Governors don’t usually sign a budget twice in one year. But this is no normal year. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gave her blessing to New Mexico’s revised budget legislation Tuesday, but she also used her veto power to cancel some of the cuts legislators approved during the special session. “We must recalibrate our state’s budget to meet these challenging times,” Lujan Grisham wrote in a letter to the state House of Representatives upon signing House Bill 1. “However, we should not lose sight of the important work that is still needed to create lasting opportunities for all New Mexicans.”
The budget plan uses a combination of spending cuts, reserves and federal funding to deal with a projected $2 billion drop in state revenue for the next fiscal year, which begins Wednesday.
Cannabis legislation was not a complete loss for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during this year’s legislative session, but it was far from a complete win. Despite almost a year of work from a group assembled by Lujan Grisham to come up with proposed legislation for cannabis legalization, the proposal she backed failed early on in the session. The only Lujan Grisham-backed proposal that made it to her desk is a bill that would limit enrollment in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program to New Mexico residents.
During a press conference after the Legislature adjourned on Thursday, Lujan Grisham said she will keep pushing for a safe and comprehensive legalization measure, even if it means changing the state constitution. New Mexico law does not allow for voter initiatives, which is how most states, including Colorado, legalized cannabis. The only way to change law through an election question is to propose a constitutional amendment, and Lujan Grisham said that’s not off the table.
“I’m open to any number of pathways,” Lujan Grisham told reporters.
New Mexicans only
SB 139, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, was promoted as a fix to legislation that was passed into law last year.
Two Republicans seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat remain in the good graces of the national organization seeking to elect more Republicans to Congress. On Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee added former State Rep. Yvette Herrell and oil lobbyist Claire Chase to the “contender” tier of the organization’s Young Guns program. According to the NRCC, those considered contenders are candidates who “have completed stringent program metrics and are on the path to developing a mature and competitive campaign operation” and are running in congressional seats “that appear favorable to the GOP candidate.”
“These hard working candidates have proven their ability to run strong, competitive campaign operations. We’re going to ensure these contenders are victorious in November by forcing their Democratic opponents to own their party’s radical socialist agenda,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. Herrell, who was the Republican nominee in 2018, said in a statement that the announcement “is yet another validation of the winning campaign that we are building.”
“We will continue working hard all across this district, taking nothing for granted as we earn the Republican nomination and then take back this seat from Nancy Pelosi’s puppet Xochitl Torres Small,” Herrell continued.
A bill that would limit enrollment in the state’s medical cannabis program to New Mexico residents passed the House and is on its way to the governor’s desk.
SB 139, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque would change the definition in the states medical cannabis law to specify that a qualified medical cannabis patient must be a resident of New Mexico. The House passed the bill on a 44-19 vote.
As the bill has made its rounds in committee hearings, New Mexico’s Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel repeatedly stressed her fear that the federal government may try and interfere with the states Medical Cannabis Program if the bill is not signed into law.
Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, presented the bill for Ortiz y Pino and fielded questions from her colleagues.
Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Aztec, questioned how the Department of Health, which oversees the Medical Cannabis Program, defines what a resident is.
Armstrong, aided by Kunkel, said the department will accept various documents to prove a potential patient lives or plans to live in New Mexico.
Montoya ultimately voted against the bill.
Rep. Zack Cook, R-Ruidoso, who was the sole dissenting vote on the bill in a committee hours earlier, also voted against the bill. He dismissed Kunkel’s concerns about the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We don’t know that the feds are going to do anything,” Cook said, echoing his statements from earlier in the morning.
Regardless, the bill received bipartisan support. But, four Democrats voted against the bill despite Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s support.
The issue of who gets to enroll in the program goes back to last session when a bill that made sweeping changes to the state’s medical cannabis law also changed the definition of what a qualified patient from a “resident of New Mexico” to a “person.”
Arizona resident president and CEO of medical cannabis producer Ultra Health Duke Rodriguez, along with two Texas residents, successfully convinced a state judge that they should be eligible to enroll in the program. Lujan Grisham and the DOH took the issue to the state Court of Appeals where the issue is still pending.
A bill aimed at limiting who can enroll in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program was approved in committee Monday morning and now has one more stop before the governor’s desk.
The House Health and Human Services Committee passed SB 139 on a 6-1 vote.
Update: The legislation passed the full House on Monday afternoon. See the story here. The bill would change the law to allow only New Mexico residents who have a qualifying condition to get a medical cannabis patient card.
Though sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, the committee’s chair Democratic Rep. Debbie Armstrong of Albuquerque presented the bill, with the help of Secretary of Health Kathyleen Kunkel as her expert witness.
Kunkel told the committee that a change in law last year that was aimed at forging a path to reciprocity, or allowing certified medical cannabis patients from other states to purchase and use cannabis in New Mexico, inadvertently resulted in about 600 out-of-state patients enrolled in New Mexico’s program.
