A House panel passed a bill to restore funding vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez for next year for higher education, courts and the state Legislature Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, tax packages that would increase taxes on things like internet sales and gasoline also moved forward. The budget vote came mostly on party lines save for state Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, who joined Democrats in supporting it. Maestas Barnes was also the lone Republican to vote for a failed override attempt of Martinez’s budget vetoes earlier in the day. In total, the bill appropriates roughly $765 million—$745 million for higher education and $19 million for legislative offices—for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
We’re excited to announce our second News and Brews Summer Series panel. This time, NM Political Report will speak to three experts about the environment on June 8. Like our last event, tickets are free which you can get from here. Readers who are subscribed to our daily emails are first to hear about these events. NM Political Report’s Laura Paskus will again moderate the discussion. Paskus leads our environmental project, which includes in-depth stories on water, regulatory agencies, public lands, climate change and wildlife that no one else in the state is covering.
Questions on what can be accomplished during a special session linger even as legislators head to Santa Fe today. The main priority for legislators is a budget. Legislators must pass a new budget after Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the entire budgets of higher education and the Legislature. If a new budget isn’t passed before the start of the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, New Mexico community colleges and universities will have no money. But Martinez also wants legislators to address a massive tax overhaul and confirm two University of New Mexico regents.
Large cuts to safety-net programs will have a large impact on New Mexico, which is near the top of the nation in those on Medicaid and who receive food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Over the next ten years, the proposed Trump budget would cut Medicaid spending by $610 billion and SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by $193 billion. These cuts would come in addition to those from the American Health Care Act. The president has also proposed reducing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, by $5.8 billion over ten years. How agencies will exact the cuts to programs, and what their impacts on states might be, is still unclear.
The first Albuquerque mayoral forum will take place tonight at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The event sold out, but we will be livestreaming it below for all those who cannot attend. DukesUp.org is sponsoring the event and it will be moderated by Carolyn Carlson of the Weekly Alibi and NM Political Report’s own Laura Paskus. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.
Six candidates confirmed they will attend the forum:
Brian S. Colón
Augustus “Gus” Pedrotty
The candidates qualified by answering a question about local enforcement of national immigration policies. The question and their answers are available here.
University of New Mexico Regent Jack Fortner resigned after nearly two decades in the position. The Farmington attorney submitted his resignation Tuesday, the day before a special legislative session in which Gov. Susana Martinez wants senators to confirm two new UNM regents. In a short resignation letter on his law firm’s letterhead, Fortner said he was “humbled and proud” to have been part of the UNM legacy. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my alma mater for nearly twenty years, and to have been able to contribute in various leadership roles to work to make our state’s flagship university an even more nationally recognized center of academics, research, medicine, and athletics,” Fortner wrote. Martinez had nominated Fortner’s replacement, and another regent to replace Brad Hosmer, but the Senate Rules Committee never held confirmation hearings for either.
For the third consecutive month, New Mexico has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. And once again, New Mexico is one of just two states with an unemployment rate over 6 percent. The April numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday showed the state’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent remains far above the national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent and nearly three-times the unemployment rate of Colorado, at 2.3 percent. Colorado has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and is one of three states to reach its lowest unemployment rate since the BLS’ state series began in 1976. This is also the third consecutive month that New Mexico’s unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent.
NM Political Report along with the Weekly Alibi and the community group DukesUp.org will host a mayoral forum on May 23. Tickets for the event are free at the Alibi website. Update: Tickets are sold out. Candidates who accepted the invitation were asked to submit their answers to the following question. What costs and/or benefits do you associate with allowing the Albuquerque Police Department to assist in enforcing federal immigration law in Albuquerque?
Sen. Martin Heinrich has asked the Trump administration for a damage assessment after news reports that the president revealed classified information to Russian officials during an Oval Office visit. Heinrich, along with two other Democratic senators, requested a review and damage assessment from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “We request that you determine whether classified information was disclosed or compromised in any way during the May 10, 2017 meeting, and if so, to designate the National Counterintelligence Executive, in consultation with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, as the lead agency for conducting a damage assessment,” the letter reads. The other senators signing onto the letter are Tom Carper of Delaware and Gary Peters of Michigan. Both are members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee while Heinrich sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Three Planned Parenthood clinics in New Mexico—one in Albuquerque, one in Rio Rancho and one in Farmington—will close by this fall. Whitney Phillips, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which oversees clinics for the women’s health provider in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada, attributed the closures to “reduced patient volume” and challenges in the healthcare industry. “There’s no secret that the reproductive health landscape right now is tough,” she said, referring to the “defund Planned Parenthood” campaigns from opponents of abortion. None of the three clinics slated to close perform surgical abortions. She also ascribed some of the troubles to the federal Affordable Care Act, which “impacted the way we operated, the way we bill things.” Still, she said Planned Parenthood still supports ACA “because the more people with insurance, the better.”
The coming closures will drop the number of New Mexico Planned Parenthood clinics from six to three by this September.
One morning in February, lawyer Marty Rosenbluth set off from his Hillsborough, North Carolina, home to represent two anxious clients in court. He drove about eight hours southwest, spent the night in a hotel and then got up around 6 a.m. to make the final 40-minute push to his destination: a federal immigration court and detention center in the tiny rural Georgia town of Lumpkin. During two brief hearings over two days, Rosenbluth said, he convinced an immigration judge to grant both of his new clients more time to assess their legal options to stay in the United States. Then he got in his car and drove the 513 miles back home. “Without an attorney, it’s almost impossible to win your case in the immigration courts.