In the final hours of the 54th Legislature, lawmakers passed a a $7.6 billion budget for the 2021 fiscal year ($TNM). Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham estimated 80% of her agenda passed, including a controversial gun measure, legislation to stabilize the state pension fund and a plan to import cheaper prescription medication from Canada. Notable failures included proposals to legalize recreational cannabis and restructure the Public Regulation Commission. "I think this was a really productive 30-day session," the governor said at a press conference following the session's closure yesterday at noon, captured here in photos. Many of the bills still need to be signed by the governor, including Senate Bill 29, which renews an income tax credit for solar system installations that was in place until 2016.
AG sues Google
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sued Google yesterday, alleging the tech behemoth used its educational products to spy on children and families, violating the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act ($NYT). According to a press release from the AG's office, Google provides for free its G Suite for Education products—such as Gmail, calendar and docs—along with Google Chromebook laptop computers, to school districts across the state. The suit alleges Google uses those products to gather large amounts of valuable personal information, without parental consent, from children under 13. "Student safety should be the number one priority of any company providing services to our children, particularly in schools," Balderas said in a statement. "Tracking student data without parental consent is not only illegal, it is dangerous." Balderas' letter to Google and the lawsuit, which was filed in US District Court for the District of New Mexico can be read here. According to the Times, Google last September agreed to pay a $170 million fine to settle federal and New York State charges that it illegally harvested children's personal data on YouTube.
Group says Bandelier should remain monument
The nonprofit Caldera Action is calling on US Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, D-NM, to reconsider proposed legislation that would change Bandelier National Monument into a national park. The group says Bandelier's staffing can't handle increased visitor numbers, and also expressed concerns about opening up the area to hunting and trapping. In a press release, the organization says it is "calling on Congress to address severe funding shortfalls for the National Park Service at Bandelier and nationally before promoting National Park Service managed properties as economic development tourist attractions. Decaying and inadequate infrastructure, deficient staffing, staff housing shortages, and the delicacy of the cultural and natural features that attract the public, all argue for leaving Bandelier a National Monument." Upon introduction of the bill last fall, Heinrich said he was spurred in part to protect Bandelier in light of President Donald Trump's moves to decrease Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 85%, which Heinrich described as a "blatant attempt to open up over a million acres sacred to tribes for oil and gas exploration and uranium mining."
Cops boost downtown patrols
Downtown merchants say they're happy with the increased police presence downtown ($TNM). "Operation Downtown Focus" kicks off its second phase tomorrow with three full-time bicycle officers, one sergeant and two public safety aides patrolling the area daily. Downtown and Railyard/Guadalupe-area merchants called for a city meeting recently to discuss what they characterized as an uptick in crime, panhandling and exposure to vomit and excrement. SFPD says data collection between Jan. 27 and Feb. 9, aka phase one, shows officers responded to 52 calls for service, made 115 contacts with people at various business and made eight arrests. Cyndi Hall, associate director of Manitou Galleries, says she's noticed a difference since the initiative kicked off. "I think it's comforting to our clients and tourists coming to town, seeing their presence," she said.
The 2020 Legislature has ended. In Episode 24 of "Your New Mexico Government," a podcast devoted to the 54th Legislature, Gene Grant, host of New Mexico In Focus, recaps the biggest moments and topics, like the red-flag law (which passed), recreational marijuana (which didn't), free college tuition (partially funded) and more. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, New Mexico PBS and KUNM radio.
Speaking of KUNM radio, check out last month's interview with Titus O'Brien, curator of Dreams Unreal, a collection of rock 'n' roll posters on display through April 12 at the Albuquerque Museum. O'Brien also authored an accompanying book from UNM press that chronicles how the Bay Area music scene from 1965 to 1970 gave way to the psychedelic rock posters accompanying music from bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, the Doors and more.
Piñon Elementary School fifth grader Estevan Chavez, 11, has been chosen to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference, a national STEM conference, which will be held in Washington, DC this July. Chavez previously attended the NYFL Pathways to STEM program in summer 2018 through the Envision Experience in Denver. "We were able to create a robot, interact and investigate a real crime scene and we dissected a beef heart," Chavez said of that experience. In a city press release, Chavez said he is looking forward to representing his school at the July conference, which will feature wrestling-champion Anthony Robles as its keynote speaker, as well as trips to the Maryland Science Center and Harpers Ferry National Park
Next week isn't quite a national holiday, but maybe it should be? Talking, of course, about Santa Fe Restaurant Week, a wonderful opportunity to check out all those restaurants you haven't made it to yet—or to have a very fine meal at a favorite spot at a crazy reasonable price. The deal is: participating restaurants create specially-priced menus for restaurant week, as well as other specials on wine and such. For example, the Word still looks back fondly on her incredible four-course $35 meal at 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar last year. Yes, those reservations go quick. More info available here.
Honoring the arts
Know someone who deserves recognition for helping the arts in New Mexico? Nominations are open for the 2020 Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts. According to the New Mexico Arts Commission and New Mexico Arts, the award is the state's "highest and most prestigious artistic honors." Nominations may be submitted by individual state residents or representatives of businesses or organizations in New Mexico. Self-nominations are discouraged. The deadline is April 3. More info available here.
Today will be partly sunny with highs near 47. That's kind of meh as far as weather goes, but we're so happy it's Friday that a forecast of non-stop swarming locusts couldn't phase us. Tomorrow calling for a 60% chance of showers after 11 am, cloudy and highs in the mid 40s. Chance of rain increases to 100% in the evening, after 11 pm, along with thunderstorms. That rain may turn into snow showers on Sunday before 11 am, and then rain thereafter, with highs near 43 degrees and a bit more wind: 15 to 20 mph.
Thanks for reading! The Word regrets to inform you that she's currently reading about the debates surrounding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a topic that has huge ramifications, but is probably a bit wonky for first thing in the morning. Here's an article about a cat looking at its reflection in a mirror if that's more where you're at right now.