All eyes are on Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham. With about two months until the legislative session starts and just weeks until she takes office, speculation and rumors about how she’ll run the state are growing. Lujan Grisham will appoint new department heads for the state agencies, but she has another list of important appointments to make shortly after taking office. Lujan Grisham will also have to fill state judicial vacancies and a New Mexico Senate seat in southern New Mexico as she takes office in January. During her campaign, Lujan Grisham also said she would like to see all new members of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.
The notion struck Megan Duffy at an event she attended with several other women—and it struck her hard. It was Aug. 18. The gathering marked the anniversary of a seismic change to the US Constitution: Passage of the 19th Amendment, more commonly known as women’s suffrage. “Women have only been able to vote in this country for 98 years,” Duffy says in a recent interview with New Mexico In Depth and SFR.
An open records case related to unproven allegations of widespread voter fraud will cost the Secretary of State’s office $90,000. The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported on the decision by the state Court of Appeals. Then-Secretary of State made national headlines when she alleged that 117 foreign nationals were registered to vote—and that 37 had actually illegally voted. Duran checked voter registration records against motor vehicle and Social Security databases; she sent 64,000 records with alleged irregularities to state police to investigate. Some questioned why Duran sent the files to the state police instead of to individual county clerks to check the voter rolls; experts said at the time that these were likely clerical errors or voters just using variations on their name (Tom instead of Thomas, for example).
We’re back after taking Tuesday night off to finish up a recap on filing day. Here are some stories you may have missed, plus what we wrote today. —Federal judge shoots down state food benefit rules. U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales ruled against the latest attempt by the state to impose new work rules on those who receive food benefits, or SNAP. The rules the state imposed required 80 hours per month of approved work activity for able-bodied adults from 18-49 if they wanted to continue to receive SNAP benefits for more than three months
“We are pleased that unemployed adults will not face the illegal loss of food assistance in addition to the economic hardship that many are already facing in New Mexico,” Sovereign Hager, Staff Attorney at the Center on Law and Poverty, said in a statement.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that surveillance from a helicopter that led to the conviction of a Northern New Mexico man for growing marijuana was illegal under the United States Constitution. The New Mexico Court of Appeals previously ruled in January of 2014 that the aerial search was illegal, but cited the state constitution. Norman Davis was convicted after a joint operation, called Operation Yerba Buena, between the New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico National Guard involved flying two Army National Guard OH 58 Jet Ranger helicopters over Taos County to find alleged marijuana growth sites. The journey between that search and this Supreme Court decision was long; the search was conducted back in 2006. The Supreme Court heard the arguments on the case in January of this year.
ROSWELL – In a packed gymnasium, Vanessa Tarango canvasses a crowd gathered to take advantage of public hours being held today by Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso. Tarango is a member of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a statewide immigrant rights advocacy group that’s here to recruit new members. She and half a dozen other canvassers are scattered throughout St. Peter’s Parish gym in downtown Roswell. Here, flocks of people are waiting in line for help with their immigration documents, which include green cards and consular identification cards.
The New Mexico Supreme Court will rule on whether there is a right to “aid in dying” in New Mexico or not. Oral arguments will take place on October 26, in an expedited timeline. Decisions can typically take weeks or months afterward, and ruling from the bench and following up at a later date with a written opinion is extremely unlikely in such a case such as this. The Supreme Court set the date, including earlier dates for briefs and answer briefs to be sent to the court, on Monday. At issue is whether it is legal for physicians to aid terminally ill, mentally capable patients in choosing to end their life.
The New Mexico Supreme Court could decide once and for all if a law that forbids anyone to assist in ending the life of a terminally ill patient is legal. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Disability Rights Legal Center asked the state’s high court for an expedited review of the case. The move comes just one week after the state Court of Appeals ruled on the case, reversing a District Court decision that said there was a right to “aid in dying” in New Mexico. The writ says the court must decide “one of the most private, intimate decisions made in a lifetime—how we face our own deaths.” The full request is available at the bottom of this post.
New Mexico employers must compensate workers who are medical marijuana patients for the cost of the medical marijuana, according to a recent ruling from the state Court of Appeals. On Friday, June 26, the court concluded that American General Media had improperly blocked workers’ compensation for medical marijuana for one of its employees who suffered from chronic pain. The court also ruled that federal law classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 illegal substance doesn’t supersede New Mexico’s law allowing marijuana use for medical purposes. The case concerned Sandra Lewis, who has suffered from chronic pain after sustaining a work-related injury in 1998. She has been enrolled in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program since 2010.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that farm and ranch workers are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits that are available to workers in other industries. The court ruled unanimously on Thursday that denying benefits to injured farm workers is unconstitutional and called the statutory exclusion of ranch and farm workers “arbitrary.”
From the decision:
We fail to see any real differences between workers who fall under the statutory definition of a farm and ranch laborer and workers who do not. We also fail to see any real differences between farm and ranch laborers and all other workers in New Mexico that would justify the exclusion. The ruling upheld a decision in the Second Judicial District Court, where a judge ruled the denial of benefits unconstitutional. In a written statement, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty praised the court’s decision and called the court’s analysis “thorough and thoughtful.”
On behalf of the center, Legal Director Gail Evans wrote, “Finally, the men and women who pick our chile, milk our cows, and continue our tradition of being an agricultural state have the same rights to health care and lost wages as other workers in our state, when they are injured doing this dangerous and important work.”