Members of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Cabinet could get a raise. A proposed state budget approved by the House of Representatives last week provides $250,000 the governor’s office confirmed Tuesday would be used to increase pay for the heads of state government departments. The money comes as the new governor continues to fill out her Cabinet. Lujan Grisham has been blunt that the salaries her administration initially offered were too low for some prospective Cabinet officials. But as part of the biggest budget in state history, even this small line item is sure to draw criticism from Republicans.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants state legislators to allocate up to $380 million to pay off a backlog of tax credits owed to production companies that shot movies or television shows in New Mexico. Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor, said the buildup of unpaid rebates “creates an uncertainty in the minds of producers. The governor prefers to get this done as quickly as possible.” Paying what’s owed would require a one-time appropriation from the general fund, said House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who met with the governor on Tuesday. As it stands, New Mexico’s tax incentive program for qualifying movie-makers only allows state government to pay out $50 million of rebates in any given year, regardless of how much was accumulated.
The federal government is sending more troops to the U.S. border with Mexico just as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pulls back National Guard personnel from the state’s southern frontier. But the Department of Defense is not saying whether any of 3,750 additional troops headed to the border will be coming to New Mexico. Related: Feds to boost troops at border as Lujan Grisham pulls Guard members out
“The specific units and locations are still being finalized,” Maj. Mark Lazane said Wednesday. “We hope to release that information when it becomes available, but we aren’t able to do so at this time.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that she withdrew most of New Mexico’s National Guard troops from the border. Troops in Hidalgo County and neighboring, however, will remain in place. She also temporarily deployed six New Mexico State Police officers to Hidalgo County to assist local law enforcement agencies. “I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “However, I recognize and appreciate the legitimate concerns of residents and officials in southwestern New Mexico, particularly Hidalgo County, who have asked for our assistance, as migrants and asylum-seekers continue to appear at their doorstep.”
A spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham said that between 11 and 15 National Guard troops will remain deployed, out of 118 before her order.
A single, secret donor gave $150,000 to New Mexico Legacy, the group that has been buying ads and distributing mailers promoting former Gov. Susana Martinez. The New Mexican first reported on the nonprofit group’s emergence in late 2017 when it bought radio spots touting highlights of the Republican governor’s administration as she entered her final year in office. New Mexico Legacy has since heralded Martinez in glossy mailers. But who paid for this advertising is apparently a secret. New Mexico Legacy is not a political action committee.
Gov. Susana Martinez left office with low approval ratings, according to Morning Consult.
Meanwhile, both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators’ approval ratings remained over 40 percent, with a high amount of voters with no opinion. The pollster found Martinez’s approval rating among all registered voters in her final three months in office was just 35 percent, while 49 percent disapproved of the Republican’s job performance. That was the ninth-highest disapproval rating among all 50 governors in the same time period. In her final year in office, Martinez’s approval rating remained in the mid-30 percent range. Senators
Martin Heinrich easily won re-election to the U.S. Senate in a three-way race in November, defeating Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian, and former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson.
Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday morning that the New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS) processed 1,388 sexual assault evidence kits from local agencies over the past three years. That’s roughly a quarter of the total backlog, but thousands of untested kits remain, mostly in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. For victims, there’s an even longer road ahead, with investigations and prosecutions still to come. Now DPS is offering to help reduce the 3,138 backlog for both Bernalillo county and Albuquerque Police Department (APD). In 2016, then-State Auditor Tim Keller found New Mexico had the highest backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits per capita in the nation, with kits sitting in storage units or freezers untested for decades.
Rachel Conn was in a state wetlands meeting Tuesday when she heard the news: The Trump administration had released its revised Clean Water Rule. For Conn, who has been working on issues related to the rule for more than 15 years, it was another twist in a legal and administrative saga that could leave most of New Mexico’s streams and wetlands without clean water protections. Under the new rule issued Tuesday, almost 60 percent of the waterways and wetlands nationwide would no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act. The new rule says streams that flow only in response to snowmelt or rainfall—“ephemeral” streams—would not be protected. It also questions removing protections from “intermittent” streams, or those that have a baseflow from groundwater recharge, but may not run above-ground throughout the entire year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of New Mexico released a draft report on Friday about the possibility of someday reusing or recycling wastewater from the oil and gas industry. According to the draft white paper compiled by the EPA and three state agencies, “Given that drought is no stranger to New Mexico, decisions about water are growing ever more complicated and meaningful.”
This summer, the EPA and three New Mexico agencies convened a working group to understand and clarify existing regulatory and permitting frameworks and create a road map toward finding other uses for wastewater generated by oil and gas drilling. The draft report lays out various possible reuse scenarios, explains which agencies would be involved in permitting and regulations and parses some of the legal issues. As the authors note, New Mexico became the third-largest oil producing state in the U.S. in 2018 and the industry produces enormous quantities of wastewater. According to the report:
For every barrel of oil, four or five barrels of produced water may be generated: an estimated 168 to 210 gallons of produced water for every 42 gallons of oil produced.
In 2010, three Western states elected governors who immediately generated national buzz. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, was the first Latino elected governor of Nevada. John Hickenlooper, who campaigned as a Democratic centrist in the midst of a Tea Party wave, was elected in Colorado. And in New Mexico, Republican Susana Martinez became the nation’s first Latina governor. All three proved popular in their first terms and easily won re-election.