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FRI: Cannabis seizures at checkpoints by US-Mexico border frustrate state-authorized pot industry, + More

Traffic crosses from Mexico into the United States at a border station in Santa Teresa, N.M., in this photo made in March 14, 2012.
Jeri Clausing
Traffic crosses from Mexico into the United States at a border station in Santa Teresa, N.M.

Cannabis seizures at checkpoints by US-Mexico border frustrate state-authorized pot industry - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

The U.S. Border Patrol is asserting its authority to seize cannabis shipments — including commercial, state-authorized supplies — as licensed cannabis providers file complaints that more than $300,000 worth of marijuana has been confiscated in recent months at highway checkpoints in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico's Democratic governor says the disruptions prompted a discussion this week with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, whose impeachment charges were dismissed this week. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she voiced concerns that the scrutiny of cannabis companies appears to be greater in New Mexico than states with regulated markets that aren't along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Authorized cannabis sales in New Mexico have exceeded $1 billion since regulation and taxation of the recreational market began two years ago. Yet cannabis transport drivers say they have been detained hours while supplies are seized at permanent Border Patrol checkpoints that filter inbound traffic for unauthorized migrants and illegal narcotics, typically located about 60 miles from the U.S. border.

"Secretary Mayorkas assured the governor that federal policies with respect to legalized cannabis have not changed," said Lujan Grisham spokesperson Michael Coleman in an email. "Regardless, the governor and her administration are working on a strategy to protect New Mexico's cannabis industry."

Managers at 10 cannabis businesses including transporters last week petitioned New Mexico's congressional delegation to broker free passage of shipments, noting that jobs and investments are at stake, and that several couriers have been sidelined for "secondary inspection" and fingerprinted at Border Patrol checkpoints.

"We request that operators who have had product federally seized should be allowed to either get their product returned or be monetarily compensated for the losses they've sustained," the letter states.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said the Department of Homeland Security should be focused on urgent priorities that don't include cannabis suppliers that comply with state law.

"Stopping the flow of illicit fentanyl into our country should be the Department of Homeland Security's focus at these checkpoints, not seizing cannabis that's being transported in compliance with state law," the senator said in a statement, referring to the parent agency for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. "New Mexicans are depending on federal law enforcement to do everything they can to keep our communities safe. Our resources should be used to maximize residents' safety, not distract from it."

A public statement Thursday from the U.S. Border Patrol sector overseeing New Mexico provided a reminder that cannabis is still a "Schedule 1" drug, a designation also assigned to heroin and LSD.

"Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law," the agency's statement said. "Consequently, individuals violating the Controlled Substances Act encountered while crossing the border, arriving at a U.S. port of entry, or at a Border Patrol checkpoint may be deemed inadmissible and/or subject to, seizure, fines, and/or arrest."

Matt Kennicott, an owner of Socorro-based High Maintenance, a cannabis business, said seizures by Border Patrol started in February without warning and create uncertainty about shipments that include samples for consumer-safety testing. He said cannabis producers in southernmost New Mexico rely on testing labs farther north, on the other side of Border Patrol checkpoints, to comply with safeguards against contaminants like mold or pesticides.

"It's not a little confusing, it's a lot confusing," he said. "We're trying to figure out where this directive came from."

Navajo Nation Vice President Richelle Montoya alleges sexual harassment on the job - Arizona Republic, KUNM News

Navajo Nation Vice President Richelle Montoya, the first woman to serve in the office, told hundreds of viewers during a Facebook Live stream Tuesday night that she was sexually harassed last August during a meeting.

As Arlyssa D Becenti reports for the Arizona Republic, the Navajo Nation Speaker said the Nation's council wanted an investigation into the allegations and the Navajo President’s office said that it welcomed the process.

Montoya detailed the allegations in the livestream, without identifying anyone.

“I was made to feel that I had no power to leave the room,” she said. “I was made to feel that what I was trying to accomplish didn't mean anything, that I was less than.”

Montoya said after a meeting with staff members, she was asked to elaborate more to better understand what happened and detail how she wanted to move forward regarding the person accused of harassing her.

"My response was I didn't want to be alone with this person ever,” she said. “And I didn't want him to talk to me or apologize or try to explain it."

Navajo Nation Speaker Crystalyne Curley said in a statement late Thursday that she and the council met on Wednesday and decided that the allegations warranted an independent investigation.

