Governor's First Speech Presents New Political Landscape, State Ranks Among Worst In Child Poverty

Jan 15, 2019

New Governor Outlines Policy Priorities Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sounded a rallying cry Tuesday to increase state spending on public education including preschool and encouraged allied Democratic lawmakers to revive initiatives on gun control, pay equity for women and climate-change regulation that stalled under her Republican predecessor.

In her first State of the State address, Lujan Grisham pressed for support of a 6 percent increase in teacher salaries and efforts to tap a multibillion-dollar state trust to provide greater access to preschool. Greater withdrawals from the Land Grant Permanent Fund would require approval of the Legislature and a statewide vote.

New Mexico's political landscape was transformed in November elections as Democrats consolidated control of all statewide elected offices and the state delegation to Washington. They also expanded their state House majority by eight seats.

State government income is expected to surpass current annual spending obligations by $1.1 billion for the coming fiscal year — or 17 percent of the current annual general fund budget.

In all, Lujan Grisham has recommended a 12 percent, $800 million increase in state general fund spending for the coming fiscal year. The state's lead budget-writing committee is suggesting slightly more modest increases in spending.


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she will join a coalition of governors from across the U.S. who have committed to upholding the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

In her first State of the State address, the Democrat said she will soon be signing an executive order committing the state to the emission reduction goals spelled out in the international agreement.

Lujan Grisham says she will soon be signing an executive order committing the state to the emission reduction goals spelled out in the international agreement.

Part of the effort includes state agencies developing a comprehensive climate plan for New Mexico to address carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution.

Another push by her administration will include increasing New Mexico's renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040.

That would place New Mexico on a similar trajectory to California and New York, which are planning for 50 percent by 2030. Hawaii aims to shift to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.


New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says lifting the state's cap on incentives for the film industry could result in more productions in other parts of the state.

In her State of the State address, the Democrat pointed to the flurry of activity in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas. She says rural areas and Native American communities also stand to benefit.

Lujan Grisham said film and television productions promote the state's great outdoors to a global audience and give New Mexicans another career option.

She vowed that New Mexico will by the end of the year pay the backlog of incentives that have been promised to the industry.

Repeating a phrase used often by former Gov. Susana Martinez, Lujan Grisham in her address said New Mexico is open for business and encouraged the industry to bring its cameras.


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is pushing for a higher minimum wage.

The Democrat said Tuesday during her State of the State address that more than 110,000 New Mexicans make $7.50 an hour. She called that a "poverty wage."

She proposed raising the wage to $10 an hour now and then moving to $12 and establishing an index to inflation.

For state workers, she's calling for tiered raises, so those who currently earn the least will see 4 percent raises. The minimum wage for state employees would rise to $12 an hour beginning July 1 under her plan.

Like her predecessor, Lujan Grisham voiced support for the state's Local Economic Development Act as a way to invest in entrepreneurs and businesses. She wants to double the funding.


New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has plans for the state's child welfare agency.

In her State of the State address, she said she wants to address vacancies within the Children, Youth and Families Department and create 100 new positions in the agency's Protective Services Division.

Lujan Grisham also told lawmakers that she will be reinvigorating the state Children's Cabinet to work with key departments to ensure needs are being met.

A child-advocacy group reported Tuesday that New Mexico's child poverty rate has decreased but that the state still rates 48th in the nation overall when compared with other states.

New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2018 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book as the Legislature convened for a 60-day session.


New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is calling for her office and the Legislature to explore ways to reduce the costs of health care and increase patient access.

The Democrat said in her State of the State address that behavioral health care will be among the priorities, as she believes government has a duty to provide for those with mental illnesses and those dealing with substance abuse.

She says she's directing the state Health Department to work with the superintendent of insurance to reduce reporting requirements and burdens on health care providers with the goal of reducing bureaucracy and increasing delivery of health care.

Lujan Grisham also vowed to sign legislation, if passed, that would end a decades-old ban on abortion that preceded the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made the procedure legal nationwide.


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she will direct health officials in her administration to begin making opioid addiction a qualifying condition for patients seeking to use medical marijuana.

The Democratic governor's pledge Tuesday came during her first State of State address, which kicks off the Legislature's 60-day session in Santa Fe.

She says the directive follows a longstanding recommendation from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, and will come in addition to other state initiatives to address the state's opioid crisis.

