NM Gang Task Force stands by controversial choice of keynote speaker

The New Mexico Gang Task Force continues to stand by its controversial choice to give a keynote address at an upcoming conference, even after he advanced a conspiracy theory about the survivors of a recent school shooting. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke will give the keynote address at the task force’s upcoming 20th anniversary conference. Earlier this week, Clarke sent a tweet about the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have become leaders in advocating against gun violence. https://twitter.com/SheriffClarke/status/965962123535966208

This is one of a number of conspiracy theories advanced in the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The conspiratorial criticisms of the survivors have themselves received criticism, even from conservatives, like the National Review.

Trump administration proposes rule to loosen curbs on short-term health plans

Insurers will again be able to sell short-term health insurance good for up to 12 months under a proposed rule released Tuesday by the Trump administration that could further roil the marketplace. “We want to open up affordable alternatives to unaffordable Affordable Care Act policies,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “This is one step in the direction of providing Americans health insurance options that are more affordable and more suitable to individual and family circumstances.”

The proposed rule said short-term plans could add more choices to the market at lower cost and may offer broader provider networks than Affordable Care Act plans in rural areas. But most short-term coverage requires answering a string of medical questions, and insurers can reject applicants with preexisting medical problems, which ACA plans cannot do. As a result, the proposed rule also noted that some people who switch to them from ACA coverage may see “reduced access to some services,” and “increased out of pocket costs, possibly leading to financial hardship.”

The directive follows an executive order issued in October to roll back restrictions put in place during the Obama administration that limited these plans to three months.

Heinrich wants prohibition on gun violence research by CDC to end

Following the latest mass shooting, one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators wants to repeal an amendment that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced his opposition to the Dickey Amendment Tuesday, saying that CDC research is necessary to help find solutions to curb gun violence. “I am calling for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment because I am fed up with tragedies like the mass shootings in Parkland, Las Vegas, and Aztec,” Heinrich said. I am also heartsick over the estimated 91 Americans killed each day by gun violence.”

The Dickey Amendment, implemented in 1996, specifically stopped the CDC from using any funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The National Rifle Association was a driving force behind the amendment at the time. The amendment itself is gaining attention, as mass shootings have increased over recent years, and debate over why has no authority to look back on.

In Chimayó, 7-year-old Heaven has lowriders of her own

“I have two cars — one’s a VW Bug, one’s an Impala,” 7-year-old Heaven Chacon declares from the driver’s seat of a red 1961 Chevrolet Impala. And it’s true, her parents, Bobby Chacon and Pam Jaramillo, affirm: Heaven has chosen a Volkswagen and the Chevy as hers, while her sisters, Angel and Bobbie, have cherry-picked others from the dozens of 40 old vehicles (some restored, others waiting for renovation) that surround the family’s double-wide trailer in Chimayó. These are no ordinary cars. Bobby, a co-founder of the Los Guys car club, is an aficionado of the custom car style known as the “lowrider.” Although Chimayó is more widely known for its ferociously flavorful chile peppers and for the Santuario, a 19th-century church that draws thousands of visitors to the Chimayó valley each year, lowriding is also a distinctive element of the cultural scene here. Heaven has been “cruising El Norte” as a passenger since she was an infant.

Introducing our weekly election news recap

A number of big elections will take place later this year in New Mexico. New Mexicans will elect a new governor. A U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs. So is every other non-judicial statewide position. And every state House seat is up for grabs, along with two open U.S. House seats.

Boys learn ropes on family ranch between nearly 2-hour trek to and from school

ALAMO-HUECO RANCH — The boys wake before dawn, eat sausage and biscuits in the cookhouse and saddle their horses at first light. James Hurt is 12, a month away from becoming a teenager. His brother, David, is 11. They wear Wrangler shirts, jeans and cowboy boots and move quietly in the dark corral, lit by a single bulb. It’s an autumn Sunday in 2017.

The Teacher: Childhood trauma informed Stewart’s legislative success

Santa Fe – She was 3 years old when her father died in a car crash and 17 when her mother committed suicide. In between those bookends of loss, she lived with the man she refers to as “my evil stepfather.”

He demeaned her, her two older sisters and her younger brother, and punished them with a belt when they didn’t meet his exacting standards. At night, he crept into her bedroom. “He would reach under my pajamas and start,” she says. Decades of therapy after a nervous breakdown have led Mimi Stewart, at age 70, to a place where she can talk about her childhood trauma.

Griego sentenced to 18 months in prison, $47K in fines

Former State Sen. Phil Griego will serve 18 months in prison. A judge handed down the punishment Friday, four months after a jury found the San Juan Democrat guilty on five of eight charges in a corruption trial. Griego will also have to pay $47,000 in fines. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Griego did not accept responsibility for his crimes. “I genuinely believe I am not a criminal,” the former state senator told District Court Judge Brett Loveless.

NM Environment Review: budgets, wells, skittish Pruitt and more

This week, the budget news out of Washington, D.C. has plenty of people worried, including teachers and students who rely on science education funding. But the U.S. Department of Energy appears to be sitting pretty, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons. Rebecca Moss of the Santa Fe New Mexican has that story, with more on a $1.1 billion increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Fossil fuel development would also see an $81 million bump over 2017 levels. According to her story:
But prioritizing weapons and fossil fuels would come at the expense of funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, which would take a $1.3 billion hit under the president’s budget from fiscal year 2017 levels.

Slate of domestic violence measures on governor’s desk

If Gov. Susana Martinez signs a Senate bill into law, New Mexico will become the 46th state to specifically define strangulation as a serious violent crime. State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored Senate Bill 61, called the Legislature’s unanimous support of the measure “a monumental achievement.” A former prosecutor, Ivey-Soto said he became aware of what he called the “insidiousness” of strangulation. It’s a powerful type of violence that signals to a victim “I have your very life in my hands,” he said. He credited the success of SB 61 to an aggressive, yearslong effort by victims advocates to educate lawmakers, attorneys, law enforcement officers and medical professionals about the prevalence of this potentially deadly act, which affects thousands of people in the state — sometimes with lifelong symptoms of brain trauma.