Lawmakers introduce bill to expand Human Rights Act
A legislative proposal to expand New Mexico’s Human Rights Act redefines sexual orientation and gender identity in statute and adds gender to the categories of protected classes under the law. As such, it would expand protections for transgender youth and others at a time when other state legislatures have seen a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ proposals, and the US Supreme Court may end up ruling on a Florida bathroom ban for a transgendered student recently upheld by Republican federal appeals judges. The increased threats to transgender people across the country makes New Mexico’s move to bolster protections crucial, Equality New Mexico Executive Director Marshall Martinez tells the Albuquerque Journal following yesterday’s introduction of the bill. “As somebody who was born and raised here,” he says, “I think now is the most critical time to say to people here and across the country that hatred and bigotry have never been our values.” New Mexico’s bill, sponsored by Democrats Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe; Sen. Carrie Hamblen of Las Cruces; Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe; and Rep. Kristina Ortez of Taos create state protections beyond what’s provided in federal law, Martinez says. The bill is currently in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.
Green for green
Senate Bill 9, co-sponsored by state Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and state Sen. Steven P. Neville, a Republican from San Juan County, would create a new Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund, an initiative backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who allocated $75 million for the fund in her executive budget recommendations. According to a news release from the governor’s office, with an initial $50 million investment, the fund would make annual disbursements beginning in fiscal year 2024 to existing state programs spread across six agencies that prioritize land and water conservation; forest and watershed health; outdoor recreation and infrastructure; agriculture and working lands; historic preservation; and wildlife species protection. A second, permanent trust fund would be established with an initial investment of $25 million the State Investment Council would manage. “We’ve made steady progress on land and water stewardship in recent years, but never had the dedicated source of state funding that our communities deserve,” Wirth said in a statement. “New Mexico is reeling from the effects of climate change, and this fund will help communities be more resilient as we continue to deal with wildfires, flooding and long-term drought.” (Wirth also is championing a measure to replenish the state’s Water Trust Fund). State Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, who will be sponsoring the bill in his chamber, said the fund “is many years in the making, and it’s the right approach at the right time. It is smart fiscal policy to make these investments now and into the future so our communities can access untapped federal dollars to better prepare for the environmental challenges we face.”
State funds local distillery
Altar Spirits is the only Santa Fe business receiving Job Training Incentive Program funding (JTIP) from the state in January. The state Economic Development Department yesterday reported 10 companies received funding to support training up to 87 new employees and six interns. In the case of Altar Spirits, the Railyard-area company received the smallest award: $7,330 for one trainee at a wage of $19 per hour. Under JTIP, companies receive reimbursement for 50% to 75% of their costs after training is complete and all JTIP criteria have been met. In a statement, Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes says the program has supported 190 companies in 34 communities during the current administration’s tenure. Companies in Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Moriarty, Raton and Taos, also received funding, with the highest amount—more than $780,000—going to a Boeing business unit located in Albuquerque to support 21 trainees at an average salary of $65.33.
Hospitalized at home in NM
The New York Times takes a deep dive into the world of home hospital care, opening the story in Albuquerque in the home of 92-year-old Manuelita Romero, where she is being treated for a drug-resistant urinary-tract infection and congestive heart failure through Presbyterian Healthcare Services’ Hospital at Home program. Dr. Elizabeth De Pirro, who runs the program, can sometimes log more than 100 miles many days visiting patients around Albuquerque. She talks to other team members—nurses, pharmacists—about their patients as she drives. One of them, nurse Erica Guardiola, tells the Times she prefers the home hospital care to seeing patients in the actual hospital: “In the hospital, you’re like hustle and bustle, moving from room to room,” she says. “But here, we get to go into all different walks of life all over town and do a whole lot.” The shortage of hospital beds in New Mexico—and around the country—became crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic as those hospital beds filled up with patients. The problem, the Times reports, is “likely to get worse as the baby-boomer generation continues to age.” Given the expense of building new hospitals and the drawbacks of hospitals in general for long-term care, home hospital care may become more common—a prospect not all support (National Nurses United opposes home health care, for instance). Needless to say, many moving pieces make the long-term picture for home hospital care uncertain. Still, “the model is feasible,” Amol Navathe, a health-policy professor and internist at the University of Pennsylvania, tells the Times, and “the potential is astronomical.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Jan. 26: New cases: 176; 664,199 total cases. Deaths: seven; Santa Fe County has had 387 total deaths; 8,939 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 79. Patients on ventilators: five
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Jan. 26 “community levels” map shows four county categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19, compared with one last week: De Baca, Curry, Quay and Roosevelt counties. The rest of the state—including Santa Fe County—is green, aka has low risk. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.
Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via COVIDTests.gov; Check availability for additional free COVID-19 tests through Project ACT; CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
UK-based online music and culture zine God Is in the TV singles out a New Mexico-recorded song for its recent “tracks of the week” segment. Singer-songwriter Mary Elizabeth Remington recorded her debut album in a small house in Embudo, New Mexico and titled it—fittingly—In Embudo. The album, which she made with Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker and James Krivchenia, as well as Mat Davidson from Twain, releases Feb. 10, but you can check out the video for the song “Dresser Hill” now. A quote from Remington about the album and the environs in which it was recorded: “The dry desert air and vast clay colored landscape brought inspiration and calmness to the process of creating music together. Each day I would start to sing, the three of them would begin jamming and after a little while James would hit record. We were recording fresh moments, not overworked or overthought. There were plans to do some overlays, but when we listened to the takes, we all thought, that’s it; leave it just as it is.”
All that glitters
Barron’s profiles jewelry designer and New Mexico native Anna Sheffield, founder of the eponymous jewelry company as well as the Future Heritage Project, which she created with the New Mexico Community Foundation to allocate money for New Mexico nonprofits and to sponsor at least one Indigenous student a year to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts. “In an industry that is inherently taking from the earth, and often exploitative of people who have few options in our current world order, I try to do what I can to make decisions that go above the minimum of using recycled gold and printer paper,” Sheffield tells Barron’s. “We’ve focused on sourcing to be sure—where I source my stones, how transparent the vendors are—so we are working as ethically as possible.” Sheffield says her New Mexico upbringing also influences her designs. In New Mexico, she notes, “nature is omnipresent. Knowing how small one is and how vast and powerful nature is, that contrast was really formative. And I think it still is. I have a deep reverence for the natural world, and a respect and spiritual connection to it. And I feel like the idea of ceremony, and jewelry as more than ornament, are two beliefs I carried with me from an early age.” Sheffield’s company has stores in New York and Los Angeles; she splits her time between those cities and New Mexico. As for precisely where in New Mexico she’s from, a 2020 article about her wedding answers that question: Taos.
Sports Illustrated has nothing but love for the University of New Mexico’s men’s basketball team, The Lobos, the team’s venue, The Pit, and their head coach: Richard Pitino. To wit: “New Mexico is one of few places (think Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas) where college basketball is closer to a year-round obsession than a seasonal attraction.” As for The Pit, it “has its place in the sport’s history,” ranking 13th in Sports Illustrated’s favorite venues of the 20th century. But, Sports Illustrated writes,”in recent years, the heartbeat that emanates from The Pit has begun to fade” and “two seasons ago, New Mexico basketball hit rock bottom.” Enter Pitino (no, this is not the plot for Hoosiers…at least, not exactly). Apparently, things also weren’t going so well for Pitino at the University of Minnesota, where he was eventually fired, but he “checked all the boxes” for New Mexico Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez. Turns out, hiring Pitino was a good call. “In 2022–23, the roar of one of college basketball’s best fan bases is back in full voice, and the 18–3 Lobos are in the AP Top 25 for the first time in nearly a decade, nationally relevant once more.” Fans’ enthusiasm was evident at The Lobos’ Jan. 20 game, with an attendance of more than 14,500 people and “the type of energy you imagine a Friday-night high school football game in Texas feels like.” Albuquerque Journal staff writer Geoff Grammer, a New Mexico native who covers The Lobos for the paper, sums it up to SI thusly: “This is a poor state and a very proud state where families have been for generations and generations,” Grammer says. “In terms of the go-to sport, when it’s at its best, it’s Lobo basketball and there’s not really a close second.”
Sunny and cold today, with the National Weather Service forecasting a high temperature near 37 degrees and wind chill values as low as -1, with north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. The whole weekend looks sunny at present, with around the same level of wind and high temps rising to the low and mid-40s, respectively, on Saturday and Sunday.