Upcoming Interim Committee Meetings
Contact: Isaac Padilla
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Santa Fe-Senator Majority Whip Michael Padilla (D-14-Bernalillo) will chair the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee on October 20 and 21 in room 317 at the State Capitol in Santa Fe. The meeting will focus on expanding broadband in New Mexico and increasing the speed of broadband systems already in New Mexico.
“New Mexico’s broadband access and expansion strategies have a direct impact on our job creation and economic future” Sen. Padilla. “Improving our broadband infrastructure will improve education and New Mexico’s position to compete for high wage jobs.”
Members of the business community, representatives from Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs and education professionals will be discussing the current broadband infrastructure in our schools and in our communities. This will include the next generation standards and ideas to help develop a strategy to meet those standards.
“We have successfully worked with industry and the school district in Belen to increase the speed at all Belen schools to 1 gigabit per second,” said Sen. Padilla. “I encourage anyone who supports expanding access for their communities to attend the committee meeting.”
Facebook recently broke ground on a data center in Los Lunas New Mexico. New Mexico needs to improve access to broadband to rural areas to attract companies, like Facebook, that require access to high speed broadband. Currently, 39% of rural Americans do not have access to speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload according to the FCC. That number increase to 68% in rural tribal lands. In New Mexico, 61% of the population in rural areas does not have access to 25 Mbps.
Contact: Isaac Padilla
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Santa Fe, NM) – New Mexico Senate Democrats tonight successfully passed a package of bipartisan legislation that balances the state’s budget. In fact, for the 2017 Fiscal Year, the measures create a surplus of $91 million. The Senate’s blueprint, passed during the one-day special legislative session, erases an estimated $600 million deficit for Fiscal Years 16 and 17 through a combination of expenditure cuts, unspent balance sweeps, revenue adjustments and re-purposing of capital outlay funds. Democrats called for shared sacrifice, while protecting the priorities of families, children and classrooms.
“It wasn’t easy, but the Senate’s bipartisan action tonight ensures that state revenues will match expenditures for the first time in nearly two years. With a small surplus of funds of approximately 1.5%, the people of New Mexico can be confident that we will avoid a financial and constitutional crisis that threatened us only a short time ago. I am very proud of my Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate who came together in a spirit of cooperation to put our state above partisanship. It is a huge accomplishment. And we did it all without raising taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader, Michael S. Sanchez.
The Senate budget agreement contains $212 million of prudent expenditure cuts to state government, spread across all agencies and departments. A package of revenue adjustments that closes unnecessary loopholes worth an additional $45 million was passed. $77 million worth of unspent and unused fund balances in numerous government accounts were part of a ‘sweep’ bill. Those funds will be reallocated to shore up the state’s bottom line under the Senate plan. The Senate also re-purposed $89 million of capital infrastructure funds sitting idle from past years. The total package, worth more than $423 million, moves the state from a negative balance in FY 17 of $326 million to a positive $91 million in reserves.
“Senators from both sides of the aisle worked hard to arrive at a plan that will be effective, fair, and that requires shared sacrifice. We were presented with a huge problem, and we fixed it. It will not be painless, however, because we are facing a very large budget gap. The cuts were as prudent as possible. Our economy is not fully healed by any measure, however. We still have high unemployment and stagnant economic activity, and we have much work to do,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen.
After completing its duty to balance the state’s budget, the Senate voted sine die to adjourn.
Contact: Isaac Padilla
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Santa Fe, NM) – Senator George Munoz (D-4-Cibola, McKinley and San Juan) and Senator Clemente Sanchez (D-30-Cibola, Socorro, McKinley and Valencia) are exploring options to address the unexpected announcement that the Cibola County Corrections Center in Milan will be closing on October 1. The facility is run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and employs 300 people.
“Senator Sanchez and I are exploring every option to help find employment for the 300 people who will be impacted by the sudden announcement that the Milan facility will be closed,” said Senator Munoz. “We are in discussions with Corrections Secretary Marcantel to identify vacancies at the New Mexico Western Correction Facility and other facilities in the state.”