She says the other plans include boosting opioid prevention programs and the availability of overdose-reversal drugs like Narcan.

She said cracking down on prescribers and pharmaceutical companies that avert the law would help address the distribution of opioids in New Mexico, in addition to a compassionate approach to addressing addiction.

GOP Decry Gov. Lujan Grisham's Ed Spending PlansAssociated Press

Republican New Mexico House Minority Leader James Townsend says he is "scared to death" of the spending proposals pushed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Townsend said Tuesday the massive spending plans around education and film production will prevent the state from putting aside needed money and could have long-term effects. Townsend says if the spending proposals are adopted and the state takes funds from its permanent land fund, the state's borrowing costs will skyrocket.

Republican House Minority Whip Rod Montoya says the governor wants lawmakers to agree on spending plans that have re-occurring costs but the budget surplus won't be there every year.

Townsend says Republican also will oppose Lujan Grisham's plan to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 an hour.

Republicans Eye Details From Lujan Grisham PlansAssociated Press

GOP New Mexico Rep. Alonzo Baldonado says Republicans are taking a "wait and see" approach to the education proposals outlined by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Baldonado said Tuesday he and many other Republicans support strengthening the state's struggling education system but they want to know how Lujan Grisham intends to pay for proposed teacher raises and increased spending.

The Los Lunas Republican also says Republicans are concerned about the governor's call for gun control and to rid the state of its anti-abortion law if the federal Roe vs. Wade landmark case is overturned.

He says most Republicans are skeptical about new gun control laws.

Baldonado says Republicans want to see more details in the various proposals and intend to ask hard questions during committee meetings.

New Mexico Legislature Takes On New Political Landscape -Associated Press

New Mexico's Democrat-led Legislature has a billion-dollar budget surplus and a Democratic governor to work with as it prepares for the start of a 60-day legislative session.

Newly inaugurated Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is scheduled to deliver her first State of the State speech at noon Tuesday as the Legislature convenes.

The governor and leading lawmakers are proposing increases in annual spending on public education of more than $400 million after a court ruled that the state is failing to provide sufficient resources to public schools.

State District Court Judge Sarah Singleton is giving the governor and lawmakers until mid-April come up with a realistic plan to improve opportunities for students from minority and low-income households.

The governor also backs increase subsidies to the film and renewable-energy sectors.

Report Finds New Mexico Remains 48th In Nation In Child PovertyAssociated Press

A child-advocacy group says New Mexico's child poverty rate has decreased but that the state still rates 48th in the nation when compared with other states.

New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2018 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book as the Legislature assembled Tuesday to convene its annual session.

The group says New Mexico's child poverty ranking among the states held steady despite gains in some areas because other states saw larger improvements.

According to New Mexico Voices, New Mexico lags the nation on indicators such has teen pregnancy, high school graduation rates and children who live in high poverty areas.

Policy recommendations in the report include enacting a child tax credit and making other taxation changes to reduce the state's reliance on boom-and-bust oil revenue.

Archdiocese Of Santa Fe Urging No Touching Amid Flu OutbreakAssociated Press

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe has announced a series of temporary changes at Mass amid widespread flu outbreaks and high Influenza-like illnesses in New Mexico.

The archdiocese said Monday that it is encouraging parishioners to nod and avoid shaking hands or hugging during the Sign of Peace.

In addition, church officials are asking parishioners not to hold hands when praying the Our Father.

Church officials also are asking those who are sick, sneezing or coughing to watch Sunday Mass at home on TV.

New Mexico is one of the states listed by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention as having widespread flu outbreaks and high Influenza-like illness activity.

New Mexico's 1st Muslim Lawmaker Takes OfficeAssociated Press

New Mexico has sworn-in its first Muslim American lawmaker in state history.

Rep. Abbas Akhil, an Albuquerque Democrat, took the oath of office on Tuesday after winning a close race to represent a seat in Albuquerque.

Akhil is an immigrant from India and an active member of the Islamic Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He defeated Republican state Rep. Jim Dines.

Akhil says he was honored to take the Albuquerque seat and make New Mexico history.

He brought Imam Fazail Ahmad Shaik of the Islamic Center of New Mexico to witness his historic swearing in ceremony.

