U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, creating public health emergency

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday morning, creating what individuals working on the front lines of reproductive access in New Mexico called a “public health emergency” during a press conference Friday afternoon. Farinaz Khan, a healthcare provider, said every abortion clinic in four states closed by Friday morning. “As women and people with uteruses, we are second class citizens in our own country. Our patients will be deeply harmed by this decision,” she said. Many during the press conference stressed that abortion is, and will remain, legal and safe in New Mexico.

Poll: Lujan Grisham even approval/disapproval ratings

Just under 50 percent of New Mexico voters approve of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s job performance according to a recent poll commissioned by NM Political Report. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, found that 48 percent of New Mexico voters approved of her job performance while an equal 48 percent disapproved. Another 5 percent were not sure. The numbers do not add up to 100 percent because of rounding. Lujan Grisham’s approval was higher among women than men, with 54 percent of women approving of her job performance and 54 percent of men disapproving.

U.S. Senators ask Biden to take executive action on abortion

A group of 25 senators, including Sen. Martin Heinrich, signed a letter to President Joe Biden this week urging him to take executive action to defend reproductive rights across the U.S.

The letter urges Biden to issue an executive order to direct the federal government to develop a national plan. The letter expresses urgency due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s likely plan to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer when it issues the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. The letter says that Biden has the “unique power to marshal the resources of the entire federal government to respond.”

The letter asks that Biden consider expanding access to medication abortion, provide vouchers for travel and childcare for individuals who must travel to other states for abortion care, establish a reproductive health ombudsman to gather and disseminate accurate reproductive information, guarantee Medicaid coverage for all family planning service clinics and clarify protections on sensitive information such as data gathered by some phone applications. The letter also encourages Biden to consider allowing abortion care on federal property, particularly in states where it will be restricted. Earlier this week Vice President Kamala Harris addressed a roundtable of faith leaders in Los Angeles and discussed, among other things, the need to protect reproductive rights.

Senators push for more funding for wildfire smoke monitoring

The western United States has experienced some of the largest fires in recorded history in recent years and the smoke from those blazes has impacted human health and the environment. Now politicians from several of the states impacted by the fires are pushing for increased funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor wildfire smoke. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico, joined five other Democratic senators representing California and Arizona in urging the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to increase the funding by $20 million to allow for a more equitable deployment of monitoring equipment. These senators sent a letter to the committee’s leaders. “The President’s Budget requests $12.7 million for the EPA to improve communications related to wildfires and air quality and to expand local smoke monitoring capacity.

Senate blocks effort to codify Roe v. Wade

A vote in the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster on the Women’s Health Protection Act failed on Wednesday. The Senate took up the issue originally in February when Senate Republicans filibustered the bill. To end the filibuster and allow the Senate to vote on the legislation, Senate Democrats needed 60 votes in support. With one Democrat siding with Republicans and a 50-50 party split in the chamber, Democrats lacked enough votes to try to hear the bill on the floor. The Women’s Health Protection Act would have codified Roe v. Wade in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s final decision on the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban expected this summer.

Advocates, elected officials and the public respond with rallies and outrage over Supreme Court draft decision on abortion rights

The leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case that appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade woke up many on Tuesday to a “shocking” reality which may be imminent. Politico released on Monday a leaked draft document, dated February from the Supreme Court. The document is a majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case the court heard in early December. Because the document is still a draft, there is still opportunity for the court to rule differently in late June or early July, though it appears unlikely with the current makeup of the court. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito authored the draft, which overturns Roe v. Wade and rules in favor of the state of Mississippi in the Dobbs case.

Comments sought on SunZia transmission project

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on proposed amendments to the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project that will move electricity from New Mexico across Arizona and into California. The BLM released a 525-page draft Environmental Impact Statement and draft Resource Management Plan amendment on Friday. This came after SunZia requested an amendment to their existing right of ways last year. The new right of ways could incorporate parts of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands. A 90-day public comment period opened this week and will include three public comment sessions hosted using the Zoom web platform.

Heinrich pushes for hardrock mining reform

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, has once again introduced legislation attempting to reform what he describes as an outdated hardrock mining law. 

On Tuesday, Heinrich introduced the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act, which would strengthen the regulations for hardrock mining. U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, also a Democrat from New Mexico, is listed as one of the co-sponsors. This comes after New Mexico has faced several mining-related disasters over the years. One of the high profile disasters was the Gold King Mine Spill of 2015 that sent a plume of heavy-metal laden water into the Animas River in Colorado that ultimately flowed into New Mexico. 

Heinrich has been pushing for hardrock mining reform for years and the legislation he introduced this week is similar to what he has introduced in the past. However, an infrastructure package that passed last fall created an abandoned hardrock mine reclamation program.

New government report details reportedly unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Torrance County Detention Facility

The federal Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Inspector General issued an alert this week to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to recommend that all individuals housed at the Torrance County Detention Facility be relocated due to reportedly unsanitary and unsafe conditions. The 19-page report issued on Wednesday detailed conditions that include a broken toilet containing human waste in a vacant cell in an occupied housing unit, as well as staffing shortages, a lack of hot water access and other issues. Several nonprofit organizations that advocate for the rights of detainees called on ICE to release the individuals housed at Torrance County Detention Facility. The Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation also issued a press release late Friday condemning the “inhumane” conditions and called on President Joe Biden to “act swiftly” to address the reported unsafe conditions. “ICE should no longer defend the inhumane living conditions at the Torrance County Detention Facility.

New Mexico congressional delegation seeking approval for state’s constitutional amendment

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich announced bicameral legislation last week to seek federal approval for the state’s proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would tap an additional 1.25 percent from the Land Grant Permanent Fund. Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbuy, both Democrats, introduced the legislation. U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján and U.S. House of Representative Teresa Leger Fernández, also both Democrats, are co-sponsors of the legislation. If both Congress and New Mexico voters approve the proposal, which will likely land on the ballot next fall, the state will appropriate the additional 1.25 percent annually from the fund to increase teacher salaries for K-12 public education and to establish new funding for early childhood education. If the U.S. Congress provides its consent to the New Mexico Education Enhancement Act, the proposal will then go before voters, likely in November 2022, to decide.