Piñon Post

Despite teacher pay hike, vacancy rates rising: Report

Teacher vacancies in New Mexico are increasing, reaching 751 unfilled positions this year compared to 690 in 2022, as highlighted in an annual report by New Mexico State University’s Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation and Policy Center. This represents a nine percent rise from the previous year but is notably lower than the 2021 report, which documented over 1,000 empty teacher positions in the state, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

This comes despite the state Legislature unanimously passing a bill giving all school employees a seven percent raise and boosting minimum salaries for public school teachers.

Despite substantial legislative investments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, retaining teachers remains a challenge, as discussed in a recent meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee. Education officials plan to request continued or increased funding for teacher preparation programs, emphasizing the importance of equipping teachers with the necessary skills.

Mary Parr-Sánchez, president of the New Mexico branch of the National Education Association, a far-left teachers union, claimed there needs to be a multifaceted solution involving policy changes and higher wages to address the challenges faced by educators. She said that professionals in the classroom still feel the strain, akin to the challenges during and after the pandemic.

The 2023 report indicates noticeable teacher vacancies, particularly in elementary and special education, as well as math and science classes. Additionally, the state is lacking 482 educational assistants, despite a recent law increasing minimum educational assistant salaries to $25,000.

While the report outlines various needs, including counselors, paraprofessionals, speech-language pathologists, and behavior support providers, it also notes a positive trend. More aspiring teachers are completing preparation programs, with 1,158 graduates in 2023, marking an increase of 131 over 2022.

New Mexico’s education system ranks 51st behind all other states and the District of Columbia.

Lujan Grisham again defies court order, reissues unconstitutional gun ban

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has again extended her anti-gun executive orders, introducing a renewed order that includes updated measures to curb access to firearms. Her past two executive orders were stricken down by a Joe Biden-appointed judge, forcing her to rewrite them again and release them via her New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen.

The renewed order now mandates the Department of Public Safety to organize gun buy-backs. Within the next 30 days, buy-back events will be held in Albuquerque, Española, and Las Cruces to attempt to further disarm the populous.

Governor Lujan Grisham claimed firearms threaten the state, citing a recent incident where two guns were found in the possession of students at an Albuquerque high school. While no injuries occurred, the incident underscored the psychological impact on children. 

The previous version of the public health order had included additional measures, such as attempting to suspend gun-carry rights in specific areas, a move that a federal judge temporarily halted. Despite that, she reissued it in Allen’s order.

“No person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, or active duty military personnel shall possess a firearm, as defined in NMSA 1978, Section 30-7-4.1, either openly or concealed, in public parks or playgrounds within the City of Albuquerque or Bernalillo County, except in the City of Albuquerque’s Shooting Range Park and areas designated as a state park within the state parks system and owned or managed by the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department State Parks Division, or the State Land Office,” read the new order.

“This Order supersedes any previous Order to the extent it is in conflict and shall take effect on October 6, 2023, and remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergencies declared in Executive Orders 2023-130 and 2023-132 and any subsequent renewals of those public health emergency declarations, unless otherwise rescinded,” it included.

It also involved the distribution of trigger locks, reading, “Trigger locks shall be made available free of charge to all firearm owners; provided that each firearm owner shall only be entitled to one free trigger lock. Firearm owners wishing to obtain a free trigger lock should visit www.safestoragenm.org.”

Interestingly, the decree concluded, “Nothing in this Order shall be construed to contradict or evade any court orders temporarily enjoining provisions in previous public health emergency orders that remain in this Order. Any court order regarding such provisions shall apply to the same provisions found herein,” an apparent attempt to minimize liability from the new unconstitutional edict that violates the drudge’s previous court order.

Lujan Grisham continues to face impeachment calls from 31 legislators, being led by Reps. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) and John Block (R-Alamogordo), who have begun a certification petition process for an extraordinary impeachment session. 

Dems’ heavily gerrymandered maps upheld in court

A Friday decision by Ninth Judicial District Judge Fred T. Van Soelen addressed allegations that Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico intentionally diluted Republican voting power in the state’s second congressional district via gerrymandering. The ruling ruled in favor of the Democrats’ heavily partisan gerrymandered map.

Judge Van Soelen’s 14-page decision, while acknowledging that Democrats had effectively diluted the votes of their opponents, concluded that the evidence presented by the Republican plaintiffs fell short of demonstrating the Democrats’ success in entrenching their party in the second congressional district. The judge specifically noted that the efforts did not reach the threshold of an “egregious gerrymander.”

