Second Annual Gracias Bus Tour Kicks off April 28 in Las Cruces

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Mobile: 505/264.6512
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE

Second Annual Gracias Bus Tour Kicks off April 28 in Las Cruces

Santa Fe- The second annual Gracias Bus Tour, an event that coincides with the New Mexico Film Festival and the International Worker’s Day celebration, starts in Las Cruces on Thursday, April 28th and concludes in Santa Fe on Sunday May 1st. The tour celebrates the work organized labor has done to improve the lives of New Mexicans and will thank legislators, state officials and members of the federal delegation who have stood with workers.

“Organized labor brought an end to child labor, helped enact a 40 hour work week, and continue to fight for fair wages and income equality,” said  Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Valencia, Bernalillo) . “Senate Democrats are committed to strengthening New Mexico by supporting organized labor’s tradition of putting working families first.”

In addition to Las  Cruces and Santa Fe, the bus tour will stop in Truth or Consequences, Los Lunas and Albuquerque.  For additional information, visit the New Mexico Working Families website.

Gracias Bus Tour Dates:

Las Cruces
 | April 28 | 12:30 pm – 9:30 pm
(12:30-3 Albertson’s, 1285 S. El Paseo Rd.)
(4-6:30 AFSCME Union Hall, 138 Downtown Mall)
(7-9:30 Reception Azul Ultra Lounge,705 S Telshor Blvd.)

Truth or Consequences | April 29 | 9:00 am – 11:00 am |
(Grapevine Restaurant, 113 Broadway)

Los Lunas | April 29 | 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm |
 (Smith’s Grocery, 2580 Main Street)

Albuquerque | April 30 | 12:00 pm – Late Evening | 
(Guild Cinema + Tractor Brewery in Nob Hill)

Santa Fe | May 1 | 1:oo pm – 9:00 pm |
(The Lensic + Burro Alley)

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Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen’s Letter to the Editor: DEJA VU

Letter to the Editor: DEJA VU

April 13, 2016

Letter Submitted by Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen (D-38-Doña Ana)

The public should continue questioning the timing of a vote by University of New Mexico (UNM) regents to change the governing structure of UNM’s Health Sciences Center (HSC).  These regents, appointed by Governor Martinez, claim quick action was needed to streamline university operations and create efficiency.  To the best of my knowledge, no thoughtful deliberative process involving input from stakeholders and consensus building took place before this major change.  I am worried that this is yet another ill-conceived move by public officials that could end up jeopardizing the HSC, a key player in a core segment of the state’s health care infrastructure.

Sadly, this reminds me of the Human Services Department’s (HSD’s) announcement nearly three years ago that it would replace 15 behavioral health provider organizations with five Arizona behavioral health agencies.  In mid-2013, the HSD claimed that high rates of suicide and substance abuse deaths, as well as protection of taxpayer funds, warranted immediate systemic change.  Also at that time, OptumHealth (Optum) — an affiliate of United Healthcare (United) — was being paid millions of dollars annually by the state’s Medicaid program to oversee and administer funds spent on behavioral health.  Identifying potential fraudulent billing by behavioral health providers was a key requirement of Optum under its contract.  According to lawsuits filed by Optum insiders in 2012 and early 2013 that have only recently been made public, there were serious problems with Optum’s information technology (IT) system that it hid from the state or ignored while it continued to bill Medicaid for work its system could not do.

In early 2013, after the Arizona replacements had already been interviewed and selected, Public Consulting Group (PCG) was hired to audit the New Mexico agencies to be replaced.  PCG’s audit found some overpayments, but no credible allegations of fraud.  Regardless, the HSD stopped payments to the audited agencies and referred them to the attorney general to investigate for fraud.  This reorganization affected behavioral health services for 88,000 patients.  According to the HSD’s plan, the Arizona agencies would take over the operations of the suspended New Mexico agencies in a period of weeks.

