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.

Trump-era immigration policy ends with pandemic, advocates concerned for asylum seekers

The public health order that has prevented asylum seekers from crossing the border through ports of entry ends at midnight Thursday. The public health order, called Title 42, ends at midnight ET on May 11. President Donald Trump invoked it at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, claiming it would help stop the spread of the respiratory disease but many critics have called it a racist ploy to stop immigration along the southern border. President Joe Biden tried to end Title 42 after he took office but legal challenges by Republicans led to the courts overturning Biden’s plans. The policy ends on Thursday because the U.S. Health and Human Services is allowing the federal public health emergency for COVID-19 to end on Thursday as well.

A stock photo of construction workers and equipment.

Nationwide unemployment rates hold steady in April

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its federal monthly jobs report Friday. The report showed that the unemployment rate, the percentage of eligible workers filing for unemployment insurance, has remained steady since March 2022. The current federal unemployment rate is 3.4 percent compared to March 2022 when it was 3.7 percent. The report states that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 253,000 jobs in April. Employment trended upward in the professional and business services, health care, leisure and hospitality, and social assistance, the report states.

As pandemic emergencies end, people battling Long Covid feel ‘swept under the rug’

Jackie Fortiér, KPCC/LAist April 18, 2023

Lost careers. Broken marriages. Dismissed and disbelieved by family and friends. These are some of the emotional and financial struggles long covid patients face years after their infection. Physically, they are debilitated and in pain: unable to walk up the stairs, focus on a project, or hold down a job.

Abortion rights protestors rally in Washington D.C.

An anti-abortion federal judge in Texas could change abortion access in New Mexico

Update: The judge made his ruling Friday evening and invalidated the FDA approval though the judge stayed his own order for seven days to allow the FDA to appeal. A second federal judge in Washington ordered the FDA to make no changes to the availability of mifepristone. This story appears as originally written below. A federal district judge in Texas is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether the abortion drug mifepristone can remain on the market. The case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, was brought to the Amarillo-based federal district court, abortion advocates have said, because the sole federal judge there has ties to Christian-based organizations and has said before that he supports state bans on birth control.

Lujan Grisham to end state’s COVID-19 public health emergency

The state’s COVID-19 public health emergency will come to an end at the end of March, a little more than three years after the governor first issued her executive order over the deadly respiratory illness. The governor announced her renewal of the public health emergency order on Friday would be the final one, and it would expire on March 31. 

“While we’re still seeing COVID cases, our preparedness and collaborative work have helped turn a once-in-a-century public health emergency into a manageable situation,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement on Friday. “We are working diligently across state agencies to make sure New Mexicans continue to be supported as federal COVID programs wind down.” 

This comes as the federal government also plans to end its COVID-19 emergencies. President Joe Biden announced earlier this year that he would end the national emergencies for COVID-19 on May 11. 

Lujan Grisham first declared a public health emergency on March 11, 2020, the same day the state detected its first confirmed cases of the disease. 

In the coming weeks, the governor included drastic efforts to slow the spread of the disease, including shuttering restaurants, banning public gatherings and implementing capacity restrictions in places like grocery stores. The state also, for a time, mandated the use of masks in public areas.

Session goes on amid COVID-19 concerns

State Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, appeared remotely during the Monday Senate floor session after he tested positive for COVID-19 over Presidents’ Day weekend. The Roundhouse was different in some respects on Monday: more people were masking and social distancing as they were able. The Legislative Health Office is located near the Senate Gallery on the second floor in room 214 where tests were being given to those who asked for one or boxes with tests were being given for offices that wanted them. “In light of recent COVID cases in the Roundhouse, we have reached unanimous consent to suspend a section of House Rules to allow for members who test positive for COVID to participate virtually in both committee hearings and floor sessions until their isolation period is complete,” NM House Democrats spokeswoman Camille Ward said via email Monday. “We are also encouraging masking, social distancing and testing.

Sen. Peter Wirth

Wirth tests positive for COVID-19

New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Wirth is currently self-isolating at home per state and CDC COVID-19 guidelines. Wirth may continue participating in the legislative floor sessions and committee meetings remotely, per senate rules. “Thankfully, I am experiencing only mild symptoms after being fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19,” Wirth said in a statement. “Per medical guidance, I will be self-isolating for the next several days but intend to continue my work on behalf of my constituents and all New Mexicans via remote participation.

Legislation to limit governor’s emergency powers die in committee

The House Judiciary Committee tabled two pieces of legislation related to terminating states of emergency on Wednesday. Both HB 80 and HJR 3 sought to terminate states of emergency after 90 days unless the legislature is called into special session to address the circumstances of the state of emergency. “They are two pieces of legislation that I have worked on since about May of 2020 and have worked on in the language that’s before you and both pieces of legislation are the words that former Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, and I negotiated,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said. “I bring before you these pieces of legislation because I feel strongly about the separation of powers.”

Committee member Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, asked about the legislature’s current constitutional power to call itself into extraordinary session by a three-fifth supermajority. “What I don’t understand is why we need this.

Bill to eliminate gross receipts tax on infant diapers clears first committee

A bill that would end gross receipts tax on diapers received bipartisan support and cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday. HB 222 seeks to eliminate gross receipts tax on infant diaper sales in New Mexico. State Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, sponsors the bill. State Rep. Joshua Hernandez, R-Rio Rancho, is also a sponsor of the bill. He said during the committee hearing that families in New Mexico are paying “$1,000 annually for this basic necessity.”

He called it a “crushing” cost and said that diapers are not covered by either Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program nor the Women, Infants and Children Program.