The ruling underscored the court’s assessment that although Democrats had achieved a notable dilution of Republican votes, the evidence did not establish a level of success in entrenching Democratic dominance in the district. This decision comes amid ongoing debates and legal challenges surrounding redistricting processes and allegations of partisan gerrymandering in various jurisdictions across the country.

In his ruling, Judge Van Soelen emphasized the importance of evidence in proving claims of gerrymandering, stating that the Republican plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence to support their argument that the redrawing of the electoral map aimed at entrenching the Democratic Party in the second congressional district.

Despite evidence presented in court, including text messages to nonprofits by Democrat legislators bragging about the gerrymander, the judge ruled in favor of the leftist gerrymandered map.

NM treasurer found guilty of violating state campaign reporting laws

Democrat New Mexico Treasurer Laura Montoya has been found guilty of violating the state’s Campaign Reporting Act by the state Ethics Commission. The Democrat was found to have misreported campaign contributions. The case, Montoya vs. Tim Eichenberg, the former state treasurer, a Democrat, revealed a significant breach in campaign finance transparency.

The commission, presided over by hearing officer Alan Torgerson, reached its decision on September 29. Central to the case was a $10,000 straw donor contribution allegedly made by Adelante Sandoval, a political committee, as reported by Montoya. However, it has been disclosed that the funds actually originated from property developer Gary Plante. During the hearing, both Montoya and other witnesses conveniently could not remember key details relating to the campaign cash.

Judge Torgerson found it “highly unusual that the memories of the witnesses have faded so completely that they are virtually unable to recall anything substantive about the September 21, 2021, afternoon in question, or the fact that a large, apparently unexpected, contribution appeared immediately after a campaign event in Corrales and yet they have no memory of the circumstances or details of that contributions.”

In an additional layer of complexity, two companies under Plante’s management channeled the $10,000 in campaign funding. The New Mexico Ethics Commission, in its report, underscored the discrepancy between the reported source and the actual contributor.

The Commission’s executive director, Jeremy Farris, emphasized the importance of transparency in electoral funding. He noted that while individuals have the right to support candidates financially, the public also has a corresponding right to be informed about the sources of such contributions. 

Farris explicitly condemned straw donor contributions, such as the one exposed in this case, as undermining the transparency essential for fair elections.

Highlighting the broader implications, Farris stated, “Straw donor contributions, like those uncovered in this administrative case, undermine transparency in our elections. If wealthy individuals want to give thousands of dollars to candidates for office, that’s their right; but they can’t do it in secret.”

Farris added, “New Mexicans also have a right to know who is spending money to influence their votes. The State Ethics Commission works to ensure they do.”

“We disagree with the judge’s ruling,” said Montoya’s attorney, Kenneth Stalter. “I don’t think the evidence supports it, so we’re looking at the options for appeal.”

Montoya was given a slap on the wrist with a meager fine of $1,000.

Riley Gaines slapped with huge bill for unsolicited security force at UNM speech

Activist and former University of Kentucky NCAA swimming athlete Riley Gaines spoke at the University of New Mexico on Wednesday at a talk put on by Turning Point USA. Gaines garnered notoriety for having to share a title with Lia Thomas, a biological man claiming to be transgender woman.

At the UNM event, Gaines claims she was billed $10,000 for police presence she did not request at the event.

She wrote that “they stationed 45 police officers with me & hit me with a 10k security charge.”

She added, “All for saying men are men and women are women… such a radical position to take. Onward!”

State Sen. Gregg Schmedes (R-Tijeras) wrote in response, “Ridiculous. Thank you for coming to speak and standing for truth.”

“I’m so embarrassed as a New Mexican right now. I’m sorry Riley. I hope someone makes this right,” one commenter wrote, tagging Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat.

Others noted how the crowd protesting Gaines’ speech was “embarrassing.”

At a 2022 event with conservative speaker Tomi Lahren at UNM, a violent Antifa mob interrupted the event and shut down the scheduled speech. 

Judge delivers bad news to Gov. Lujan Grisham over executive order

On Tuesday, a federal judge, David Herrera Urias, issued a temporary restraining order, blocking Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s revised public health order that prohibited firearms in parks, playgrounds, and other public places where children play in Albuquerque and across Bernalillo County — another blow to the governor. 

The extension of the temporary restraining order comes as Judge Urias considers a request for an injunction on the revised order. He has committed to making a decision on this matter by October 11.

