ACLU-NM concerned about public health order

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico issued a statement Monday about Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health and executive orders that went into effect Friday. The order prohibits carrying firearms in public places in Bernalillo County and other provisions aimed at curtailing violent crime. The ACLU-NM was concerned that the orders could “lead to overzealous policing and senseless incarceration.”

“The ACLU- NM is heartbroken over the recent death of a child and shares the governor’s concern for the well-being of our community. However, we are equally concerned that (Lujan Grisham’s) solution to the complicated problems of substance abuse, addiction and gun violence is to pour more resources into law enforcement,” ACLU-NM Litigation Manager Lalita Moskowitz said in Monday’s statement. “Historically, this kind of approach leads to the over-policing of our communities, racial profiling, and increased misery in the lives of already marginalized people.

Screenshot of Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen speaks during a press conference September 11, 2023.

Bernalillo County Sheriff ‘irritated’ by 30-day gun ban, will not enforce it

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen announced Monday in a press conference streamed to Facebook that his office would not enforce a public health order banning firearms in Bernalillo County for 30 days. Allen called the order unconstitutional and said that his decision will also  prevent violence against BCSO deputies. “(Lujan Grisham) knew we, as law enforcement, did not agree with the order,” Allen said. “My job is to keep the peace and to make sure that the citizens of Bernalillo County are safe and I do not believe that this order will help me do so. I’m a law enforcement professional.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a press conference on Sept. 8, 2023 regarding a new public health order.

‘Cooling off period’: Gov bans firearms in public in BernCo

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a temporary ban on carrying guns in public in Bernalillo County and asked for federal help to address gun violence. The governor and public safety leadership from across the state held a press conference Friday afternoon to announce a comprehensive public health order relating to gun violence. On Thursday, Lujan Grisham issued an executive order declaring a public health emergency with regards to gun violence on Thursday. This was replaced by a more in-depth public health order released at Friday’s press conference. The public health order restricts firearms in either open or concealed carry on public property for 30 days as a cooling off period, she said.

Rep. Miguel Garcia

State Rep. challenges governor’s vetoes of tax omnibus

Near the end of the 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session, the legislature passed a tax omnibus bill that was eventually signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The tax omnibus bill, HB 547, took about a month to reach the final version that both the state House and state Senate agreed to send to Lujan Grisham for her consideration. 

Lujan Grisham approved the bill with heavy line-item vetoes. Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, filed for a writ of mandamus in the New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday. The filing stated that Lujan Grisham did not have the constitutional right to line item veto any of the tax omnibus bill since it did not include any appropriation. A writ of mandamus is a court order to a government official “compelling performance of a ministerial act that the law recognizes as an absolute duty… it is used only when all other judicial remedies have failed,” according to Barron’s Law Dictionary.

New Mexico scores high in gender parity report

An organization seeking gender equality in public office ranked New Mexico fourth in its 2023 Gender Parity Index. RepresentWomen has published gender parity indices since 2013. In the last three indices, New Mexico has scored highly. Gender parity is when 50 percent or more public offices are held by women. The gender parity scores measure women’s representation across state and local government from 0-100 with 0 meaning there are no women in public offices to 100 if women serve in every public office.

Watchdog groups file brief in congressional gerrymandering case

Some watchdog groups and redistricting experts filed an amicus brief in a case concerning New Mexico’s congressional redistricting maps on Aug. 14. The brief was filed in state judicial district court by watchdog groups Common Cause New Mexico, Election Reformers Network and the League of Women Voters New Mexico and it supports neither party in the case. The case concerns objections to New Mexico’s redistricted congressional maps that expanded the 2nd Congressional District into Albuquerque. That seat is currently held by former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat. 

Plaintiffs in the case, including the Republican Party of New Mexico, claim the adopted congressional map is gerrymandered against theirs and others’ votes which they state violates the New Mexico Equal Protection Clause, the brief stated.

In ethics settlement, Lujan Grisham reverses Medicaid procurement cancellation

The State Ethics Commission announced Thursday that it reached a settlement between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Human Services Department over a terminated request for proposals for the Turquoise Care program. The state issued the Turquoise Care RFP in September 2022 and then Lujan Grisham’s administration terminated the RFP in January 2023. Five managed care organization contractors responded to the RFP and all but one, Western Sky Community Care, were awarded the RFP. “State Ethics Commission alleges that on January 30, 2023, acting HSD Secretary Kari Armijo, following instructions communicated by Governor’s Office employees, sent the five offerors the Notice of Termination of Turquoise Care Medicaid Managed Care Request for Proposals,” the settlement agreement stated. The SEC contends that the RFP’s termination violated the New Mexico Procurement Code.

More learning time, free meals coming to students this school year

As children prepare to return to school for the new public school year, they will see some changes after legislation passed in the 2023 legislative session. 

These include the K-12 Plus program which adds more learning time for students, teacher pay increases, universal free healthy meals and the new Office of Special Education under the New Mexico Public Education Department. “We’ve made great strides in the last year to reinforce the hard work educators across New Mexico already do in the classroom,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press release. “The changes everyone will see as they enter classrooms this month are designed to support students, teachers, administrators and parents, bolster the effort to improve test outcomes, and put New Mexico on the map as a national leader in the education movement centered on students.”

These changes come new laws passed during the legislative session earlier this year. HB 130 increases annual minimum classroom hours to 1,140. The legislation also encourages school districts to provide students with more learning opportunities such as after-school and summer school programs, tutoring and career technical education.

LFC report says New Mexico economy doing well, for now

The New Mexico economy, as of May 23, is doing well. It is going so well that state economists raised revenue estimates in the two fiscal years leading up to this year’s legislative session. That’s what the Legislative Finance Committee post-session report released on Tuesday said. 

“Recurring revenues for [Fiscal Year 2023] were estimated at almost $10.8 billion in the December 2022 estimate, up $928 million from the August estimate and up $1.7 billion from estimates a year earlier. Fiscal year 24 recurring revenues were estimated at almost $12 billion,” the report stated. Projected recurring revenues were estimated at nearly $3.6 billion, 42.7 percent growth over the previous year, for FY 24 which begins on July 1.

A photo of Owl Springs Way Bridge on the Jemez Pueblo posted to Facebook on April 20, 2023.

Guv declares a state of emergency over Sandoval County flooding

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency in Sandoval County earlier this week to make funds available to address flooding along the Jemez River corridor. 

The executive order declaring the state of emergency allows the county to receive $750,000 in state disaster response funds to help with the flood’s aftermath. The flooding came as a result of unusually high snowpack from the recent winter storms followed by higher spring temperatures. The flooding has so far affected the Village of Jemez Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Jemez/Walatowa Pueblo and the Village of San Ysidro. The Village of Jemez Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant overflowed into the Jemez River on April 12 and the Hidden Valley Bridge failed due to flooding, Sandoval County Manager Wayne Johnson told NM Political Report Wednesday. Wayne said that only effluent water got into the river.