Optum’s contract with the state was supposed to expire in June 2013.  As a result of the shake-up, Optum’s contract was extended to assist with the transition of patients to the Arizona providers.  As of last week, all 15 accused New Mexico agencies have been cleared of fraud by the attorney general.  Four of the five Arizona replacement agencies have pulled out.  One Arizona agency has filed suit against United and Optum, alleging that the behavioral health crisis was manufactured to cover up Optum’s mismanagement of Medicaid funds and defective claims management system.  The suit alleges that United falsely and fraudulently represented that Optum’s IT system was fully functional and capable of ensuring a seamless transition.  As we know, the transition was anything but seamless.

Incidentally, drug overdose deaths, opioid overdose-related emergency room visits and suicides increased from 2013 to 2014, according to the latest data from New Mexico’s Department of Health.  Online searches indicate that the HSD’s former Medicaid director and its former general counsel, both of whom were involved in the behavioral health reorganization, now work for United affiliates.  Through an affiliate, United still makes millions overseeing the state’s non-Medicaid behavioral health program.  United’s health insurance affiliate, one of the state’s Medicaid managed care organizations, just announced that it is dropping HSC clinical services from its Medicaid provider network.

The university’s HSC has reserves of $200 million.  In February, the HSC denied a request from the Martinez Administration to donate $50 million from its reserves to help the state cover its Medicaid shortfall.  If there is a lesson to be learned from the behavioral health reorganization, it is to look behind hastily implemented changes that could affect broader access to health care.

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Mary Kay Papen

Sen. Candelaria Hosts a REAL ID Community Information Session: How will the Implementation Affect You?

Contact: Isaac Padilla
505/986.4819
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sen. Candelaria Hosts a REAL ID Community Information Session:
How will the Implementation Affect You?

 

 

Santa Fe, NM – Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-26-Bernalillo) will host an information session to discuss the implementation of Drivers License/REAL ID Law. Legislative Council Service has drafted a summary of the law and its requirements, and the Secretary of Taxation and Revenue will be at the session to answer questions.

“It is important that people and businesses understand how the new Drivers License/REAL ID compliance law will impact them,” Sen. Candelaria said.  “More information in the hands of the public will reduce confusion and improve the implementation of this law.”

When:             ThursdayApril 14, 2016, at 6:00 PM
Where:
            UNM School of Law (1117 Stanford Dr. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106) Room 2401
Who:               Sen. Candelaria

UNM Law School is on the north side of Stanford between Constitution and Tucker Ave. Parking is located south of the school entrance.

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Senator Howie Morales’s Letter to the Editor: New Report on Fort Bayard Medical Center Raises Concern over Other State Facilities

Letter to the Editor: New Report on Fort Bayard Medical Center Raises Concern over Other State Facilities

April 8, 2016

Letter Submitted by Senator Howie Morales (D-28-Catron, Grant & Socorro)

It is no exaggeration to say that the most vulnerable citizens in New Mexico, as in the broader society, are largely invisible and rarely heard.  Among these are the elderly and the ill, children from broken homes in the juvenile detention system, and desperate people struggling with severe mental illness and behavioral problems.  When such individuals are being abused and neglected, we must, as citizens, extend compassion, and as public officials, act swiftly.

A new report assembled by staff of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee has revealed mismanagement at the state-run Fort Bayard Medical Center, a 140-bed nursing home outside Silver City. The report reveals that mismanagement at this site imperils the health and safety of fragile residents.  It can serve as a roadmap for addressing other cases of mismanagement within the state’s other public facilities that care for marginalized and troubled citizens.

The report, a follow up to previous analysis of conditions at State Department of Health (DOH) facilities, documents a financially unstable facility and “turnover of nearly 30 percent of staff” during the last two years that “disrupts” the “quality of care” of residents.  Other findings include poor financial management and deteriorating quality of care, including significant increases in pharmacy errors, client falls and bed-sores.

Let’s be clear: the problems identified in the report are a failure of the facility’s managers, not the employees.  I know this because I visit the nursing home weekly, and I can confirm that its employees are excellent and absolutely dedicated to the residents.  The employees do the best they can, but it’s an impossible situation.  For a long time, weak management has denied them adequate support and resources necessary for the staff to do their jobs.