The legal action follows at least five lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court, with plaintiffs asserting that the governor’s initial order, which banned carrying open or concealed firearms in public spaces in New Mexico’s most populous city and county, infringes on Second Amendment rights. The lawsuits primarily seek court orders to prevent the state from enforcing the gun ban.

The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), one of the complainants, swiftly filed a lawsuit within 24 hours of the governor issuing the public health order. Dudley Brown, president of the Colorado-based organization, emphasized the uniqueness of New Mexico’s situation, stating, “This is the most egregious ban ever produced in modern America.”

While Judge Urias evaluates the legal aspects of the firearms ban, the political landscape surrounding Governor Lujan Grisham is becoming increasingly tumultuous. Representatives Lord and Block have initiated calls for the governor’s impeachment, citing concerns over her handling of public health orders and potential violations of constitutional rights.

The federal judge’s decision to extend the temporary restraining order adds another layer to the ongoing legal battle over gun regulations. The outcome, expected by October 11, will have significant implications not only for Governor Lujan Grisham’s public health measures but also for the broader debate on Second Amendment rights in the state.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the governor faces mounting pressure on the political front, with calls for impeachment intensifying. State Reps. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) and John Block (R-Alamogordo) continue to pursue impeachment proceedings against the governor over her unconstitutional order and her claims that no law or oath is “absolute.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham tests positive for COVID-19 for third time

In an unexpected turn of events, the Office of Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham confirmed Monday in a press release that the governor has tested positive for COVID-19. The statement noted that Governor Lujan Grisham is currently “experiencing some minimal symptoms.”

The Governor’s office told the public that she is in good spirits despite the mild symptoms.

For the remainder of the week, Governor Lujan Grisham will be carrying out her duties remotely.

The press release did not provide specific details about where or how the governor may have contracted the virus. 

Governor Lujan Grisham’s positive test result also raises questions about potential impacts on the state’s governance, though the remote work arrangement is designed to ensure continuity in decision-making processes.

Lujan Grisham previously tested positive for the virus in August of 2022 and in November of 2022.

Unhinged NM Dem Party equates Republicans with domestic terrorists

The New Mexico Democrat Party (DPNM), in its latest attack on Republicans, equated members of the GOP to domestic terrorists in a recent statement released three days following an altercation in northern New Mexico where anti-Don Juan de Oñate demonstrators clashed with a man who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. 

A longtime Oñate statue was set to return to Rio Arriba County this year after it was removed following the 2020 George Floyd Antifa riots targeting statues and historical sites. Anti-Hispanic hate groups, including The Red Nation, have attacked Hispanic history and culture by cloaking their protests in supposed care for Native American traditions. These fringe groups, such as The Red Nation, originate out of state.

After a video showed him being pursued by a crowd of anti-Hispanic protesters, the man shot one person. Strangely, in his mugshot, the man was allowed to wear his MAGA hat — something likely done as a political message to attempt to show Republicans as accused criminals.

DPNM, which Jessica Vasquez chairs, wrote in the bloviated statement, “To learn from the past & continually work toward becoming a more just & equitable society, we must remember history as it was, including the colonial injustices & atrocities that are a sad part of New Mexico’s history.”

In the attempt at equating all Republicans to the shooter, DPNM continued, “The aggressor of this horrendous act was a right-wing extremist wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. After this event, & so many others that have terrorized our country, it is our duty to call the MAGA movement what it is: a radical movement that has emboldened the most heinous extremists in our country to commit acts of politically-motivated (sic) violence.” 

It added, “The Republican Party remains spinelessly complacent in condoning political violence as extremists have infiltrated & taken over their party. We will continue to do everything we can to keep them & their MAGA leader, Donald Trump, out of public office.”

The Democrat Party has long embraced and inflamed political violence, including in its fight against slavery, in its opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, in its support for the George Floyd/Antifa riots, and even most recently on Capitol Hill, where a Democrat congressman pulled a fire alarm to attempt to halt a vote to avert a government shutdown. 

Dems blasted in court over ‘extreme’ partisan gerrymandered U.S. House maps

Political scientist Sean Trende has leveled accusations of “extreme” partisan gerrymandering against New Mexico Democrats, alleging that recent redistricting efforts unfairly benefited the Democratic Party. The claims surfaced during the second and final day of a bench trial on the GOP’s lawsuit challenging the process behind the new congressional map, redrawn in response to the 2020 Census.

