MLG's about-face on school closures

With the 2022 legislative session underway, for a few weeks we will be providing you a special edition of the Intelligencer that includes summaries of Roundhouse activity, where we will be tracking the latest movidas, legislation on the move, and all other important legislative activity - including some of the chatter going on behind the scenes in a legislative session with very limited public access. 

Our coverage this week covers just over the first week of the 2022 legislative session. Also this week, the Public Education Department's follows MLG's bulling tactics and the broken public defender system.

We'll be monitoring the rest of the 2022 session weekly in our newsletter, but for more up to date information please follow us on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Send us any feedback (including chismes and quejas) by going to our website or shoot me an email at dax[AT]nmhispanos.com. And if you are not already subscribed, sign up here.


Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

2022 Legislative Session Recap: First Week

The headline story this week is arguably the publicity stunt of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham stepping into a Santa Fe elementary school on Wednesday and substitute teaching for a day. The public about-face in the governor's approach to maintaining public schools open is pretty remarkable: she went from a disastrous policy of closing schools across the state to trying to save face with fed-up New Mexican families and students by showing up to teach for a day. Clearly, it is only because of the political reality (as evident in the polling graphic below) and deep unpopularity of her failed policies that would cause MLG to reverse course (after all reversing course is not in her repertoire).

In other notable session news, there is a bipartisan election bill, SB 6, making its way through the Roundhouse. The omnibus bill, a 254 page behemoth, cleared the Senate Rules Committee yesterday and heads next to the Senate Finance Committee. The bill is a mixed bag of provisions, including language that clarifies that a driver’s license or other government-issued ID would be required, something we strongly support. However, the massive bill has some questionable provisions, and we're not convinced that on the whole the positives outweigh the negatives. We'll be keeping our eyes on this one.

Finally, MLG's “signature piece of legislation” (her words), a proposal to spur a hydrogen fuel economy in New Mexico, is quickly falling apart. It is hard to overstate just how out of touch a politician like MLG must be to think that in this political climate, with so much economic uncertainty and serious inflation concerns, her "signature piece of legislation" should be something that in the short term, at best, does nothing to improve the lives of hardworking New Mexican families — all while the state's coffers are overflowing with oil and gas revenues.

Here is a briefing of some of the other news coming out of the Roundhouse:

  • Speaking of the state's coffers, in a Tuesday meeting of the State Investment Council it was revealed that the state's two largest permanent funds will deliver $1.3 billion for the next budget year – a record amount that translates to an 11% increase year over year.

  • The push by MLG and her allies to get some political cover for their inability to fix the New Mexico crime wave continues to stumble

  • Sadly, to no one's surprise an effort to put a check on the governor's executive powers failed when the House Government, Elections, & Indian Affairs Committee tabled HJR3, Termination of States of Emergency. The 4-4 vote included the co-sponsor Democrat Damon Ely (not seeking re-election) voting in favor, while the Democrat Whip, Doreen Gallegos, was the single absent vote.

Public Education Department bullies opponents into submission

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Details: Last August, the PED suspended the entire Floyd public school board after the board refused to comply with PED’s mask mandates. But now that two of the members resigned in response to the suspension and a third member lost a re-election bid, both sides filed a motion to dismiss the case. PED has admitted publicly that it does not have jurisdiction over private schools.

Why it matters: Last September, the PED accused the largest private school in the state, Hope Christian School in Albuquerque, of violating the mask mandate. PED hit the school with a $5,000 fine. Hope Christian at first fought back by requesting an evidentiary hearing but eventually backed down because of the potential legal costs.

The big picture: PED’s combative behavior is a reflection of Governor Lujan Grisham’s despotic tenure. Using strong arm tactics and disregard for decorum and even the rule of law, PED is an attack dog for the governor and NMDOH. Ultimately, it’s all a distraction from the beyond abysmal reading and math scores produced by the New Mexico Public Education Department, who say it's "impossible to measure learning loss from the pandemic."

“It’s frightening…quite frankly, the defendants aren’t receiving any kind of quality representation systemically.” — Public Defender Commission Chairman Thomas J. Clear III

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Details: New Mexico’s Law Offices of the Public Defender needs 67 percent more lawyers (602 to be exact) in order to provide “reasonably effective” legal defense as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, according to a new study by the American Bar Association. Public defenders in New Mexico have an average 200 cases and just 10 hours to spend on each.

Why it matters: Other than adding more defenders, reducing penalties could trim the workload. For example, it used to be that you could go to jail for driving without a license but now it’s just a ticket. “Defelonizing” drug possession could also save defenders’ time.

The big picture: “If we can reduce the number of people who need our services, then we can provide better services with the resources we have,” Chairman Clear said. But it could cost tens of millions of dollars more each year to make it happen, and with the rise of crime across the state, it still might not be enough.

 

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