AG Balderas won’t run for governor, will run for reelection

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday that he will not run for governor next year, ending months of speculation. Balderas, a Democrat, made the announcement in a statement to media where he highlighted work he has done in his first term as attorney general. “It has been an honor to serve New Mexico and I plan on running for re-election next year in order to continue to fight for our state,” he said. In addition to mentioning prosecuting “more than 100 cases of internet crimes against children and human trafficking” and recovering more than $6 million in Medicaid fraud cases in 2016, Balderas noted his more recent efforts against the Trump administration. “Since the November election, my office has a new responsibility—to stand up for New Mexico against President Trump,” Balderas said.

4-19-17

Politicians turn out for anti-abortion press conference, fundraising

Anti-abortion advocates from across the country held a press conference in Albuquerque Wednesday morning denouncing New Mexico’s flagship university for its fetal tissue donation practices. Among those who spoke at the event were Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican and Washington D.C. attorney Catherine Glenn Foster. Blackburn, who chaired the controversial congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights, said she came to “join my colleague in the House [of Representatives] and those in New Mexico that have worked on the issue of life.”

The Select Panel released a report in January faulting the University of New Mexico for lacking protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.” It also scrutinized UNM’s relationship with Southwest Women’s Options, an abortion provider that has donated fetal tissue to the university for scientific research. Supporters of abortion rights, as well as minority Democrats in the Select Panel, have dismissed the report and the panel’s investigation for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”

Pearce contended that “the laws are clear” and that “we’re simply stating, ‘Do not violate the law.’”

The Select Panel made 15 criminal referrals for its research of abortion providers and educational institutions across the country, including to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. To date, Balderas has not acted on the referral to his office.

APS faces public records suit from mother of student

More than a year after Albuquerque Public Schools denied her public records requests related to an incident involving her autistic son, Laura Gutierrez is taking the state’s biggest public school district to court. Her lawsuit, filed last month in Albuquerque’s state district court, alleges APS wrongly withheld public records responsive to requests she made in late 2015. She is asking for the school district to release the records and pay damages for violating the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Under IPRA, public agencies can be fined up to $100 per day in damages for not fulfilling public records requests if the person who brings the suit can prove damages. “I have decisions I need to make as a parent, and without these records I can’t move forward,” Gutierrez said in an interview.

Clean Power Plan battle rages

Last week, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined a coalition to oppose the Trump administration’s attempts to delay the U.S. Court of Appeals from making a decision on the Clean Power Plan. That 2015 plan would have helped states reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Utilities, the coal industry and 24 states immediately sued to stop the plan from being implemented. The appeals court unanimously denied a motion to stay the rule, but in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to issue a stay pending the appeals court decision. Then, at the end of March Trump ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and revoke the Clean Power Plan, which would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Lujan Grisham reports raising nearly $900,000 for guv run

U.S Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham reported raising nearly $900,000 since announcing her candidacy for governor in December. The reports came in the first mandated campaign finance filings since she announced she would leave her congressional seat to run for governor of New Mexico. Gov. Susana Martinez is term-limited and cannot run for a third-consecutive term. So far, Lujan Grisham is the first major candidate to announce she will run for the position. Lujan Grisham also spent over $150,000, including $31,719.35 to the Washington D.C.-based Anne Lewis Strategies.

Competitor: ABQ ‘rigged’ new body cam agreement for Taser

A Georgia-based police body camera manufacturer is alleging Albuquerque officials used an “inappropriate and illegal” process to reach a tentative agreement with Taser International Inc. for cameras and online video storage at the state’s largest law enforcement agency. Ted Davis, president and CEO of Utility Associates, Inc., filed a formal protest this week saying Taser’s initial bid of $4.7 million should have been disqualified last year because it did not meet the city’s requirements spelled out in a request for proposals. Chief among Davis’ allegations is that Taser low-balled its initial bid by not including specific prices for cameras and other required equipment — a claim reviewed by a New Mexico In Depth using public records related to the RFP. “That should’ve been it,” Davis said in a telephone interview with NMID from his office in Decatur, Ga. “It should’ve been over at that point.”

Utility Associates would have won the contract because it scored second highest behind Taser among the city’s seven-member selection committee.

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.