As Water Trust Fund dries up, Wirth champions bill to infuse it with $250M

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A state fund that has helped finance dozens of water infrastructure projects around New Mexico since it was created nearly two decades ago is drying up. The State Investment Council has been sounding the alarm for years, warning the so-called Water Trust Fund, which it manages, could be depleted within 15 years without an additional infusion of capital or a restructuring of its distribution requirements of $4 million a year. “This fund is on a terminal path,” Charles Wollmann, the council’s director of communications, legislative and client relations, said Thursday. “It is going to die unless there are additional appropriations or it would have to slash its annual distribution.” A windfall to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars may be on the way.

Bill would add penalties for livestock rustling

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

This is no bull — and no joke. There’s a crime still all too common to those who run farms and ranches around New Mexico: livestock rustling. And not just cattle theft. Horses, donkeys, pigs, llamas and all sorts of poultry are also being hauled away by truck, trailer and any other means possible, agricultural experts say. In the days of the old West, rustlers who were caught ended up hanging from a tree or scaffold, said Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, addresses a bipartisan group of legislators, media, community organizers and law enforcement in the cabinet meeting room in the Governor’s Office January 25, 2023.

Lujan Grisham proposes ‘public safety investment strategy’

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed a package of legislation that would promote public safety statewide, if approved. She said that public safety has always been a legislative priority for as long as she could remember. “The details of that shift and the issues that we are called to address change. That is awesome,” Lujan Grisham said during a Wednesday press conference. “This administration has been working on mostly but not entirely, making sure that the criminal enhancements, that the high risk criminal aspects get dealt with in our public safety effort, but they’re doing all of these upfront investments to make sure that we have healthier, stronger, resilient families and we’re dealing with making sure that poverty isn’t our enemy as we look to gain ground in public safety.” 

There was also discussion about how the root causes of crime, such as abject poverty, can be handled from a legislative perspective.

Governor-backed fund would address shortage of health care providers in rural areas

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Immediately after Dr. Valory Wangler opened a nonprofit health center serving Gallup and McKinley County last year, patients started to pour through her doors. “We certainly could tell that we had identified a critical need,” said Wangler, founder and executive director of Gallup Community Health. Since then, the health center has expanded from mostly only Wangler seeing patients to 11 providers working in the burgeoning facility in some capacity or another. “We believe in paying our staff fairly and making sure that they’re able to meet their basic needs, and that has certainly put us at an operating loss,” she said. Under a bill lawmakers started to pore over Wednesday, health care providers such as Wangler could see some financial relief.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon approaches the lectern in the state house chamber to deliver the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature Tuesday, January 24, 2022.

Supreme Court Chief Justice talks virtual hearings, criminal justice reform

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Bacon addressed the Legislature during a joint legislative session on Tuesday. This was the first time in four years a State of the Judiciary Address has been delivered in New Mexico. “The Judiciary is battered and bruised, strong, resilient, creative, committed, and caring. I hope through my words today, this will be evident,” Bacon said. Bacon discussed four issues including the judiciary’s efforts through the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting programs that help the community, criminal justice reform and the judiciary’s legislative requests.