Slight majority of voters give thumbs up to Gov on COVID response

A slight majority of voters support Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while a slight plurality say the same about President Joe Biden according to a poll commissioned by NM Political Report. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, found that 51 percent of voters approve of the job Lujan Grisham has done in handling the ongoing pandemic, while 46 percent disapproved. The same amount disapproved of President Joe Biden’s job performance on the pandemic, though just 48 percent said they approved. The approval largely fell along partisan lines, with 81 percent of Democrats approving of Biden’s handling of the pandemic compared to 10 percent who disapproved, while 86 percent of Republicans disapproved of the handling of the pandemic and 12 percent approved. Among independent voters, 61 percent disapproved, while 33 percent approved.

Poll: Lujan Grisham with narrow lead at start of general election

A new poll commissioned by NM Political Report shows that incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham holds a narrow lead over Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti at the start of the general election campaign. The poll by Public Policy Polling shows Lujan Grisham leads Ronchetti 45 percent to 42 percent, with Libertarian Karen Bedonie receiving 9 percent and 5 percent saying they’re not sure. The lead for Lujan Grisham is within the margin of error for the poll. Related: Poll: Lujan Grisham even approval/disapproval ratings

Lujan Grisham won the 2018 gubernatorial campaign 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent over Steve Pearce, the Republican candidate and now chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico. Ronchetti lost the 2020 U.S. Senate election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján 51.7 percent to 45.6 percent with Libertarian Bob Walsh taking 2.6 percent.

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.

EPA, state reach settlement over Gold King Mine spill

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to pay the state of New Mexico $32 million as part of a settlement announced Thursday in the Gold King Mine spill case. In August 2015, EPA crews triggered a mine spill in Colorado that sent heavy-metal laden water into the Animas River, which flows through northwest New Mexico. “There were failures in the system and there were a lot of questions and there was a lot of fear in this community,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said. “I still remember coming in that day, and it was chaotic.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Balderas, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney and EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe met with reporters and community leaders at the Farmington Museum to announce the settlement. Balderas said that, in the wake of the mine spill, New Mexico officials realized “the state was going to have to get into a fistfight to really be a voice and to assess damages.”

While EPA Administrator Michael Regan did not attend the event, the agency sent out a statement following the announcement.

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.

Gov. Lujan Grisham signs special session relief bill

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill on Friday that will provide New Mexicans with payments up to $1,000. 

HB 2, which the Legislature passed earlier this week during a special legislative session, uses $698 million to provide $500 to single tax filers and $1,000 to joint filers. The legislation will also use $20 million to provide relief, on a first-come, first-served basis, to those who did not file income taxes.  

“Today I am glad to enact legislation easing the burden of high national prices, putting money in New Mexicans’ pockets and protecting their paychecks,” Lujan Grisham said. 

Lujan Grisham also signed SB 1, which will set aside $50 million for community projects around the state. Referred to as a “junior” spending bill, SB 1 was the second attempt of a bill that the Legislature passed during the 30-day session earlier this year, but that Lujan Grisham pocket vetoed. 

Both bills come on the heels of a bill that the Legislature passed during the 30-day session and the governor signed that will provide up to $1,500 in relief to New Mexico households to counter increased gas prices. 

State expands postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months

The New Mexico Human Services Department will expand postpartum Medicaid availability to 12 months of coverage starting Friday. The agency began efforts this past winter to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months with a target date of April 1. The state is able to expand the coverage from two months to 12 months due to recent changes in federal law that allows the state to change how it asks for Medicaid dollars. The expansion will continue for five years. After that, the federal government will decide to continue to allow the expansion.

Special session for economic relief coming in April

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced an upcoming special session beginning on April 5 after an agreement with legislative leaders. At issue is a “junior” spending bill, which Lujan Grisham pocket vetoed. The governor said legislators would bring up a “revised” spending bill. She also indicated that she will ask the Legislature to provide further economic relief in light of rising inflation and soaring gas prices. “As prices remain high nationwide, it is clear that we must act swiftly to deliver more relief to New Mexicans,” the governor said.

Guv signs omnibus crime bill 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an  omnibus crime bill into law on Wednesday, which officials say will reduce crime. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, pushed a “tough on crime” agenda during the 2022 Legislative session. Lawmakers rolled several crime bills into one to create the omnibus bill, which increases penalties for violent offenders. State House Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Santa Fe, sponsored HB 68. The new law will also eliminate “gay panic” defense in criminal cases.

NM Supreme Court rules citizen grand juries on state emergency orders are invalid

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a handful of citizen-initiated grand jury petitions filed against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in response to her public emergency orders are “facially invalid.” 

In the order directing several lower courts to dismiss the citizen-initiated grand jury petitions, Chief Justice Michael Vigil wrote that the state’s mechanism that allows citizens to call for a grand jury for public officials who violate state law does not apply to the governor’s COVID-19 public health orders. 

“This Court previously has held that [Lujan Grisham] acted lawfully and within the scope of her executive authority when she declared a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and delegated power to the Secretary of Health to issue further emergency orders to protect public health and safety,” Vigil wrote. 

The order instructed lower courts to deny such grand jury petitions as they “only describe lawful, noncriminal activity.”  

The New Mexico Constitution allows citizens to file petitions asking a state district court to convene a grand jury to look into possible criminal activity of an elected official. In the order, the state supreme court also asked a judicial committee to consider rule changes that would make the citizen grand jury process more transparent as the current process involves sealed and confidential proceedings. Lujan Grisham’s office filed the supreme court petition last fall, asking justices to weigh in on the validity of the handful of grand jury petitions filed in state district courts aiming to investigate alleged criminal actions in issuing the public health orders. Since Lujan Grisham started issuing emergency public health orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several state supreme court petitions have been filed challenging those orders. The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the governor in all of the cases they have issued opinions on.