Gov. Lujan Grisham announces special session for redistricting, appropriating COVID relief funds will be next week

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham officially announced on Wednesday that she will call the state Legislature into a special session next week to approve new legislative, congressional and Public Education Commission districts. In addition to redistricting, lawmakers will also be called to appropriate federal COVID-19 relief funds. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Lujan Grisham said she is confident the Legislature will work collaboratively and diligently to finalize new district maps so that all New Mexicans are fairly represented. 

“A fundamental part of our American democracy is ensuring that all voters are represented, and the redistricting effort will make sure that the right of all New Mexicans to vote is complemented by fair representation through their elected officials,” Lujan Grisham said. “I look forward to a productive and collegial session and know lawmakers and legislative leadership will as always carry out the people’s business thoughtfully and respectfully, in a way that honors this important work.” 

Updating district maps is a process that takes place every ten years, on the heels of the federal census. This year, thanks to a new law, the redistricting process began with a citizen redistricting committee that approved several different recommendations for the Legislature to consider. But, the Legislature is not required to accept any of those recommendations.

How the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion rights this term could affect LGBTQ+ rights

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on anti-abortion bans that some say could have the potential to impact LGBTQ+ constitutional rights. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month for two cases filed over Texas SB 8, which prohibits abortion at six weeks. On December 1, the Supreme Court will hear another case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, over the right of Mississippi to ban abortion at 15 weeks. Many rights that involve bodily autonomy, such as the right to contraception, the right to abortion and the right for same sex couples to marry, rest on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 5th and 14th amendments. “In the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments there’s this protection of process when the government deprives us of life, liberty and property.

Emails show exchanges between plaintiffs, employees and RLD that helped lead to whistleblower suit

Next week, a New Mexico state district judge is slated to hear arguments for and against a group of state employees adding a Whistleblower Protection Act claim to an already pending lawsuit against the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department. 

The initial suit, filed by four Cannabis Control Division employees, claims that the department and the Cannabis Control Division violated a state personnel code by moving their work location from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Included in the four employees’ new complaint are claims of retaliation and alleged inaction by the department when the employees reported what they said was an illegal cannabis grow operation. 

The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1. Now, after reviewing documents obtained through a public records request, NM Political Report has learned which company RLD and its Cannabis Control Division deemed the company to be in compliance after being accused of having too many plants. On July 12, 2021, RLD received a tip, via email, that medical cannabis producer Budding Hope was growing “over 6,000 plants illegally.” The person who sent the email, whose name was redacted by the department, followed up twice within a week with more specifics.

Study: Emergency managers should plan for volcanic eruptions in the southwest

The southwest United States has thousands of volcanoes that were only active for a very short period of time and, a new analysis published in the journal Geosphere urges emergency managers to be aware of the potential for further volcanic activity. The authors of the study counted 2,229 volcanoes in 37 volcanic fields located in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. While it is dotted with volcanic fields, the region has not received the same amount of attention for its volcanism as some other areas of the country such as the Pacific Northwest, which is home to volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier. Greg Valentine, a lead author on the paper and a geology professor at the University of Buffalo, said one reason that the volcanoes in the southwest have not received as much attention is that no eruptions have occurred since geology became an official science in the 1700s. Meanwhile, the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest has had modern explosions, such as Mount Saint Helens.

A small seabird found far from home in New Mexico

Mikal Deese has rehabbed more than a hundred species of birds at her non-profit rehabilitation center in Corrales, but last week she received a bird that she’d never seen before. The small black and white bird was found unable to fly on the side of a trail in Placitas and was brought to her On a Wing and A Prayer rehab center in a box. Upon opening the box, Deese knew the bird was far from where it belonged. 

She identified the bird as a murre–a seabird that rarely comes to shore. And, based on its size, she knew it was a murrelet, a small species of murre. The plumage and markings matched the ancient murrelet, a seabird that lives in the Pacific northwest and north into the arctic.

Haaland visits Chaco Culture National Historical Park

As the U.S. Department of the Interior begins the process of placing a 20-year moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands near Chaco Canyon, some nearby Indian allottees say that such an action would limit their ability to make a living off of their land. Meanwhile, proponents of the moratorium say it is needed to protect the sacred sites, lands and waters. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland drove by signs protesting the moratorium as she headed to Chaco Culture National Historical Park to celebrate President Joe Biden’s announcement of the moratorium impacting federal lands within a ten mile buffer of the park. While at the park, Haaland met with Indigenous and state leaders before addressing the crowd that had gathered for, what she described as, a celebration that was decades in the making. Haaland said Chaco Canyon is a living landscape.

