The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee heard suggestions from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty on how to reform the Temporary Relief for Needy Families, or TANF, program. TANF, or NM Works as it is known in New Mexico, provides temporary financial assistance to families in crisis for things like rent, clothes, utilities and items not covered by SNAP EBT (formerly known as food stamps) benefits such as diapers.
“The income inequality that existed before COVID is a problem that exists here: the high rates of hunger and poverty and unemployment that we have we (The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty) think stems from the centuries of colonialism and economic policy that, in the past, has boosted corporations and other industries and not necessarily the people that lived here,” Director of the Public Benefits team at New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Teague Gonzalez said. “What we’re finding is just how much the social costs of that inequality lie for why childhood poverty is so persistent here even after the child becomes an adult. Every child in New Mexico, and in this country should have opportunity.”
When low-income households have a financial boost, the children in those households benefit the most throughout their lifetime, Gonzalez said. “Giving the households low-income children live in additional income will result in long-term impacts,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez presented a list of issues and possible reforms for the TANF program at the interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Nov. 29.
If Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti wins election, he can still impact reproductive rights policy, even without being able to pass his priorities through the Legislature with Democratic majorities. Ronchetti has campaigned on an anti-abortion policy. During the Republican primary, his campaign website said he believed “life should be protected – at all stages.” In a commercial in September he said, that if elected, he would support a voter referendum on banning abortion after 15 weeks. But in July, Albuquerque megachurch pastor Steve Smothermon said Ronchetti told him privately that, if elected, Ronchetti still intended to ban abortion. Ronchetti’s campaign denied it.
Related: Pastor says Ronchetti would seek to ban abortion
Smothermon reiterated the claim to his congregation in October, saying that “he told me exactly what I said.”
Ronchetti’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
After a contentious, two-hour debate over what should go into the bill to fund 2021’s second special legislative session, the House voted 65 to 1 to approve the $1.6 million package. The new House Majority Floor leader, Democratic state Rep. Javier Martinez, of Albuquerque, introduced HB 1, known as the feed bill, which ensures that the 2021 second special session legislative session can pay for itself. The legislative session, as called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is focused on redrawing political maps and how to appropriate the rest of the $1.1 billion the state has received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act under Pres. Joe Biden. The bill originally included additional monies to go to the executive and judicial branches, to enable the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to prepare to spend the ARPA funds and money for the courts to pay for pretrial services. Martinez referred repeatedly to the crime problem in Albuquerque and that the DFA needed to get ready for the federal expenditures as reasons to pass a bill that was designed to allow the legislature to include the additional expenditures.
The City of Albuquerque filed a motion last week to try to prevent a class action lawsuit that alleges gender pay discrimination. About 600 women joined four original plaintiffs in 2020 to create a class action lawsuit to seek redress for alleged gender pay discrimination. The original four plaintiffs filed their suit in 2018. Related: ABQ faces class action suit over disparity in pay for women
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Alexandra Freedman Smith, said the pay inequity is so significant, that in some cases, the plaintiffs are alleging there is as much as a $7 an hour difference between what men are paid and what women are paid for the same job. Freedman Smith said some of the women are owed around $100,000 because of the pay differential.
Just as the New Mexico Legislature passes a new budget that will cut 0.6 percent out of the school budget for the next fiscal year, a newly released report shows that New Mexico is, again, at the bottom for child well being. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropic organization focused on children, released its annual report this week on child well being and ranked New Mexico as 50th in the nation. James Jimenez, executive director for the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, said New Mexico has ranked near the bottom for “a very long time,” but came to the lowest ranking in 2013 and has been there “for a few years.”
“It’s a reflection of the fact that despite what people say, that kids are our most precious asset, it’s not true in the way we invest our money in state and local government,” Jimenez said. Last week the state passed a revised state budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 that will cut 0.6 percent from the school budget despite cries from some school superintendents and advocates that this will be detrimental and will put the state in a position where it cannot live up to the requirements of the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit, which said the state did not provide adequate education for students. Related: Superintendents: Proposed cuts to education will worsen racial and economic inequity
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign the solvency budget, though she can veto by line-item.
During a New York Times’ “Women in the Public Spotlight” discussion, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland said Congress needs more women. The New York Times invited the Albuquerque Democrat to participate in an online event called “Women in the Public Spotlight” on Tuesday as part of the Times’ recognition of 2020 as the centennial of when women’s suffrage went into effect. Congress passed the 19th Amendment, which gave white women the right to vote, in 1919. Haaland answered questions, along with Reshma Saujani, founder and chief executive of an organization called Girls Who Code and author of “Brave, Not Perfect.” Monica Drake, assistant managing editor of The New York Times hosted. Haaland said she ran because she wanted more Native American women in Congress and she said that Congress should be 50 percent women.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into law Friday that protects working mothers and new moms from discrimination in the workplace. HB 25, or the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Bill, amends the state’s Human Rights Act to make pregnancy, childbirth and conditions related to either a protected class from employment discrimination. “It’s good to sign a bill that does what is so obviously the right thing to do,” Lujan Grisham said through a written statement. “There is no world I can imagine in which it would be right or fair to discriminate against a woman for becoming a mother.”
The bill allows a pregnant person or new mom to ask for “reasonable accommodations” such as a stool, extra bathroom breaks, or time to make prenatal visits. The new law prohibits an employer from forcing a pregnant worker or new mom to take time off because of their condition unless requested by the employee.
On Friday morning, three Santa Fe firefighters in uniform walked up to state Sen. Peter Wirth in a Roundhouse hallway. They came bearing a form, and if the majority leader would sign on the dotted line, they’d be one step closer to getting new equipment.
They weren’t the only ones to seek Wirth’s help. The Palace of the Governors wanted interior renovation. The yet-to-be-constructed Vladem Contemporary art museum needed solar. Tesuque Pueblo was after remote monitoring for a drinking water system.
A bill that advocates say protects pregnant workers passed unanimously through its first committee Tuesday with no opposition. HB 25, called the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Bill, went before the House Labor, Veteran, Military Affairs Committee. This isn’t the first time House committee members have heard this bill. Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the bill in past sessions, but she said the bill introduced during the 2019 session went through negotiation with the Hospitality Association and New Mexico Counties, an association that represents all 33 counties, and that took ten days. It then died on the House floor.
The state of New Mexico released the specifics of another settlement on Monday from the final days of the Susana Martinez administration that showed the state paid $1 million to settle claims related to a discrimination lawsuit filed by former state employess. The state paid $900,000 to settle claims from three former Department of Public Safety employees against State Police chief Pete Kassetas and the state Department of Public Safety. The state also paid $100,000 to settle alleged violations of New Mexico’s Inspections of Public Records Act. The DPS employees, Lt. Julia Armendariz, Deputy Chief Michael Ryan Suggs and Sgt. Monica Martinez-Jones, filed a lawsuit alleging discriminatory and retaliatory behavior from Kassetas after sexual harassment and other behavior.