A federal judge proposed the appointment of a special master to oversee food and medical assistance programs in the state, the most clear indication of the severity of the problems in the programs’ administration by the state. The judges’ proposal is, in federal Magistrate Judge Carmen Garza’s words, “largely adopted from” the state Human Services Department’s remedy of a special master that will act as a monitor to bring the department into compliance with federal law. This is a breaking news story and has been update. It may be updated further. But the ruling makes clear that the special master will answer to the court and not HSD or the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.
Two of New Mexico’s U.S. Representatives are part of a sit-in by Democrats demanding a vote on legislation related to guns. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján, both Democrats, joined the sit-in led by Civil Rights movement leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., calling on what Democrats call the “no fly, no buy” bill. The legislation would bar those who are on terrorist watch lists from buying guns. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is one of the cosponsors of the bipartisan “no fly, no buy” legislation.
With several months left until the general election, the two candidates running for Secretary of State seem to have two different strategies for how to spend—or not spend—campaign money. In a press release Monday, Republican candidate Nora Espinoza’s campaign boasted that the campaign had more cash on hand than Democratic opponent Maggie Toulouse Oliver. “Toulouse Oliver actually outraised Espinoza during the most recent reporting period, but spent almost all of what she raised,” the release read. Toulouse Oliver, the current Bernalillo County Clerk, last reported having $125,000 on hand while Espinoza, an outgoing state representative from Roswell, last reported almost $160,000. Espinoza’s campaign reported paying almost $3,000 to former Secretary of State employee Bobbi Shearer for consulting work in May, but has spent little since then.
Jason Barker has been a medical cannabis patient in New Mexico for the past year and a half. His qualifications for the state program amount to his complex posttraumatic stress disorder diagnoses, a condition he said developed after being molested as a child, dealing with physical abuse as an adult and working as an EMT in South Carolina. When his PTSD symptoms get bad, Barker said he usually avoids the outside world “because things become that hard to deal with.”
Related: DOH gets warned about medical marijuana delays
This happened earlier this year when the state Department of Health, which administers the program, delayed Barker’s renewal in the program for 58 days total and 28 days after its expiration. State law requires each medical cannabis patient renew their cards every year, though that waiting period is supposed to last one month at most. The waiting time made Barker unable to legally purchase cannabis, putting him in what he called “a legal grey area.”
During the time Barker didn’t have access to cannabis, his PTSD symptoms kicked back into gear.
A national auditing organization reached out to Albuquerque Public Schools on Tuesday and asked the district to rethink the restructuring of the auditing department. David Jones, the city auditor of Seattle, penned the letter on behalf of the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) asking APS Board President David Peercy to keep the district’s current internal audit processes in place. Jones also serves as the ALGA’s advocacy committee chair. “We believe these changes significantly weaken the District’s audit functions and could limit the transparency of the District’s operations,” Jones wrote. APS is seeking to eliminate the independence of its auditors and shift those responsibilities to other areas of the district.
Political entities are the target of the latest scam and at least two school districts and one county have fallen prey, costing nearly $40,000 in public funds. The State Auditor announced the latest fraud, where employees receive an email from their boss saying they need emergency money wired. The money is then wired to a bank account run by the scammers. The State Auditor’s office issued a risk advisory, embedded below, to public entities around the state after at least three agencies saw themselves scammed. The State Auditor’s office said Zuni Public Schools, Deming Public Schools and San Miguel County all started wire transfers based on the fraudulent emails.
The federal government placed state Human Services Department on a “detailed corrective action plan,” mandating it correct its many problems with administering the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), the food benefits program formerly known as food stamps. In a May 27 letter to HSD Secretary Brent Earnest, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Administrator William Ludwig warned that failure to submit a plan “within 14 days of receipt of this letter” could lead to “further escalation.”
The potential fallout for New Mexico, according to the letter, includes “the possible suspension or disallowance of Federal funding for State administrative expenses.”
“It is imperative that HSD understand the severity and consequences outlined in this letter,” Ludwig wrote. On the surface, Ludwig’s letter faults HSD for giving SNAP benefits to people that it shouldn’t be. He details eight “severe compliance issues” where HSD broke federal regulations in its processing of SNAP applications. They include the department’s practice of keeping pending SNAP applications open for more than the required 60 days, approving applications without interviewing or determining a person’s eligibility for SNAP and failing to keep accurate records of clients.
Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump won New Mexico with 70.7 percent of the Republican vote, but in Los Alamos County he barely cleared half the vote from registered Republicans according to unofficial numbers from the Secretary of State. University of New Mexico political science professor Dr. Lonna Atkeson told NM Political Report there are a number of possible reasons Los Alamos didn’t overwhelmingly vote for Trump as most other counties did—all pointing to demographics. “There’s this thing about Trump being more working-class,” Atkeson said. “Los Alamos is sort of the opposite.”
According 2014 United States census data, 64 percent of residents in the county have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. A large number of residents work at Los Alamos National Labs and the county regularly ranks near the top of lists of areas with the most post-doctorate degrees per capita.
Voters, Democrats and Republicans at least, head to the polls today to vote on a variety of races from president down to county races. NM Political Report will keep you up to date with all of the races, especially the 13 high-profile races we outlined earlier. Follow along with the liveblog, that will start a few hours before polls close and last into the night. We will also be publishing shorter blog posts throughout the day. //
While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots. While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward. We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.
Senate District 17
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.
It’s Thursday afternoon and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson just arrived in Orlando for the Libertarian National Convention. In a makeshift campaign office, he’s shaking hands and listening to concerned Libertarians. Having arrived on the scene about 12 hours before Johnson, I’ve already scoped out the area. This is part two of a two-part story. Read part one here.
To see all of Andy Lyman’s reporting about the Libertarian National Convention, see our full series.