Cibola County Corrections Center is a private facility that houses federal inmates with a capacity of 1,200 inmates. It is a minimum-security facility that started operations in 1993 and has the capacity to house state prisoners.
“Our first priority is to help those impacted with finding a job,” said Sen. Sanchez. “In addition to finding vacancies at other state facilities, Senator Munoz and I will be meeting with CCA and Secretary Marcantel to determine if state prisoners can be held at the Milan facility to save those jobs.”
Sen. Munoz and Sen. Sanchez will host a town hall after they have more in-depth conversations with Secretary Marcantel and representatives from CCA. Other state agencies that can assist, such as the Department of Workforce Solutions, will also be at the meeting. They expect to have options for the families impacted by the closure at the meeting. Details of the meeting will be announced at a later date.
Contact: Isaac Padilla
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Albuquerque – Senator Candelaria (D-26-Bernalillo) has been named a Spring 2016 New DEAL Leader. The NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders) program identifies the nation’s most promising local Democratic leaders who have the potential to move into statewide and federal office. NewDEAL started in 2011 with 10 leaders and has grown to 143 state and local leaders from 45 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“This network of leaders will help foster ideas that can move New Mexico’s economy forward,” said Sen. Candelaria. “I look forward to working with this group of outstanding local and state elected officials to find innovative and pragmatic solutions to the issues we face.”
NewDEAL is Co-Chaired by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Upon release of the nominations, Sen. Warner said, “I congratulate this group of NewDEAL Leaders who have been chosen for their pro-growth policy solutions from the front-lines of government. We are proud to highlight these leaders from across the country with innovative ideas to make government more efficient and effective.”
“Year after year, the NewDEAL identifies remarkable state and local leaders who have a proven track record of innovative solutions. These elected officials have fresh ideas about how we can meet the challenges of the 21st Century. I’m glad they’ve been given the distinction and the support that the NewDEAL network provides, ”said Governor Jack Markell (D-DE), Honorary Co-Chair of the NewDEAL.
The New DEAL program highlighted Senator Candelaria’s successful efforts to pass the Rural and Low Income Schools Broadband Investment Act—a piece of legislation that will invest $50 million in broadband connectivity for schools across New Mexico—creating new educational and economic opportunities for rural communities statewide.
Former NewDEAL leaders include U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and other members of Congress, and New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller.
April 24, 2016
Submitted by Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen (D-38-Doña Ana), Majority Floor Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia) & Majority Whip Michael Padilla (D-14-Bernalillo)
In their guest column published on April 7, three of UNM Board of Regents, Regents Doughty, Lee and Fortner made a number of inaccurate assertions about the recent reorganization of the UNM Health Sciences Center medical complex (HSC). We believe readers deserve clarification.
They have repeatedly claimed that they dissolved the HSC Board of Directors—in an extremely abrupt and secretive way—because the HSC has become too independent. They have also asserted that it is not part of what they describe as “one university”.
This assertion overlooks some inconvenient facts. The HSC has always been a proud part of UNM. But it is undeniably a unique and highly complex organization, with 10,000 employees, thousands of students and the responsibility for providing medical care to hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. Many HSC activities are highly technical in nature and have no similarity with any other functions within the university.
This complexity is why the HSC Board was created in the first place. The HSC was growing too fast amid a rapidly changing health care landscape for the Regents to exercise effective oversight. Before it was tampered with, the Board of Directors included members with expertise in health care, academia and management, as well as community representatives.
Properly governed, the HSC is an enormous asset to the university as a whole. Its hospitals and clinics provide a safety net for everyone in the state, its nationally recognized educational programs raise UNM’s profile, and its research programs bring millions of dollars and many high-paying jobs into our state. Unfortunately, this latest move has put all that in jeopardy.
Regents Doughty, Lee and Fortner also claim that they engineered this move to preserve their constitutional authority as Regents—but that authority was never in question! The HSC Board of Directors essentially served an advisory role: it could make its considered recommendations to the full Board of Regents, who always had final approval.