2021 a challenging year for New Mexico animal shelters

The year 2021 has proved to be even more challenging than 2020 for Rover and Whiskers, animal shelters across New Mexico report. The problem all three animal shelters in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces were primarily dogged by in 2021 was a pet population explosion. At least two animal shelter representatives, in speaking with NM Political Report, said that while there were likely several ancillary reasons for the pet population numbers rising this year, the main issue could have been an unintended consequence of the state’s need to slow the spread of disease and preserve in-short supply personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the state restricted services to essential business and healthcare in the first three months of the pandemic, shelters and veterinarian clinics stopped spaying and neutering pets during March, April and May of 2020. Dylan Moore, director of shelter operations for Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, said the shelter had an influx this year of one-year to 16-month-old unclaimed pets.

Build Back Better Act passes U.S. House of Representatives

Legislation that includes dozens of provisions to address climate change is one step closer to the president’s desk following a near-party-line vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday morning. The Build Back Better Act would provide funding to support working families, increase access to home ownership and address the climate crisis through increasing renewable energy and addressing emissions from the oil and gas sector. “I think it is not only the largest investment but the most comprehensive investment that we’ve ever seen in tackling climate change in our country’s history,” said U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat from New Mexico, in a press conference after the bill’s passage. Stansbury said the bill includes dozens of provisions targeted at addressing climate change “across every sector of our society and every community within the United States and our affiliated territories and communities all over the world.”

Stansbury said all the sectors that emit greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, including the transportation, energy and electricity sectors.  “And this bill really takes a comprehensive approach to addressing that across every sector,” she said.

State utility regulators look toward increased adoption of electric vehicles

Utility regulators in New Mexico are preparing for increasing use of electric vehicles in the state and, while they have approved transportation electrification plans for the three investor-owned utilities in New Mexico, they say there is still more work to do. New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Joseph Maestas spoke about the need for a rulemaking process for electric transportation and said the PRC must plan for the $38 million that New Mexico will receive for charging infrastructure under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Maetas offered these comments during the PRC’s meeting last week following the approval of two transportation electrification plans. 

Southwestern Public Service Company, Public Service Company of New Mexico and El Paso Electric were required to submit transportation electrification plans to the PRC by the start of this year under the PRC Application for Public Safety law that passed the state Legislature in 2019. All three utilities filed these applications in 2020 and these plans have now been adopted. SPS’s plan received PRC approval in September and, on Nov.

NM issues first cannabis cultivation license

A New Mexico-based cannabis company announced this week that it received the first cannabis cultivation license earlier this month from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. 

In a statement from president and CEO of Mother’s Meds, Tony Martinez, the company was awarded a cannabis production license by RLD on November 1, 2021. In the statement, Martinez attributed the company’s “hard work, due diligence, and adaptability,” along with the “business friendly attitude” of San Juan County for Mother’s Meds getting the first production license, outside of the 34 legacy producers that carried over from the Department of Health. 

Martinez said Mother’s Meds, which is doing business as Lava Leaf Organics, will not likely hire many employees, but instead plans to establish contracts with other professionals. 

“My least favorite part of business is placing a value on another person’s efforts and talents; this model allows people more control over their destiny and to work with us, not for us,” Martinez wrote in a statement. “I believe this will allow our community to attract and retain more talented professionals than our competitors.”

A spokesperson for the state’s Cannabis Control Division confirmed on Wednesday that the department issued Martinez’s company a license, but added that there is still a pending background check.  

“Mother’s Meds has been issued a cannabis producer’s license and that license will go into effect as soon as all background check requirements are met,” division spokesperson Heather Brewer said in a statement. “The Cannabis Control Division is excited to start issuing licenses and looks forward to public announcements and celebrations of new businesses as the Division works to stand up a thriving adult-use cannabis industry in New Mexico.” 

Martinez said his company “will continue to comply with all CCD rules and regulations.”

Martinez, along with his brother and father unsuccessfully applied for a production license through DOH in 2015. Prior to the Cannabis Regulation Act, which went into effect earlier this year, medical cannabis businesses were licensed by DOH.