Balderas files brief opposing new travel ban

Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a brief opposing the revised travel ban on travel from six Muslim majority countries earlier this week. Balderas previously supported a lawsuit by the state of Washington opposing the previous travel ban. That lawsuit succeeded and federal courts halted the program. Despite a Twitter declaration by President Donald Trump, the administration did not appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The recent brief supported a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the state of Hawaii.

Balderas joins AGs to support transgender rights

Hector Balderas joined 18 other attorneys general across the nation in filing an amicus brief in a case centering on transgender student rights scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court this month. The New Mexico attorney general, in a statement, said that transgender students “should feel safe and protected in their schools just like any other children, it’s just that simple.”

The case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., involves Virginia student Gavin Grimm, who with the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school board for violating his Title IX rights when the board created a policy to require students to use school bathrooms that fit their “biological sex.” Grimm, a high school senior, was born female and identifies as male. A lower court ruled last year that the school board’s policy did violate Grimm’s rights, and the school board appealed to the Supreme Court. The amicus brief, which is a legal argument made in a case by people not directly involved in it, argues that discriminating against gender identity violates Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination in the schools. “Discrimination on the basis of gender identity causes real and significant harm to both transgender people and to the amici States,” the brief reads.

State Sen. wants parents to have access to investigations into school police

Laura Gutierrez has been trying to get public records from Albuquerque Public Schools for more than a year. In 2014 a school law enforcement officer allegedly used force against her autistic son. APS opened an investigation and soon cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. Gutierrez wants to see all the documents from this investigation. In the fall and winter of 2015, Gutierrez filed four public records requests with APS for the district’s internal investigation of the officer, an employee of the school district.

Next stop for Texas-NM water dispute: Supreme Court

Attorneys for the states of New Mexico and Texas learned yesterday that a lawsuit over the waters of the Rio Grande will head to the U.S. Supreme Court. For New Mexico, a lot is at stake. Though Texas also named Colorado in the suit, its real target is New Mexico. Texas alleges that by allowing farmers in southern New Mexico to pump groundwater connected to the river, the state is unfairly taking water from the Rio Grande that, under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact, should be flowing to Texas. When Texas filed a similar suit against New Mexico about the Pecos River, the case dragged on for almost two decades, and cost both states millions of dollars.

House panel approves NM ‘sanctuary’ bill

A state House of Representatives panel approved a bill to bar local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico from enforcing federal immigration laws. The bill, which according to a fiscal analysis would prohibit state resources from being used against anyone “whose only violation is being in the United States illegally,” passed on a party line 3-2 vote in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. The two “no” votes came from state Reps. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque and Bob Wooley of Roswell. Both are Republicans.

Balderas, 14 other AGs back suit against travel ban

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined attorneys general from 13 other states and the District of Columbia to file a brief arguing against a ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. This amicus brief is in support of the lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Refguson. Because of the Washington lawsuit, a federal judge issued a stay on the executive order signed by President Donald Trump. That means the travel ban is not currently in place. “New Mexico has welcomed hundreds of students, scholars, doctors, and other lawful visa-holders from countries affected by this unlawful order,” Balderas said.

Bill would authorize panel to investigate child abuse deaths

State Sen. Michael Padilla, an Albuquerque Democrat who was raised in foster care and has largely focused his legislative efforts on reforming New Mexico’s child welfare system, has introduced a measure to create a task force on child homicides. The proposal also would give the state attorney general authority to order an independent investigation into a child abuse death. The team would include medical experts, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, child welfare workers, tribal members and others. It would be tasked with evaluating investigations of a child’s death, as well as examining how agencies and individuals responded to concerns about the child before the slaying. The task force also would make recommendations to the Legislature on needed reforms.

Senate Bill 294 comes as New Mexico experiences a steep rise in child abuse cases.

NM AG, Senators denounce Trump ‘Muslim ban’ order

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined 15 other attorneys general from around the country to condemn the executive order by President Donald Trump banning travel from certain Muslim-majority countries that caused confusion and outrage this weekend. Balderas was part of the joint statement, which included the top legal officers in New York, California, Pennsylvania and more. Other elected officials condemned the executive order. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall called the order “un-American” in a Facebook post Saturday. “Turning our backs on desperate refugees and essentially imposing a ban on Muslim immigration projects weakness, not strength,” Udall said in a statement Sunday.

The ‘politics’ of wrangling data on the Gila

A one-sentence provision in state law is emboldening at least one agency to keep public information from seeing the light of day. All officials have to do is accuse someone of having a political agenda. For more than a year, retired Interstate Stream Commission director Norman Gaume has wanted to know how much water farmers and others currently draw from the Gila River. That’s where the state plans to build a controversial new project that would divert more water from the river. Specifically, he wondered if water users are using the maximum amount of water they’re already allotted from the river.

2016 Top Stories #3: AG clears final behavioral health providers

Years after the state cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health providers, citing “credible allegations of fraud,” the Attorney General cleared all providers of the alleged fraud. AG Hector Balderas made finishing the investigation into the providers a key goal when he entered office in 2015. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6; #5: NM Dems buck national trend, retake House; #4: Demesia Padilla resigns

In April, Balderas announced the investigation was complete, with no evidence of fraud in the final two companies. Balderas previously cleared ten providers in February, and had already cleared two others in 2015. The allegations of fraud came from a 2013 audit for the state Human Services Department by Boston-based Public Consulting Group.