Longtime former legislator ‘Kiki’ Saavedra dies

Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, who represented an Albuquerque South Valley district in the New Mexico House of Representatives for nearly 40 years, is dead. He was 82. House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, announced Saavedra’s death on the House floor Monday. A statement issued by son Marc Saavedra on behalf of the family said the late lawmaker suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the past couple of years. But, the statement said, “his lively spirit continued to shine through until the end, and we are grateful that he is now at peace.”

Andres Romero

Why is Governor Martinez trying to change history?

In October, while reviewing the new Public Education Department’s End of Course (EOC) Assessment Blueprint for U.S. History with my high school teacher colleagues, I was alarmed by the content being stricken from this year’s EOC. Students in high school U.S. History classes across New Mexico this year will not be tested on massive corporations and monopolies being forced to dismantle during the early twentieth century, the racial and ethnic conflict as people moved from farms to cities or the bravery of Rosa Parks in fighting segregation in the South. Andrés Romero is the Democratic State Representative in House District 10 and a social studies teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque

The New Mexico social studies EOC assessment is a state mandated test established by the Public Education Department to assess student competency in the subject. For the graduating class of 2018 and 2019, students are mandated to pass one social studies EOC. Furthermore, Governor Susana Martinez has decided to make a large portion of a teacher’s grade based on how well students do on tests, so how well students can answer questions that PED mandates has a huge impact on both any teacher’s future and therefore what students are taught. In the game of high stakes testing setup by the Governor, the EOCs are important both for student achievement and teacher evaluations.

Conversion therapy ban clears New Mexico House

After a contentious, hours-long debate, the state House of Representatives voted by a wide margin for a bill to ban conversion therapy for minors — the widely discredited practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation. The measure cleared the House late Wednesday on a 44-23 vote. Nine Republicans joined 35 Democrats in backing it. Only one Democrat, Rep. Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque, sided with a bloc of mostly rural Republicans who opposed the initiative. That group of Republicans dragged debate on the measure deep into the night, raising concerns that it would trample freedom of religion and suggesting that homosexuality is a choice or even a mental illness.

Legislators aim to outlaw ‘conversion therapy’ in NM

Randy Royster said when his daughter Amber started questioning her sexuality as a teen, he sent her to a therapist recommended by his pastor. The therapist used “conversion therapy,” a treatment designed to change a person’s sexual orientation. Royster said the therapy caused great harm to his daughter and guilt and shame for him. “No loving parent would purposefully do something that would hurt their children,” he said. “Had I known then what I know now, I would have turned to a therapist who understands that trying to change a young person’s sexual orientation through therapy is a long-discredited practice that often causes long-term mental and physical harm.”

NM’s final ballots include eight presidential candidates

The election ballots for November are set, and New Mexicans will have a few options when it comes to the presidential race. The ballots became final Tuesday at 5 p.m., giving time to print ballots and send to overseas and military voters starting this weekend. Secretary of State Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz told NM Political Report the ballots are final, barring a court stay or another order. At this point, that seems unlikely. On the presidential ticket, six smaller political parties qualified for the ballot alongside Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Odds and Ends: It’s an oil bust, not a slump

—A Susana Martinez adviser on energy policy said at an energy conference this weekend that the oil and gas market is in a “bust” period. From the Farmington Daily-Times:
“This is what a bust is. You lose the workforce,” said [Daniel] Fine, who is associate director at New Mexico Center for Energy Policy at New Mexico Tech. “Loss to the country and to the Southwest will be the workforce. It will be decimated at levels of less than $30 a barrel (of crude oil).”

House passes mandatory third grade retention bill

The recurring and controversial bill to mandate holding back third graders who can’t read at grade level passed the House of Representatives for a sixth year in a row Friday night. All Republican members voted for the bill, with just one Democrat, Rep. Dona Irwin of Deming, supporting it. The final vote was 36-27. As it has for the previous five years it’s been introduced, passed in the House, the bill sparked a long and sometimes contentious debate. In the previous instances, it was killed in the Senate.

Harsher DWI penalties pass House committee

Dueling philosophies between lawmakers on how to solve that state’s problem with drunk driving peppered debate in a House committee Thursday afternoon. Lawmakers in the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee heard three bills to add penalties to DWIs, all of which passed on mostly partisan grounds. Two of the bills, in fact, were called “Increase Certain DWI Penalties.”

One makes driving a car with a revoked driver’s license a fourth degree felony while punishing those who knowingly allow people with revoked licenses drive their cars. Another increases penalties for the fourth DWI by a year and ups someone’s eighth DWI from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. The third bill seeks to add DWI sentences to state habitual offender laws.

Bypass adds to central NM development debate

When it comes to divisive central New Mexico land development issues, the planned community of Santolina gets all the attention. But other projects to expand Albuquerque’s West Side are also quietly moving forward. Tucked in the many provisions included in this year’s reauthorization of previous year’s capital outlay projects is an extension of a bypass road west of Albuquerque. Currently, the Paseo del Volcan bypass extends from Unser Boulevard to Highway 550 in Rio Rancho. This year, the state Legislature approved funds to purchase right of way for the unfinished portion of Paseo del Volcan from Unser Boulevard to Interstate 40.

House nixes Dem ‘compromise,’ passes repeal of driver’s license law

A last-minute effort to find common ground on a longstanding and emotionally charged issue was shuffled aside Thursday evening by House Republicans and two Democrats before the chamber approved a measure to undo state law that allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. A 39 to 29 vote almost wholly weighted in favor of Republicans ended three hours of debate surrounding a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque. The legislation would allow the state to issue driver’s licenses to foreign nationals, if they can prove their legal immigration status with a visa, passport or federal employment authorization. Much of the discord revolved around a failed substitute measure from Minority Leader Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, meant to revive a previous plan for instituting two new forms of driver’s licenses. Pacheco’s proposal was transformed substantially through the committee process.