Roundhouse bans guns for gun discussion

In an unprecedented move, New Mexico's state Senate won't allow firearms in its public gallery and nearby rooms today as lawmakers discuss a proposed bill that would let authorities take guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. SB 5, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, is backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Normally, the Roundhouse allows for the open carry of legally owned firearms without entranceway screening, along with permitted concealed weapons. Today, only credentialed law enforcement officers will be allowed to carry weapons. In announcing her support for the bill earlier this month, Lujan Grisham noted that "In a state with the eighth-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation, with a suicide rate at least 50% higher than the national average when over 50% of suicides are caused by firearm, this common-sense measure, a version of which has already been enacted by 17 states and the District of Columbia, will enhance New Mexicans' public safety."

And then there were three

Libertarians will remain a major party in New Mexico for the 2020 election. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver informed the party's chairman Chris Luchini yesterday that the party's performance in the 2018 election was sufficient to retain its major party status along with the Democrat and Republican parties. In the last general election, the Libertarian candidates for land commissioner and secretary of state got slightly more than 5% of the total votes. Luchini tells the Albuquerque Journal that the party already has a candidate to run for the US Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Udall, along with two possible candidates for state Supreme Court seats. Major party status makes it easier to secure a spot on the ballot. "Like most states, New Mexico does its best to disadvantage anyone who's not on Team Red or Team Blue," Luchini told the Journal.

Hero on the ballot

CNN hero Roger Montoya announced yesterday he will run for the state House of Representatives, in District 40, which includes parts of Colfax, Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties. Last month, Montoya, who co-founded Española's after-school program Moving Arts, received a $10,000 award from CNN as part of his honor as one of 10 international heroes. "Moving into this realm is a new challenge for me, but I am excited about the opportunity to build bridges, foster creative collaboration, provide pathways to healing and success for our children, and uplift our communities," Montoya said in a press release. District 40 currently is represented by Joseph Sanchez, who is running in the Democratic primary for New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District.

Judge to lawmakers: Show us the $

New Mexico's chief justice yesterday pushed lawmakers to increase funding for the state's judiciary in order to add more judges and more courthouse security ($TNM). Specifically, Chief Justice Judith Nakamura and Arthur Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee they want $1.53 million to hire more judges, including one in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, and more than $2.7 million to increase court security. The state needs around 17 more judges; the court is asking for five and the Legislative Finance Committee has recommended funding four positions.

Listen up

In Episode 6 of "Your New Mexico Government," a podcast devoted to the 54th Legislature, Host Khalil Ekulona and guest Matt Grubs of New Mexico PBS discuss SB1, the Wholesale Prescription Drug Act, "Red Flag" legislation and government fiscal responsibility. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, New Mexico PBS and KUNM radio.

Coronavirus FAQ

In response to concerns about coronavirus, the New Mexico Department of Health has created a new webpage with answers about the new respiratory illness. “The most common question the NMDOH has received over the last several days has been ‘Can I or someone in my family contract coronavirus?’” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel in a press statement. “The answer is not at this time, unless you have recently traveled to affected parts of China or have been in contact with someone confirmed to have novel coronavirus.” New Mexico has not had any incidents of coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control has investigated 110 cases in the US so far, with 73 cases pending and five testing positive. Last week, the state health department advised healthcare workers here to be vigilant with travelers returning from abroad “presenting fever and respiratory symptoms.”

Moving solar forward

Legislation to re-instate the solar tax credit in New Mexico passed the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee on Monday, by a vote of 7-2. SB 29, which State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is cosponsoring with Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Santa Fe, specifically allows for New Mexico taxpayers who install a photovoltaic energy system in their home, small business or small farm after Jan. 1, 2020, to apply for a tax credit up to 10 percent of the cost of the system they installed. The tax credit would not exceed $6,000 per household and the annual budget cap for the credit is $10 million. The credit will be available to consumers for 10 years, sun-setting in 2030."Solar energy is clean, renewable energy that allows families to heat their homes and cook their meals without hurting the natural environment," Stewart said in a press release. "The solar tax credit will help more New Mexico families invest in solar—which is an investment in our state's future."

There’s no place like home

Interim Santa Fe City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill has accepted the job permanently, pending approval from the City Council at tomorrow night's meeting. According to a city press release, a nationwide search for the job generated 52 applicants, but the candidate who best fit the job was here all along, just like in The Wizard of Oz (kind of)"I am excited, delighted and encouraged by the support I have received from the Mayor, my colleagues, and City residents," LaPan Hill said in a press release. "Having a chance to serve the City I grew up in, at this moment of change, is a true honor. "

Spring is so far away

Today shall be sunny, with a high near 43 and a teensy bit breezy as the north wind blows 10 to 15 mph. Pull out the flannel pajamas: Lows around 19 degrees tonight. Mostly sunny again tomorrow and even a stitch warmer. Tomorrow night, we've got a 20% chance fo snow showers.

Thanks for reading! The Word has an unquenchable thirst for literary scandals, and the one swirling around American Dirt has been occupying her day and night ($NYT). Particularly the literally brain-dead decision to have barbed-wire centerpieces depicting the border wall at a celebratory dinner for the book ($LAT). If you've actually read the book and have an opinion, let me know what you think.