HSD settles with two more behavioral health providers

The state of New Mexico announced two more settlements in lawsuits filed by behavioral health providers who had their Medicaid funds frozen by the state in 2013. 

The state Human Services Department settled with TeamBuilders Counseling Services, Inc. and Counseling Associates, Inc. Last month, the state settled with three other providers. “These settlements reflect a shared commitment to rebuild what was lost,” HSD Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. said. “We are continuing to work with other behavioral health provider litigants affected by the 2013 New Mexico Medicaid payment freeze and to reconstruct this essential network of services that so many vulnerable New Mexicans need and rely on.”

“We are grateful for the swift action and efforts of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and HSD Secretary David Scrase to resolve this matter,” TeamBuilders CEO Shannon Freedle said. “We appreciate finally being able to put this to rest and are hopeful for the future of New Mexico’s behavioral health system and the people who depend on those services.”

The settlements do not include any admission of liability or fault on either side. Counseling Associates paid $11,854.16 under the agreement, while the state paid $173,573.84 to Counseling Associates’ attorneys.

Elections Roundup

Note: This is an edition of the NM Political Report Elections Roundup, which comes out twice a month on Tuesdays (and will increase to ever week when elections near) as an email newsletter. Sign up to get the newsletter here. Quick hits

This week, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced he supports impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. See my story on it.U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland announced her support last week.Speaking of Haaland, after endorsing Elizabeth Warren for president, she has been a fairly active surrogate on behalf of the Massachusetts U.S. Senator, especially on Native issues.Andy wrote about how political parties can’t hold raffle fundraisers according to a state agency.It’s not officially a campaign event, but VP Mike Pence will be in Artesia this week.Any links you think I should include in the next edition? Email matthew [at] nmpoliticalreport [dot] com.

Luján supports an impeachment inquiry

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Monday that he supports an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Luján is the longest serving current member of the New Mexico House delegation and is the number four member of House leadership as Assistant Speaker of the House. The Democratic congressman said in a statement that it is “not a position I’ve reached lightly.”Luján’s support of impeachment is notable not only because of his position in House Democratic leadership, but because he is a close ally of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has opposed impeachment proceedings even as a majority of the House Democratic caucus supports such a push and has instead argued Democrats should continue investigations into Trump. 

Luján cited Trump’s failure to act on reports that the Russian government would target elections systems in the U.S. and findings in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as reasons why he supported moving forward with an impeachment inquiry against the president. “The report detailed sustained and frequent attempts by the Trump campaign to establish ties to the Russian government and an eagerness to benefit from hacked information stolen from our fellow Americans,” Luján said.

Pence headed to NM next week

Vice President Mike Pence will be in New Mexico next week to promote Donald Trump’s North American trade agreement. Pence’s trip to Artesia on Wednesday, Aug. 21 was announced by America First Policies, a non-profit that backs Trump. Pence’s visit will be part of a series of events the group is holding to promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a replacement to NAFTA which was signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States but has not been ratified by Congress. According to the group, the event will feature “guest speakers discussing the [USMCA], and how this new trade deal will hugely benefit the economy and American workers in the Artesia area, the state of New Mexico, and in our great nation as a whole.”

The Trump campaign has maintained they believe he can win New Mexico in 2020, despite losing to Democrat Hillary Clinton by over 8 percentage points in 2016 (Libertarian candidate, former Gov. Gary Johnson, received 9.3 percent of the vote, the highest percentage by a third-party candidate since Independent Ross Perot in 1992).

Haaland asks for House to start impeachment inquiry

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland announced Wednesday that she supports an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. When announcing her support for the impeachment inquiry, the first-term Democratic congresswoman said, “the President is not above the law” and that “there is growing evidence of impeachable offenses.”

Support for beginning the process of impeaching Trump has grown among Democrats in the House; Haaland is the 122nd House Democrat to support such an inquiry according to the Washington Post’s count. Then-Republican congressman Justin Amash of Michigan announced his support for impeachment earlier this year. He has since left the Republican Party. So far, Haaland is the only member of the House from New Mexico to support impeachment.

Guv’s office: A special session without a plan ‘is the wrong kind of reactive’

Despite a call by the Speaker of the House for a special session to deal with domestic terrorism, the governor’s office is expressing caution and indicating a special session is not currently in the offing. A statement from Dominic Gabello, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s senior advisor for policy and strategy, outlined legislation that the governor supported in this year’s legislative session, including some that became law. However, Gabello said, “To call for a special session, to lean into the well-founded fears of violence in this state and elsewhere, without a focused plan, without caucus outreach, is the wrong kind of reactive. We can be quick without hurrying.”

Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, asked the governor to call the legislature into a special session for legislation to combat domestic terrorism. Egolf reacted after the announcement from the governor’s office.

Haaland endorses Warren for president

New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president on Tuesday. Haaland endorsed the Massachusetts U.S. Senator along with a number of other members of Congress ahead of Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, which Warren will debate against Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and six other candidates. 

In a statement announcing her endorsement, Haaland said she made the endorsement “because it is time for the American people to have a champion.”

“We’ve worked together to introduce legislation that demands a solution to unsafe military housing, tackles the opioid crisis, and provides universal child care. Elizabeth has been a great friend to me and a great partner for Indian Country,” Haaland said. Haaland became the first enrolled Native American woman to be elected to Congress, along with Sharice Davids of Kansas, after winning election in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2018. Other members of Congress who endorsed Warren include Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and former Progressive Caucus chair Raúl Grijalva of Arizona.

State presses Air Force to take action on PFAS contamination

The state of New Mexico wants a federal court to compel the Air Force to address contamination at two U.S. Air Force bases. The contamination comes from PFAS, a class of chemicals that came from the use of a since-discontinued firefighting foam at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases. Areas of contamination span throughout the country with hundreds of confirmed locations across 43 states, largely from places like military bases. See all of NM Political Report’s coverage on PFAS contamination

The state filed a preliminary injunction to get the Air Force to regularly test groundwater and surface water testing, to provide alternate water sources for those affected and provide voluntary blood tests for those who may have been exposed to the toxic chemicals. The injunction was filed by the Attorney General and the New Mexico Environment Department.

PED secretary out after just six months on the job

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Monday afternoon that she removed Public Education Department Secretary Karen Trujillo from her job. Lujan Grisham made the unexpected announcement in a brief statement to the media, saying, “Unfortunately my expectations were not met in a number of areas.”

Deputy Public Education Secretary Kara Bobroff will serve as the interim secretary while Lujan Grisham’s office searches for a replacement. The governor’s office says the search has already begun. “We must identify a vibrant and ambitious new leader for the Public Education Department as quickly as we possibly can,” Lujan Grisham said. “The well-being of New Mexico’s students, parents and educators remains the top priority of this administration.”

Trujillo was one of the final choices for Lujan Grisham’s cabinet.

Kokinadis switches races, running for Congress in CD1 instead of CD3

In April, Brett Kokinadis announced he was switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party and running for the open 3rd Congressional District seat. Three month later, Kokinadis is switching which race he’s running for, and is seeking the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District seat held by Democrat Deb Haaland. “I know others have announced on the Republican ticket in CD3, and I’m certain more will. It’s important that we show unity within the Republican party and have strong candidates in each race to offer voters an alternative to the reckless ultra-progressive agendas,” Kokinadis said in a statement. Kokinadis is touting his ties to President Donald Trump and says he met with Trump’s deputy political director in May, while he was running for the 3rd Congressional District seat.