If state Sen. Bill Soules had his way, New Mexico would invest an extra $375 million in public schools right now. Where the cash-strapped state would find that money is another matter altogether. Soules, a Las Cruces Democrat, has once again introduced legislation calling for the state to follow the recommendation of a decadeold study and funnel hundreds of millions of dollars more into its public education system — one that generally ranks at or near the bottom in most national reports. But Soules’ bill doesn’t have a chance in the upcoming legislative session. And he knows it.
The saga of ten vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez hit another twist. The state Supreme Court said Tuesday a district court ruling invalidating the vetoes should be stayed until the appeals process is over. A district court judge ruled last year that the vetoes were invalid and so the bills in question should become law. After this order, the Secretary of State chaptered them into law. Now, in a 3-2 decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court paused this order.
A New Mexico district judge ruled Wednesday that Gov. Susana Martinez’s office violated the state’s public records law, but did not break the law when ignoring or refusing interview requests with a Santa Fe newspaper. The Santa Fe Reporter was first to report on the decision from Santa Fe Pro Tem District Judge Sarah Singleton. Singleton ruled that the governor’s office violated the state Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) three times by failing to respond or responding late to public records requests. But, Singleton ruled that the governor and her staff did not violate the U.S. Constitution by refusing to speak to or answer questions from Reporter staffers. She not only said existing case law does not support the paper’s arguments, but that the paper’s questions aimed at the governor’s office “were not comparable to the mundane requests made by other newspaper.”
“The Reporter was requesting special treatment,” Singleton wrote.
Ten bills invalidly vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez are now law. A judge declined Martinez’s effort to keep the bills from becoming law while they appealed a previous decision against Martinez. And shortly thereafter Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced she chaptered those ten bills into law (all ten are listed below). “As ordered by the Court, my office has swiftly chaptered all ten of the bills that the Court determined were improperly vetoed during the 2017 legislative session,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. This is a breaking news story and reactions will be added as we receive them.
In what looks like a final decision, attorneys for a former state senator and prosecutors agreed on a judge to preside over the case. Brett Loveless will preside over the high profile case of Phil Griego, who is facing corruption charges related to a real estate deal that ended with his resignation from the state SEnate. The last time we checked in with the case, the Democrat from San Jose pleaded not guilty. This came in front of the eighth judge assigned to the case. Before District Court Judge Sarah Singleton took the case, the previous seven recused themselves.
Phil Griego made his first appearance in court on Monday after being charged with ten crimes related to alleged corruption. Griego pleaded not guilty to the charges connected to the same scandal that resulted in his resignation from the state Senate last year. Griego he violated the state constitution and Senate rules because of a land swap involving a building in Santa Fe when he announced his resignation. In all, the Democrat from San Juan faces ten charges, including felonies. https://www.instagram.com/p/BDyDGM4gh5b/
The state asked for $25,000 bond, but the judge ruled there would be no bond because she didn’t think Griego is a public threat. He was instead released on his own recognizance.
After a spate of recusals by judges, a district court judge finally accepted the corruption case involving a former state Senator. District Court Judge Sarah Singleton will take the case of Phil Griego, who is charged with ten counts related to corruption while he was in office. Griego resigned from the Senate last year because of a land deal. The judge set an initial hearing for April 4 at 8:15 a.m. according to nmcourts.gov.
Singleton was the eighth judge to be assigned the case; the previous seven recused themselves from the case. Since NM Political Report last wrote about the case on Thursday, two additional judges—Raymond Ortiz and Francis Mathew—recused themselves.
A Santa Fe district judge’s ruling on Wednesday afternoon awarded an education group additional money in a lawsuit against the state’s Public Education Department. The ruling comes after First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton awarded damages to National Education Association New Mexico (NEA-NM) after the group accused PED of violating the Inspection of Public Records Act, or IPRA. In court on Wednesday, Singleton awarded the group money for legal fees, totaling $14,071.31 according to a press release by NEA-NM following the decision. In a press release sent out before the hearing, NEA said the judge’s determination would set a precedent on who is actually able to sue over public records violations. “Is our government meant to be only ‘open’ for the wealthy who can afford to pay their own legal expenses to obtain Court rulings against agencies who fail to comply with the Inspection of Public Records Act?” NEA-NM President Betty Paterson asked.
A Santa Fe district court judge threw out a challenge to a contract for a controversial standardized test. The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit American Institutes for Research challenged the state’s decision to award a lucrative testing contract to education conglomerate Pearson. The contract, worth an estimated $1 billion over eight years, included writing and administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers’ (PARCC) flagship test. Although most associate the term with the test, PARCC is a consortium of 12 states and the District of Columbia that were tasked with developing a new standardized test that abides by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The PARCC test is projected to reach up to 10 million students across the consortium over the length of the contract.
A Santa Fe district court judge handed down fines to the state’s Public Education Department Thursday afternoon for failing to properly respond to public records requests from a teachers’ union. The state must pay nearly $500, plus attorneys fees, for failing to abide by the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The main contention was the union’s records request centered around National Education Association New Mexico (NEA) attorney Jerry Todd Wertheim said was “the core of public debate over the teacher evaluation system.” The union asked for all public documents associated with a claim often repeated by PED Secretary Hanna Skandera and others over the years—that the previous state teacher evaluation system found more than 99 percent of the state’s teachers competent. They said this showed it was not an effective evaluation.