The GOP argues that the redistricting maneuver, ostensibly aimed at adjusting borders to reflect changes in population, was designed to diminish Republican influence in the state. The trial concluded with closing arguments, and Judge Fred Van Soelen is expected to render a verdict by October 6, potentially impacting the congressional map ahead of the 2024 election.

Republicans attribute the redistricting to their loss of the Second Congressional District in 2022, where Democrat Gabe Vasquez defeated GOP incumbent Yvette Herrell. In the event of a favorable verdict, plaintiffs are urging the court to find a resolution, potentially leading to a redrawn congressional map before the 2024 elections.

The trial also saw subpoenas filed by Republicans seeking testimony from Democrat lawmakers, including Senate leaders Peter Wirth and Mimi Stewart, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, and former Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. However, none of the legislators appeared in court, prompting arguments about legislative immunity. While Van Soelen ruled that lawmakers were protected from testifying about the legislative process, he allowed the admission of text messages and emails into evidence.

Jowei Chen, an associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan, testified on behalf of the defense, analyzing the new districts through 1,000 “partisan blind” simulations. Chen argued that the districts created by Senate Bill 1 were not extreme in their political characteristics and could have emerged from a non-partisan map-drawing process. He also noted efforts to prevent any district from having over 60 percent of New Mexico’s oil wells, a condition given by the defense to replicate the SB 1 map approved by lawmakers.

Chen’s testimony faced scrutiny from the plaintiffs, who argued that the division of the oil and gas industry diluted its influence. While Chen acknowledged that he had never been asked to split up an industry in his career, he stated that he was informed by the defense that it was a policy consideration.

Sean Trende, another political analyst, supported the GOP’s claims during his testimony. He argued that the new districts were strategically designed to shift Republican voters out of the Second District and create majorities in all three districts, aiming to “punish Republicans” and entrench Democratic advantages.

Trende’s methodology came under attack during cross-examination, with the defense challenging the admissibility of his data. Trende admitted that the original maps could not be precisely replicated but maintained that his simulations were politically neutral. The trial also featured Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc., who testified that the redistricting process made districts more competitive.

The verdict in the case will show if the heavily gerrymandered districts, which shifted the Second District from an R+14 to a D+4 (an 18-point swing) will hold up for the far-left Democrats.

Trial begins for lawsuit over Dems’ gerrymandered U.S. House map

The trial over accusations of partisan gerrymandering by the far-left Democrat-controlled Legislature commenced on Wednesday, adding fuel to the ongoing national debate on redistricting. The focus is on New Mexico’s Second District, a crucial battleground that has swung between parties in the past three elections and holds significance in the Republicans’ efforts to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2024.

The Republican Party contends that the new map, orchestrated by Democrats, deviates from established redistricting norms by dividing communities to gain a political advantage. They argue that this deliberate manipulation aims to diminish the conservative voice in southeastern New Mexico, an oil-producing stronghold, by splitting it among three congressional districts favoring Democrats. 

During the redistricting process, New Mexicans from across the state gave input to the Legislature through meetings held by the state’s Citizens Redistricting Committee. All the recommendations from the committee were tossed out for an extremely partisan gerrymandered map that chopped up Republican areas of the state into districts that have been Democrat strongholds in an attempt at swinging the Second District to favor progressive Democrat candidates.

During the trial, Republican attorneys presented evidence, including text messages from a top Democratic legislator, suggesting flagrant gerrymandering tactics. State Rep. James Townsend (R-Artesia), a retired oil pipeline supervisor and former state House minority leader, testified that the intent was to secure Democrat victories in these districts, marginalizing Republican lawmakers from the process.

In response, Democratic lawmakers erroneously claimed that the redistricting was conducted diligently, ensuring more competitive districts reflective of population shifts, with considerations for Native American communities. Richard Olson, an attorney for the Democrat-led Legislature, argues that the Second District remains competitive, and Republicans will struggle to prove intentional entrenchment of Democratic politicians, despite obvious evidence in the contrary.

The trial in Lovington is expected to last three days, with the New Mexico Supreme Court granting the state district judge until October 6th to reach a decision. With the 2024 elections looming, the judiciary is working against time to implement potential changes. Despite challenges, the court affirmed its duty to protect the right to vote as a fundamental democratic mechanism, emphasizing the importance of addressing gerrymandering concerns.

While Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is not defending the contested map, citing other legal priorities, the trial underscores the intense political struggle over redistricting, a process critical to shaping the future of representation in the United States.

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