Legislature passes gun law
A controversial gun bill passed the state House of Representatives yesterday, its last hurdle before becoming state law in New Mexico. Senate Bill 5, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act—also known as "red flag" legislation—will provide law enforcement a judicial path to confiscate weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. The bill, which prompted protests from critics during the session, passed the House by 39-31. Seven Democrats joined Republicans opposing the bill: Harry Garcia of Grants, Raymundo Lara of Chamberino, Willie Madrid of Chaparral, Rudy Martinez of Bayard, Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque, Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Candie Sweetser of Deming ($TNM). Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who prioritized the bill's passage, said in a statement she plans to sign the law "in short order," noting: "This is a tremendous victory for New Mexicans' public safety. This tool will empower law enforcement to keep our communities safer. It will minimize the plain and unacceptable risks of gun violence and suicide all across New Mexico. Lawmakers showed great courage tonight."
Remember last weekend's vandalism at the New Mexico Republican Party's Albuquerque headquarters? That was no random political graffiti crime. Rather, a former congressional intern for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been detained and charged with criminal damage to property. According to court documents, police arrested Cameron Chase McCall after authorities compared video footage of the vandalism with a photo on McHall's Facebook page. McCall's attorney says her client didn't do it: "This was poorly investigated and based on an anonymous tip," she said. Governor spokesman Tripp Stelnicki condemned the vandalism: "It's flatly unacceptable behavior," he said. "The suspect was an intern in her congressional office…that fact amplifies her already extreme disappointment in what took place. There is no space for this kind of juvenile nonsense in our politics." The GOP had no comment.
The mothership comes home
"Eve," Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceship, traveled from the Mojave Air & Space Port in Southern California to Spaceport America in New Mexico yesterday, where it will now have final testing before starting commercial flights into outer space. "We have a lot of work to do, but the significance of this day is massive and what inspires me is really the idea of the having the spaceship flying free over the New Mexico skies," CEO George Whitesides told The Associated Press. More than 600 customers from 60 countries have paid deposits for Virgin Galactic's space flights. In the last year alone, more than 3,500 people have registered interest in flying to space. One paying customer, 80-year-old Shefket Chapadjiev, paid more than $175,000 in 2007 toward a $200,000 ticket to be one of the first passengers. Chapadjiev visited New Mexico a few years ago for a dinner with Virgin owner Richard Branson, but he's holding out hopes he'll return for his space flight soon. "They say it might happen this year, but, inside my heart, I'm not sure," he says.
Meow Wolf settles suits
Meow Wolf has settled the two employee lawsuits filed against the company. A gender discrimination suit by current Denver employees settled last month, with Westword in Denver reporting that neither the plaintiff Mar Williams nor Meow Wolf provided comment on the terms. In Santa Fe, SFR reports that a screen shot of a Facebook post by former Meow Wolf employee Gina Maciuszek discusses the outcome of her lawsuit (settled Feb. 4, according to court documents ($TNM)). She says the agreement to drop the case—filed with fellow former employee Tara Khozein—includes numerous changes at Meow Wolf such as a hotline for employee complaints, an overhaul of the parental leave policy and anti-discrimination training for managers.
There is no word on whether Meow Wolf paid out any monetary damages. However, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports a statement from spokeswoman Didi Bethurum that "Meow Wolf continues to deny the allegations made against it in litigation…and in the spirit of continual improvement and its pledge to diversity, equity and inclusion, Meow Wolf is in the process of implementing policies and practices, many of which have been in the works for some time, to benefit current and future Meow Wolf employees."
House passes bill to end NDAs
Last night, the House unanimously passed HB 21, a bill to protect employees from having to sign nondisclosure agreements when they settle cases alleging sexual harassment, discrimination or retaliation. Discussing the bill with SFR last month, sponsor Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, said the law is meant to "address the issue of catch-and-kill settlement agreements. We've seen a lot of high profile stories with regards to Harvey Weinstein, The National Enquirer, basically utilizing settlement agreements and nondisclosure clauses as a means of silencing victims of sexual harassment, especially in an employment context." In addition to the high-profile Weinstein cases, documented in Ronan Farrow's recent book, Catch and Kill ($NYT), nondisclosure agreements also feature in the case of former Fox News broadcast personality Gretchen Carlson, who reached a settlement with the network over allegations that Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes sexually harassed her. Carlson, who signed a nondisclosure agreement in 2016, still does not work in the industry, and has spoken out against the types of agreements she signed.
In episode 19 of "Your New Mexico Government," a podcast devoted to the 54th Legislature, Alamogordo Daily News reporter Cristina Carreon joins host Khalil Ekulona to discuss how SB5, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, is viewed in rural parts of the state. The bill, which allows law enforcement to confiscate weapons from people deemed by the courts to pose a threat to themselves or others, passed the state House of Representatives last night; the governor plans to sign it soon. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, New Mexico PBS and KUNM radio.
And speaking of listening, tune in for the latest episode of SFR's "Reported" podcast, in which Arts and Culture Editor Alex De Vore goes behind the scenes with local artist Raashan Ahmad, also the subject of this week's SFR cover story, "The King," in which Ahmad discusses how he took on hip-hop, jazz, Santa Fe and gratitude.
Rowley Farmhouse Ales made us our very own beer! As our cousin newsletter The Fork reports, that dark quad is called 4th Estate and it's still brewing but, rest assured, we'll let you know when it's ready. Buying a 4th Estate benefits SFR, and is part of a project in which our sister papers in North Carolina (Indy Week) and Oregon (Willamette Week) also are participating with beers from Bond Brothers Beer Company and Oakshire Brewing, respectively.
Monday is a holiday
Well, sort of. It's President's Day and from the looks of it, Santa Fe Public Schools and Santa Fe County are closed, but the City of Santa Fe does not seem to be. The bank definitely is! What else? Santa Fe National Forest's offices are closed, but the woods are open and they are free on Monday! The Word is well known for never turning down a bank holiday, so we'll be off Monday too, but back with you on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Have a great long weekend.
Feel the heat
OK, lovebirds, hope your weekend plans involve basking in the sun, because that's what's coming at you. Today looks sunny with a high near 44. Saturday also should be sunny, with highs near 48, and Sunday will be sunny again with highs hitting 54 degrees. Like summer! In…cold places. The nice weather now looks like it will continue on Monday, but forecasts are calling for a chance of snow next week, starting on Tuesday.