Last year, the Navajo Times reported other sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations by former employees within the Office of the President and Vice President.

President Buu Nygren said in a statement, “I support and welcome an independent, fair, and transparent investigation, and one that the Navajo People can have full confidence in.”

New Mexico extends Medicaid for seniors and people with disabilities - By Nash Jones, KUNM News

The New Mexico Human Services Department announced yesterday/Thursday that it has extended Medicaid coverage for certain seniors and people with disabilities for another year. The state’s change follows federal approval.

Medicaid patients living in intermediate care and nursing home facilities, as well as those enrolled in certain waiver programs, are eligible, according to the department. Those include the Developmental Disabilities Waiver, Mi Via Waiver, Supports Waiver, Medically Fragile Waiver, and Community Benefit.

HSD spokesperson Tim Fowler says the extension applies to about 280 members overall, who he described as “the most vulnerable” among New Mexico’s Medicaid population.

The extension applies automatically, according to the agency, and will add 12 months to a person’s coverage starting from their last renewal date. Members will get a letter from HSD confirming their extension.

The agency says in the announcement that those whose coverage renews next month or later will not receive the extension. Neither will patients whose coverage expired because they didn’t return their renewal packets or other required documents.

HSD asks those who do not receive the extension who believe they should to contact their agency.

State lawmakers and budget experts float lowering savings targets in next year’s budget - By Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico

State finance experts and the New Mexico House budget committee chair said in a meeting this week that they will recommend moving more money out of the state’s reserve funds at the 2025 legislative session, citing strong revenue forecasts and what they called wise investments of budget surpluses in recent years.

New Mexico’s newly enacted budget has more than $3.2 billion in several state savings accounts. That equals 32.2% of the $10.2 billion budget lawmakers passed in February. Most of that – $2.3 billion – is held in the restrictive “rainy day” fund, which can’t be spent without a governor-declared revenue shortfall or approval by two-thirds of state lawmakers.

Before the 2024 legislative session, state lawmakers set a target of keeping reserves at 30% of the annual operating budget. That figure was based on estimates of how much savings New Mexico needs to withstand a sudden downtown in oil and gas prices or a moderate recession.

But Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces), chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said at an interim finance committee meeting Wednesday that it is time to lower that target for next year’s budget. The reserve targets were 20 to 25% in the 2020 and 2021 sessions.

Small cited the other funding sources that the Legislature has created in recent years, like the Early Childhood Trust Fund and a newly created trust that pays for three-year pilot programs for state agencies. That money should also be considered reserve savings, he said, to prevent tax increases or layoffs if oil prices drop or the economy falters.

“I think it follows very naturally and quite appropriately that we must consider the appropriate reserve target for this state,” he said. “And that, frankly, is no longer 30%.”

Charles Sallee, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee, presented lawmakers with a 180-page budget wrapup that made a similar recommendation. He noted that the state created a number of new funds that act as backups for the reserves and said lawmakers should consider revising its savings targets “given all the money that we’ve socked away in other areas of the budget.”

Reserves remain at 32% despite lawmakers recently transferring out nearly $1 billion for a higher education trust fund, which pays for tuition-free college, and the nearly $400 million tobacco settlement fund. Sallee said Wednesday that the tobacco fund was never really a source of emergency cash amid downturns.

Small said he anticipates much discussion – “as is appropriate” – on the topic as the Legislature gets closer to next year. The reserve targets are often thetopic of debate along party lines. Rep. Brian Baca (R-Los Lunas) said at the meeting that he thought the budget shouldn’t budge from the 30% reserve mark.

“I do support us keeping and maintaining high reserves,” he said. “When we’re looking at the possible downturns… I would be one that would support us not going below 30. And, if possible, even increasing that amount.”

New Mexico lawmakers expect to have more discussion on the matter in July.

The mayor said the city needs 5,000 homes. His budget proposes less than 200. - Elizabeth Mccall and Carolyn Carlson, City Desk ABQ 

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

In 2022, Mayor Tim Keller announced his goal to have 5,000 housing units across the city by 2025 to help with the city’s affordable “housing crisis.” So far 165 affordable units have been built and the next fiscal year’s budget includes funding for 195 housing units — still far short of the goal.

Katie Simon, the Department of Health, Housing and Homelessness spokesperson, said this year’s budget is a “flat budget” without massive programmatic increases. She said the adjustment was proposed based on the history of funds expended by the end of each fiscal year.

