Hemp it up

The state Economic Development Department announced yesterday an investment of $400,000 in a Las Cruces hemp production and processing business. New hemp manufacturing company 420 Valley LLC—which will be cultivating hemp and then manufacturing products such as CBD oils, edibles, ointments etc.—wants to hire 55 employees over the next three years. Its plans call for a 13,000-square-foot facility with a indoor grow area, retail space, a manufacturing area, a taproom and a café with a drive-through. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press statement that "hemp production and sustainable agriculture are essential components of our mission to expand New Mexico's economy."

Bitter pill to swallow

New Mexico's Human Services Department yesterday announced a settlement with five of 15 behavioral health providers accused by former Gov. Susana Martinez' administration of over-billing Medicaid ($TNM). The settlement will pay $10 million to Santa Maria El Mirador, Border Area Mental Health Services, Southwest Counseling Center Inc., Southern New Mexico Human Development Inc., and Families and Youth Inc. It is the last settlement to providers, none of which were found to have committed fraud, as alleged. The former administration, six years, ago, froze providers Medicaid claims, which lead to closures, layoffs and treatment gaps. Patsy Romero, Santa Maria El Mirador's CEO, said the settlement was "exciting news" because the incident can finally be put in the past, but "we certainly can't even begin to really undo what was done six years ago."

Fault faults

Los Alamos National Laboratory never finished its earthquake safety plans, according to a recent report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. The independent oversight board said the lab is behind schedule in completing agreed-to upgrades for its seismic safety systems at a plutonium facility known as PF-4. The findings "call into question the overall adequacy of the current set of safety controls to protect the public and workers," the report said. LANL, however, argues it has completed some of the upgrades and is confident that future ones will ensure the seismic safety requirements. The nuclear laboratory was built on a fault, predicted to have a major earthquake every 10,000 years.

Those who can, teach

Santa Fe Public Schools has a "crisis" when it comes to teacher vacancies, Superintendent Veronica García said in yesterday's 2019 State of the Schools Address. Moreover, teacher salaries aren't competitive nationally, and the vacancy rate continues to rise. In her speech, García also announced a new Project Put Students First initiative, through which she will replace substitute teachers with licensed educators serving in administrative roles. "I can't morally in good conscience not do my best to ensure that we have our certified people working with our kids," said Garcia, "We are going to try to move more people into the classroom."

Coming out of retirement

Lawmakers on the state's Investments & Pensions Oversight Committee yesterday approved a proposal from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administrative to overhaul the system that serves public employees. Retirees attending the hearing, however, were less sanguine. The plan aims to address the pension fund's $6.6 billion liability. Approximately 50 retirees showed up and objected to the overhaul, specifically temporary reductions to cost-of-living adjustments and a shift to a profit-sharing system for the adjustments. While the committee approved the measures, its fate will ultimately be decided by lawmakers in next year's legislative session.

Legal hope

In a recent Playboy magazine article, "On the Border of Destruction," journalist Tina Vasquez assesses the myriad horrific policies and situations immigrations are facing in El Paso. To quote Santa Fe Dreamers Executive Director Allegra Love, who kicks off the article: "So much god-awful shit is converging in El Paso, it's like the epicenter." Love and her colleagues are featured in the story for their efforts to help immigrants being brutalized by Trump-era policies, makeshift judicial remedies and organized crime, among other factors. As the article notes: "In many cases, organizations like the Santa Fe Dreamers' Project can provide migrants their only sense of hope in an increasingly convoluted system."

Side of sewage

Madrid restaurant The Hollar owner Joshua Novak is simultaneously operating a popular and—SFR's Cole Rehbein finds—tasty restaurant, while running a GoFundMe campaign to buy a new septic system. While sewage and food aren't the most comfortable topics to pair when going out to eat, Novak has been open about the sewer problems he and other Madrid residents face in the former mining town."Sometimes you walk through town and you see people's septic systems overflowing, like actively, and that's horrific," Novak says. He is still paying off the first $42,000 septic system he installed when he purchased the business in 2008; a new one is expected to run him $30,000-$40,000.

Honoring Harjo

ICYMI, last week's edition of KUNM's New Mexico In Focus program includes an interview with Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the nation's first Native American poet laureate. Harjo is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma, and went to school at the Institute of American Indian Arts, as well as the University of New Mexico, where she also was a faculty member. Harjo discusses the importance of being the first Native American Poet Laureate; You can listen to a podcast of the episode here.

Little of this/little of that

Scattered showers predicted before 11 am today with a 30% chance of precipitation. Thereafter, it will be mostly cloudy before gradually becoming partly sunny. Highs near 46. Partly cloudy night (albeit dark), and partly sunny tomorrow, also with highs near 46. The weekend is looking mostly sunny on Saturday with a high of 51; partly sunny Sunday with a high of 48 and a 20% chance of showers.

Thanks for reading! The Word wants to make sure if you missed yesterday's lighting of the US Capitol Christmas tree, supplied by New Mexico, you know you can watch it in its entirety on C-Span.