Gov balks at tax package, signs reproductive health bill
The omnibus budget bill worth $9.6 billion hit the governor’s desk earlier this week and left room for tax reform, but a bill on those details is still snagged in debate. While the Senate and House both passed bills that would issue taxpayer rebates, increase the tax on alcohol and other measures totaling $1.3 billion, the two chambers had not come to agreement late last night about the final language that would move to the governor. After the Senate amended and approved a House measure yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement asking lawmakers to take another swing at House Bill 547. “Most New Mexicans have stinging memories of past years of painful funding cuts spurred by an imbalanced recurring budget. While this administration has done incredible work to diversify our economy and our revenue streams to protect ourselves from the busts of the oil industry, make no mistake that our state budget remains subject to unprecedented volatility with a high reliance on energy revenues. Today, I’m worried that the Legislature may have a short-term memory,” the governor’s statement reads in part. “Put simply: this tax package cuts too deep, too quickly.” Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, issued a statement just before 11 pm noting legislators were making an effort at compromise. “The tax reform conference committee had a very productive meeting this evening, and I am grateful to my colleagues in both chambers for their efforts. Meetings will continue, and together this committee will deliver for all New Mexicans,” Wirth said. Another conference committee meeting is set for 9 am.
Though the governor has until mid-April to approve or veto legislation that emerges from the session ending Saturday at noon, she’s already signed a number of bills into law. Yesterday, she put the pen to House Bill 7, which bars cities and counties from restricting access to abortion and other reproductive care, as both Clovis and Hobbs have attempted to prohibit the procedures. The Legislature has also adopted a $1.2 billion capital outlay plan that includes an appropriation for a new health care clinic in Southern New Mexico.
NMSU releases report on shooting involving student athlete
Lawyers who reviewed policies, interviewed relevant witnesses, performed research, and analyzed reports and video from law enforcement and the media, concluded the New Mexico State University had not failed any legal obligations in events surrounding an athlete shooting last November on the campus of the University of New Mexico. NMSU basketball player Michael Peake was injured in a late-night incident and police have said he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed UNM student Brandon Travis, but that the team’s coaches and players did not initially cooperate with their investigation. However, Rodey Law—hired by the school for an independent review—recommended in a summary released yesterday that the school get serious about its curfew rules; create a more extensive policy specifically prohibiting the possession of any weapon or firearm by any student athlete while representing NMSU; craft a policy on how coaches should communicate with law enforcement in cases involving student athletes; and “implement measures to strengthen a culture that encourages student athletes to adhere to the integrity and values of NMSU,” among other measures. NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said in a letter that the university will soon announce a task force to address the firm’s recommendations. “We’re sharing this information with our campus community to show our commitment to transparency and to begin working together to implement the recommendations in the report,” Arvizu wrote. “We said from the beginning, if this review highlights opportunities for improvement, we will pursue those.”
Fewer doc visits under medical cannabis bill
Patients in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program would have to spend less money on doctor visits under changes to the program adopted by the Legislature via Senate Bill 242, a measure Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign. Rather than having to annually certify eligibility with the assistance of a medical provider and also complete a process called “re-enrollment” every three years, patients would have a chance to re-enroll and certify eligibility every two years. “This change saves patients time and money spent obtaining their annual recertification signatures and application from their medical provider,” said Dominick V. Zurlo, program director, in a news release from the health department. “It eliminates the confusion caused by the current process which has different timeframes for annual medical certifications and Medical Cannabis Patient ID Card renewals. This bill allows the two processes to happen at the same time.” The law would go into effect on June 16, and the health department says it will collectively save patients an estimated $11 million per year. The program currently includes 105,617 patients, including 10,802 in Santa Fe County.