The report determined that other officials, including DOH nursing home inspectors who were monitoring quality of care, have found problems at this facility as well.  Among the problems singled out by investigators was an instance in which an incontinent resident who uses a wheelchair was found with “an overflowing adult diaper,” despite a care plan requiring frequent checks.  Unsanitary and even filthy conditions at the nursing home were documented.  The dietary needs of residents were ignored; bed alarms did not work; the facility was severely understaffed on weekends, and staff frequently failed to assist residents incapable of grooming themselves. “Systemic failure” was how the personal safety of the residents was characterized by the DOH inspectors, with fire alarm systems and emergency exit doors that did not work, and faulty electrical systems.

The report shows that serious problems at the Fort Bayard Medical Center are ongoing, and should make us fear for the overall quality of care that sick and elderly residents receive there.

It raises concerns about the management and conditions in the other six state-run facilities that provide nursing home, rehabilitation and behavioral health services across the state. We must take a close look at those facilities as well to ensure quality of care is not deteriorating like it is at Fort Bayard.

I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the recent findings that confirm that senior citizens in the Fort Bayard Medical Center are in jeopardy because of poor conditions and gross mismanagement.

The Legislative Finance Committee has been shining a light on problems at Fort Bayard and other health facilities for years, with little progress to improve care and finances.  The Legislature has granted DOH significant budget flexibility to manage facilities, provided additional funding when it overspends its budget, and has sought to address staffing issues with pay raises for nurses.

Unlike other state employees in need of targeted pay raises, including public safety and child protective services workers, the Governor singled out raises for DOH nurses for line item vetoes.  The Legislature does not manage day to day operations of state government. That is the Governor’s job.

Rather than more studies, perhaps it is time to bring in an independent, outside organization to immediately develop an action plan to improve operations at Fort Bayard and all state-run facilities. The Governor should consider hiring department staff committed to change.  It would be a direct and effective way to show she cares about the people in the state’s care.

The report on Fort Bayard Medical Center is a wake-up call for New Mexicans concerned about harsh or inhumane conditions for vulnerable people who could be our parents, our brothers and sisters, cousins or neighbors.

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SMORA

All Behavioral Health Providers Now Cleared of Fraud Accusations, Senate Democrats Strongly Criticize Gov. Martinez Upon AG’s Announcement

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

All Behavioral Health Providers Now Cleared of Fraud Accusations,

Senate Democrats Strongly Criticize Gov. Martinez Upon AG’s Announcement

(Santa Fe, NM) – Upon today’s announcement by Attorney General Hector Balderas that there is no evidence of fraud by any of the 15 behavioral health providers that were accused of fraud three years ago by Governor Susana Martinez’s administration, Democratic leaders of New Mexico’s Senate issued the following statements:

“Now we know that all the harm that was done to behavioral health providers across the state, and to their thousands of patients and clients, did not need to happen.  The State’s accusations caused chaos in the lives of many of our most vulnerable residents with serious mental health issues.  I think they – and the providers whose reputations and businesses were ruined – are owed an apology.  What has been done to them is unconscionable.  The state’s entire mental health system of care was wrecked by these baseless allegations.  None of the providers defrauded the government.  But the damage has been done, wreaking havoc in the lives of patient and their families, and it continues.” – Senate President Pro Tem, Senator Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces

“While I am glad to hear the AG’s finding today, I still want to know why Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration cut funding and destroyed organizations that provided vital care for our most vulnerable citizens.  It was an incredibly reckless act.  So many patients were hurt, hard-working people lost their jobs and reputations, and small businesses were shut down in every part of New Mexico. The 15 providers were falsely accused of crimes, and many were forced to shut down their operations without any due process.  It was one of the worst acts of a Governor’s administration in New Mexico’s entire history.” – Senator Majority Floor Leader, Michael S. Sanchez.

Several of New Mexico’s traditional providers were forced to close their doors after accusations of fraud were levelled three years ago by the State, cutting off their Medicaid funding, and bankrupting some.  All were replaced by Arizona firms at high cost to taxpayers.  Three of them, such as La Frontera in Las Cruces, stopped providing services, leaving communities scrambling to cobble together coverage for residents.  Last week, Agave Inc., announced it will halt operations in the 11 counties in New Mexico where it operates, and return to Arizona.

