Note: This goes out to newsletter subscribers at the start of each week. We will post the first few on the website before it becomes a newsletter exclusive. Sign up here for free! Hello fellow political junkies! The political hurricane that has been New Mexico in the last 10 days seems to be easing up for a time. A short recap: On Sept.
Former governor, congressman and diplomat Bill Richardson died Saturday, according to the Richardson Center for Global Engagement. Richardson was 75.
According to a statement from Mickey Bergman, the vice president of the organization on Saturday, Richardson “passed away peacefully in his sleep last night.”
Richardson had a long history in New Mexico politics, including serving two terms as governor. But he also worked on the national and international stage. “He lived his entire life in the service of others — including both his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Bergman said. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called Richardson a “visionary who saw the potential of our great state before so many others did.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Wednesday that she reestablished a multi-agency Organized Crime Commission. The governor said during a press conference that the reestablished commission is “indicative of the kind of leadership that is occurring in the state of New Mexico that is laser-focused on public safety” and holding “individuals conducting criminal activity accountable at every level in every single place in the state and doing it in such a fashion that lends itself to our federal partners and other states so that we’re collaborating across state lines on activity that we know is impacting individuals public safety right here in our state.”
Lujan Grisham said she brought back the commission to combat human trafficking, drug trafficking and illegal gun access. “The individuals who participate here today are going to be looking at ways to enhance our success and holding those individuals accountable,” Lujan Grisham said. “The individuals on the street that they recruit drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal gun access and distribution… which all lends itself into some of the worst public health outcomes the country has ever seen.”
Lujan Grisham did not know how long since the commission was last active; however’ the last formal report from the commission came in 1978. Gov. Bill Richardson, who held office from 2003-2011, reestablished the commission but the Lujan Grisham administration could not find documents from that era.
If Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti wins election, he can still impact reproductive rights policy, even without being able to pass his priorities through the Legislature with Democratic majorities. Ronchetti has campaigned on an anti-abortion policy. During the Republican primary, his campaign website said he believed “life should be protected – at all stages.” In a commercial in September he said, that if elected, he would support a voter referendum on banning abortion after 15 weeks. But in July, Albuquerque megachurch pastor Steve Smothermon said Ronchetti told him privately that, if elected, Ronchetti still intended to ban abortion. Ronchetti’s campaign denied it.
Related: Pastor says Ronchetti would seek to ban abortion
Smothermon reiterated the claim to his congregation in October, saying that “he told me exactly what I said.”
Ronchetti’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Just as the New Mexico Legislature passes a new budget that will cut 0.6 percent out of the school budget for the next fiscal year, a newly released report shows that New Mexico is, again, at the bottom for child well being. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropic organization focused on children, released its annual report this week on child well being and ranked New Mexico as 50th in the nation. James Jimenez, executive director for the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, said New Mexico has ranked near the bottom for “a very long time,” but came to the lowest ranking in 2013 and has been there “for a few years.”
“It’s a reflection of the fact that despite what people say, that kids are our most precious asset, it’s not true in the way we invest our money in state and local government,” Jimenez said. Last week the state passed a revised state budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 that will cut 0.6 percent from the school budget despite cries from some school superintendents and advocates that this will be detrimental and will put the state in a position where it cannot live up to the requirements of the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit, which said the state did not provide adequate education for students. Related: Superintendents: Proposed cuts to education will worsen racial and economic inequity
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign the solvency budget, though she can veto by line-item.
On Friday morning, three Santa Fe firefighters in uniform walked up to state Sen. Peter Wirth in a Roundhouse hallway. They came bearing a form, and if the majority leader would sign on the dotted line, they’d be one step closer to getting new equipment.
They weren’t the only ones to seek Wirth’s help. The Palace of the Governors wanted interior renovation. The yet-to-be-constructed Vladem Contemporary art museum needed solar. Tesuque Pueblo was after remote monitoring for a drinking water system.
Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office is looking into whether convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein committed crimes in New Mexico.
The newly renewed attention on the New York financier came after investigative work by the Miami Herald—and resulted in new federal charges on sex trafficking charges. Thanks to a sweetheart deal from Alex Acosta, who announced Friday morning that he would resign from his position as U.S. Labor Secretary amid criticism of the plea deal, Epstein only served 13 months in county jail, and was granted work release. The deal was kept sealed, including from his victims.
Last week, the federal government charged Epstein with sex trafficking. The indictment says Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his home in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.” In addition to the homes listed by prosecutors, Epstein owned, and perhaps still owns, Zorro Ranch in New Mexico. And that ranch is where Balderas’ office is looking into allegations.
The easiest number to understand in the just-released 2019 Annie E. Casey Kid’s Count report is that New Mexico ranks 50th overall in child well-being. That’s a stark ranking, the second year in a row New Mexico earned that distinction. For detractors and supporters of former governor Susana Martinez, there’s a lot to digest in the numbers released Monday because they track with nearly her entire tenure. The chart below shows the Kids Count rankings in several categories for 2012-2019, but most of the data comes from 2010-17 (Rankings go back to 1990, but a different methodology was used in those years, making direct comparison difficult). New Mexico results in the annual Kids Count report prepared by NM Voices for Children
“It very much is a reflection of what happened, and more specifically, what didn’t happen during the Martinez years,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which monitors the indicators for New Mexico.
The state Senate on Friday approved a bill to prohibit private employers from using a job application that asks applicants about arrests or criminal convictions. The measure carried 28-11 and now advances to the House of Representatives. Employers would still be free to inquire about an applicant’s record after reviewing the application, said the bill sponsor, Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque. His proposal, Senate Bill 96, is intended to help people with a criminal history apply for jobs without being summarily disqualified. If given an opportunity to interview, their chances of finding work and steering clear of trouble increase, O’Neill said.
On a frigid Tuesday morning, Mariah Peña drove from her home at San Ildefonso Pueblo to go grocery shopping in Santa Fe with her son and little sister. Inside the Market Street supermarket, 7-year-old Damian settled onto his back in Peña’s empty shopping cart, kicking his legs up in the air in front of a case of colorful donuts. “Why should food be taxed?” Peña said. “Just trying to make it as a single mom is hard enough.”