Luján proposes legislation to make Hatch Act violation decisions more transparent

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat, introduced a bill that would require Congress to be notified of alleged Hatch Act violations. The Hatch Act regulates partisan political activities for most federal executive branch employees and some state and local employees. “The Hatch Act was signed into law to prevent public officials from using their position for political gain while protecting federal employees from political influence,” Luján said in a news release. “However, when potential violations do occur, the Office of Special Counsel has failed to investigate and prosecute some of the most serious claims, undermining the American people and the rule of law.”

Luján’s bill, which has not been assigned a number yet, would require the OSC to report to Congress in the event it declines to investigate an alleged Hatch Act violation and to provide an annual report to the Chair and Ranking Members Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The proposed public report would include the number of allegations received by the Special Counsel in the previous year and the number of allegations that resulted in an investigation, with separate data sets for political appointees and career federal workers.

New Mexico could lose 37,500 jobs if gov’t defaults

If the federal government defaults on its debt for a prolonged period of time, New Mexico could lose up to 37,500 jobs, according to a new report by Moody’s Analytics released May 10. This report details two possible outcomes: should the U.S. default and then correct itself in the immediate aftermath and in the event of a prolonged default.

“We now assign a 10 percent probability to a breach,” the report states. “If there is a breach, it is much more likely to be a short one than a prolonged one. But even a lengthy standoff no longer has a zero probability. What once seemed unimaginable now seems a real threat.”

The expected deadline to prevent default is June 8 although due to the nature of economics, the date is subject to change, the report states.

Lawsuit says New Mexico has failed to protect the environment, communities from oil and gas

Paul and Mary Ann Atencio sometimes hear a loud boom. This boom, they have been told, occurs when an 18-inch high pressure pipeline that runs down the road by their house is cleaned out. They aren’t told when this will occur and, when it does, they say that they can hear and smell the gaseous fumes being released. The Atencios live in a part of eastern Navajo Nation where there’s a checkerboard of land and mineral ownership. 

They have joined other Navajo community members as well as the Pueblo Action Alliance, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians in suing the state. The plaintiffs say that New Mexico has failed in its constitutional duty to protect the environment and frontline communities from the impacts of oil and gas.

Basic Needs Survey shows food, housing issues for New Mexico’s college students

The University of New Mexico released a survey that showed more than two-thirds of New Mexico students who took part experience housing or food insecurity. The year-long statewide survey was led by UNM Honors College associate professor Sarita Vargas and a team of faculty and students. The team surveyed 15,238 students, faculty and staff from 27 New Mexico public colleges and universities as part of UNM’s Basic Needs Project. The survey’s results, which were published Monday via the University’s public relations department, showed that 60 percent of student respondents reported food insecurity with 37 percent of faculty and 40 percent of staff reporting they were experiencing food insecurity. The survey also showed that 64 percent of students, 46 percent of faculty and 50 percent of staff reported housing insecurity with 18 percent of students, 17 percent of faculty and 11 percent of staff reported experiencing homelessness.

Screenshot of President Joe Biden during a press conference May 9, 2023. The press conference followed a closed-door meeting between Biden and congressional leadership to address the debt ceiling impasse.

Concerns mount as debt ceiling deadline nears

President Joe Biden met with congressional leadership from both parties Tuesday to negotiate an end to the federal debt ceiling dispute. Both Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy delivered comments and took questions following the closed-session meeting. Biden called the meeting productive. The meeting was called to discuss a path beyond the current debt ceiling problems.

“America is not going to default on this debt for the first time in history. Never has, never well,” Biden said.

ECECD announces rule changes to help families and early childcare providers and educators

The state Early Childhood Education and Care Department announced a proposed rule change that would maintain the expanded eligibility for early childcare assistance on a day of action by some early childcare centers nationwide. ECECD expanded early childcare assistance in 2021 to allow a family of four making up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, to remain eligible for state assistance. The policy had a 2023 end date but ECECD is proposing to change its rules to implement that change permanently. The rule change would also include increased rates for early childcare providers and will enable participating providers to maintain a $3 per hour raise that went into effect in 2021. Micah McCoy, communications director for ECECD, told NM Political Report that the intent is that no early childcare worker will make less than $15 an hour but lead teachers can make as much as $20 an hour.

Screenshot of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaking at a a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health fireside chat May 5, 2023.

MLG talks about health gains in NM at Johns Hopkins talk

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke  at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health fireside chat Friday morning. She spoke about health policy solutions for New Mexico and beyond, as well as strategies for leading on public health and policy issues with host Ellen MacKenzie, the Bloomberg School Dean. “This is a country that could do far better in health outcomes and the underlying root cause for at least someone like me is the fact that we don’t respect public health initiatives and investments,” Lujan Grisham said. Lujan Grisham discussed many of the changes made during the 2023 legislative session including universal free meals for school children, protecting women’s reproductive rights and gender-affirming care and what the state is doing to expand rural broadband onto the state’s pueblo, nation and tribal lands. “We are running as fast as we can to get fiber to every household in the Navajo Nation,” Lujan Grisham said.

Heinrich ‘All In’ for Senate re-election bid

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich released a campaign video Thursday announcing his run for re-election in 2024. “When I look at Washington these days, I see plenty of fighters,” Heinrich, a Democrat, said in the video. “The problem is too many are fighting for themselves for their career and their big donors. The way I see it, you hired me to work for you. And I want you to know, I’m all in.”

Heinrich is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate.

Kids Online Safety Act reintroduced in U.S. Senate

The internet can be a dangerous place for young people, especially social media platforms where children and adults can interact with minimal or nonexistent barriers. To help combat the dangers children may face online, Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján and others reintroduced the Kids Online Safety Act which was sponsored by Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn. The bill, however, is controversial and many privacy, tech and LGBTQ+ groups oppose the bill, and they say it could actually cause harm to minors by restricting access to information based on what state attorneys general determine to be harmful. This comes as states throughout the country target abortion access and LGBTQ+ rights. “Big Tech knows that the algorithms they use to maximize time spent online also lead to harm, particularly for children,” Luján said in a statement supporting the bill.

Reproductive justice newsletter: Edgewood seeks to ban abortion

Editor’s note: This is a copy of our monthly reproductive justice newsletter. If you want to subscribe to receive this free newsletter on the last Friday of every month, you can do so here. Hello readers, 

After an eight-hour meeting that began Tuesday evening, the town of Edgewood passed an anti-abortion ordinance in the early morning hours of Wednesday by a vote of 4-1. Edgewood Commissioner Filandro Anaya said he voted against it because of “home rule” though he didn’t explain his vote further. The move is the latest of a handful of individual towns and counties that, since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, have passed similar ordinances in New Mexico and elsewhere.