Democrats and Republicans win big over MLG

In this week's Intelligencer, a bipartisan Supreme Court win, the Colorado governor calls out New Mexico’s governor, a new scandal brews for MLG, bureaucrats beg for bucks, and environmentalist policies mostly hurt the poor.

The Intelligencer is a weekly newsletter that gives you a quick overview of La Politica across New Mexico and the U.S., covering topics such as policy, current events, the political landscape, and tech.

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Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1. Bipartisan effort against MLG upheld by New Mexico Supreme Court

Details: The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against Governor Lujan Grisham’s unilateral spending of federal COVID-19 relief monies. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought against MLG by a bipartisan group of legislators, spearheaded by left-wing Democrat Senator Jacob Candelaria and Republican Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, and supported by top Democrat members.

Why it matters: The court barred MLG from “spending any more of the federal dollars without legislative approval.” The court’s decision opens the door for the legislature to appropriate nearly $1.1 billion in American Relief Plan Act funds — but the governor will still retain the authority to veto any legislative spending plan, fully or partially.

What they’re saying: During the hearing, Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil called out the Governor’s general counsel, “Didn’t you just rewrite the Constitution?” On the question of which branch of government controls the purse-strings, Supreme Court Justice David Thomson pointed out, “I learned that in second grade.”

“For me, the day is a huge victory for the Constitution,” Democrat Senator Jacob Candelaria. That sentiment was echoed by Republican Senator Greg Baca, “I’m excited to see the court side with the people and the Constitution.”

2. Democrat governor points to our governor’s COVID mask mandate failure


What he said: The Governor of Colorado Jared Polis says he will not reimpose a mask mandate, even as COVID-19 cases surge, allowing counties to decide locally. Polis referred to the failure of his counterpart, Governor Lujan Grisham, to slow the coronavirus by mandating masks indoors.

Why it matters: Polis is a left-wing Democrat, so the criticism has made national news. And while Gov. Polis admits scientists can’t explain the regional spike, he sharply took shots at the unvaccinated — which, at least in New Mexico — is an increasingly hollow attack, as  “breakthrough” cases of the vaccinated are on the rise.  

The big picture: Gov. Polis said his state will double the number of mobile monoclonal antibody treatment centers. Studies show the treatment helps patients avoid hospitalization and death, and Colorado health officials hope it can “reduce exceeding capacity by 30% and prevent 2,600 hospitalizations and 210 deaths by February.” Meanwhile, MLG is silent on that treatment, but is pushing 5-11 year old children to get vaccinated.

3. Governor to appoint a troubled bureaucrat to head a troubled bureaucracy?


Backstory: Ricky Serna, the acting Secretary of New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS), used to be a Vice President of Northern New Mexico College. At that time, a faculty member raised concerns that federal grant money was being misappropriated. That whistleblower said Serna threatened him. The Department of Education confirmed the whistleblower’s claims about the federal grants.

Fast forward: Years later, Serna ends up in a deputy position in DWS. After it was reported earlier this year that DWS misappropriated $250 million in federal money and Secretary Bill McCamley resigned, Serna was promoted to acting secretary.

What they’re saying: There were more whistleblowers at Northern NM College who claim that Ricky Serna retaliated against them for exposing wrongdoing. One letter citing examples of Serna’s retaliation against whistleblowers added, “This is the guy MLG puts in charge of Workforce Solutions?”

Jason Marks, an attorney who won a $115,000 lawsuit settlement for one whistleblower “remains puzzled by Serna’s rise to the top” of a government  agency. The federal judge who ruled against Serna said the whistleblower “plausibly alleges that Defendant Serna took retaliatory actions.”

4. State agencies and corporations beg for big bucks, while water resources underfunded

Details: New Mexico Public Education Department is asking for a nearly $7 million increase in their multi-billion dollar budget. The groveling comes at an awkward time as the PED is under fire for allowing documented sex offenders to become licensed teachers, and also for refusing to release testing data that can be used to measure student performance. PED officials blame underfunding for hiring sex offenders – which indicates the agency is not spending its billions wisely.

Why it matters: Spaceport America executive director Scott McLaughlin also recently asked New Mexico politicians for an additional $2 million in annual funding to increase their profits, which would supposedly return $2 million in tax revenue. Almost half of the current $10 million Spaceport budget comes from New Mexico taxpayers.

The big picture: New Mexico’s top water official, State Engineer John D’Antonio, resigned his position, citing perpetual underbudgeting, saying that his office was directed (presumably by Governor Lujan Grisham’s staff) to submit a “flat” budget –even though oil revenues and federal aid has flooded the state’s coffers. “We’ve taken the agency as far as we can, given the current agency staffing level and funding resources.”  Coincidentally, the city of Eunice is planning a local desalinization project in order to "become water independent."