A bill to fill service gaps in sexual assault programming passes first committee

A bill that will help fill gaps created by reduced federal funding for sexual assault services in New Mexico passed the House Health and Human Services Committee with no opposition on Wednesday. HB 133, Recruit Sexual Assault Service Providers, will, if enacted, provide $2 million from the general fund for Fiscal Year 2024 to New Mexico to recruit and retain sexual assault service providers in New Mexico. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission would receive the funding. Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor of the bill but Rep. Liz Thomson, also a Democrat from Albuquerque, presented the bill before the committee on Trujillo’s behalf. “This is a very simple bill,” Thomson said.

State Supreme Court dismisses Couy Griffin appeal over removal from office

The New Mexico Supreme Court denied an appeal from former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin in the case that removed him from office based on his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Griffin failed to file a statement of issues within 30 days of his notice of appeal. By state statute, this failure is grounds for the case’s dismissal. “This is an affirmation that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment can and should be enforced against all the January 6th insurrectionists who took an oath to defend the Constitution, whether they are current or former officeholders.

Otero County Sheriff David Black removes the microphone from former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin during a heated exchange at the regular Otero County Commission meeting November 10, 2022.

Couy Griffin confronts DuBois over appointment, derails meeting

Former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin caused a fuss at the Otero County Commission meeting last week when his time at the public comment table became so heated, one of the sitting county commissioners plans to file a restraining order against Griffin. Griffin was unhappy that Stephanie DuBois, a Democrat, was appointed to his old seat after Griffin was removed from office based on the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment’s Disqualification Clause after his conviction related to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington, D.C.

“I’m going to have to do what I’m going to have to do,” DuBois said Monday. 

DuBois deemed Griffin’s rant as a verbal assault and is in the process of filing a restraining order against Griffin. “Couy Griffin, duly elected and legitimate county commissioner of District 2 as well as founder of Cowboys for Trump and I’d like to just start out by saying looking up here at you Stephanie (DuBois) in that seat is a total disgrace,” Griffin declared. 

Griffin said that he felt DuBois’ appointment was disgraceful because she has run for office in Otero County eight times including in last week’s election and has lost each time. DuBois interjected and Griffin said that “I’m talking right now.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at a Democratic Party rally in Albuquerque on November 3, 2022.

Michelle Lujan Grisham wins a second-term after bruising campaign

Tuesday night ended with incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham winning reelection to the governor’s office. “Tonight, New Mexico said yes – yes to hope, yes to growth, yes to fighting for our neighbors, not against them,” Lujan Grisham said in a press release. “Tonight New Mexico said yes to equal justice under the law, New Mexico said yes to economic opportunity for all, New Mexico said yes to more health care for families, better education for kids and more economic freedom for workers and students.” The expensive campaign featured millions of dollars of ads on each side, with attack ads blanketing airwaves and mailers filling inboxes for weeks. Lujan Grisham spoke about protecting abortion access, while Ronchetti campaigned on crime, saying it was out of control in the state.

How a new governor could impact reproductive policy

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.

Trump endorses Ronchetti, Biden to campaign for Lujan Grisham

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti on a social media account this week. “(Ronchetti) will be tough & smart on Crime, the Border and everything else!” the post stated. 

“Mark is supported by people from all walks of life and all different viewpoints – including Democratic sheriffs, former Libertarian presidential candidate and New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and now former President Trump,” Ronchetti campaign spokesman Ryan Sabel said. 

The statement included some statements about New Mexico during Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s term as governor. “With crime at record levels and just 1 in 5 students learning at grade level, it’s not hard to see that, as governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham has made things worse and New Mexico needs to go in a different – and better – direction,” Sabel said. Lujan Grisham reacted to the Trump endorsement with a statement of her own. “Donald Trump’s endorsement of Mark Ronchetti emphasizes the clear choice in this race: I will keep delivering on the issues that matter to New Mexico families, while Mark Ronchetti would bring Donald Trump’s extreme national Republican policies to New Mexico,” the incumbent said.

"Vote Here" signs in front of the Otero County Administration Building on New York Avenue in Alamogordo.

From counting to consequences: Your guide to how ballots are counted and what happens if a county refuses to certify an election

After a year that included a southern New Mexico county commission refusing to certify a primary election, misinformation about New Mexico’s election security and how it has affected voter turnout, the Secretary of State’s Office and county clerks are ready for Election Day next week. “(The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office) is feeling good about it, no reports of anything bad happening as far as we know,” New Mexico Secretary of State spokesman Alex Curtas said. “It seems people are voting easily and without disruption we’re getting pretty good turnout numbers… I wouldn’t be surprised if we got upwards of 60 percent for total turnout when all is said and done.”

On election night on Nov. 8, votes will be counted after the polls close at 7 p.m.

These include the absentee ballots which begin being processed (separated from the envelopes and shuffled to preserve voter anonymity) prior to election night. The absentee ballots are not run through machines until after polls close on Nov.

U.S. Supreme Court says Biden has authority to end anti-immigration policy

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Joe Biden has the authority to end the Trump-era immigration policy forbidding asylum seekers from entering the U.S.

On its final day of the 2020-2021 term, the Supreme Court agreed with Biden in Biden v. Texas that he has the authority to end former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, also known as the Migration Protection Protocols. The policy has prevented asylum seekers from entering the U.S.

Biden is still fighting, separately, the ability to end Title 42, which put controls on asylum seekers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump issued that policy in the spring of 2020, saying at the time that he was protecting human health. The Biden administration has tried to lift Title 42 this year but a Louisiana federal court blocked the move in May. Biden entered office in 2021 saying he would end Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy but states have blocked his attempt through court action.

What the court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade could mean to New Mexico’s LGBTQIA+ community

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as is now expected this summer, the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community will be thrown into jeopardy, advocates believe. In the leaked draft opinion that reveals the Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito attacked the court’s arguments written into the Roe v. Wade decision affirming the right to abortion. He also took aim at Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed Roe. Roe v. Wade rests on the argument that individuals have a right to privacy and that the right can be found in the 14th Amendment and in other amendments. Subsequent rulings that effect LGBTQIA+ rights, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision granting the right to same sex marriage, rests on a similar argument.

The end of a Trump-era immigration policy potentially in jeopardy

Immigrant advocacy groups raised an alarm on Tuesday about the potential for Title 42, a Donald Trump-era policy that prohibits asylum seekers from crossing the U.S. border, to continue after May 23. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that it would end Title 42 by May 23. Many immigrant advocates hailed this as a step in the right direction by the Joe Biden administration, which campaigned on a more humane approach to migrants along the southern U.S. border. The Trump administration implemented Title 42 soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began. That administration claimed it was prohibiting individuals from crossing the southern border to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease but immigrant advocacy groups have called the policy racist and inflammatory.