Inside a weathered green group home in southern New Jersey, Yosary grew weaker and weaker. She felt tired all the time, and when she got out of bed in the morning, she sometimes became so dizzy she needed to lie back down. Bruises started appearing all over her body. She craved ice, chewing cups of it whenever she could. For months, the slender 15-year-old, who’d fled Honduras with her 2-year-old son, had been reporting her symptoms to the shelter’s staff.
New Mexico is among the worst states when it comes to identifying all the children who have been poisoned by lead. That’s according to a study published last week in Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nationwide, only 64 percent of lead-poisoned children under the age of five are identified by testing. In New Mexico, that number is much lower—just five percent. Lead paint and lead additive in gasoline were banned decades ago.
In December, Reuters published a map on childhood lead poisoning across the nation. The story and accompanying map, “Off the Charts: The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than Flint,” looked at where children were tested for lead and how many had high levels of the metal in their blood. Severe lead poisoning can lead to seizures, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For children, there is no such thing as a safe exposure to lead, which causes permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders. Even though lead paint and lead additive in gasoline were banned decades ago, the ongoing Flint, Michigan emergency highlighted that lead poisoning is still a problem in the United States.
A new proposal from House Republican leaders to fix the state budget deficit would cut the same amount of money—$89.6 million—as the Senate Democratic leaders’ plan. But House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, and state Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, emphasized different priorities in the House Republicans’ plan, which they presented to reporters Monday morning in a press conference. Namely, Republicans said their plan swaps cuts proposed in the Senate bill to K-12 education, the state Children, Youth and Families Department, the Department of Public Safety and services for sexual assault victims in the state Department of Health budget for deeper cuts in higher education. House Republicans also emphasized that their proposal raises no taxes. “The last part is very important because New Mexicans cannot afford to pay more taxes,” Tripp told reporters while announcing the proposal.
Another study found that New Mexico is not a great place for underprivileged children. This time, a Wallethub study found New Mexico is the fourth-worst state for underprivileged children when looking at 16 different metrics. The study also included the District of Columbia, which means New Mexico ranked 47th. New Mexico ranked 50th in the percentage of children living in households that are below the poverty line and 50th in the rate of children who are “food insecure.” The USDA defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”
New Mexico ranked in the top-half of the rankings in three categories—ranking 15th in the percentage of children in foster care (0.46 percent), 25th in Economic Mobility (8.97 percent) and 18th in the infant mortality rate (5.41 deaths per 1,000 births). Still, the state ranked in the bottom five in seven categories.
Lawmakers are poised to debate another contentious topic halfway through an already-polarized legislative session. Thursday morning, the House Health Committee is scheduled to hear a bill aimed at addressing late-term abortions. Specifically, the measure would require emergency medical care for any infant born showing any sign of life, which would include breathing, a heartbeat, a pulse in an umbilical cord or muscle movement. Update: Public comment on the bill took so long that the committee delayed discussion and voting on the legislation until a future hearing. Story continues as originally written below.
A bill to allow local governments to impose curfews on minors jumped through its second House committee, this time with some Democratic support. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, joined with seven Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee to vote yes on the bill. Maestas had been previously public about his support. “I’m stuck on this one,” Maestas said at committee. “I lean towards local control.”
The bill allows cities and counties to set up their own curfews for minors under 16 years of age.
While New Mexico’s poverty rate is slowly dropping, its still high enough to rank the second poorest state in the nation. And this year, the unthinkable nearly happened. As Stateline recently wrote, “New Mexico is close to overtaking Mississippi as the state with the highest percentage of its population living in poverty.” New Mexico’s poverty rate sits at 21.3 percent, just decimals behind Mississippi’s rate of 21.5 percent. Both are the only states to break above a 20 percent poverty rate.