Supreme Court lifts fine cap on contempt of court
A case involving discipline against an Albuquerque attorney resulted in the state Supreme Court ruling to lift a cap on fines for contempt of court. Justices overruled a decades-old precedent that placed a $1,000 limit in cases without a jury trial for the person subject to the punishment, according to a news release from the court. Justices did not, however, establish a new maximum monetary penalty for behavior constituting contempt of court (examples include: disobeying a court or disrespecting its authority). “We decline to place an express limit on contempt fines today. Instead, we adhere to New Mexico precedent and federal precedent granting courts the power to determine whether an offense is serious under the circumstances of the case,” the court wrote. At issue was a fine levied against Victor Marshall, who was suspended indefinitely from the practice of law in January 2022, then fined $2,000 for violating the standards of conduct before the court when his behavior in a hearing to appeal the discipline “was incredibly disruptive and lacked any sense of decorum.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported March 16: New cases: 247; 672,200 total cases. Deaths: two; Santa Fe County has had 402 total deaths; 9,078 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 93. Patients on ventilators: seven
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent March 16 “community levels” map shows two counties (San Juan and McKinley) are now yellow—aka medium—level. The rest of the state remains at green—aka low—levels. 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.
SFR recently had a chance to catch up with artist Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo) and talk about her exhibition, Road Less Traveled, on view at New York City’s Jack Shainman Gallery (through April 8) and her forthcoming appearance in the 11th season of the PBS documentary series, Art in the Twenty-First Century. Art in America also talks with Simpson in this new short video in which she discusses how her artistic approach reflects her life’s journey in a variety of ways.
Come out of the cold
Fingers crossed, the wet winter will translate to a fireless spring and summer, perfect for outdoor adventures. The Travel offers a roundup of New Mexico’s 10 best hikes, a list that includes Santa Fe’s Aspen Vista Trail, natch, but also farther-flung excursions such as the Bisti Badlands Trail in Bloomfield; the trails throughout Roswell’s Bottomless Lakes State Park; and Cave Creek Trail in the Pecos Wilderness. Narcity, meanwhile, offers the perennial praise for Truth or Consequences for those in need of an affordable hot springs vacation, which it describes as the US most affordable spa time (the story says it’s been fact-checked, so we’ll assume that’s true). For those looking to stay warm outside of the water, Travel Awaits includes Roswell at #10 on its assemblage of warm US destinations to visit in April, when temperatures are in the mid to high 70s. “Crowds are thick during the summer when temperatures are in the 90s,” Travel Awaits contributor Melody Pittman writes, “so April is an optimal time to visit.” (FWIW, #11 is Puerto Rico).
Cats and dogs
No, we’re not talking about the rain but, rather, actual felines and canines. In addition to wind, spring in Santa Fe also delivers a proliferation of puppies and kittens. According to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, of the more than 500 puppies and kittens the shelter helped last year, most start to arrive now. “We are approaching kitten season, and supplies are needed right now, so when these vulnerable animals come into the shelter, we are ready with the necessary tools to give to our foster families,” shelter Public Information Officer Murad Kirdar said in a statement. “Hundreds of orphaned and underage kittens will rely on our New Hope Department (foster program) for the around-the-clock care they need to survive.” The shelter hopes to collect kitten and puppy supplies, including kitten milk, special dry and wet food, puppy pads, and nurser kits to care for the spring arrivals and to provide to foster families (the shelter also is looking for fosters). Find a list of the shelter’s specific needs here. Meanwhile, Barker Realty in Santa Fe is running a “Show the Love” drive to collect dog and cat food; treats; toys; pet beds; towels; and blankets for Española Humane. Drop those items off through the end of the month at Barker’s Railyard District office, 530 S. Guadalupe St.
It’s not over
The National Weather Service forecasts a winter-ish day today, with snow showers likely, mainly before noon, and a high near 32 with southeast wind around 10 mph. Santa Fe Public Schools are on a two-hour delay due to ice and snow in some parts of the district. Stay bundled up heading into the weekend, with highs still below 40 degrees and more snow possible.
Thanks for reading! The Word’s current mood would be well-suited for reading Kafka’s diaries.