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Senator Sanchez’s Job Fair in the Heart of Belen Was a Success

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senator Sanchez’s Job Fair in the Heart of Belen Was a Success

(Santa Fe, NM)Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia) hosted a job fair on Wednesday March 30 at Belen Middle School. The job fair drew 31 employers and 700 job seekers to the heart of Belen.

“As New Mexico’s economy continues to be stagnant, I will do what I can to bring economic security to families,” said Sen. Sanchez. “Every new job is a paycheck for a family that will help them make ends meet and provide additional revenue for local business.”

Employers registered for the job fair on a website to streamline the process and increase the number of employers. Local government agencies such as the City of Belen, the Albuquerque Fire Department and Belen Consolidated Schools participated along with federal and state agencies including the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. Fidelity Investments, Ambercare and BNSF Railways were among the private employers that participated.

“Both private companies and government agencies were eager to participate in the job fair,” said Sen. Sanchez. “They were looking for dedicated employees and knew that they could be found in Valencia County.”

The job fair will be tracked for 90 days to determine the number of jobs that were secured by job seekers.

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Mental Health Services Face Additional Major Disruptions

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mental Health Services Face Additional Major Disruptions

(Santa Fe, NM) – Democratic Senate leaders today expressed their serious concerns and frustration over news that the third of five behavioral health providers brought in from Arizona by the Martinez administration in 2013 will leave the state within 90 days.  Agave Health Inc., which provides mental health and substance abuse treatment services in 11 New Mexico counties, announced that beginning July 1, 2016, it will longer operate in the state.  The senators warned that the newest pullout of another provider will create fresh disruption to the care and treatment of many fragile individuals, and called on the Governor to respond to the situation.

“Once again, the most vulnerable of our state are paying the price for the irresponsible actions of this administration,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Valencia, Bernalillo).  “The clients of this provider will be left with little or no options for their mental health services.  In Valencia County, Medicaid recipients will have nowhere to turn to address their behavioral and substance abuse issues.  These services are not a luxury, and are not easily replaceable.  We are witnessing a slow motion train wreck for many New Mexicans.”

Agave Inc. was one of five Arizona behavioral health providers brought in to provide services after 15 New Mexico behavioral health providers were shut down by the Martinez administration amid accusations of Medicaid billing fraud.  To date, 13 of the providers have been cleared of any wrongdoing, but subsequently suffered financial ruin after the false accusations.  Several lawsuits related to the take-over are currently pending.

“At the time of the take-over in 2013, we were assured by the administration that no services would be disrupted and clients would have a smooth transition.  Unfortunately, as time as proven, this is far from reality.  It is unconscionable what clients have had to endure for nearly three years, and today we learned that the disruptions in care will continue,” said Sen. Howie Morales (D-28-Catron, Grant, Socorro). “Agave’s pullout will also lead to further job losses for more of New Mexico’s hardworking employees,” he added.

The Democratic senators pointed out that the administration’s actions on behavioral health still continue to cause patients to be hurt, that hard-working people have lost their jobs and reputations, and New Mexico small businesses were shuttered.

Three years ago funding for 15 established mental health providers was terminated after they were wrongly accused of defrauding Medicaid of $36 million by the Martinez administration.  Five Arizona firms – at least one of whom was connected to campaign donations to the Governor- then were brought into New Mexico, including Agave Inc., to deliver services at a cost of more than $17 million.

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Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen’s Letter to the Editor: ANOTHER BLOW TO HEALTH CARE FOR NEW MEXICANS

Letter to the Editor: ANOTHER BLOW TO HEALTH CARE FOR NEW MEXICANS

March 31, 2016

Letter Submitted by Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen (D-38-Doña Ana)

I am concerned that the overnight dissolution of the board of directors of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (HSC) by the University of New Mexico (UNM) board of regents could jeopardize the long-term viability of the HSC as a leading national academic medical center.  The speed of this decision raises red flags and could affect the accreditation of both UNM and the HSC, since accrediting bodies require institutional autonomy to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and assure its integrity.