Snowplow Driver Could Face Charges After Hitting PedestriansAssociated Press

Authorities say they are considering a careless driving charge against a Santa Fe snowplow driver who struck a couple and then drove away.

Santa Fe police spokesman Greg Gurule said Monday that driver Billy Kavanaugh may not face an additional charge for leaving the scene of an accident because he was "adamant he did not know he struck anyone."

The incident Friday night caused serious injury to 68-year-old Joseph Fammartino and his wife, Toni, who is the same age.

A Santa Fe police report says Toni was treated for a cut on the back of her head and reported pain in her shoulder, while Joseph had more serious facial injuries and could possibly suffer vision loss and brain damage.

Joseph on Monday was listed in satisfactory condition at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

New Mexico Legislature Proposes Teacher Pay Increases - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Leading New Mexico lawmakers on Monday proposed increases to teacher salaries by as much as 13 percent as they grapple with a court order to increase resources to improve learning opportunities for students from minority and low income households.

Unveiled on the eve of a 60-day legislative session, the budget proposal from the Legislative Finance Committee would increase overall, annual state general fund spending by 11 percent, or $673 million, to $7 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1.

More than 60 percent of the increase in proposed general fund spending — $417 million — would go toward public education. New Mexico's school districts and charter schools rely primarily on state funds for operations and facilities.

That proposed increase includes major investments in pre-school, spending directed toward at-risk students and a five-week extension to the school year for many elementary schools.

Pay changes for educators include minimum salary increases for teachers as they advance through three certification levels, and a 5.5 percent overall spending increase on teacher pay. Base pay for mid-career teachers would increase by more than 13 percent, from $44,000 to $50,000.

Ex-UNM Law Prof Sedillo Lopez Appointed To New Mexico Senate -Associated Press

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a former University of New Mexico law school associate dean and civil rights activist, has been appointed to a vacant state Senate seat in Albuquerque.

The Bernalillo County Commission voted unanimously on Monday to appointed Sedillo Lopez to finish out the term of Democratic state Sen. Cisco McSorley. He resigned last week to serve as director of the state Probation and Parole.

The county commissioners chose Sedillo Lopez out of 19 candidates who announced last week they would seek the seat.

Sedillo Lopez lost in the Democratic primary last year to Deb Haaland for an open U.S. House seat representing Albuquerque. Haaland went on to win the U.S. Congressional seat in the general election.

New Mexico May Add Renewable-Energy Office -Associated Press

New Mexico's commissioner of public lands wants to create a new office to encourage the development of renewable energy from sources such as wind and solar on state trust lands.

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard announce Monday a request to the Legislature to authorize funding for a state Office of Renewable Energy. She also is seeking authorization to expand oversight of oil and gas development in the southeast corner or the state by hiring four new district managers.

The State Land Office oversees 14,000 square miles of land and additional underground resources that are used to help fund schools, universities, hospitals and other public institutions. The agency is funded by income from state trust land.

Garcia Richard campaigned on pledges to expand opportunities for renewable energy development. New Mexico is experiencing record-setting oil production in the Permian Basin that straddles the Texas-New Mexico state line.

Jonathan Nez To Be Sworn In As Navajo Nation President -Associated Press

Jonathan Nez will be sworn in Tuesday as the next president on the country's largest Native American reservation.

He and Vice President-elect Myron Lizer will take the oath of office at an indoor sports arena in Fort Defiance, north of the Navajo Nation capital.

The two easily won November's general election to lead the tribe for the next four years.

Outgoing President Russell Begaye did not advance beyond the August primary election.

Nez was raised in Shonto and has served as the community's vice president, as a tribal lawmaker and as a county supervisor. Most recently, he was the tribe's vice president.

He and Lizer will have to confront a loss in revenue and jobs if a power plant and coal mine close in December as expected.

Santa Fe Archbishop Pledges To Open Priest Abuse Records - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The head of the largest Roman Catholic diocese in New Mexico has pledged to open sealed records related to priest child sexual abuse cases.

Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester agreed to the disclosure as he and two other top archdiocesan officials were questioned last week under oath as part of bankruptcy court proceedings.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the public meeting included several victims whose claims are now intertwined with the archdiocese's pending bankruptcy reorganization.

While the archdiocese already has paid millions of dollars to settle abuse claims, Wester has said it cannot sustain the financial impact of continued litigation.

