As the issue of compulsory union dues and fees for public employees is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, one New Mexico activist group is jumping from county to county, pushing local lawmakers to ban unions from requiring money to represent private sector workers. The libertarian non-profit Americans for Prosperity announced its reentry into New Mexico politics about a year ago. Funded by David and Charles Koch, Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4), which means most of the group’s work has to focus on advocacy or education, rather than support or opposition of specific political candidates. Other groups with the same tax category include the American Civil Liberties Union, AARP and the National Rifle Association. In New Mexico supporters of right-to-work laws haven’t been able to pass a statewide right-to-work law for decades.
The tony neighborhoods tucked into the juniper-dotted grasslands on the east side of the Sandia Mountains represent yet another battleground in New Mexico’s water wars, one in which the state’s top water official has abandoned one side for the other. Last week, testimony ended in a trial over whether a private company can pump more water—114 million gallons more each year—from the Sandia Basin. Nancy Benson and her husband live in San Pedro Creek Estates, where they built their retirement home in 2000 after living in Albuquerque. She is shocked the state would consider granting the application after rejecting it previously. “This area is fully appropriated, there is nothing extra,” she said.
The Sandoval County Commission’s effort to impose a right-to-work ordinance at the county level may have run into a roadblock: the pile of cash it would cost the county to defend itself against promised lawsuits.. But in a late-night vote, the commission voted 4-1 to publish the proposed ordinance’s legislation, putting in motion the process for passage of the ordinance. When enacted, right-to-work laws stop employers from entering into agreements with workers that require they be a member of a labor union or that non-union members pay union dues, known as “fair share” as a condition of employment. County Commission Chairman Don Chapman said he supported right-to-work, but was concerned about the cost of litigation. During the meeting he read aloud an email from the county attorney explaining that the county would be sued—and that it is “very likely we will lose the lawsuit” at both the federal district court and circuit court of appeals level.
Sandoval County’s attempts to plan for oil and gas development continue to draw heated criticism. At their October 19 meeting, county commissioners pulled a proposed ordinance from the agenda, but the commission fielded public comments for nearly an hour, mostly from people who oppose the proposed oil and gas ordinance. Sandoval County covers 3,700 square miles, stretching from Bernalillo to Counselor and Placitas to Torreon. Widespread drilling already occurs in the northern part of the county, which overlaps with the energy-rich San Juan Basin. Those wells are concentrated along Highway 550 north of Cuba and near the Navajo Nation.
Public documents show the superintendent of a school district in Sandoval County worked for four months in 2015 on an expired state educator license. But that superintendent, Allan Tapia of Bernalillo Municipal Schools, blames the state Public Education Department for not processing his license on time. “If they didn’t process it on their end, I didn’t have control over that,” he said in an interview. The documents, obtained through public records requests to the state by NM Political Report, show a 115-day gap between the expiration of Tapia’s administrative license and its renewal by the state Public Education Department last year. They also show the state’s renewal of Tapia’s administrative license came nearly four months after his previous license expired.
Intel Corp. said Tuesday that it will eliminate 12,000 jobs worldwide by mid-2017, an 11 percent reduction in its work force. Those reductions are part of Intel’s attempts to transform itself “from a PC company to one that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices,” the company said. The cuts will come “through site consolidations worldwide, a combination of voluntary and involuntary departures, and a re-evaluation of programs,” Intel said. This piece originally appeared on the ABQ Free Press website.
Eleanor Bravo is a resident of Corrales and the Southwest Organizer for Food & Water Watch. My New Mexico community just stood up to the fossil fuel industry – and won. As an organizer, I’ve been fighting oil and gas drilling in New Mexico for years, because public health, clean air and water and safe communities – everywhere – really matter to me. Late last year, the fight got deeply personal. A nearly bankrupt company, SandRidge Energy from Oklahoma, wanted to drill a new oil well just a few miles from my own home in New Mexico. There was a lot at stake: I live in a stunningly beautiful high desert region, where migratory birds dot jewel-like skies.
New Mexico has been one of the states that is happiest with the president who is elected, having voted for the winning candidate nearly every time in state history. Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, named after the director of the University of Virginia Center of Politics which publishes the website, says that New Mexico and Ohio are two states to keep an eye on when determining which candidate will become the next president if the past is any indication. These are known as bellwethers. Ohio narrowly edges New Mexico. Both have successfully voted for the winning candidate in all but two elections.