Happy Birthday to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Last Saturday, the 242,000-acre monument near Taos turned four. Managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the monument includes the Rio Grande Gorge, protecting that stretch of the Rio Grande as a Wild and Scenic River, as well as lands that stretch all the way to the Colorado border. According to Pew Charitable Trusts, monuments like this one help the local economy: Designation of Río Grande del Norte bolstered that economic advance. After the monument’s first year, the Bureau of Land Management’s Taos Field Office reported a 40 percent increase in visitors to the area.
Former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson will have to divest herself of her and her husband’s stocks in defense contractors if she becomes Secretary of the Air Force. This came from financial disclosures that the Republican, now president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, filed ahead of her nomination hearing. The Senate Armed Forces Committee will question Wilson on Thursday. If Wilson clears the committee, which is likely, her nomination will go to the full Senate. Among the stocks Wilson disclosed were those for Raytheon, Honeywell International, Intel and Verizon Communications.
The city of Santa Fe joined 33 other cities and counties in a lawsuit against the federal government over President Donald Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, a Democrat, has been an outspoken opponent of Trump’s war on sanctuary cities. Trump promised to halt federal funding to the areas, arguing that by not aiding federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, the communities are protecting criminals. The amicus brief in the lawsuit brought by Santa Clara County in California says Trump’s executive order violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause and does not provide procedural due process. The brief asks for a nationwide injunction.
The man who wrote “terrorist” outside of a restaurant owned by a Muslim in Santa Fe will not be charged. A photo of the message went viral on Facebook, with hundreds of shares by Monday morning. The Albuquerque Journal reported the man who wrote the message in “bright pink chalk” will not be charged, in part because of what police call “very apparent mental issues” and in part because the message was written in chalk and there was no property damage. The message was written outside the Pyramid Cafe, one of three restaurants owned by Mohamed “Ziggy” Rzig, the Journal reported. Rzig is originally from Tunisia and is now an American citizen.
Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation urged Gov. Susana Martinez to raise concerns about the Republican Obamacare replacement’s projected negative impact on Medicaid. A letter addressed to Martinez Friday signed by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan highlights impacts of the Medicaid expansion in New Mexico under the Affordable Care Act. Their letter attributes the Medicaid expansion to gaining health insurance for an extra 263,000 people in the state and bringing in $4.6 billion a year to New Mexico in federal money.
An analysis of the health care bill currently floundering in Congress finds it would decrease the amount of New Mexicans with insurance and raise how much they pay for insurance. The Office of the Superintendent of Insurance predicts sweeping, largely negative, changes for New Mexicans if the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) is replaced by the American Health Care Act (AHCA). In other words, the Donald Trump-backed health care bill that the House is working on voting for (though it looks increasingly unlikely a vote will occur anytime soon) would have a negative impact on the current situation in New Mexico. Update: The House pulled the bill from consideration Friday before a vote. This post continues as originally written below.
Senator Tom Udall will not vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and will support the need for 60 votes for the confirmation. The Democratic U.S. Senator made the announcement Friday in a statement to media. Udall, one of the more liberal members of the U.S. Senate, was never likely to vote for Gorsuch. But his decision to support the filibuster of Gorsuch is significant. If enough senators oppose cloture—which ends debate on the nomination—it would require 60 votes to move forward to a final vote, essentially blocking Gorsuch.
Objections by U.S. Senate Republicans ended talk that Hanna Skandera might join the Donald Trump administration, according to a report in Politico Thursday. The report, which led the outlet’s Morning Education tipsheet, said the New Mexico Public Education Department secretary’s support for the controversial Common Core standards were one reason Republicans were skeptical to confirm her as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “I am focused on continuing the great progress we have started and will continue in New Mexico,” Skandera said in a statement to NM Political Report when asked about if she had any conversations about joining the Trump administration. “When education focuses on students and not politics, everyone wins.”
Skandera is the head of the governing board of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which produces a standardized test in public schools aligned with Common Core. Republicans have largely criticized Common Core standards, which the Barack Obama administration supported. Common Core standards’ roots came out of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich says a former Donald Trump campaign chairman should testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee after reports of the former campaign official’s ties to Russia. Heinrich, a member of the committee, said that Paul Manafort must testify “and give the American people the answers they deserve.”
Heinrich cited an Associated Press report that Manafort “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.”
Manafort worked for Oleg Deripaska, who is a close ally of Putin, for a reported $10 million a year contract. Heinrich said the work described by the AP was similar to recent Russian hacking actions during the elections in the United States. “I am alarmed by reports that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort created and then sold the Russians what appears to be a game plan to undermine democracy and further the interests of the Russian government – including inside the United States,” Heinrich said. “His reported recommendation to use political campaign tactics, establish front groups, and manipulate the press are strikingly similar to the actual tactics we know the Russians employed to undermine our presidential election.”
The Trump administration has attempted to downplay Manafort’s role, with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying Manafort’s role in the campaign was “for a very limited amount of time.”
As CNN reported, Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist for the summer of 2016 before the role went to Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon and political strategist Kellyanne Conway.
After the 2017 general legislative session adjourned, Gov. Susana Martinez vowed to veto any tax increases and to call legislators back to the Roundhouse for a special session soon to redo the budget. Democrats said their package would avoid any further cuts to education, which has seen several slashes in recent years because of declining revenue to the state. The governor’s office says a state government shutdown could happen as early as next month. This story also appears in this week’s edition of the Alibi. In a post-session press conference, Martinez blamed lawmakers, saying some “failed to do their jobs this session.” Her tone capped a tense few days between her office and the Legislature.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Steve Pearce is still undecided on the Republican healthcare overhaul. Pearce isn’t tipping his hand as to which way he’ll vote, even as more Republicans begin to announce their intentions on the massive healthcare bill pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and President Donald Trump. The effort is the first major piece of legislation introduced during the Trump era. Both chambers of Congress are controlled by Republicans, who want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Some conservatives say the bill doesn’t go far enough to repeal the ACA.