ABQ contractor aims to take on Heinrich for Senate

There’s still more than a year until New Mexicans vote in the primary election and general election for the U.S. Senate, but one local commercial building contractor said he’s already prepared to take on incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich. Mick Rich, owner of Mick Rich Contractors, said his plans for the Senate don’t go past two terms, or 12 years. “I am not moving to D.C.,” Rich told NM Political Report. “I want to make it clear, two terms and I’m done.”

A registered Republican, Rich speaks highly of former Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and said the six-term senator’s career is a “great road map” for serving New Mexico. “He made sure that our labs and bases had a mission,” Rich said.

New poll puts Martinez approval rating at 43 percent

A new poll examining the job approval ratings of every governor and U.S. senator showed Gov. Susana Martinez near the bottom of the rankings and both of the state’s senators at mid-pack. That poll comes from Morning Consult, a website that regularly releases polls, most notably on President Donald Trump’s approval ratings, and is the website’s first approval ratings poll since  the 2016 general election. The Morning Consult poll showed 43 percent of New Mexican registered voters approve of Martinez’s job performance while 48 percent disapprove. Martinez ranks 41st in approval ratings among governors. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster was not included in the rankings because he took over for Nikki Haley, who is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

BLM: NM will get $70 million from oil and gas leases

After reviewing hundreds of pages of protests, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said the agency is almost set to release a payment of nearly $70 million dollars for oil and gas leases to the state of New Mexico. The spokeswoman, Donna Hummel, told NM Political Report Thursday afternoon that an oil and gas internal review process is complete and New Mexico could see the money in a few months. “We feel confident that the state will have its lease payment of about $70 million by June 1,” Hummel said. Hummel added the dollar amount New Mexico receives could change, though it’s unlikely. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, and the Democratic members of the delegation sent letters to the BLM urging the agency to release funds owed to the state.

Senate panel moves Wilson confirmation to floor

Heather Wilson’s bid to become the Secretary of the Air Force took a big step forward when her nomination cleared the Senate Armed Forces Committee on a 22-5 vote Wednesday. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich sits on the committee and voted in favor of advancing her nomination. That was no surprise, as during questioning, Heinrich referred to her “impressive qualifications.”

Wilson is a former congresswoman from New Mexico, representing the Albuquerque area for a decade. Wilson is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and served in the U.S. Air Force. Related: Senators question Wilson on past controversies at confirmation hearing

She also faced Heinrich in the 2012 U.S. Senate race and lost by 6 percent.

Heinrich seeks info on treatment of children whose parents were deported

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich joined 14 other Democratic Senators in asking two federal departments for information on the treatment of children whose parents were deported. The 15 Senators, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, asked for information from the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Health and Human Services Department on what happens to children, who are U.S. citizens, whose parents are deported. Related: Trump invites bids to build wall, cites importance of ‘aesthetics’

“These children are United States citizens, and the deportation of their parents leaves them vulnerable in myriad ways,” the senators wrote. “Abruptly separating from parents is a highly destabilizing, traumatic experience for children, and one that carries long term consequences such as feelings of loss and grief, economic hardship, and increased risk of neglect and abuse.”

They also requested to know how many children since January 2015 have been placed into the child welfare system because their parents have been deported, how much their foster care costs taxpayers and what policies are in place to ensure care for children whose parents have been arrested pending deportation. The senators also asked if DHS would seek a funding increase for support of social services as a result of increased foster care.

Orders from Trump, Zinke reverse nation’s climate and energy policy

As carbon dioxide levels hit levels unseen in 650,000 years and global temperatures continue to rise, the United States government is rolling back climate change policies. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking and rescinding all Obama-era orders and reports addressing climate and clean energy. He also ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review and revoke the Clean Power Plan, which would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed implementation of that plan, pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the EPA by utilities, the coal industry and 24 states. New Mexico, through Attorney General Hector Balderas, was one of 25 states, cities and counties to file a motion to intervene in support of the plan.

Senators question Wilson on past controversies at confirmation hearing

A U.S. Senate panel’s confirmation hearing for former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson stuck mostly to the nuts and bolts of what her duties as the next secretary of the Air Force may entail. But her previous scandals related to her post-Congress business connections came up more than once during the three hour meeting before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning. The panel did not vote on Wilson’s nomination to the post. The committee’s ranking member Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, posed questions to Wilson about her controversies working as a private contractor for national laboratories and her lobbying for weapons contractor Lockheed Martin. In quizzing Wilson about her private defense contracting work, Reed brought up the conclusions of a federal investigation that found that Sandia National Laboratories wrongly paid Wilson for services that federal law bars compensation for.

Heinrich will vote against Gorsuch confirmation

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich will vote against the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. He cited ties between the Donald Trump administration and Russia as one reason. Heinrich also indicated he would join other Democrats in a rare filibuster of the Supreme Court nominee by not voting to invoke cloture. Sixty senators are needed to invoke cloture and end debate, moving toward a final vote. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate.

Dems in NM delegation urge Martinez to reject Obamacare replacement

Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation urged Gov. Susana Martinez to raise concerns about the Republican Obamacare replacement’s projected negative impact on Medicaid. A letter addressed to Martinez Friday signed by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan highlights impacts of the Medicaid expansion in New Mexico under the Affordable Care Act. Their letter attributes the Medicaid expansion to gaining health insurance for an extra 263,000 people in the state and bringing in $4.6 billion a year to New Mexico in federal money.

Vulnerable to climate change, New Mexicans understand its risks

Most New Mexicans know climate change is happening and understand it is human-caused. According to recently-released data, New Mexicans are also more likely than people in about half the country to talk not just about the weather, but climate. This week, The New York Times published six maps showing how adult Americans think about climate change and regulations on carbon emissions. The maps were based on data from researchers at Yale University. According to their nationwide survey, 70 percent of Americans think global warming is happening.