Lujan Grisham says her administration will look into Hepatitis C prison problems

At a news conference Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham responded to a New Mexico In Depth story that showed while the state has the largest known share of prisoners diagnosed with hepatitis C in the nation, few are being treated. That’s despite new, nearly fail-safe treatment medications coming onto the market at increasingly low prices.  

New Mexico faces difficult choices, Lujan Grisham said, partly because so much is out of its control. Incarcerated individuals who contract the disease on the outside might only become aware of their plight after a screening in prison, Lujan Grisham said. Beginning in 2009, New Mexico began offering all prisoners screening for hepatitis C, which is not a universal practice.

Big push is on for early education funding from school permanent fund

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is proposing $60 million more this year for early childhood education — part of a five-year plan to make access to preschool in New Mexico available to all 3- and 4-year-olds. Legislation has been introduced that expands the prekindergarten program in public schools and adds preschool classrooms to the school building fund. With a $1.1 billion surplus to ease financial pressures, both the governor and Legislature are proposing a huge boost in dollars meant for public schools. Given all that, does it still make sense to pursue the long-fought goal to tap the $17.5 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to help pay for early childhood education in New Mexico? The governor, for one, says yes.

APD officer: 2016 federal sting operation focused on ‘volume,’ not ‘higher-level guys’

Tim Hotle, a 12-year veteran of the Albuquerque Police Department, in sworn testimony this week undercut federal authorities’ long-running narrative about a controversial 2016 law enforcement operation that snatched up disproportionate numbers of blacks and Hispanics. During his 45 minutes or so on the witness stand, Hotle told U.S. Senior District Judge James Parker that as a representative of APD he had helped plan the Albuquerque operation pushed by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the local U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities have repeatedly contended they arrested “the worst of the worst,” and a summary report of the operation stated that its goal was to infiltrate drug trafficking organizations “facilitated by” Mexican cartels. Most of the 103 people arrested, however, were picked up for their involvement in small-quantity drug sales; few had the types of violent criminal histories authorities said they were going after. Hotle’s testimony further undermined the federal government’s claims.  

“We weren’t after the higher-level guys,” Hotle said from the stand during a court hearing involving one of the defendants arrested in the operation.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham shoots for the moon

On Tuesday, there was a pronounced note of positivity for legislators in the Democratic majority as they grasped the opportunity to move on long pent-up agendas with a Democratic governor. It’s honeymoon time. And they came to opening day of the 2019 legislative session ready to play. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a three-term congresswoman and former longtime cabinet secretary in state government, has repeatedly trumpeted her hopes for New Mexico to make a “moonshot” for education in her first session. But in a 50-minute speech Tuesday it sounded like she was shooting for the moon, too.

Face-painting at NEA rally

It’s a turnout race for Congress. Can Dona Ana County come through?

The TV and social media ads have all been placed. Mailboxes have no more room for political mailers. In these final days of Election 2018, everything now hinges on how many people vote in the race for the 2nd Congressional District of southern New Mexico — one of the most expensive in the state and which is garnering national attention and money because of its potential to shift power in the U.S. House. Who will win this decisive battle in a race rated a toss-up between Democrat Xochitl Torres Small or Republican Yvette Herrell? The answer likely lies with turn out.

Martinez campaign brain McCleskey backs four Republican judicial contenders

The 2018 election will be pivotal for discerning the kind of imprint Gov. Susana Martinez— the first female governor of New Mexico and the first elected Latina governor in the United States — leaves on New Mexico policies and laws. There’s a good chance many of her priorities, if not her methods, will live on if her successor is Republican Steve Pearce. Not so much if Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham moves into the Governor’s Mansion. How much she shapes New Mexico’s appellate court for the long term is another area worth watching. Six judges on the 10-member court are Martinez appointees.

Special interests still flock to incumbents in heated House primary races

Incumbents in four state House races that will likely be decided in next week’s primary show significant special interest support in Thursday’s final campaign reports, which reflect their contributions for most of May. If money tells anything about a political race, the reports also show two of the incumbents are being given a solid run for their seats. And while a third has an outsized bank account, her challenger has scooped up a lot more cash from individuals. New Mexico In Depth previously looked at the financial advantage incumbents have due to special interest support in the four Democratic state house races:

District 41: State Rep. Debbie Rodella versus Susan Herrera
District 46: State Rep. Carl Trujillo versus Andrea Romero
District 13: State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero versus Robert Atencio
District 34: State Rep. Bealquin Gomez versus Raymundo Lara

The reports filed Thursday capture most contributions in May, in the wake of explosive sexual harassment allegations against Trujillo and an increasingly negative campaign waged by Rodella. Meanwhile, oil and gas interests on one side and progressive groups on the other stirred themselves in what had been a relatively quiet Albuquerque race in Roybal Caballero’s district.

Newspaper’s lawsuit forced open pardon documents

For the first time, SFR and New Mexico In Depth can present vignettes of Gov. Susana Martinez’s pardon files — stories about crime, punishment and redemption. If not for a years-long legal fight, the public likely would never have seen the stories. In 2013, SFR sued the governor for failing to turn over various public records. The most significant of them were the applications people had made to the governor requesting pardons. Martinez’s office argued executive privilege shielded the pardon files from disclosure.

Q&A: Lujan Grisham says early childhood ed will be ‘hallmark’

New Mexico In Depth is speaking with the candidates for New Mexico governor on the issues of early childhood, child wellbeing and education. Michelle Lujan Grisham is the congresswoman from Albuquerque, and is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.  This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Sylvia Ulloa: Can you lay out what early childhood education would look like in New Mexico under your administration, and how you would get early childhood to rural New Mexico? Michelle Lujan Grisham: Early childhood education would be a hallmark of the administration.