Reports indicate that Gov. Susana Martinez is considering calling the Legislature into a special session to deal with what looks like a large shortfall in the state’s budget. The news comes nearly a week after Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith said a special session would be needed. Smith made the comments during a legislative interim committee. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Martinez has been “working for weeks with executive agencies and a key legislative committee” on how to deal with the shortfall. Smith, a Democrat from Deming, said he spoke to Martinez’s staff about the need for a special session.
Former employers at the state Game and Fish Department outlined how the once-thriving department turned into a paranoid department with many longtime employees leaving their jobs—all of this before sexual harassment from the director that led to a settlement of $65,000. The recounting largely follows the story of Sonya Quintana, who spoke to The Santa Fe New Mexican. Quintana received a $65,000 settlement because of sexual harassment from Jim Lane, the former director of the Game and Fish Department. The paper said that the stories by Quintana were backed up by interviews with other current and former members of the department and documents. The most explosive allegations were about Jim Lane, the director who resigned. Lane sent a series of texts to Quintana from when he was director.
A high profile legislative leader and the State Treasurer are urging the governor to call a special session to deal with a worse-than-expected fiscal situation in the state. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith said in a capitol press conference that lawmakers need to inject an additional $200 million to keep the current budget, which went into effect this month, balanced. Smith said he thought the state would face a shortfall of $500 million in next year’s budget. These predictions came after the most recent numbers showed revenues fell $58 million in May 2016 when compared to May 2015. Smith, D-Deming, predicted state revenues this year will amount to $5.7 billion, down from the $6.1 billion signed into law earlier this year.
Democrats in New Mexico still have some way to go if they want complete party unity, at least if the party’s post-primary convention is any indication. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and other party leaders received a less-than-warm welcome from supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s gathering. The newspaper reported that Sanders supporters chanted, “Bernie or bust!” while Sanchez spoke. This is the chant of those who say they will only support Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Clinton is the presumptive nominee and Sanders has taken steps toward himself supporting Clinton against Donald Trump this November.
Donald Trump is trying something different when it comes to Gov. Susana Martinez. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee called into the Santa Fe New Mexican newsroom Thursday in an apparent attempt to woo Martinez to his side. From the paper:
“I’d like to have it,” Trump said in a phone interview when asked if wanted Martinez’s support. “I respect her. I have always liked her.”
That’s different from what he said in front of thousands of New Mexicans last week.
After damning food stamp fraud allegations surfaced in federal court in April, the state brought on a high-profile Albuquerque law firm. A later court hearing earlier this month marked the first time that Paul Kennedy, a former State Supreme Court justice and frequent lawyer for Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, made a formal entrance in the decades-old Deborah Hatten-Gonzales v. Human Services Department lawsuit. Kennedy made a formal entrance into the Hatten-Gonzales case on May 12. Daniel Yohalem* is an attorney representing part of the Center on Law and Poverty’s legal team who has been working on the Hatten-Gonzales case since 1996. The May 13 court hearing was the first time Yohalem said he’d ever seen Kennedy on the case. Originally filed in 1988, the Hatten-Gonzales lawsuit alleged that the state was mishandling its processing of applicants seeking benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, and Medicaid.
The state’s top elected official and top attorney are on opposite sides of a key immigration case in front of the United States Supreme Court. At issue is an executive order by President Barack Obama called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. The order would allow some 4 million immigrants to not only live without fear of deportation, but would provide a framework for a pathway to legal status. The order would only apply to those who have been in the United States for at least five years, have a clean criminal record and have a child that lives in the country legally. Those opposing the legislation say it is an overbroad order that should have gone through the legislative branch, that is Congress, first.
An investigation found areas in New Mexico with lead levels that exceed national levels of allowable lead in water. And even those numbers appear to understate the issue. In the wake of the Flint water crisis, when a governor-appointed city manager changed the water source to the city resulting in incredibly high levels of lead in drinking water, many are paying more attention to the problems of lead in water. An Associated Press investigation found 17 entities with levels higher than federal levels in New Mexico, according to a review of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) database. The Centers for Disease Control wrote in a 2012 report “no safe blood lead threshold in children has been identified.” Lead exposure can lead to “an adverse health effect such as IQ loss.” It can also have neurotoxic effects in both adults and children.
Another Arizona-based behavioral health provider is leaving New Mexico, officials announced Friday. In the latest departure, 3,000 patients currently in substance abuse, mental health and other behavioral health programs—mostly in Northern New Mexico—will have to find a new provider in 90 days, according to a report in today’s Santa Fe New Mexican. The newspaper reported that Agave Health, Inc. is leaving the state, the third of five behavioral health providers from Arizona to leave the state since the shakeup in 2013. “Today, Agave is faced with an insurmountable obstacle, and after many months of undue financial hardship and the foreseen rate reductions in Medicaid rates, the board of directors has regretfully decided to close Agave Health,” Dr. Heath Kilgore, chief executive officer of Agave, and Jeff Jorde, president of the firm, said in a statement. Agave Health is the third of the five Arizona firms to leave New Mexico since the state signed contracts with them for more than $17 million.
A political action committee that supports GOP candidates is housed in the same law office as the president of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents who co-authored recent controversial changes to the university’s Health Science Center. The incorporation document for New Mexicans for Honest Leadership lists the same downtown Albuquerque address and suite as Doughty, Alcaraz & deGraauw, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office. The PAC is in good standing with the state. Doughty, Alcaraz & deGraauw is the same law firm where Robert Doughty, who the state Senate confirmed as a regent last year, works as a partner. Campaign finance reports don’t list Doughty’s name as associated with the PAC.