Southwest Womens Options

Congressional panel studies ‘born alive’ problem that doctors call ‘medically inaccurate’

A year-long congressional investigation that opponents dismissed as “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care” criticized two Albuquerque abortion providers. Both the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options, according to the congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights’ Final Report released earlier this month, lack protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.”

Anti-abortion activists use the term “born alive” abortion to describe the scenario, which involves an infant that is alive after a botched medical abortion. But there’s one big problem with this conclusion in the estimated $1.5 million investigation: ”born alive” abortions don’t actually occur, according to medical professionals. In a written statement to NM Political Report, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) dismissed the term “born alive” as “medically inaccurate.”

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Money flying_sideways

Lobbyists spent $1.7 million in 2016 in NM

The biggest spender among lobbyists in New Mexico last year was not employed by an oil company or a tobacco company or a mining company. Instead, it was a New York-based advocacy group for gun safety that spent $219,500. The reports, filed this week with the Secretary of State’s Office, show that Pedro Morillas, regional director for Everytown for Gun Safety, spent more than any other lobbyist in the state. And he completely outgunned the National Rifle Association, which spent just over $10,000 on New Mexico candidates last year. Overall, lobbyists spent more than $1.7 million in the state in 2016.

Rep. Patricia A. Lundstrom, D-Gallup, speaks during a House Appropriations and Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday at the Capitol about bills to balance state government's budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

NM lawmakers move swiftly on solvency bills

For the third time in just over a year, New Mexico lawmakers have to find a way to balance the state’s checkbook and pay outstanding bills before moving ahead with new initiatives. The state Senate and House of Representatives got started on that effort Wednesday as legislators worked to balance the $6 billion general fund with transfers and cuts to finish out the current budget year, which ends June 30. On a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved and sent to the House four separate measures that should erase a projected $70 million deficit and replenish depleted reserves, partly by targeting school district cash balances and postponing spending on various projects. The House, where a key committee cleared legislation on Wednesday, is likely to vote on the plan Thursday. “There are no good choices.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, right, with Reps. Javier Martínez and Liz Thompson, both Democrats from Albuquerque, speaks Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, during a news conference about a proposed constitutional amendment for automatic voter registration for those eligible to vote.

Democrats propose amendment calling for automatic voter registration

All eligible voters in New Mexico should be registered, and the government should do it for them automatically, three Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday in announcing a proposal to enshrine new election law in the state constitution. The legislators said their proposal for automatic voter registration would reduce costs and create a more accurate system. Another likely benefit would be more people voting and holding government accountable for policy decisions, said Rep. Liz Thomson, one of the measure’s sponsors. “The more voices we hear, the better we can represent them,” Thomson said. She is teaming on the proposed constitutional amendment with Rep. Javier Martinez and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester.

Santa Fe archbishop urges lawmakers to approve funding plan for early education

Santa Fe Catholic Archbishop John C. Wester, providing an example that being on the right side of a political party is one thing but staying on the right side of the Lord can be another, urged state lawmakers Wednesday to support a controversial proposal for funding early childhood education. Wester appealed to legislators during the annual prayer breakfast to back a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to use 1.5 percent of investment revenues each year from the state’s $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund. This plan would provide an estimated $140 million annually for early childhood education, defined as applying to children from the prenatal stage to age 5. The archbishop said using the fund for early childhood education would boost the quality of life for young people in a state with one of the highest rates of child poverty. “We see the high crime rate, the poverty rate, the violence, the addictions — these things are all directly connected to early childhood,” Wester said.

Gov. Susana Martinez delivering the 2017 State of the State Address.

Pomp, circumstance and State of the State in photos

As is often the case, the first day of the 2017 legislative session began with lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters catching up and getting their bearings straight. The first day began with lawmakers settling into their new seating assignments and making new leadership official. Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, was elected Speaker of the House, while Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, was elected by the Democratic caucus to serve as the Majority Floor Leader.  

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The House debating a three strikes law expansion in the 2016 special session

Budget woes and beyond: Legislators have work to do this session

The biggest issue for legislators this session is New Mexico’s perilous financial situation—and how they plan to fill a projected $67 million budget deficit. Gov. Susana Martinez has proposed moving  $268.5 million from state agencies into the general fund budget. Of that $120 million would come from local public education reserve funds. Martinez’s plan also would require state employees to pay roughly 3.5 percent more into their retirement plans. This piece also appeared in this week’s edition of the Weekly Alibi.

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, takes the speaker’s chair Tuesday after being elected speaker of the house on the first day of the state legislative session at the Roundhouse.

Egolf, Dems make changes after taking control of House

Brian Egolf, on his first night as speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, selected nine committee chairmen and chairwomen who will be in leadership jobs for the first time. Egolf, D-Santa Fe, on Tuesday also expanded the number of committees in the House from 13 to 14. Republicans, back in the minority after two years as the controlling party, objected to adding a committee but lost on a party-line vote of 38-29. Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said the additional committee would create the need for more staff. Egolf said that was not the case because the existing pool of legislative analysts would handle the workload for all committees.

Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, joins his fellow Democrats on Tuesday during a press conference after the State of the State address during the first day of the state Legislative session.

Dem response: ‘The state of our state is unacceptable’

State Sen. Joe Cervantes, giving the Senate Democrats’ response to Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State address Tuesday, set the tone for the Democratic agenda for the new legislative session, rattling off dour economic statistics and saying it’s time for the state to stop relying on the booms and busts of oil and gas revenue and focus on job creation. “The state of our state is unacceptable,” he said, succinctly summarizing his caucus’ position. Cervantes, a lawyer from Las Cruces, spoke in measured tones, saying that most governors use the opening speech of a session to say, “The state of the state is strong.” He said Martinez was to be commended for not doing that. “She could not look at any of us and tell us with a straight face that the state of our state is strong,” he said.

Gov. Susana Martinez takes the podium Tuesday to deliver her State of the State address during the first day of the state Legislative session at the Roundhouse.

Martinez calls for unity

One week after accusing lawmakers of failing to make tough decisions as New Mexico slid into financial crisis, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez struck a conciliatory tone in her annual State of the State address Tuesday, calling on legislators to work together as the state faces a projected deficit that will top the agenda for the 60-day legislative session ahead. Rattling off issues on which Republican and Democratic lawmakers had reached agreement in the recent past, Martinez urged bipartisan compromise during the session’s opening day. But with the governor also calling on lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty for some crimes and reiterating her opposition to raising taxes, her pleas for cooperation with Democratic majorities in both the state Senate and House of Representatives will be quickly tested. Related: Dem response: ‘The state of our state is unacceptable’

This year’s session may be the last big opportunity for Martinez to advance some of her big-ticket legislative proposals. Only a 30-day session, which are typically dedicated to the budget, will remain before the two-term governor leaves office at the end of 2018.