The HSC is New Mexico’s only accredited academic medical center, one of 126 in the nation that combine teaching, clinical care and research.  It includes:  the state’s only school of medicine, five of whose departments rank among the top 40 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant-funded departments in the nation; colleges of nursing and pharmacy; a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center; and the Clinical and Translational Science Center, one of only 62 NIH-funded medical research institutions in a national consortium whose goal is to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients.  It also includes the UNM hospital, the state’s only level 1 trauma center.  In fiscal year 2015, the HSC employed nearly 10,000 full-time employees and accounted for nearly 50 percent of UNM’s revenues (not including state appropriations or the Bernalillo County mill levy).

Under the Constitution of New Mexico, UNM is governed by a board of six regents “who shall be qualified electors” and one who is a member of the student body.  The regents are appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate.  On March 14, with only a business day’s notice, four regents appointed by Governor Martinez voted to eliminate the HSC board.  This eliminated the positions of community board members, including that of Ann Rhoades, a leading human resources consultant serving on patient safety and quality task forces with the Texas Medical Institute of Technology and on the board of Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital Patient Safety Center of Excellence.  Last April, Suzanne Quillen, a regent with decades of experience in health care management, was removed from her position as chair of the HSC’s board after publicly expressing support for a new UNM hospital.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the regents who voted for these changes or who now sit on the board of regents’ standing HSC committee have any education, training or experience in health care or the health care industry.

The Martinez Administration reportedly opposes the construction of a new UNM hospital because it would compete with private hospitals.  While the UNM hospital competes to some extent with local private hospitals, it more importantly plays a key role in the HSC’s ability to compete nationally with other academic medical centers for talented researchers and faculty and for research and grant funding.

The UNM hospital dates back to 1954.  As shown by recent reports of high numbers of patients being turned away for lack of beds, it is too small to serve all who need care there, with outdated facilities bound to affect patient care.  Further, unlike private hospitals, university hospitals treat the sickest patients and serve larger Medicaid and Medicare patient populations.

In light of the state’s budget crunch, the HSC’s reserves (savings toward the new hospital) have recently become of interest.  During the legislative session, the HSC turned down a request from the Human Services Department for $50 million to fill a Medicaid budget gap.  UNM’s regents have fiduciary responsibility for UNM’s assets and programs.  Their duty is to ensure that the HSC maintains or increases its standing among the ranks of other academic medical centers. Whether a new UNM hospital would compete with private hospitals or whether access to HSC  funds helps Governor Martinez keep her “no new taxes” promise should not influence any regent’s vote.  Nor should personal or political gain.

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Mary Kay Papen

Morales Calls on AG to Dispel Confusion Whether Parents May Opt Out Their Children from Upcoming PARCC Test

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Morales Calls on AG to Dispel Confusion Whether Parents May Opt Out Their Children from Upcoming PARCC Test

 

(Santa Fe, NM) – Senator Howie Morales (D-28-Catron, Grant & Socorro) today called on the New Mexico Attorney General to clarify whether parents legally may opt out their children from taking the controversial state-wide PARCC exam.  A growing number of parents have expressed concern about the intensity and amount of standardized testing-taking required of students in New Mexico’s public schools.  Sen. Morales sent a letter to Attorney General Hector Balderas requesting a formal legal opinion on the question before the PARCC exam is administered, starting shortly.

“Parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children which includes the decision to opt their child out of taking the PARCC exam,” said Sen. Howie Morales. “Clarification of those rights is necessary for parents to make informed decisions about their child’s education.”

PARCC testing will start next week for some students in New Mexico school districts, and others will take the exam later in the month. There is confusion because some school districts are telling parents that they do not have the right to decide if their child must take the PARCC exam. Currently there is no impact on a child’s grade or retention if the child does not take the PARCC exam, but a school’s overall grade may be impacted if more than 5% of students fail to take the exam.

“Using a school’s grade to leverage administrators to pressure parents negatively impacts the educational outcomes of New Mexico’s schools,” said Sen. Howie Morales. “PED should not put a wedge between schools and parents who are exercising their right to direct their child’s education.”

Parents who want their child to opt out of the PARCC test should write a refusal letter to the school administrators. Most school districts will have an “opt out” form on their webpage that can be downloaded. If you cannot find the form, ask the principal or visit http://www.nmoptout.org/ for additional information.

