Trump administration erodes environmental protections

The Trump administration has been steadily undoing environmental protections established by the Obama administration. Rules designed to fight climate change have been especially targeted. Many such efforts are still underway because the Administrative Procedure Act and other laws require agencies to go through a lengthy process to rescind or rewrite a rule. That includes drafting a proposal, weighing costs and benefits, seeking public comment and submitting major rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. Executive orders and other policies are easier to rescind.

Officials, others remember Pete Domenici

Wednesday morning, news broke that former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici died at the age of 85. Domenici served six terms in office and was widely respected in the state and beyond. Nearly immediately, remembrances and statements from New Mexico officials and others began flowing in, lauding Domenici, both from his fellow Republicans and Democrats who respected his work. NM Political Report collected the statements throughout the day, many of which referenced his work on mental health and his support of New Mexico’s national labs. Gov. Susana Martinez called it a “sad day for all New Mexicans.”

What the state Homeland Security Department needs to do

As we wrote in a story published earlier today, the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management just submitted its 2016 audit to the Office of the State Auditor. That audit hasn’t yet been released publicly, and that may take weeks or months. In the department’s 2015 audit, turned in nearly a year late, auditors found 19 significant problems and noted that “little progress” was made in passing through FEMA money to local governments and tribes. That audit also appears to show that staff leadership was either unwilling or unable to share the information accountants needed to understand what’s happening with its finances and grants. The independent auditors, for example, couldn’t say with certainty whether the agency’s financial records were reliable, and instead had to give the Auditor’s Office what’s called a “disclaimer of opinion.”
Related story: Homeland Insecurity: How ready is New Mexico for when disaster strikes? Here are some of the recommendations auditors offered the department in the 2015 audit.

Pete Domenici, a longtime U.S. Senator, dies

Former longtime U.S. Senator Pete Domenici died Wednesday morning. He was 85. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news, citing his wife Nancy and son, Pete Domenici, Jr.

NM Political Report collected responses from elected officials and others throughout Wednesday. Domenici served for six terms in the U.S. Senate and chaired the powerful Senate Budget Committee. The Republican was frequently praised for securing funding for New Mexico’s national labs.

Udall, Heinrich back the Sanders ‘Medicare for all’ effort

Both of New Mexico’s U.S. senators support the “Medicare for all” legislation proposed by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich each said Tuesday they would cosponsor the effort. “I believe that health care is a human right, and that all New Mexicans – and all Americans – should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick,” Udall said. “A hardworking single mother in New Mexico deserves the same quality health care for herself and her family as a multimillionaire CEO.

As sportsmen watch Zinke, disillusionment replaces hope

At the beginning of Ryan Zinke’s tenure as Interior Secretary, the sporting community was hopeful: He’s from Montana. He’s a sportsman himself. And his first public meeting was with hook-and-bullet groups. as many sportsmen have begun to feel that the Interior Department is giving short shrift to conservation. Chief among sportsmen’s concerns are the Trump administration’s push for energy development on public lands, the loosening of sage grouse protections and other regulatory rollbacks, and Zinke’s recommendations to shrink national monuments.

New Mexico adapts to decades of drought caused by climate change

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Many in the U.S. are dealing with flooding from massive hurricanes while New Mexico is celebrating moderate relief from a drought that has lasted 18 years. For the first time since the federal Drought Monitor began operations in January 2000, New Mexico is completely free of drought or unusually dry conditions. University of New Mexico Director of Water Resources John Fleck said it’s good news short-term, but the reprieve is mostly due to a generous monsoon season and may not last. “It’s a lot warmer, and so for a given amount of rain and snow that falls, less of that ends up in the river,” Fleck explained. “We’re clearly seeing a decline in the water supply as a result of climate change in New Mexico – there’s no question about that.”

NM Political Report wins national award for continuing coverage of SNAP scandal

We’re happy to announce our former senior reporter Joey Peters won first place in Continuing Coverage or Unfolding News category in the National Federation of Press Women 2017 Communications Contest. The award recognizes his coverage of the ongoing SNAP scandal at the state Human Services Department. Peters wrote more than two dozen stories about the New Mexico Human Services Department’s trouble following federal law on emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applications. He broke news of state workers testifying in federal court they were told to change applications by adding fake funds, which gave the state more time to process the applications. This meant that those who sought emergency funding to feed their families had to wait to learn whether they’d receive funding food.

Polls show ABQ mayoral race that could be headed towards runoff

Two polls are out on Albuquerque’s mayoral race. And it looks like there will be a runoff, with State Auditor Tim Keller running in the lead. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, voters will then decide between the top two candidates in a November runoff election. The first round of voting takes place on October 3. A KRQE-TV poll released earlier this week showed 22 percent of registered voters would support Keller in next month’s mayoral election.

Another thing disappearing from rural America: Maternal care

Maternity care is disappearing from America’s rural counties, and for the 28 million women of reproductive age living in those areas, pregnancy and childbirth are becoming more complicated — and more dangerous. That’s the upshot of a new report from the Rural Health Research Center at the University of Minnesota that examined obstetric services in the nation’s 1,984 rural counties over a 10-year period. In 2004, 45 percent of rural counties had no hospitals with obstetric services; by 2014, that figure had jumped to 54 percent. The decline was greatest in heavily black counties and in states with the strictest eligibility rules for Medicaid. The decrease in services has enormous implications for women and families, says Katy B. Kozhimannil, an associate professor in health policy who directs the Minnesota center’s research efforts.