Gov proposes assault weapon ban during State of the State
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham led with the economy during her State of the State address at yesterday’s launch of the 60-day legislative session, but also previewed several initiatives related to guns, health care, education and the environment. While the odd-year 60-day session is more expansive than the finance-focused 30-day sessions, lawmakers are expected to spend plenty of time allocating funds given the state’s $3.6 billion in “new” revenue, largely courtesy of the oil and gas industry. As part of her $9.4 billion proposed budget, the governor said she wants $1 billion in tax relief via rebates, along with various tax reform measures. She said she will also request more than $100 million for programs tackling homelessness; $128 million in water infrastructure improvements; and $146 million in statewide broadband expansion. The governor also expressed a commitment to banning assault weapons “to address the sickening scourge of gun violence that has infected our nation”; codifying abortion rights and access; establishing a Rural Health Care Delivery Fund; and expanding classroom time.The governor said the state will also allocate $100 million for communities affected by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire “to begin rebuilding their infrastructure without waiting for the federal government’s investments to be distributed—but make no mistake, we will not rest until the Federal Emergency Management Agency…does right by us.” In addition, the governor proposed a new Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund, with a $75 million allocation, “to create sustained funding for state programs that protect our environment, combat issues like drought and water scarcity, and address the roots of climate change.” On that note, YUCCA Action held a youth protest in the form of a “die-in” in the rotunda during opening ceremonies demanding action on climate change. Environmental advocates say a Green Amendment to the state constitution—a proposal lawmakers will consider for the third time during this session—would go a long way in protecting New Mexico’s environment from both industry and climate change. Read the text of the governor’s prepared speech here. Read more about the top priorities during this session in SFR’s legislative preview, along with a local drill-down from the Santa Fe-area delegation.
New House speaker shakes up leadership
Meanwhile, newly elected House Speaker state Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, “sent shockwaves” through the House chamber, the Albuquerque Journal reports, by replacing Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, as chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee with Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, who had been the committee’s vice chairman. Lundstrom, who has led the committee for the last six years, told the Journal she was “incredibly disappointed” and “absolutely shocked” by the change. She subsequently released a statement lambasting Martínez’s decision: “I have fought for our state’s most vulnerable and protected our finances in our economically challenged state,” the statement reads. “The decision to replace me with a White man with less than a fourth of the experience in budget development is extremely damaging to New Mexico with the ever-increasing one-party system that retaliates against traditional, Hispanic, rural Democrats.” Small described himself as “humbled and honored” by the appointment. In a statement on behalf of Martínez, House Democratic caucus spokeswoman Camille Ward tells the Journal “the speaker has the responsibility and the prerogative to organize the House committees as he feels best meets the current needs of New Mexico. With new leadership on both sides of the aisle and on many of our committees in this session, Speaker Martínez is beginning a new chapter to move New Mexico forward.”
DA vows justice in political shooting case
Fallout continues following the Albuquerque Police’s Monday arrest of Solomon Peña, described as the “mastermind” in the recent shootings at local lawmakers’ homes. Police arrested Peña, a convicted felon, failed Republican candidate for House District 14 in November’s general election and election denier and charged him with four counts of shooting an an occupied dwelling; shooting at or from a motor vehicle; attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon; and four counts of conspiracy as well as criminal solicitation. In short, police believe Peña paid four men to shoot at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators, and was present for at least one of the shootings. State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, one of the lawmakers whose home was targeted, spoke with Chris Hayes on MSNBC yesterday about the experience: “It’s something that is much larger than just here in the state of New Mexico,” she said. “The rhetoric has to stop.” SFR also spoke with Lopez last week—prior to Peña’s arrest—about her forthcoming legislation to codify abortion rights in the state. Despite her home being riddled with, police say, a dozen bullets, including several through the bedroom where her daughter was sleeping, she said: “I do believe that our community is safe. You know, during my my tenure as a state legislator, I have always felt safe even with some other controversial legislation over the years. And I will continue to do the work for my community and the state. Fear doesn’t stop me from doing work.” Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman appeared yesterday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press NOW” and told host Kristen Welker: “An attack on elected officials is an attack on democracy…we’ll do everything we can to bring them to justice and make sure that they are brought to justice.”