The city’s housing production has been between 100 and 200 units annually with funding from the Workforce Housing Trust Fund and HUD HOME funds, she said.

“These are the only recurring City funding sources for affordable housing,” she said. “We have asked the City Council to create a new housing trust fund to generate additional housing revenues and so far they have not pursued this. We also always pursue additional state and federal funds, and will continue to do so, to meet our housing Keller’s proposed fiscal year 2025 budget also includes $52.2 million for a new department to address the city’s challenges of homelessness, affordable housing and behavioral health.

On July 1, the Community Services Department will officially be split into two departments – Health, Housing and Homelessness and Youth and Family Services.

A $27 million budget has been proposed for the new Youth and Family Services departments. This includes $5.3 million for child and family development and $2,944 for educational initiatives.

Meanwhile, the proposed budget also includes less money for supportive housing and voucher programs — $8 million, down from $14 million last year.

Data point
FY 2022
FY 2023
Mid-Year FY 2024
Proposed FY 2025
# homeless people provided emergency shelter
# of food boxes provided through HSCCs
# of survivors who receive support following domestic violence
# of people who recieve sexual assault services
# of youth and adults who receive substance abuse treatment

City departments by the numbers (Source: FY 2025 proposed budget)

City Desk ABQ reached out to City Councilors Brook Bassan and Tammy Fiebelkorn for comment on the mayor’s proposed budget and what changes they might make. Both said it was early in the budget process and they were still reviewing the proposed budget.


WHEN: The next committee meeting to discuss the FY 2025 operating budget is at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 2.
WHERE: Vincent E. Griego Chambers on the basement level of the Albuquerque Government Center.
HOW: Public commenters must sign up by 4 p.m. on the day of the meeting.
VIRTUAL: The meetings are broadcast on GOV-TV and the City Council’s YouTube channel.

According to Keller’s budget, the key to addressing the city’s homelessness, housing and behavioral health challenges is taking a comprehensive approach to the root causes, such as substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence and youth opportunity.

This approach includes a new budget request of $100,000 in non-recurring funding for a technology system that enables the city and providers to coordinate social services for people experiencing homelessness and behavioral health challenges. This system will act like Santa Fe and Dona Ana County’s social service referral platform.

“This new platform will allow for less paperwork for clients seeking social services and allow for providers to see what other services people are receiving and where they are receiving them, in a HIPAA compliant way, so that there is less duplication,” Simon said.

The budget also projects that there will be more people who need services to address domestic violence, sexual assault and substance abuse.

“Current funding levels will support the projected increase in people served,” Simon said. “We have heard from the experts on the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Commission that the demand for services is increasing, but in this flat budget year, we are working to maintain current levels of funding. We know that domestic violence and sexual assault providers are pursuing other state and federal sources to help fund their work, and we will continue to support them in these efforts.”

Biden administration moves to make conservation an equal to industry on US lands - By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

The Biden administration on Thursday finalized a new rule for public land management that's meant to put conservation on more equal footing with oil drilling, grazing and other extractive industries on vast government-owned properties.

Officials pushed past strong opposition from private industry and Republican governors to adopt the proposal. GOP members of Congress said in response that they will seek to invalidate it.

The rule from the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management — which oversees more than 380,000 square miles (990,000 square kilometers) of land, primarily in the U.S. West — will allow public property to be leased for restoration in the same way that oil companies lease land for drilling.

The rule also promotes the designation of more "areas of critical environmental concern" — a special status that can restrict development. It's given to land with historic or cultural significance or that's important for wildlife conservation.

The land bureau has a history of industry-friendly policies and for more than a century has sold grazing permits and oil and gas leases. In addition to its surface land holdings, the bureau regulates publicly-owned underground mineral reserves — such as coal for power plants and lithium for renewable energy — across more than 1 million square miles (2.5 million square kilometers).

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the changes would "restore balance" to how the U.S. government manages its public lands. The new rule continues the administration's efforts to use science to restore habitats and guide "strategic and responsible development," Haaland said in a statement.

Environmentalists largely embraced the changes adopted Thursday, characterizing them as long overdue.

Trout Unlimited President Chris Wood said conservation already was part of the land bureau's mission under the 1976 Federal Lands Policy Management Act. The new rule, he said, was "a re-statement of the obvious."

"We are pleased to see the agency recognizing what the law already states — conservation is a vital use of our public lands," he said.