Kunkel said it has been an “administrative burden” on the Department of Health since the state started allowing non-residents to enroll in the program. Plus, she said, she fears that the current law will attract unwanted attention from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I am concerned that we are tempting the federal government to come in and interfere with our program,” Kunkel said.
All three Republicans on the committee raised questions and concerns, but ultimately the only dissenting vote came from Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso. Early on in the hearing, Kunkel said there is currently a resident of Mexico enrolled in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program because of the law change.
A Senate bill that would specify that only New Mexico residents are eligible to enroll in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program is headed to the House.
SB 139, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, passed the Senate floor Saturday night by a 32-8 vote. Ortiz y Pino told other Senate members that the bill is an attempt to “plug the hole” that was created in a bill he sponsored last year that was signed into law.
The bill he sponsored last year, among other changes to the state’s medical cannabis laws, removed the words “resident of New Mexico” from the definition of a qualified patient and replaced them with “person.” Shortly after the law was changed last year, Duke Rodriguez, the president and CEO of medical cannabis producer Ultra Health, along with two Texas residents, took the state to court after the three were denied medical cannabis patient cards. Rodriguez is an Arizona resident, but according to court documents owns a home and vehicle in New Mexico. Arizona has a medical cannabis program and Texas has a medical program with limited conditions and only allows cannabis with half a percent of THC—a psychoactive substance in cannabis.
After a state district judge ruled in favor of the three petitioners, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office and the Department of Health took the issue to the Court of Appeals, where it remains pending.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, took issue with the bill and repeated some of the same concerns he brought up in a previous committee hearing. He told a story about a friend of his who suffered through cancer treatment and was unable to benefit from medical cannabis because he lived in Texas.
Abortion access took center stage Wednesday for the roughly 200 people who came out for Respect New Mexico Women Day of Action at the Roundhouse. Respect New Mexico Women organized the rally. Marianna Anaya, spokesperson for the coalition, gave a speech on the importance of keeping abortion safe and legal. The group chanted and then walked silently through both the House and the Senate floors with a fist raised. The various groups and individuals headed to legislators’ offices to, in some cases, thank them for their support and in others, to remind legislators that there are people in New Mexico who care about this issue.
A grassroots advocacy group launched a billboard campaign Monday to promote keeping abortion safe and legal and to spark conversations about abortion access. The two billboards, from ProgressNow New Mexico*, will be on I-25 near the Budagher Drive exit, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The signs face both north and south so drivers traveling in either direction will be able to see the message. The two highway billboards both say, “Rape is about power and control. So are abortion bans.”
The second billboard will be on the side of a truck driving around the state Capitol building and downtown Santa Fe Tuesday.
As the dust settles from the Albuquerque municipal election and federal candidates gear up for the 2020 elections, two friends are preparing to run against each other for a spot on the Bernalillo County Commission.
Adriann Barboa and Adrian Carver are progressive Democratic community activists and hope to replace County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, who will be termed out next year. With the primary election about six months away, the two have begun getting the word out about their campaigns.
Barboa is a mother of two who identifies as a queer chicana and was raised in a pocket of District 3 near the Albuquerque airport that she said is often overlooked by politicians. She said too often politicians with the best of intentions just do not understand overlooked and marginalized people and communities.
“When you haven’t had some of that lived experience you don’t get to see that nuance,” Barboa said.
The nuance in Barboa’s childhood included a politically engaged father who was also a “very functioning” heroin addict and alcoholic. She said her late father was the primary financial provider for the family and it wasn’t until she was 12 that she finally realized that he struggled with addiction. That life experience, she said, helped her when she worked as a Youth Development Incorporated case worker and community organizer—she was instrumental in organizing a push for mandatory sick leave.
Earlier this year when former state Senator Cisco McSorley was tapped to lead the Probation and Parole Division of the state Corrections Department, Barboa was one of many who sought to replace McSorley.
While abortion access at the national level has come under greater assault in recent years, some nonprofit groups on the front lines for reproductive healthcare are providing what is known as “TelAbortions” to New Mexicans through a study. A TelAbortion has the potential to simplify the process of terminating a pregnancy and some advocates say it could be the way of the future. To qualify, the patient needs to be less than 10 weeks pregnant. Through video conferencing over an electronic device, the patient speaks with the study’s health provider. After establishing that the patient is less than 10 weeks pregnant, the patient receives the two pills necessary – mifepristone and misoprostol – through the mail.
A prominent anti-abortion activist filed paperwork to run for U.S. Senate on Wednesday. Elisa Martinez, who founded the New Mexico Alliance for Life and is the group’s executive director, is the third Republican to run for the open U.S. Senate seat after filing her statement of candidacy with the FEC. Only one Democrat is currently running for the position. She announced her candidacy in Albuquerque shortly after. If elected, the member of the Navajo Nation would be the first Native American woman U.S. Senator nationwide and the first Latina U.S. Senator from New Mexico.