It was also revealed during the meeting that the archdiocese continues to pay thousands of dollars annually to assist two priests who have been credibly accused of molesting children.

Report Finds Shrinking Ridership Hampers New Mexico Commuter Rail -Associated Press

New Mexico's only commuter rail line has marked another year of shrinking ridership.

A report released Monday by the Legislative Finance Committee shows there were more than three-quarters of a million trips taken during the last fiscal year. That's 37 percent below the peak of 1.2 million during the 2010 fiscal year.

Ridership has declined every year since, with the last fiscal year marking the lowest level since service was extended to Santa Fe in late 2008.

The report says each passenger trip cost $34 in 2017. Fares covered just 8 percent of that, with federal grants and gross receipts tax revenues making up the rest.

A project of former Gov. Bill Richardson, the train began operating in 2006.

The most common reasons given for not riding the train include inconvenient schedules and long travel times.

New Mexico Highlands Offers Class For Furloughed Workers -Associated Press

New Mexico Highlands University is offering a free online class on geographic information systems to furloughed federal employees.

The eight-week class is scheduled to begin Jan. 16. It's billed as an introduction to mapping technology that includes global positioning systems, or GPS, GIS and remote sensing.

Joe Zebrowski is the geospatial technology director at Highlands. He says the class offers flexibility for students to access the online sessions on their own time and at their own pace.

He says the class can apply to many career fields — from business and geology to biology, forestry and the social sciences.

Members of the state's congressional delegation have said more than 10,000 federal workers have been impacted by the shutdown in New Mexico.

Furloughed workers can register for the class at www.nmhu.edu/GIS .

Tornado Fighter Plane Move In Alamogordo Goes As Planned - Alamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

Officials say the move of a German Air Force donated Tornado fighter plane from Holloman Air Force Base to the Otero County Fairgrounds went well.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports the German Air Force Tornado jet fighter made its way down Highway 54/70 while being towed to Alamogordo on Saturday without any glitch.

The jet was on display for the public at the Otero County Fairgrounds on Sunday and is scheduled Tuesday to move to the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

The move involved 17 different agencies and businesses, including utility workers who will be taking care of power lines along the way.

The twin-engine combat plane has been on display in front of the German Air Force headquarters at Holloman Air Force Base for the last several years.

Lawsuit Claims New Mexico Boy Had Toe Severed At Public Pool - The Daily Times, Associated Press

A northwestern New Mexico woman says her 6-year-old had his toe severed at a public pool's water slide.

The Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico, reports Aubrea Danks recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomfield after her son allegedly had his toe severed in July 2017 while playing at the Bloomfield Family Aquatic Center.

According to the complaint, the boy had just come down a water slide and splashed into the pool when he felt immense pain radiating from his foot. The complaint says the boy looked down and noticed his toe had been severed.

The complaint seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

Bloomfield City Attorney Ryan Lane disputes allegations that the city had failed to properly construct and maintain the facility.

Former Navajo Nation President Milton Bluehouse Sr. Dies -Associated Press

A Ganado man who served six months as Navajo Nation president during a time of political upheaval has died.

Milton Bluehouse Sr. died Monday morning. He was 82.

His son, Milton Bluehouse Jr., says doctors recently discovered his father had late-stage cancer.

The elder Bluehouse became president in July 1998 after two tribal presidents facing ethics charges left office.

Albert Hale resigned rather than face prosecution on corruption charges. Thomas Atcitty took over but was removed by the Tribal Council on ethics charges.

Bluehouse had been serving as a tribal lawmaker when Atcitty appointed him vice president.

Bluehouse tried to recapture a tribal legislative seat in 2010. He echoed the words of the late Annie Wauneka at the time, saying even if he lost "I'll go and do more."

Navajo Code Talker Alfred K. Newman Dies At 94 In New Mexico -Associated Press

A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in New Mexico at age 94.

Navajo Nation officials say Alfred K. Newman died Sunday at a nursing home in Bloomfield.

Newman was among hundreds of Navajos who served in the Marine Corps, using a code based on their native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II.

During World War II, Newman served from 1943-45 in the 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment and 3rd Marine Division and saw duty at Bougainville Island, Guam, Iwo Jima, Kwajalein Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, New Georgia and New Caledonia.

Newman is survived by his wife of 69 years, Betsy. They had five children, 13 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.