Two more behavioral health providers take their case to state court

Two more behavioral health providers are contesting in state court how much, if anything, they owe the state of New Mexico for allegedly overbilling Medicaid, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported this weekend. The appeals are the latest in the drawn-out unraveling of the case Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration made in public four years ago when it charged 15 behavioral health organizations with potentially defrauding the state’s Medicaid program.

Spaceport America, 10 years on

In case you missed it, you should check out Heath Haussamen’s five-part series on Spaceport America that ran on nmpolitics.net last week. It’s informative, especially the revelations about how much Spaceport America staff is keeping from the public in violation of state transparency laws.

New Mexico behavioral health care system gets federal review

The federal Health and Human Services Department will inspect if New Mexico is properly serving New Mexicans in need of mental illness and addiction services. The review by the Inspector General of the federal Health and Human Services Department, confirmed in late June and made public Friday afternoon, comes roughly four years after Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration disrupted care for tens of thousands of New Mexicans when her Human Services Department accused 15 organizations of Medicaid fraud and potentially overbilling the government by nearly $36 million. Citing the fraud accusations, the Human Services Department suspended the flow of ‘behavioral health’ Medicaid dollars to many of the organizations in the summer of 2013. Unable to stay in business without the Medicaid dollars, many had to shut their doors and are no longer in business. Ultimately no Medicaid fraud was ever found.

The slow-motion unraveling of New Mexico’s Medicaid crackdown

There’s no getting around it. Four years after Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration charged 15 behavioral health organizations with potentially defrauding the state’s Medicaid program, its case has experienced a slow-motion unraveling. No Medicaid fraud was ever found. And those eye-popping estimates that added up to $36 million the organizations had overbilled Medicaid? In the summer of 2017, the Human Services Department (HSD) is seeking drastically lower reimbursements for overbilling the public health insurance program for low-income residents, a review of public records and state court documents has found.

NM In Depth wins top honors from NM Press Women, including investigative journalism

New Mexico In Depth won four 1st place awards over the weekend, including top honors for investigative journalism. The New Mexico Press Women’s Association conferred that honor on Puff of Smoke, a story reported and written by Jeff Proctor and published in collaboration with the Santa Fe Reporter. The issue at heart of the story was the investigative grand jury, a system Santa Fe District Attorneys used for years that resulted in numerous officers being cleared of criminal wrongdoing in fatal police shootings. NMID also took top honors in the categories of enterprise reporting, special series and website – as well as two second-place awards and one third-place finish. This weekend’s honors come a week after NMID won two first-place awards for multimedia journalism and general website excellence as well as three third-place awards in the Society of Professional Journalism’s Top of the Rockies regional journalism contest.

NMID wins top honors in regional journalism contest, including 1st place multi-media award

New Mexico In Depth took top honors at a regional journalism contest over the weekend, including a 1st place multi-media journalism award for its examination of New Mexico’s broken bail system. The Society for Professional Journalists’ Top of the Rockies contest covers New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.  

We also won a 1st place award for general website excellence and three 3rd place awards for investigative/enterprise reporting and environmental general reporting. 1st Place in Multi-Media Journalism

Teaming up with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting last fall, New Mexico In Depth told the story of one man’s journey through New Mexico’s bail system. Tom Chudzinski, a former architect, spent more than 30 days in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center because he didn’t have enough money to afford bail.

Governor vetoes campaign finance reform

Gov. Susana Martinez, who has touted herself as a champion of transparency, on Friday vetoed a piece of legislation that would have required greater public disclosure by those who spend big money in New Mexico political races. The governor vetoed Senate Bill 96, a goal long sought by good-government groups and those who wanted greater information on the influence of money in politics. “While I support efforts to make political process more transparent, the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances,” Martinez wrote in her veto message. One of the legislation’s sponsors, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, responded to news of the veto Friday morning. “I am disappointed but not surprised that the Governor would side with the Koch brothers and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and ignore the 90% of Republicans and Democrats in New Mexico who support campaign finance transparency.

UPDATED: Lawmakers race to finesse state ethics commission details as session winds down

— This article has been updated to reflect news developments. With 16 hours left in a 60-day session, the Legislature on Friday moved one step away from doing something it’s tried to do for a decade: Pass a state ethics commission proposal. And it took all day Friday to get it done. Then after multiple meetings, both chambers of the state legislature agreed late in the evening to place a measure on the 2018 ballot letting voters decide whether or not to place in the state constitution an independent ethics commission charged with investigating and prosecuting ethics complaints filed against public officials, state contractors and lobbyists, among others. How it played out on Friday

Members of the House of Representatives disagreed Thursday night with changes the Senate had made to House Joint Resolution 8, which would ask voters to enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution.

In historic first, NM state senate passes ethics commission proposal

The state senate voted 30 to 9 early Thursday afternoon to ask voters next year to enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution.

“This is a really big step for us in New Mexico,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces told his colleagues moments before asking his colleagues to support the proposal. “I think it will be healthy for democracy.”

Steinborn, who presented House Joint Resolution 8 to the Senate, was alluding to the decades-long effort to get to this moment: The New Mexico state Senate voting on a proposal that would move the state closer to joining more than 40 states that already have an ethics commission.

The senator might have spoken a bit too early, however.

The Legislature isn’t finished with the proposal yet. The House of Representatives must decide whether to agree or disagree to changes a senate committee made Wednesday to the proposal that the House passed 66-0 earlier this month.