This is part of a disturbing pattern on their part of making misleading and false statements. Still worse, these Regents sneeringly dismiss the “vocal few” who objected to their action (which was hatched in secret and kept from the other Regents and the HSC leadership until the last possible minute).
Readers of this newspaper know that hundreds of students, faculty, staff, community members and elected officials registered their objections at the March Regents’ meeting. To rewrite history and minimize their concerns insults the intelligence of everyone at UNM and in the community at large.
As State Senators, we are disgusted and embarrassed by the disrespect they have shown to the public and to the UNM HSC leadership. But we are even more concerned about the negative impact their dishonesty will have on the university as a whole. This move has demoralized many UNM employees, who are left to speculate about the possible motives for this sudden move and what it will mean for them.
Regents Doughty, Lee and Fortner profess to be perplexed by this. They ought to ask themselves why anyone would ever again trust a group of people who behaved in such a duplicitous way. The three Regents who hatched this scheme seem all too confident of their legal authority, but they have overlooked something significant: moral authority.
Moral authority must be earned. It is what empowered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a social movement that overcame centuries of institutionalized oppression. It enabled Abraham Lincoln to prevail in the darkest moments of our nation’s history. These Regents have forfeited their moral authority, diminishing themselves and sadly, hurting the institution they serve.
The HSC’s physician leaders have, on the other hand, exemplified true leadership through their decency and commitment to operating transparently. And they have earned moral authority the hard way: by tending to dying patients, comforting their loved ones and rejoicing when there is a cure. They accept the grave responsibility that comes with holding others’ lives in their hands. And because they speak from deep experience, they deserve our attention.
To suggest that they are “myopic” and “apathetic” as Regents Doughty, Lee and Fortner did, is both insulting and laughable. Perhaps they were gazing in the mirror when this thought occurred.
We fear for the future of the university, and are not optimistic about what will come next. But we know the entire university community, as well as the thousands of New Mexicans who receive health care at UNM, will be watching.
Contact: Isaac Padilla
(Santa Fe, NM) – Two New Mexico state senators today criticized the recent decision by the State Department of Health (DOH) to not renew contracts at five school-based health centers (SBHCs) that deliver health care to vulnerable children, likely resulting in their closure at the end of the current school year on June 30th. Democratic Senate Majority Floor Leader, Senator Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo and Valencia) and Republican Senator Ted Barela (R-39- Bernalillo, etc.) expressed their strong opposition to the agency’s decision, particularly as it hits health services at rural Belen H.S. in Belen, and Mountainair Middle and H.S. in Mountainair, in a letter sent to DOH deputy secretaries Lynn Gallagher and Gabrielle Sanchez Sandoval. The senators questioned the criteria used by the agency to arrive at its decision and pointed out inaccuracies in its data. DOH earlier said the decision was based on underutilization and ‘sustainability’ at the health centers.
“We stand in strong opposition to the Department’s decision regarding the school-based health centers and urge you to reconsider. These centers are an important tool in the delivery of physical and behavioral health services for hundreds of students. Often, the clinics are the only opportunity students have to receive medical care during the school year because they are either underinsured or uninsured. In fact, about 25% of students visiting the Belen health center during the current school year were uninsured. As a result, the Department’s suggestion that students use a private health center in that community is not a realistic alternative for those students,” the senators wrote in their letter to DOH.
In addition to the Belen and Mountainair locations, DOH earlier announced changes to School on Wheels, Maxwell Municipal Schools in Springer, and Roosevelt Middle School in Albuquerque. State revenue shortfalls resulted in budget cuts to the State Department of Health this year.
SBHCs are clinics funded in part by the state Department of Health on or near school grounds that provide onsite primary and other services to school-age students among vulnerable, hard-to-reach or at-risk children and adolescents. Many of them may not have access to services outside of the school setting, particularly in rural and other medically under-served areas of New Mexico.
The senators also requested DOH to explain the term ‘sustainability’ as it was applied to the effected SBHCs.
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.
(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.
Contact: Isaac Padilla
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(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.