Indigenous New Mexicans speak to Congress about missing and murdered Native women

Two New Mexico Native women spoke before a U.S. Congress subcommittee on Thursday about the problems that contribute to the high numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives. Angel Charley, of the Laguna Pueblo and executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, testified before the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties during a hearing on the Neglected Epidemic of Missing BIPOC Women and Girls. She spoke about the failures of the U.S. government to stop what she called “a crisis” of missing and murdered Indigenous individuals. According to the 2020 New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force Report, New Mexico has the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous cases in the U.S., although it has the fifth largest Indigenous population in the nation. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said that according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the total number of missing Indigenous women is unknown due to a lack of data.

Governor announces immediate end to mask mandate

In her post-session press conference, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico would no longer have an indoor mask mandate in public settings, effective immediately. Lujan Grisham spoke while flanked by Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate following the end of the state’s 30-day legislative session. She and most other leaders removed their masks at that time. “I want to express my gratitude to every New Mexican who has steadfastly worn a mask, gotten vaccinated, and done everything in their power to protect their neighbors, as well as the heroic health care and frontline workers who have courageously supported our communities during this uncertain time,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Given the continued drop in hospitalizations and the lessening of the burden on our hospitals, it’s time to end the mask mandate.

Sexual assault nurse examiner shortage impacts victims and families

When the sun comes up, a sexual assault nurse examiner could be coming home from investigating a case after getting a call in the early hours of the morning. Autumn Skinner, a Portales-based sexual assault nurse examiner, has had to drive outside of the seven-county region she serves due to a lack of sexual assault nurse examiners [known as SANEs] in rural areas across the state. She has had to drive three hours one way to examine a victim and she has had to ask victims to meet her at a hospital halfway due to the distance. “I’ve gone out to Union County in the middle of the night and not come home until the sun comes up,” she said. Some programs in the state lack the means to offer on-call SANE care for victims, she said.

Pilot project to study guaranteed basic income impacts on immigrant and mixed status families starts in March

A group of 330 undocumented and mixed status families living in 13 counties in New Mexico will participate in a pilot project starting in March that will study the impact of those families receiving a guaranteed basic income for 12 months. The families will receive $500 a month for 12 months and participate in online surveys as well as more in-depth interviews on how the 12-month guaranteed income impacts their lives, officials said during a press conference held virtually on Monday. The New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group, a coalition of immigrant-based and advocacy organizations, is spearheading the project in conjunction with UpTogether, a California-based nonprofit that will be supplying $2 million of the grant money. The coalition also received an initial grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the project, Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said during the press conference. Jesús Gerena, chief executive officer of UpTogether, said the families studied will be selected through a randomized lottery system.

A memorial to study paid family medical leave impacts goes to House floor next 

A memorial that is part of a longer strategy to introduce a bill in next year’s legislature for paid family and medical leave passed 7-2 largely along party lines in the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. House Memorial 3, sponsored by state House Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, asks for a $160,000 appropriation to establish a task force comprised of 16 stakeholders to study the effects of paid family and medical leave in the state. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions would oversee the task force. If a paid family medical leave bill is introduced and passed and signed in 2023, the implementation of the law would fall under the Department of Workforce Solutions, Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, told NM Political Report. Creating paid family medical leave in the state is an equity issue because women of color often live in multi-generational households, she said.

Report shows low voter confidence for national election results, but more confidence in state and county elections

A new report from the University of New Mexico’s Department of Political Science indicates that voter confidence is higher in state and county elections while voters are more polarized in national elections. This and other findings were discussed during a virtual press conference on 2020 voting information. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also said during the press conference that if the new voting rights bill is passed, the NMSOS office would expect to see an increase in civic engagement. Toulouse Oliver held the virtual press conference on Wednesday to discuss the results of the report, called 2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report. During the discussion, she said that if SB 8, sponsored by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, passes, NMSOS would “see an increase in participation.” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed expanding voting rights this year.

New regional Planned Parenthood head announces expanded medication abortion care

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Albuquerque added medication abortion care to its options this month, creating a sixth clinic in New Mexico to offer some level of abortion care in the state. Adrienne Mansanares, the new president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report that in addition to the expanded care at the Northeast Heights clinic, she is hopeful that PPRM will also be able to formally announce a larger clinic in Albuquerque sometime later this year, as well. Mansanares said the expanded care at the Northeast Heights clinic will enable PPRM to help with both the needs of the local community, patients traveling from other areas of New Mexico that lack abortion care access and continue to serve people coming from other states, such as Texas. Mansanares, who was the chief experience officer for PPRM beginning in 2016, stepped into her new position to replace Vicki Cowart, who announced her retirement last fall. 

Cowart said through a news release that she couldn’t “think of a more passionate, dedicated and forward-thinking leader” than Mansanares. “The impact Adrienne has had on this organization cannot be overstated, and PPRM will be in strong, talented, and innovative hands under her leadership,” Cowart said.

2021 Kids Count Data Book indicates positives but also continued challenges

The advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2021 Kids Count Data Book on Wednesday and said that, according to the data, New Mexico saw 20,000 additional children enrolled in Medicaid in 2021. Emily Wildau, the New Mexico Kids Count Data Book coordinator, said that data was one of the biggest surprises for her to come out of the annual assessment of how New Mexico is doing in terms of how children are doing. “That was one of the biggest things that really stuck out,” Wildau said. Every year NMVC releases the Kids Count Data Book that assesses how New Mexico children are faring. Wildau said that this year, because of some data collection challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the data is based on earlier surveys and resources.

Legislative session to start amid COVID surge

If you plan to attend this year’s 30-day legislative session at the state Capitol, here’s a piece of advice: Don’t forget a mask or proof of vaccination and a booster shot. The Roundhouse will be open to the public when the Legislature convenes Tuesday, but with safeguards designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the threat of the virus continues to hang over New Mexico nearly two years after it arrived. The open doors stand in contrast to the tightly shuttered New Mexico Capitol during last year’s 60-day session, when both the pandemic and fears of violence erupting in response to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol prompted state lawmakers to increase security measures. Another change from most previous sessions: Weapons are prohibited, though small pocket knives will be permitted.

Legislation aims to limit executive emergency powers

Thirty-day legislative sessions in New Mexico are typically reserved for budget issues, along with any special issues the governor asks lawmakers to consider. This year, besides the budget, legislators are expected to debate and vote on bills regarding public safety and education. But two lawmakers are hoping that at least one of their two bills to limit emergency powers of the executive branch gains at least some traction this year. 

House Joint Resolution 3 and House Bill 40 both aim to limit the amount of time a governor can maintain emergency orders without a say from legislators. Both pieces of legislation are sponsored by Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, and Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell. One major difference between the two is that the joint resolution would not require Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s approval, as it is a proposed constitutional amendment. 

Ely and Nibert can usually be found on opposite sides of most issues, but in this case, they seem to have found common ground in wanting to give some power back to the Legislature.