Gov. Susana Martinez announced a hiring freeze Thursday, which goes into effect Saturday. The move, announced in a two-page memo to cabinet secretaries from State Personnel Director Justin Najaka, comes as Martinez indicated she will not sign the budget passed by legislators. “It is critical that Executive agencies take immediate action to control spending as we continue to refine the financial impact on state operations due to unprecedented budgetary challenges the State is currently experiencing,” Najaka wrote. Some positions will be exempted from the freeze, according to the memo, including wildland firefighters at the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, law enforcement officers and forensic scientists at the Department of Public Safety, tax collectors and auditors at the Taxation and Revenue Department and highway workers at the Department of Transportation. Related: NM’s revenue still hasn’t recovered from pre-recession high
The order asks secretaries to cease recruitment for all other positions not listed in the memo and to notify applicants by March 31, 2017 that the advertisements have been closed.
The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill regarding teacher evaluations Tuesday. It was the first vote to override a veto by the Senate since 2010. The bill would allow teachers to use their 10 allotted days of sick leave without penalties to their evaluations. Currently, teachers are penalized in their evaluations if they use more than three days of sick leave. Note: This is a breaking news story and more information may be added.
Spaceport America, which has generated plenty of controversy because of the tax subsidies it receives, now says its success depends on less public scrutiny. The Senate Public Affairs Committee obliged Friday, backing a bill to exclude many spaceport business dealings from the state’s public records law. Its members voted 5-2 to allow the spaceport to withhold information about clients in the space business. Sens. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, dissented.
At the arrivals area in Dulles airport last Thursday, Ebrima and his two girls, Sarah and Aminata, stood nervously. Almost a year and one really long hour of waiting at the airport later, they were about to see their mom and wife, Fanta Jawara. Fanta, an American citizen, had been held in a Gambian prison, notorious for human rights abuses, for most of this period as a political prisoner. As the door opened, they rushed Fanta, and embraced her tightly. No eye was left dry at the terminal.
In a shake-up of state government, Gov. Susana Martinez has ordered agencies throughout New Mexico’s bureaucracy to eliminate human resources divisions and shift responsibility for personnel matters to a single office. Martinez had telegraphed the move for months because of a budget crisis that has prompted cuts across New Mexico government. Her order follows through on a recommendation floated many times during the last several decades as a means of streamlining state bureaucracy and cutting costs. But Martinez’s executive decision also puts the jobs of hundreds of government employees in peril at a time when New Mexico’s unemployment rate is among the nation’s highest. A spokesman for the State Personnel Office said it is still assessing how many employees will be affected but added that the move is expected to save millions of dollars each year.
One state legislator acted quickly after news that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly authored a draft memo calling to mobilize National Guard troops in several states, including New Mexico, to apprehend those in the country illegally. State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, introduced legislation that would keep New Mexico National Guard troops from conducting immigration operations. Related: Reported plan to use National Guard to apprehend immigrants included NM
“In New Mexico, we will not order our dedicated National Guard members, many of whom would be asked to deport their neighbors and possibly relatives, to participate in ripping families apart and terrorizing our immigrant communities,” McCamley said in a statement. “I hope and trust that our governor would support this legislation that protects New Mexicans from the divisive and hateful policies of the current presidential administration.”
Related: Bill would stop NM National Guard from aiding in ICE immigration actions
The Catholic Church in the state denounced the idea of using National Guard troops to apprehend those in the country without documents. From the AP: Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Friday the Roman Catholic Church in the nation’s most Hispanic state would strongly oppose any effort to use National Guard troops to find and deport immigrants.
A draft memo from the White House to deploy National Guard troops in certain states to aid in rounding up those in the country illegally. One of those states is New Mexico. At least two spokesmen have denied the report from the Associated Press. The AP first reported on the existence of the draft memo this morning and said that Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wrote the memo himself. From the AP report: Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
When New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson left Congress in 2009, she went to work the same month as a paid consultant for a subsidiary of weapons-contracting giant Lockheed Martin. That company then capitalized on Wilson’s extraordinary familiarity with Washington to craft a lobbying strategy meant to avoid having to compete for the renewal of a government contract that brought in huge profits. The strategy relied on discrete meetings between Lockheed officials and powerful members of the fledgling Obama Administration, key members of Congress, and influential Washingtonians who had also passed through the revolving door between government and private industry. Wilson, a Republican who had spent four years on the House Armed Services Committee and six years on the Intelligence Committee, spent five months drawing up a roadmap for Lockheed to achieve its key objective: Renewing its existing contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories, a wholly-owned subsidiary that helps make nuclear weapons and has an annual budget of more than $2 billion, without having to compete with any other firm — unlike most federal contractors. Fulfilling the classic role of a “nonlobbyist” strategic adviser, trading on information she gained while serving in public office, she told the firm exactly who they should approach for help.
Some professors, students and advocates at the state’s flagship university are warning proposed sweeping changes to the state’s higher education system could undermine academic freedom and programs like ethnic studies. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs would scale back the number of required credit hours students take in public university “general education core” classes and establish “meta-majors.”
“Meta-major” classes are defined in the bill as “lower division courses” that are set by the department and include general education courses and prerequisite courses. At a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, Kernan said her bill’s purpose is to make it easier for students who transfer to different universities to use the credits they’ve already earned from previous courses toward their college degrees. Kernan’s bill is supported by New Mexico Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron. At last week’s hearing, Damron described meta-majors as a group of courses set under a list of broad subjects that undecided college students can choose from to create a path toward their eventual major.
Five Democrats joined four Republicans on Monday to block a bill that would have eliminated the job of Cabinet secretary of public education and resurrected a statewide board to oversee schools in New Mexico. The Senate Rules Committee voted 9-2 to table Senate Joint Resolution 2, a proposed constitutional amendment to create a 10-member school board that in turn would hire a secretary of education. In the existing system, the governor appoints someone to run the Public Education Department. Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, introduced the resolution, saying it would return power to school districts and would allow the state board to hire or fire a secretary of education at will. “If the individual [secretary] does a poor job, the state school board can take that individual out of the position,” Padilla told the committee.