US Senate passes funding bill with $2.5 bil for NM fire victims
The US Senate yesterday passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Dec. 16—legislation that includes $2.5 billion for the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act. House Passage is expected today and President Joe Biden will need to sign it before midnight. Following the bill’s passage yesterday, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, who introduced the bill, told SFR he was “optimistic” about its prospects in the House, where it was originally introduced by US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM. Including the bill in the continuing resolution was the most expedient way to pass the legislation, he says. “I’m so sorry to the families from Mora and San Miguel and all the families with what they have had to go through here,” Luján said. “This is a package that was a result of visiting with families, listening to them and identifying what could be done. We knew it would not be easy…to earn the support of colleagues from across America. But in the end, the support and the direction and the commitment from families across New Mexico, and their prayers, it all came together for us to get this done.” US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement he and Luján “talked to every single senator who would listen to make sure we would have the votes to deliver the resources that New Mexicans need to rebuild in the aftermath of the worst fire in our state’s history,” but noted that “passing this funding is just the start of this process.”
Sen. Ivey-Soto steps down from Rules committee chairmanship
State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, resigned as Chair of the Senate Rules Committee yesterday. In a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, Ivey-Soto writes that his leadership position has “become a distraction that has overshadowed the work of meeting the needs of the people who elected me. I am also concerned about the impact this has on the Senate as an institution, where historically we have worked to resolve that major issues facing our state.” The state Senate has faced increasing pressure regarding Ivey-Soto in the wake of sexual harassment allegations and a leaked report that showed an investigator found probable cause regarding several of the accusations. In turn, lawmakers have been considering revisions to the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy and procedures, but have not yet taken any action. “Our job is complex and can be very difficult but it’s important that everyone feel equally included and able to engage in the process,” Stewart said in a statement. “I appreciate Senator Ivey-Soto for recognizing the needs of our state and taking the actions he has to ensure we can move forward together.” Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said Ivey-Soto had done the “right thing” by resigning: “Now we move forward, continuing the important policy work voters sent us here to do. When we work together we can accomplish much for our state.” Advocates, however, say more needs to happen, and representatives from a coalition calling for Ivey-Soto’s resignation reiterated calls for him to be removed from office. “He doesn’t belong in elected office, period,” Jessie Damazyn, communications director for the Center for Civic Policy, said in a statement. “The Senate should expel him.”
First NM gubernatorial debate tonight
Incumbent Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti face off tonight in the first televised debate for the Nov. 8 general election. The debate, hosted by KOB, airs at 7 pm on Channel 4 and KOB.com/live. A news release from Lujan Grisham’s campaign forecasts that “abortion will be a defining issue of the debate” and “will put into stark contrast the difference between Governor Lujan Grisham’s record of protecting reproductive rights and Mark Ronchetti’s determination to ban abortion.” The news release says the governor plans to lay out “her robust record of delivering big for New Mexicans” and demonstrate that “substance beats flash.” Ronchetti’s campaign this week has been focused on crime, with Ronchetti highlighting two endorsements he recently received from the New Mexico Fraternal Order of Police and the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association.
Courts propose cannabis expungement changes
New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Bacon told legislators on the Courts, Corrections & Justice Committee yesterday that a law requiring expungement of low-level cannabis convictions from criminal records is proving “rife with challenges” for the judiciary. The way the law works now, she said, “the onus is on the courts to figure out who has a cannabis conviction” and expunge those convictions. However, “the challenge is most people aren’t simply charged with a cannabis conviction” but, rather, have multiple convictions, including cannabis and there’s no simple way to search for them—”there’s not a code that says cannabis.” Moreover, the law includes an objection process, she said, and in the southeastern part of the state there have been “hundreds and hundreds of objections” on cases in which “law enforcement and others believe there might be an expungement issue.” That means judges are “spending untold hours addressing objections” in cases, regardless of whether an expungement issue has even been confirmed. As such, the courts plan to support a “commonsense” change in which the “onus” for expungement will be “on the person who has the conviction,” which will require them to file an application with the court for expungement. SFR reported in 2021 that the state Department of Public Safety had identified 154,791 cases eligible for expungement statewide.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Sept. 29: New cases: 277; 618,392 total cases; Deaths: one; Santa Fe County has had 351 total deaths; there have been 8,564 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 100. Patients on ventilators: seven. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk, several New Mexico counties turned from “green” (low) to “yellow” (medium) and “red” (high) during the prior seven-day tracking period posted yesterday. Catron, Grant and Hidalgo counties are now red; Rio Arriba and Otero counties are now yellow. Santa Fe County remains green. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.
Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result; Curative testing sites; 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.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Today, Netflix launches “Netflix in Your Neighborhood: New Mexico,” an interactive website highlighting filming locations for locally produced shows such as Stranger Things, The Harder They Fall and Army of the Dead. The website includes an introductory video to Netflix productions in the state and interactive maps that show filming locations (such as El Rancho de las Golondrinas, where “Brenda, Reggie and the kids confront Mr. Cross for an epic standoff” in End of the Road.) Netflix official Nick Maniatis tells the Albuquerque Journal the site took approximately six months to create. “New Mexico was the No. 1 place to launch this campaign,” he said. “We’re committed to New Mexico and feel very lucky to have the partnership. New Mexico has versatility in its landscape and we can double for other locations.”
Farming out the farm
Wall Street Journal writer Dan Frosch (a long-ago SFR staffer) takes a look at how farmers in the West are looking elsewhere for revenue in the face of overwhelming drought. Nathan Jurva, for instance, hasn’t been able to plant approximately 20% of his planned crop—he grows alfalfa and also manages his grandmother’s farm—in southeastern New Mexico approximately 30 miles from the Texas border. So he’s been renting RV hookups on his land, sold some of his water to oil-and-gas companies and has agreed to lease a parcel of land for a proposed solar farm. “If I relied solely on farming, we would live below the poverty line,” Jurva tells WSJ. “Diversification is critical to our business plan.” Jurva’s story is not uncommon as about 70% of the West experiences drought, and farmers also grapple with rising grain prices and other factors. This has led farmers to seek more efficient operations and, in some cases, entirely different ventures to stay afloat. “This is a pretty rough time,” Dawn Thilmany, a professor of agricultural economics at Colorado State University, tells the paper.
The most wonderful time of the year
The fall festivals resume this weekend as October begins. El Rancho de las Golondrinas continues its 50th anniversary celebration year with the 50th annual Santa Fe Harvest Festival 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 1-2), which will include pumpkin picking, grape stomping, corn-husking crafts and so much more ($8/$6 seniors/kids under 12 free). You’ll also find the Mountain and Valley Wool Festival all weekend (starting at 9 am, running until 5 p on Saturday and 4 pm on Sunday) at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, a free event devoted to the fiber arts, but also including music and sheep sheering demonstrations. Santa Fe Brewing Company (35 Fire Place) hosts Oktoberfiesta from 1 to 9 pm tomorrow, at which ArtWalk Santa Fe will host more than 40 artists and makers; live music; a farmers market, food, game and more. Up on the mountain at Ski Santa Fe, the seasonal Super Chief Quad chairlifts continue every weekend through Oct. 9 (so don’t miss out), along with live music on the deck at La Casa Lodge starting at 11 am: Blues Revue on Saturday and Troy Browne Band on Sunday. You’ll find lots else to do out there this weekend in SFR’s calendar.
Camp it up
Men’s Journal includes Hotel Luna Mystica in its list of 10 incredible urban camping retreats, noting that the “vintage trailer hotel and campground under the starry canvas of New Mexico’s skies” is “within arm’s reach of Taos Mesa Brewing,” and offers free WiFI, pet-friendly policies and “no shortage of soul-restorative mountain views.” Speaking of fall camping, the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department yesterday announced seasonal shifts for the state parks. “As we head into the fall and winter seasons, we see a drop-off in visitation in some state parks and a reduced need for services,” State Parks Director, Toby Velasquez said in a statement. “With these conditions in mind, we impose some area closures in our state parks. Designated campgrounds, comfort stations and some recreational locations in parks may be closed for winterization through April.” Seasonal changes vary by park, with no parks permanently closed and many remaining open with regular access to hiking, camping, fishing etc. You can search by park here and reserve camping spaces here. Depending on how serious you are about camping, you may find Outside magazine’s recent story ranking the best and worst of pouched camping foods of interest.
Perfect Autumn weather
The National Weather Service forecasts sunny days today and tomorrow, with high temperatures in the mid to high 70s. Saturday night, we have a 20% chance for rain, rising to a 30% on Sunday for showers and thunderstorms after noon.