SFHS new cafeteria construction underway
Santa Fe Public Schools project managers expect a $16.4 million project for a new cafeteria/commons area at Santa Fe High School to be completed this summer (here is some drone video of that site). Members of SFPS Board of Education Community Review Committee are scheduled to meet virtually at 6 pm this evening and will hear updates on that and other district construction projects, among other agenda items. According to a meeting presentation document, the district also hopes to begin construction on a solar carport at Milagro Middle School next month and is in the process of getting a quote on constructing one at Aspen Community School as well. The district’s technology department is also looking to replace some of its older fleet vehicles potentially with electric vehicles, and says “the majority of SFPS fleet vehicles travel a daily mileage well below the reach of current battery mileage, which should eliminate the need for SFPS to purchase fossil fuel powered fleet vehicles.” Other construction projects in the district include the ongoing $21 million renovations at Early College Opportunities High School and ongoing evaluations for potentially creating outdoor classroom sites at Acequia Madre Elementary School, Capital High School, El Dorado Community School, Gonzales Community School and Sweeney Elementary School.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Jan. 17: New cases: 484 (includes long weekend); 662,782 total cases. Deaths: five; Santa Fe County has had 384 total deaths; 8,896 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 76. Patients on ventilators: five
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Jan. 12 “community levels” map shows two counties (versus one last week) categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19: De Baca and Hidalgo. The rest of the state—including Santa Fe County—is green, aka has low risk. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.
Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via COVIDTests.gov; Check availability for additional free COVID-19 tests through Project ACT; CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
In a recent episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, sci-fi writer Warren Lapine discusses his new book, Immer, Zlaz, a collection of hundreds of letters written by renowned fantasy and science fiction author Roger Zelazny, a 20-year resident of Santa Fe, who died here in 1995. As Wired magazine reports, Lapine credits Zelazny with his decision to stay in school, become a straight-A student and a professional writer. The letters, written by Zelazny to his best friend, reveal a great deal about a notoriously private person. “If you want to know who Roger Zelazny was,” Lapine says, “these letters do that for you.” FYI, Zelazny’s son Trent, also a writer, has previously served as a writing contest judge for SFR’s annual contest.
Failing to repatriate
ProPublica has published an extensive multi-media investigation of US museums that have failed to return Native American human remains. According to the story, which ProPublica produced with NBC News, “the remains of more than 110,000 Native American, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Natives’ ancestors are still held by museums, universities and federal agencies,” despite the 1990 passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requiring they be returned. The investigation reveals that 10 institutions hold approximately half of the remains that have not been repatriated to tribes, including the American Museum of Natural History, which has argued that it has not returned some of the Southwest remains in its possession because those remains are too old to have their provenance determined. The museum also holds, to this day, items looted from Chaco Canyon during expeditions in the late 1800s. The story also includes a photograph of pottery from Pueblo Bonito, the largest structure at Chaco Canyon, held behind glass in a lab at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in 1900. Two of the institutions that hold human remains from Native Americans are governmental agencies, including the Interior Department, which administers NAGPRA. Interior Secretary and former New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland announced forthcoming regulatory changes to NAGPRA last summer, updates she described as “long overdue.”
Hungry for Albuquerque
Ready to travel to eat in one of the world’s best cities for food? You won’t have to travel far. According to Eater, Albuquerque lands on the 2023 list of the 11 best cities to visit to nosh. In the world. In fact, it’s one of just two US cities to make the list (Asheville, North Carolina is the other). What makes Albuquerque rank up there with Halland, Sweden; Cambridge, England; and Sardinia, Italy? “The historic pit stop connecting the new Southwest,” Eater writes, may not boast the roadside culture once afforded by a trip down Route 66, but Albuquerque “now enjoys an allure of its own. Bars and restaurants gaining national recognition now dot a revitalized stretch of old Route 66 in the Nob Hill neighborhood. At the same time, a burgeoning entertainment industry—responsible for TV shows like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Stranger Things—has put a spotlight on the city and invited financial investment. The interstate still brings visitors to town, but these days, they stick around.” The multi-media story also rounds up and maps the 25 “essential” eateries in the Duke City (one of these days we’re going to visit Happy Accidents...and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam). Inside Hook travel magazine also gets in on the action, declaring Albuquerque “the next great foodie destination.” The story goes to say “this high desert city is one of the most overlooked gems in domestic travel, and for Angelenos, it has the added appeal of being only a 90-minute flight away. One final selling point? The food in this city is freaking amazing.” OK, we’re sold.
SFPS on a two-hour delay
With overnight snow leaving the streets a little slick this morning (and crunchy, according to our on-the-scene roads report), Santa Fe Public Schools—including full-day Pre-K programs—are on a two-hour delay. Morning Pre-K programs have been canceled; afternoon Pre-K programs will operate on a regular schedule. National Weather Service forecasts another day of isolated snow showers, with an approximate 20% chance for precipitation. Otherwise, it will be mostly cloudy, then gradually become sunny, with a high temperature near 37 degrees and below normal temperatures continuing for the next week. On the bright side, the recent snowfall has benefited snowpack in the western part of the state, and we may seem some more starting Friday.
Thanks for reading! As a 30+ year New Mexico resident, The Word appreciates the snow…but is nonetheless pretending she’s in Waikiki.