But Republican lawmakers and industry representatives blasted the move as a backdoor way to exclude mining, energy development and agriculture from government acreage that's often cheap to lease. They contend the administration is violating the "multiple use" mandate for Interior Department lands, by catapulting the "non-use" of federal lands — meaning restoration leases — to a position of prominence.

"By putting its thumb on the scales to strongly favor conservation over other uses, this rule will obstruct responsible domestic mining projects," said National Mining Association President Rich Nolan.

The rule's adoption comes amid a flurry of new regulations from the Biden administration as the Democrat seeks reelection to a second term in November.

Government agencies in recent weeks tightened vehicle emissions standards to cut greenhouse gas emissions, finalized limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water and increased royalty rates for oil companies that drill on public lands.

About 10% of all land in the U.S. falls under the Bureau of Land Management's jurisdiction, putting the agency at the center of arguments over how much development should be allowed on public property.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a staunch Biden critic, on Thursday said he will introduce legislation to repeal the public lands rule. The Republican lawmaker alleged it would block access to areas that people in Wyoming depend on for mineral production, grazing and recreation.

"President Biden is allowing federal bureaucrats to destroy our way of life," he said.

A property rights group that often sides with private interests said the rule would help promote voluntary conservation efforts. It will allow ranchers and others who use public lands to work with private organizations to restore streambeds, improve wildlife habitat and remove invasive weeds, said Brian Yablonski with the Property and Environment Research Center.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona asserted that protecting public lands has wide support among the American people. Oil, gas and mining companies "have had the upper hand on our public lands for too long," Grijalva said.

Restoration leases will not be issued if they would conflict with activity already underway on a parcel of land, officials said. They also said private industry could benefit from the program, since companies could buy leases and restore that acreage to offset damage they might do to other government-owned properties.

Those leases were referred to as "conservation leases" in the agency's original proposal last year. That was changed to "restoration leases" and "mitigation leases" in the final rule, but their purpose appears largely the same.

While the bureau previously issued leases for conservation purposes in limited cases, it has never had a dedicated program for it.

Bureau Director Tracy Stone-Manning has said the changes address the rising challenges of climate change and development. She told The Associated Press when the changes were announced last year that making conservation an "equal" to other uses would not interfere with grazing, drilling and other activities.

Former President Donald Trump tried to ramp up fossil fuel development on bureau lands, before President Joe Biden suspended new oil and gas leasing when he entered office. Biden later revived the deals to win West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's support for the 2022 climate law.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Raul Grijalva is a representative from Arizona.

FEMA taps former NM disaster agency head to run Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Claims Office - By Patrick Lohmann,Source New Mexico

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has selected the former head of New Mexico’s disaster response agency to lead the federal office providing $4 billion in compensation to survivors of the state’s biggest-ever wildfire.

M. Jay Mitchell was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2014 to run the state Department of Homeland Security. He is a fifth-generation New Mexican, a former Air Force colonel and was a senior adviser to IEM, a global security consulting firm, according to biographies on the state and company’s websites.

Mitchell’s hiring comes about three months after the departure of Angela Gladwell, a longtime FEMA employee who led the creation of the newly established Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Claims Office. Congress tasked FEMA with overseeing the compensation fund for victims of the wildfire caused by two botched prescribed burns in mid-2022.

Fire survivors and their attorneys have repeatedly criticized the office for the slow release of funds, bureaucratic delays and missed legal deadlines to provide payment offers. They also called on FEMA not to replace Gladwell with another federal bureaucrat and instead hire someone from New Mexico who understands its law and culture.

In a news release about Mitchell’s hiring, U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), a sponsor of the compensation bill, said he was glad that FEMA announced new leadership to steer the office and quicken compensation.

“The new Claims Office Director must prioritize working with local communities to build trust, communicate effectively to address misinformation, and get money out the door as soon as possible,” Lujan said.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, in a statement, said she was “relieved FEMA heeded our calls to choose a new director… with strong New Mexico ties.”

Mitchell is expected to begin in May, FEMA spokesperson John Mills said in a news release. Mitchell did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

He will lead the joint recovery office in New Mexico, overseeing both the claims office and local implementation of existing FEMA disaster programs, particularly the Public Assistance program that reimburses state and local public entities for disaster-related costs.

“Jay Mitchell is joining a team of dedicated public servants working to help New Mexicans recover from the wildfire through both our claims office and disaster recovery operations,” said Tony Robinson, administrator for the FEMA region that includes New Mexico, in the news release.

