‘It was raining on us’: Family awoken by produced water pipe burst near Carlsbad

Penny Aucoin and her husband Carl George were awoken in the early hours of Tuesday morning by the sound of a loud pop and gushing water. “We went out and it was dark at 2:30 in the morning. But when we walked outside we were getting rained on and it smelled like gas — it smelled strongly of gas,” Aucoin said as she recounted the events of the night to NM Political Report. “I said, ‘Honey, where’s it coming from?’ And he was like, ‘I don’t know!’ So he was using his flashlight on his phone trying to figure out where it was coming from.”

The “rain,” it turned out, was produced water, a fluid byproduct of oil and gas extraction activities, spewing from a broken pipe across the street. The water pressure was so high in the pipe that the produced water rained down on the family’s home, livestock and yard a good 200 yards away.

Long-term fixes for PERA could be tough sell

A Senate Democrat stood outside a Roundhouse committee room Thursday with the head of New Mexico’s retirement system, expressing her concerns about a proposal to reform it. Wayne Propst, head of the Public Employees Retirement Association, tried to alleviate her worries. But Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez isn’t alone. Several members of her caucus, as well as retirees, are expressing unease about the bill, aimed at putting the pension system on a path to solvency. “It is a concern that I’ve been raising,” Sedillo Lopez of Albuquerque said in an interview later, adding she’s getting questions from worried constituents.

Addressing human trafficking, reproductive justice bills on tap

The 2020 legislative session kicked off with a traveling billboard driving around the Capitol building reminding citizens and lawmakers of the 2019 attempt to repeal New Mexico’s decades old abortion ban. But so far, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not signaled that she wants the legislature to take another shot at trying to repeal the old ban during the 30-day session. There were, however, several other pre-filed bills and one issue that has not been filed yet as a bill that pertains to reproductive justice which Lujan Grisham put on her call for the session. Increasing penalties for human trafficking

No legislator has filed a bill on increased criminal penalties for human trafficking, but Lujan Grisham signaled she wants a bill on the issue when she announced her priorities ahead of the session. Governor’s Office Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said a bill will be introduced soon.

Supreme Court action on abortion could prompt special session

Democrats in the state Senate say they still don’t have enough votes to repeal an old, unenforceable abortion ban that remains in New Mexico law. They believe a failed effort in the 2019 legislative session — when a handful of conservative Democrats joined Republicans to block it — could see the same results in this year’s 30-day session. But with the U.S. Supreme Court poised to hear a Louisiana case that is expected to test the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, Senate Democrats and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham say they are prepared to hold a special legislative session to protect abortion rights in the state if the ruling is overturned. “I think we’d be back in a heartbeat,” Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said Wednesday, the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. While some Democratic senators remain staunchly opposed to repealing the state’s old ban, Wirth said some of those votes might change if the state actually criminalized abortion.

Governor touts efforts to boost education, economy in 2020 State of the State

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stressed the need for New Mexico to continue investing in education and economic development in her annual State of the State address Tuesday, and urged lawmakers to approve marquee legislation such as the legalization of recreational cannabis. In a speech replete with personal stories and even some jokes, the Democratic governor praised key education proposals on her agenda, including the creation of an early childhood trust fund and her proposed Opportunity Scholarship, which would provide free college tuition for all qualifying New Mexicans. Related: GOP: Governor’s address was ‘love fest’ with no love for oil and gas

“It would be inaccurate to say we chose education as our top priority,” Lujan Grisham said in a section of her speech punctuated with loud applause. “Transforming our public education ecosystem is no less than a moral mandate, an imperative that found us — this group of legislative leaders who are obligated and, I firmly believe, destined to deliver the single best cradle-to-career educational system in the country.” The governor delivered the second State of the State address of her tenure to lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists and the general public in the House chamber of the Legislature on the opening day of the 2020 legislative session. Amid numerous interruptions for applause and standing ovations — largely from Democrats — the governor and former U.S. congresswoman recounted accomplishments from her first year in office and made her case for top priorities for the session.