NM mom-and-pop businesses say monuments mean money

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Before merchants ready their wares for “Small Business Saturday” on November 25, they want the Trump administration to know that proposed changes to America’s national monuments could hurt their future profits. A letter from chambers of commerce and 600 rural businesses has been sent to National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, asking him to help protect their livelihoods by keeping the monuments intact. Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce president Carrie Hamblen says rural communities located near monuments benefit from dollars spent on tourism and outdoor recreation. “When you mess with one monument, you mess with all of them,” she says. “There are people who are traveling all over our great country to go to these national monuments and national parks.

NM insurance premiums jumped after Trump actions

New Mexicans who buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s exchange will pay higher premiums this year, and recent actions by the Trump administration are a big reason why. Customers who earn $47,000 or more and are not covered by employers will see the largest bump. This all comes as open enrollment began on Nov. 1 and will run through Dec. 15.

Trump makes his pick for U.S. Attorney in New Mexico

President Donald Trump nominated a Santa Fe attorney to be the next U.S. Attorney for New Mexico. Trump announced Wednesday morning that John C. Anderson is his choice for the position, which has been vacant for nearl yeight months. U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican, suggested  Anderson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Federici as candidates for the position, which has been empty since March 10 when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Damon Martinez and more than 40 other U.S. Attorneys to resign. “The New Mexico delegation worked closely together to identify and recommend qualified New Mexicans for federal law enforcement appointments,” a letter from the three members of the delegation said. “We appreciate that the White House acted on our recommendations for U.S. attorney, and we offer our sincere congratulations to John Anderson.”

The U.S. Senate will need to confirm his appointment.

Stunner on birth control: Trump’s moral exemption is geared to just 2 groups

Few people were surprised last week when the Trump administration issued a rule to make it easier for some religious employers to opt out of offering no-cost prescription birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act. But a separate regulation issued at the same time raised eyebrows. It creates a new exemption from the requirement that most employers offer contraceptive coverage. This one is for “non-religious organizations with sincerely held moral convictions inconsistent with providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services.”

So what’s the difference between religious beliefs and moral convictions? This story originally appeared on Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Poll: Trump’s approval rating underwater in NM

President Donald Trump’s approval rating in New Mexico is underwater, a big drop from when  he first entered office in January and more New Mexicans approved of his job performance. Those numbers come from Morning Consult, which released the presidential approval ratings for each of the 50 states Tuesday. In January, 52 percent of voters approved of Trump, while 35 percent disapproved. In September, that number saw a big shift, with 52 percent disapproving of his job performance and 43 percent approving. New Mexico’s equaled nationwide numbers with 52 percent disapproving and 43 percent approving of Trump’s job performance in September.

Who’s really in charge of the voting fraud commission?

On Friday, in response to a judge’s order, the Department of Justice released data showing the authors, recipients, timing, and subject lines of a group of emails sent to and from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. They show that in the weeks before the commission issued a controversial letter requesting sweeping voter data from the states, co-chair Kris Kobach and the commission’s staff sought the input of Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams on “present and future” state data collection, and attached a draft of the letter for their review — at a moment when neither had yet been named to the commission. The commission’s letter requesting that data has been by far its most significant action since its formation in May — and was widely considered a fiasco. It sparked bipartisan criticism and multiple lawsuits. Yesterday, a state court blocked the state of Texas from handing over its data due to privacy concerns. The involvement by Adams and von Spakovsky, both Republicans, in drafting the letter even before they were nominated to the commission shows their influence.

Hopes and fears: One DACA recipient’s story

Off to the side of Highway 10, somewhere in between Las Cruces and El Paso, Michel Nieves lives in a house with his parents and four siblings. Nieves, 20, and two older siblings have protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His 16-year-old sister is awaiting approval. His 5-year-old sister is the only U.S. citizen in the household. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.

Judge: Zinke has to stop delaying methane rule

Wednesday, a U.S. district court judge in California slapped down the U.S. Department of the Interior’s attempts to roll back its own rule aimed at cutting the waste of natural gas, or methane, from wells and pipelines on federal and tribal lands. The Bureau of Land Management’s waste prevention rule limits routine flaring of natural gas from oil wells, calls for industry to modernize leak-detection technology and fix leaks that are found and prohibits venting natural gas directly into the atmosphere, except under certain circumstances. Flaring and venting are in some cases unavoidable, such as when new wells are being drilled or for safety purposes, and have been regulated since the late 1970s. With the new rule, BLM sought to tighten the waste of natural gas and also address greenhouse gas pollution. After Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suspended the rule, conservation groups sued.

Gina McCarthy holds out hope on climate policy

Gina McCarthy was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama, starting in July 2013. Under her leadership, the agency undertook an ambitious climate change agenda, curbing emissions from vehicles and working toward the Clean Power Plan, an effort to further cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Many of those regulations are now being undone by her successor, Scott Pruitt, who as attorney general of Oklahoma initiated multiple challenges to EPA regulations. High Country News recently caught up with McCarthy in Lander, Wyoming, as she prepared to address a crowd at the 50th anniversary of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. High Country News: In terms of their impact on Western states and Alaska, what accomplishments at the EPA were you most proud of, and which of these are most threatened by the current administration? Gina McCarthy: Well at this point, I’d say that the current administration is really relooking and reconsidering just about every decision that’s been made under the Obama administration, and I think they’ve made it clear that they want to rethink all the climate efforts.

Weeks after DACA decision, NM groups working hard to blunt impact

Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has targeted immigrants to the United States. He attempted to ban on refugees from certain countries, continues to lobby Congress to fund a border wall and most recently, flip flopped on whether or not to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Known by its acronym, DACA, the program protects those who were brought to the United States without document while they were children from deportation. Trump’s administration announced earlier in September that he would end the Obama-era program, and now the people who had signed up under DACA are facing uncertain futures. And now advocates nationwide are working to blunt the impacts of the delayed end to the program.