Mitchell’s selection comes after additional criticism about the hiring process.

The job opening was listed for seven days, which some survivors said was too short a window to draw qualified New Mexico applicants. Colt Hagmaier, a senior FEMA official, said at a forum on April 8 that the office received a significant number of applicants and that the agency was committed to “hiring someone who understands the mission in New Mexico.”

According to an archived biography on the IEM website, Mitchell served more than 26 years in the United States Air Force and went on to serve as the state’s homeland security and emergency management secretary.

After retiring from the military, he returned to Afghanistan and served in what his state biography described as a senior advisor to the deputy Minister of Defense for intelligence. He then returned to New Mexico and recently served as the village manager for Angel Fire. He is also the president of the David Westphall Veterans Foundation, based in Colfax County, according to the group’s website.

In the news release, FEMA officials said Mitchell would be joining the office at a time of “operational improvements” that have hastened compensation payments.

As of April 17, FEMA has paid more than $500 million, $247 million of which was paid since Jan. 1 of this year. That’s about 13% of the total awarded by Congress.

“Jay Mitchell will continue to build upon these improvements to meet the needs of those impacted and ensure all eligible claims are paid,” said Ben Krakauer, a senior adviser to the FEMA administrator, in the news release.
Albuquerque Public Schools dropout rate rises - By Rodd Cayton,City Desk ABQ

More students have dropped out of Albuquerque Public Schools this year than last.

Associate Superintendent Mark Garcia said the dropout rate for the first semester of this school year is up to 1.8%, compared to 1.5% for the same time last year.

He said APS is projecting the full-year rate to be 5.2%, versus 4.2% for 2022-23.

Garcia said officials are already working on the issue. He said officials are looking at data on students’ habits and mindsets and at root causes that lead some to quit school.


According to one APS survey, 44% of APS ninth-graders reported feeling “slightly” or “not at all” connected to an adult on campus.

“This was a huge red flag, a call to action for us,” Garcia said.

Other possible causes include inconsistent transitions from middle school to high school and a lack of opportunities for students to recover credit.


He said APS will respond to the issue by supporting ninth-grade students and their families more.

Garcia said the district has been using interventions for students at risk of dropping out; looking at attendance, behavior and academic performance data to identify those students

“But now we’re also adding agency, belonging and connectedness,” he said, adding that a district-wide credit recovery strategy is being developed.

Board President Danielle Gonzales asked which student groups struggle the most and the barriers they face in completing their studies.

Garcia said English language learners are among those who struggle. He said the lack of a sense of belonging can lead to poor attendance, which affects academic performance.

“If you don’t feel like you belong in a space and you have no connection, your attendance begins to decline,” Garcia said. “And we know that when attendance declines, it’s hard to keep up your class. And when you can’t keep up with class and you fail a course, it’s a spiral. And that’s where we as adults … need to intervene, intervene early, and support that student.”

Gonzales also asked about key out-of-school factors that might hinder students from completing high school, including food and housing insecurity.

Garcia acknowledged those factors and said APS is connecting students and their families to resources that can help with those barriers.


Garcia spoke during an update to the board on progress related to postsecondary readiness, one of four goals outlined in the district’s Emerging Stronger strategic plan.

His presentation also covered efforts to increase the levels of students enrolling in and completing more college or advanced academic courses and earning industry certifications or bilingual seals.

Garcia said that while APS is not on track to meet its 2028 goal of lowering the dropout rate, it is on pace for its other postsecondary readiness goals.

He said that one-third of district high school sophomores have been identified as having “AP potential,” a reference to enrollment in advanced placement courses.

Garcia said House Bill 171, which passed this year and updated graduation requirements, presents an opportunity for APS to make changes that will benefit students’ postsecondary readiness. He said the law requires next-step plans for all eighth-graders, and the plans will help steer those students toward pathways as they enter high school, with some bound immediately for AP classes.

Garcia said that the district’s progress in seeing students earn bilingual seals is worth celebrating. A student can earn a bilingual seal on his or her high school diploma by completing a dual-language program. Garcia said 1,392 earned them in 2022-23, compared to 191 in the program’s infancy in the 2016-2017 school year.

Board member Josefina Dominguez asked about strategies for using culturally or linguistically relevant instruction.

Garcia said the strategy starts with using high-quality instructional materials in the classroom that are culturally relevant.

