says it might sound like an obscure government program, but New Mexicans have benefitted from investments in outdoor recreation, trails and open spaces where people live and work. “Whether they realize it or not, sometimes you talk to people about something like LWCF and they’re not very familiar, but if you start talking about the places that have been protected through LWCF investments, then you really make that connection and people start to get it,” he states.

Secretary of State talks turnout, support for same-day voter registration

The staff at the Secretary of State’s office is still working on elections as the final statewide canvass approaches next week, but also looking forward to the upcoming legislative session. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver spoke to reporters Tuesday about the elections and legislation she will back in next year’s session when lawmakers meet. Toulouse Oliver said she was “very, very, very pleased with the overall turnout,” which was the highest midterm turnout in decades in New Mexico. She questioned if the increased midterm turnout was due to the current political climate or efforts by the government and others to facilitate voting or a combination of both. “We had a very active, engaged electorate this year in New Mexico this cycle, and that’s a positive, that’s a plus,” she said.

High stakes, entrenched interests and the Trump rollback of environmental regs

Since his days on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump has promised to roll back environmental regulations, boost the use of coal and pull out of the Paris climate agreement — and he’s moving toward doing all those things. He has pushed ahead with such action even as a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in October concluded that without much stronger measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels, a warming planet will witness the spread of tropical diseases, water shortages and crop die-offs affecting millions of people. Supporters of the administration’s changes — some of whom are skeptical of accepted science — say the administration’s moves will save money, produce jobs and give more power to states. But critics say new strictures on scientific research and efforts to overturn standards for protecting air, water and worker safety could have long-term, widespread effects that would upend hard-won gains in environmental and public health. The Trump administration’s many environmental proposals vary widely in target and reach.

2nd CD race ranks among the most-expensive in NM history

The southern New Mexico congressional district won by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small may prove to be the most-expensive race in state history. Torres Small defeated Republican Yvette Herrell and will replace Republican Steve Pearce, who ran for governor instead of seeking another term. As anyone who watched TV in the weeks ahead of the election, candidates and outside groups targeted the race in the national battle over the U.S. House of Representatives. In all, candidates and outside groups spent $12.7 million on the race according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with several weeks of spending from candidates not due until Dec. 6.

Lujan Grisham has some appointing to do

All eyes are on Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham. With about two months until the legislative session starts and just weeks until she takes office, speculation and rumors about how she’ll run the state are growing. Lujan Grisham will appoint new department heads for the state agencies, but she has another list of important appointments to make shortly after taking office. Lujan Grisham will also have to fill state judicial vacancies and a New Mexico Senate seat in southern New Mexico as she takes office in January. During her campaign, Lujan Grisham also said she would like to see all new members of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.

Drilling overwhelms agency protecting America’s lands

CARLSBAD, N.M. — Wayne Smith was hardened to a certain level of chaos here, on land the American public owns. But even he was incredulous as he surveyed an area he leases for grazing, now cleared of grass and cluttered with above-ground pipelines, a drill pad for multiple wells and other oil and gas infrastructure. “I still pay a grazing lease right there,” Smith said in May, pointing to a government map showing there should be no more than 17 acres of development on the site instead of the 125 acres he saw in front of him. “Now, what’s my cow going to eat?”

This isn’t what’s supposed to happen on publicly owned land the federal government oversees. The Bureau of Land Management can lease the same property to more than one party at once, but if New Mexico ranchers request it — as Smith did — the agency has instructed its field offices to contact them before such a build-up occurs.

Turnout in NM jumped up from past midterms, especially in Dem-leaning counties

While turnout increased statewide, Democratic counties with large populations saw among the biggest gains on Election Day. Turnout statewide in 2018 was 55 percent, compared to 40.35 percent in 2014 and 52.71% in 2010. In 2018, 693,893 voters cast ballots*, the most of any midterm in state history. This is the easy way to explain how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham won by a large margin, and also why Democrats all the way down the ballot had a successful night. Digging further down into the numbers, it shows just how impressive turnout was in some districts, while in others turnout lagged.