State of the state
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham opened the 54th Legislature yesterday with a few jokes about her caffeine intake, along with a review of her administration's accomplishments in her first year in office. She devoted much of her speech to pushing lawmakers on her education agenda for the session, which includes creating a permanent trust fund for early childhood education; a scholarship program that would make college free for all New Mexicans; and legalizing cannabis to diversify and strengthen the state's economy. You can read the entire speech, along with notes and commentary from New Mexico journalists here. SFR also is co-hosting with KUNM a daily legislative podcast, "Your NM Gov't." In the most recent installment, KUNM public health reporter Hannah Colton discusses the education proposals lawmakers have on their dockets.
Sen. Cervantes takes over Judiciary Committee
The state Senate Judiciary Committee has a new chair in the wake of the resignation of state Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, assumed the position yesterday, following approval by the full Senate ($TNM). Martinez resigned the post following his conviction of aggravated DWI, although he remains in the Legislature. The Senate Committees' Committee, which chose Cervantes for the position, also picked Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, to replace Cervantes as chair of the Senate Conservation Committee. Cervantes says he opposes cannabis legalization, one of the governor's priorities for the session. He's carrying Senate Bill 5, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, which the governor has endorsed, and which would give law enforcement the right to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
PRC hearing on PNM plans begins
The Public Regulation Commission began hearings yesterday regarding Public Service Co. of New Mexico's plans for how it will provide electricity to customers following the closure of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in 2022. PNM says the most affordable option would require a mix of solar, wind, natural gas and battery storage. Environmentalists and others are pushing for a plan that paves the way for the state to meet the emissions guidelines of the Energy Transition Act. New Energy Economy, which unsuccessfully challenged the Energy Transition Act at the state Supreme Court, has asked for the PRC proceedings to be suspended, saying the options offered by PNM are outdated.
Stay in School
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García presented a plan to school board members yesterday that could add 30 days to the school year, if teachers and students want extra classroom time ($TNM). Through the state funded program Extended Learning, García said the district will likely ask for funds to start the school year five days early. The state's K-5 program allows for districts to add 25 days to elementary school calendars. García discussed asking for funding for K-8, with various scenarios for adding more days to the calendar. Those additional days would be voluntary; in a survey of SFPS staff, 34% said they were willing to work an additional 20 instructional days and 26% said they would work an additional 25 days.
NM US Senators on impeachment
US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, held a press conference yesterday to discuss the beginning of the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. "What I want New Mexicans to know is this: I take this oath seriously," Udall said. "And I will seriously consider the arguments by both the House managers and the president's defense team. I hope my Republican colleagues will do the same." Meanwhile, US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, sent a letter yesterday to Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger expressing concerns about restrictions placed on journalists covering the trial, saying, "These restrictions are antithetical to a free press, good governance, and the ability of the public to be fully informed about what we as elected leaders do in their name." ($WP)
"A kind traveler is always respectful and curious about the cultural significance of the places and people they visit." So says Heather Arnold, owner of Routes Bicycle Tours of New Mexico, which offers bike tours and rentals in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Arnold was included in a round-up of advice for travelers in a recent New York Times article on how to be a kind tourist ($). Arnold goes on to advise stepping back from preconceptions and travel stress to embrace the "spirit" of the place one is visiting.
Food for thought
Food Tank, a think tank for food, today kicks off "The Wisdom of Indigenous Foodways" summit at Arizona State University. The event brings together Native American chefs, activists, farmers and journalists "to discuss resilience and innovation in indigenous foodways, biodiversity and land rights, and power structures in the food system." In conjunction, Food Tank highlights several New Mexico organizations "working to preserve, restore, and share stories of the region's natural diversity." These include the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), the Traditional Native American Farmers Association and Voices for Biodiversity
After the fog
Today looks…normal: Mostly sunny, with a high near 40, and north wind 10 to 15 mph. Clear tonight with lows at about 24 degrees. The rest of the week forecast to be about the same. Since that's a smidge boring, here's a story about an unidentified object in a tree in southeast Missouri that alarmed folks enough that they called the Stoddard County Sheriff's Office. The misidentified parachute turned out to be a weather balloon from New Mexico (sounds about right). We don't know whose balloon, but apparently law enforcement got in touch with the owners of the errant balloon so they could retrieve it.
Thanks for reading! Upon learning of the New Mexico weather balloon that ended up in Missouri, the Word fell down a rabbit hole reading about weather balloons, which play an important role in predicting the weather, and also rely on helium, of which there is a worldwide shortage (this the Word already knew due to a situation last summer involving non-weather balloons). The helium shortage isn't just threatening weather balloons, but also Party City, MRI machines and deep-sea diving. But there are two ambitious Australian geologists who think they can find more. You're welcome.