“That’s the first thing that we can do,” he said. “ And then also moving it along to family engagement. And when schools plan family engagement activities, are they thinking about all the different persons within the community?”


The Board of Education next meets Wednesday, May 1 at 5 p.m. in the John Milne Community Board Room at district headquarters, 6400 Uptown Blvd. It will also be viewable on the APS Board of Education YouTube Channel.

Legislature’s interim session will include more focus on child welfare; water - By Danielle Prokop,Source New Mexico

New Mexico legislative staff presented the tentative agendas for subcommittee meetings dedicated to child welfare and water scheduled in the summer and fall, as the interim session kicks off for lawmakers.

Charles Sallee, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee which studies and files reports on state government agencies and policy, outlined its plans for child welfare and water before the lawmakers Tuesday.

The subcommittee meetings are slated for June and September, but no firm dates yet. Reports from those meetings will go to a larger interim committee, and ideas can continue into potential legislation to be debated when all lawmakers convene for 60-days in January 2025. Makeup of the subcommittees, which can be legislators from both the state House and Senate, will be determined in the future.

The current agenda topics for the June child welfare meeting include an overview of the accountability and performance measures for state agencies, and what prevention or intervention measures work before taking a child out of their home.

In September, lawmakers will focus on child welfare workers and developing the workforce.

For the water subcommittee, the governor’s strategic water supply pitch that stumbled in the last 30-day session will be on the agenda. Additionally, oil and gas rules around water and setbacks from a health perspective will also be reviewed.

The subcommittees aren’t the only plan for the interim session.

Wednesday morning, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for a special legislative session on July 18, which could shuffle agendas for future summer and fall committee meetings.

Additionally, the legislature passed Senate Memorial 5, which establishes a task force made up of a series of governor and legislative appointees to assess and improve the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.

Approving the task force’s members is slated for Thursday’s agenda. Sallee said Wednesday that the committee was “waiting to approve one or two more members,” before Thursday.

Sallee also said the Annie E. Casey Foundation – which produces reports such as the Kids Count child well-being study — is supporting additional research on New Mexico children. Presentations will be made to the Health and Human Services Committee and the Legislative Finance Committee.

Some of the topics in child welfare that will be further explored in the interim session, he said, include federal investments in evidence-based interventions before the state removes children from their home.

Another is looking at how to divert low-risk cases into receiving services while continuing investigations into abusive situations.

Third, the committee will look at how the state is using Medicaid dollars, which are used for children’s treatment but also for parents’ behavioral health or medical treatments for substance use. Further, what the state can do to professionalize the workforce and expand it. And finally, address child welfare system oversight and accountability.

New attorney joins prosecution team against Alec Baldwin in fatal 'Rust' shooting - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

An attorney has been added to the special prosecution team that is pursuing an involuntary manslaughter charge against actor Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western movie "Rust," court officials confirmed Thursday.

The district attorney for Santa Fe has appointed Erlinda Johnson as special prosecutor to the case, which is scheduled for trial in July. She was sworn in Tuesday.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge in the shooting of Halyna Hutchins during an October 2021 rehearsal at a movie-set ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe.

Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer for "Rust," was pointing a gun at Hutchins during rehearsal when the revolver went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Johnson's experience as a criminal defense and personal injury attorney include representing former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who resigned in 2015 amid revelations she used campaign funds to fuel a gambling addiction. Duran received a 30-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to embezzlement and money laundering charges.

Johnson previously worked as a federal prosecutor on drug enforcement and organized crime investigations after serving as assistant district attorney in the Albuquerque area.

Prosecutors are turning their full attention to Baldwin after a judge on Monday sentenced movie weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed to the maximum of 18 months at a state penitentiary on an involuntary manslaughter conviction Hutchins's death.

Prosecutors said Gutierrez-Reed unwittingly brought live ammunition onto the set of "Rust," where it was expressly prohibited, and failed to follow basic gun safety protocols. She was convicted by a jury in March.

Defense attorneys for Baldwin are urging the judge to dismiss the indictment against him, accusing prosecutors of "unfairly stacking the deck" in grand jury proceedings and diverting attention away from exculpatory evidence and witnesses.

Special prosecutors deny those accusations and accuse Baldwin of "shameless" attempts to escape culpability, highlighting contradictions in his statements to law enforcement, to workplace safety regulators and in a televised interview.