VP Harris visits NM to talk reproductive rights

Vice President Kamala Harris said during an event in New Mexico on Tuesday that the fight around reproductive rights in the United States will affect women all over the world. Harris stopped in Albuquerque to talk with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and University of New Mexico Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Planning Fellowship Director Dr. Eve Espey about protecting reproductive rights. The moderated discussion took place in front of a packed house of about 250 people at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall in the Center for the Arts and Arts Museum. Harris said people around the world watch what is happening politically in the U.S. She said former German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaned over during a conversation about Russia and China and asked Harris about what is happening with voting rights in the U.S.

“My fear on this issue is that dictators around the world will say to their people who are fighting for rights, ‘you want to hold out America as the example?’ Look at what they just did; be quiet,’” she said. “I highlight the significance of this moment and the impact, which not only directly impacts the people of our nation but very likely impacts people around the world.”

 Harris highlighted her mother’s career, saying that her mother was one of the very few women of color researching breast cancer in her era.

Lt. Governor contrasts governor’s record on reproductive rights with GOP opponent

Lt. Governor Howie Morales held a press conference in Albuquerque on Monday to highlight Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s record on abortion rights just weeks before early voting and absentee voting begin. Morales spoke, briefly, in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood. He was joined by Marlene Simon, a Santa Fe woman who was raped and had an illegal abortion in 1969, by Dr. Heather Brislen, a New Mexico physician, and by Lila Nezar, a student studying public health at UNM. 

Morales contrasted Lujan Grisham’s record on abortion rights against her GOP opponent, Mark Ronchetti. He highlighted the Legislature’s repeal of the state’s 1969 antiquated abortion ban in 2021. Lujan Grisham signed the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which removed the 1969 ban from the state’s criminal code, before the Legislature ended that spring.

NM expands early childcare subsidies

For the next two years, New Mexico will raise the income eligibility for childcare assistance from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 350 percent of the federal poverty level with a phase out at 400 percent of the federal poverty level, officials announced Thursday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Early Childcare Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and state Sen. Michael Padilla spoke during a press conference Thursday to announce the change. The press conference was also part of a one-year anniversary celebration for ECECD, which is an agency that began under the Lujan Grisham administration to improve early childcare education. The press conference was held in Santa Fe and online. The department will use emergency funds available through the federal American Rescue Plan to increase the assistance starting August 1.

Paid sick leave passes Senate after lengthy, acrimonious debate including a filibuster

The state Senate passed the Healthy Workplaces bill 25 to 16 after a lengthy debate that stretched into the early hours of Friday during which Democrats sparred against each other on the chamber floor over the treatment of the bill’s sponsor, while Republicans railed against the bill and one even held a lengthy filibuster. HB 20 would mandate that all private sector employers provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Private sector employees could accrue up to 64 hours a year of paid sick leave. The bill would not go into effect until July 1, 2022. Advocates had pushed for mandated paid sick leave for years, including at the local level in Albuquerque.

Further reopening on pause as officials urge more widespread wearing of masks

One message resonated throughout the state’s press conference on COVID-19: wear a mask. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and officials said wearing a mask is key to slowing the spread of the virus—and to further reopening the state. Lujan Grisham said the state of New Mexico has seen an uptick in cases of the disease in recent days, and that further easing of restrictions, and moving on to the next phase of reopening, would be on hold. “Our goal should be to reduce cases,” she said. “What happens when we reduce cases?

Cowboys for Trump leader in hot water after saying ‘the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat’

An Otero County Commissioner and leader of a group that supports President Donald Trump is facing calls to resign over his declaration that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

The commissioner, Couy Griffin, made the remarks this weekend at a protest in Truth or Consequences where a number of elected officials and candidates for office spoke against restrictions imposed by the state to slow the spread of COVID-19. The protest came after a church in Truth or Consequences received a cease and desist for holding services despite the state’s public health emergency order that, at the time, banned in-person services. Churches can now hold in-person services with 25 percent capacity. Griffin quickly followed his comment, which was met by cheers from those in attendance according to a video posted by his organization ‘Cowboys for Trump,’ by saying he meant a political death, not a physical death. “We need to have, I say the reason why the only good Democrat’s a dead Democrat, I’m saying politically speaking, and I’m saying it because we need to have majorities in the House and Senate,” Griffin said.

ACLU spending on education in two state senate districts targeted by progressives

Two progressive Democrats, Siah Correa Hemphill and Pam Cordova, who are challenging  incumbents who lean more to the right within the Democratic party, are getting a boost in their campaign efforts. Correa Hemphill is running against incumbent Democratic state Sen. Gabriel Ramos. With her May filing report, she has outraised Ramos by $53.26. Ramos, who was appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to replace Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, is running his first election for the seat. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is spending $150,000 in the remaining weeks of the primary to educate voters on the fact that Ramos and state Sen. Clemente Sanchez, also a Democrat, both voted against HB 51 in 2019.

Progressive Democratic challengers want new voices in the state legislature

District Senate 38 Democratic candidate Carrie Hamblen got a boost last week in her bid to defeat incumbent state senate candidate and President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen. That’s because the race narrowed to two candidates – Papen and Hamblen – last week when healthcare professional and entrepreneur Tracy Perry dropped out, citing health reasons. Hamblen, who was the morning radio host for National Public Radio local member station KRWG for 20 years, would have likely split the more left leaning Democratic voters in District 38 with Perry. But Hamblen said the race is now, “more of a challenge for Senator Papen.”

Perry’s name will remain on the ballot. Hamblen is one of seven progressive Democrats running for state senate seats in the upcoming June 2 primary against a group of more conservative-leaning Democrats.

After filibuster, Senate OKs power plant shutdown bill

A bill aimed at shutting down the coal-burning San Juan Generating Station and strengthening New Mexico renewable energy standards survived a rambling 3 1/2-hour filibuster and other parliamentary maneuvering by opponents in the state Senate on Wednesday night. But one victim of the games on the Senate floor was the annual House vs. Senate basketball contest at the Santa Fe Indian School gym, an annual benefit for the University of New Mexico’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Senate team had to concede and return to the Capitol, some members arriving in the Senate chamber still wearing basketball gear, because the debate on Senate Bill 489 — dubbed the Energy Transition Act — went on well into the night. State Sen. Cliff Pirtle returned to the Senate floor wearing his jersey for the House-Senate basketball game and the rules-mandated tie.

Bill to create early childhood education department advances

One of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s favored legislative initiatives finally advanced Wednesday when the Senate Rules Committee voted 8-0 for a bill to create a centralized department for early childhood education. Senate Bill 22 would consolidate programs that are spread among several agencies, including the Public Education Department and the Children Youth and Families Department. The sponsor, Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, helped his cause by cutting in half his initial request of $2.5 million to get the department running by July 1, 2020. Padilla now is seeking $1.25 million for the department to make the proposal more palatable. He said the public would benefit from the new agency.