Attorneys for the states of New Mexico and Texas learned yesterday that a lawsuit over the waters of the Rio Grande will head to the U.S. Supreme Court. For New Mexico, a lot is at stake. Though Texas also named Colorado in the suit, its real target is New Mexico. Texas alleges that by allowing farmers in southern New Mexico to pump groundwater connected to the river, the state is unfairly taking water from the Rio Grande that, under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact, should be flowing to Texas. When Texas filed a similar suit against New Mexico about the Pecos River, the case dragged on for almost two decades, and cost both states millions of dollars.
A state House of Representatives panel approved a bill to bar local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico from enforcing federal immigration laws. The bill, which according to a fiscal analysis would prohibit state resources from being used against anyone “whose only violation is being in the United States illegally,” passed on a party line 3-2 vote in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. The two “no” votes came from state Reps. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque and Bob Wooley of Roswell. Both are Republicans.
State Auditor Tim Keller recently designated the City of Jal for a special audit on the city’s water billing issues. The move comes two months after Keller’s office opened a case into an arrangement where the city in the southeastern New Mexico oil patch gave a local ranch a discount on utility water worth $1.2 million over a 25-month period between 2012 and 2014. NM Political Report, in partnership with the Jal Record, first reported on the city’s water deal with the Beckham Ranch in September. Related: State Auditor to investigate Jal water deal
In a Dec. 2 letter to Jal Mayor Cheryl Chance*, Keller writes the special audit will look at Jal’s “compliance with applicable laws, regulations, policies and and procedures with respect to water utility billing practices.”
Jal City Manager Bob Gallagher told NM Political Report that he is “extremely pleased” with the state auditor’s decision for the special audit and said he has been cooperating with Keller’s office on the matter for the past two months.
A federal judge appointed a Texas government official to serve as the “special master” to help a New Mexico state agency come into compliance with federal law. Lawrence M. Parker, who has worked for the Texas Health and Human Services Department, will be responsible for essentially fixing the New Mexico Human Service Department’s food aid and Medicaid case processing. The appointment comes as part of a decades-old lawsuit that alleged HSD wasn’t properly processing federal aid to New Mexicans. While that lawsuit, known as Hatten-Gonzales, resulted in a consent decree in 1990, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit argued in court this year that the state wasn’t properly following guidelines laid out under the consent decree. The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty also argued for the federal court to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the state department’s Income Support Division, which processes Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
A crowd of supporters wearing pink gathered at the Planned Parenthood clinic on San Mateo Boulevard in Albuquerque Saturday morning in anticipation of a day of canvassing in the North Valley. “On Nov. 8, pussy grabs back, and we’re not afraid to say it,” Marshall Martinez, public affairs manager of Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, said to a cheering crowd in a reference to Donald Trump’s infamous 2005 hot mic video leaked from Access Hollywood earlier this month. The rally and day of canvassing is part of a larger “Pink Out The Vote” sponsored by Planned Parenthood across the country. “We know what’s at stake,” New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland said at the rally.
For the first time in 20 years, the number of Texas executions will fall out of double digits this year. The seven men put to death this year are the fewest since 1996, when executions halted amid legal challenges to a new state law intended to hasten the death penalty appeals process, according to data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Only one more execution is scheduled for 2016. “There is clearly a change going on in Texas,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Judges and appellate courts rescheduled or stopped executions 15 times for 11 people in 2016.
Texas wants to take its voter identification battle to the U.S. Supreme Court. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asked the justices to hear his arguments about why the state’s photo ID requirements for voting do not discriminate against Hispanics and African-American voters. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy,” the Republican said in a statement. “Voter ID laws both prevent fraud and increase the public’s confidence in our elections. Texas enacted a common-sense voter ID law and I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately reinstate it.”
Texas officials say the voter ID law prevents voter fraud, which Gov. Greg Abbott has called “rampant.”
This week’s Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was an unexpectedly sweeping victory for reproductive rights advocates 2014 a “game changer,” said Nancy Northrop of the Center for Reproductive Rights that “leaves the right to an abortion on much stronger footing than it stood on before this decision was handed down,” long-time court-watcher Ian Millhiser wrote. Abortion foes had hoped the court would use the Texas abortion case as an opportunity to gut not just Roe v. Wade, but also 1992’s seminal Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which held that abortion laws creating an “undue burden” on women were unconstitutional. Instead, the court clarified and strengthened Casey while striking down two of Texas law H.B. 2’s key provisions 2014 strict building rules for abortion clinics and a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals. This could invalidate anti-abortion laws in another 25 states. The ruling is expected to have a monumental ripple effect, invalidating strict clinic laws in about half the states.
Hey, Texplainer: Britain voted to leave the European Union. Can Texas secede from the United States? In the wake of Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union — nicknamed the “Brexit” — speculation of a Texit on the horizon has cropped up once again. The secessionist movement has a long history in the Lone Star State. Delegates for the Texas Republican Party even recently debated adding secessionist language to the party’s platform.
When the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down Texas’ 2013 abortion restrictions as unconstitutional, it was a victory years in the making for former state Sen. Wendy Davis and her “unruly mob.”
Almost three years to the day after her 11-hour filibuster of the restrictive legislation, the high court’s ruling was in some ways a personal vindication for Davis — and a defining moment for her legacy — particularly after she backed away from the spotlight following a gubernatorial election loss in 2014. But it was also a victory for Texas abortion providers and the reproductive rights community, many of whom were among the thousands that packed into the Texas Capitol to be part of the filibuster. As Davis worked to fill hours of debate time and run the clock to midnight — when a 30-day special session would end — reproductive rights activists watched from the gallery and lined up along the rotunda and halls near the Senate chamber. Some were regulars at the pink dome; others had traveled from around the state. They stayed for as many hours as Davis remained standing on the Senate floor.