Read the entire letter from Sen. Morales here: http://www.nmsenate.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Morales-Opt-Out-Letter-to-AG.pdf

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Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez’s Letter to the Editor: Governor’s Vetoes Show Who She Doesn’t Stand For

Letter to the Editor: Governor’s Vetoes Show Who She Doesn’t Stand For

March 18, 2016

Letter Submitted by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia)

Vetoes handed out by Governor Susana Martinez at the end of the 2016 Session of the Legislature were fewer than in years past, but they singled out the most vulnerable in our state for harsher treatment than ever before.  In previous years there might have been dozens of bills that fell under the Governor’s veto ax.  But this year we are talking about Native Americans in the poorest communities, small farmers in rural communities, the developmentally disabled, non-English speakers, and students from low and middle income families who were the target.  Let’s look at her vetoes.

In Spanish we say, “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.”  Or “Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are.”  The reverse of the phrase is instructive as well, ‘tell me who you do not walk with, and I can tell you who you are.’  What kind of legislation drew her ire, and with whom will Gov. Martinez not walk?

First and foremost are the residents of Indian Country, especially those on the Navajo Reservation and Zuni Pueblo.  Governor line-item vetoes in the capital outlay bill eliminated millions of dollars for projects slated for McKinley and Cibola counties.  Vetoed Native American projects, approved unanimously by the Legislature, included such needed items as a backup generator for Zuni Pueblo’s main well, and studies to repair several old and damaged bridges.  There was $75,000 to build a senior center for the remote Red Red Navajo Chapter; $30,000 to build a water well in the Baahaali Chapter, and $50,000 for improvements to utility lines in the Red Lake Chapter. The list goes on.

Gov. Martinez vetoed more than 20 Native American projects. The individual sums involved were not great, and none of the projects were luxuries.  They were part of her package of capital outlay vetoes totaling $8.2 million, or 5% of all the infrastructure projects contained in HB 219.  The Governor explained her actions in a critical, nine-page letter deriding the projects for these impoverished communities as “local pork”, “squandering [of] funds” and “irresponsible”.

Small and family farmers in rural northern New Mexico were the next group to feel the veto pen.  She eliminated 90% of the critical funding approved by the Legislature for repairs and improvements to 25 acequias, almost $1 million in total. These projects too were relatively small in cost, but they deliver significant benefits for large numbers of families in proud, but struggling communities.

Imagine, the first acequias in New Mexico were constructed in the mid-sixteenth century by the newly arrived Spaniards together with native residents.  Many of them are still in use today.  They are still economically important for many agricultural villages, because they are key to irrigation and water storage for agriculture. It seems at times like the things we take the most pride in – our acequias, for example, and our traditions and history – are under constant attack by this Governor.

Students who are the children of families of modest means, yet who dream and strive to reach the middle class themselves, were another target of the veto.    Bipartisan legislation to shore up declining revenues of the Lottery Scholarship fund was too much for the Governor. That fund enables thousands of students to attend college. SB 79 would have required unclaimed lottery prizes to be transferred to the Scholarship fund, adding up to $3 million more each year for student scholarships.  The decline of state lottery sales has reduced funds available for student tuition scholarships, and this measure would have alleviated the shortfall.  Now our students and their families will have to pay more in tuition costs in the next school year. Some may not be able to attend college at all as a result.

The developmentally disabled and their families were another target of Gov. Martinez when she vetoed modest legislation that would have required the state to publish a brief report at the end of each year.  It simply would have identified how many New Mexicans are on a waiting list for crucial services, often ten years or more.   SB 36 was passed in both the Senate and the House without a single dissenting vote, and incurred no cost to the State.  The Legislature needed the bill in order to get a full view of the scope of a serious problem and to find budget opportunities to get solutions.

For the second time in as many years, the Governor vetoed an uncontroversial measure to improve court interpreter services in New Mexico.  That veto put into focus her past efforts as a District Attorney to keep Spanish-speakers from serving on juries.  SB 210 would have set up a new fund to be administered by the Courts for paying court translators and related expenses, but had no fiscal impact on the state.  It drew the Governor’s veto despite passing without any opposition whatsoever. Unique among all states, the Constitution of New Mexico protects people who speak and read either English or Spanish.

Now we know. No anda con nosotros.

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