Renato Costa

See where NM ranks among states for military retirees

According to a recent report by WalletHub, New Mexico is ranked at the bottom of the list for military retirees. The personal finance website released its 2024 rankings just ahead of Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, analyzing how friendly each state is to veterans looking to transition to civilian life.

WalletHub’s study assessed all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 28 key indicators of retirement-friendliness for veterans. These indicators ranged from job opportunities and housing affordability to the quality of VA hospitals. Despite these comprehensive metrics, New Mexico found itself near the bottom of the list.

“Transitioning from military to civilian life isn’t easy, but the best states for military retirees make that adjustment as smooth as possible,” said Cassandra Happe, a WalletHub analyst. “In addition to providing the conditions necessary for our veterans to thrive financially, they also have ample resources for taking care of military retirees’ physical and mental health.”

While states like South Carolina, Florida, and Virginia topped the list due to favorable policies for veterans—such as tax exemptions on military pensions, strong VA hospital ratings, and supportive job markets—New Mexico lagged behind in several key areas.

The report highlighted that New Mexico, ranked 50th, only fared better than Oregon, which took the last spot. This low ranking for New Mexico raises concerns about the state’s ability to support its veteran population adequately.

In the study, New Mexico ranked 48th for its economic environment, 29th for its quality of life, and 50th for its health care.

Further emphasizing the disparities, South Carolina was noted for having numerous veteran-friendly policies, including tax exemptions on military pensions, veteran treatment courts, and a high number of veteran-owned businesses per capita. These features contribute to a more supportive environment for military retirees, a stark contrast to the conditions found in New Mexico.

WalletHub’s analysis sheds light on the importance of state-level policies in shaping the quality of life for military retirees. As New Mexico continues to rank poorly, it needs to reevaluate its support systems and resources for veterans to improve its standing and better serve those who have served the country.

For more detailed insights and to see the full rankings, visit WalletHub’s website here.

Vasquez refuses to join vast bipartisan majority against illegal voting

In a major move, the House of Representatives has passed bipartisan legislation to overturn a progressive immigration policy that allows illegal aliens to vote in local elections in Washington, D.C. This legislation garnered widespread support, with over fifty Democrats joining Republicans to endorse the measure. It passed 262 to 143. However, far-left Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-CD2) voted against it, a decision that has drawn sharp criticism from various quarters, especially since Vasquez represents southern New Mexico, where New Mexico’s entire border with Mexico is located. Vasquez was joined by Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-CD3) in opposing the bill, while Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-CD1) was absent from the vote.

The legislation, seen by many as a common-sense approach to ensuring electoral integrity, was supported by a broad coalition in the House, including 52 Democrats. Maureen O’Toole, Regional Press Secretary for the Congressional Leadership Fund, emphasized the bipartisan nature of the vote and criticized Vasquez’s stance. “Preventing noncitizens from voting in American elections is as basic and commonsense as it gets, which is why it passed with a clear bipartisan majority in the House, yet Gabe Vasquez was too extreme to support it,” O’Toole stated. “Today’s vote makes it clear: Gabe Vasquez’s top priority is pushing radical illegal immigration policy, not fighting for New Mexico citizens or protecting the security of our elections.”

The National Congressional Committee’s Spokeswoman, Delanie Bomar, wrote following the vote, “Don’t believe extreme Democrat Gabe Vasquez’s election year posturing, just look at his votes – he is a radical open borders zealot. As long as Vasquez is in office, illegal migrants will get the red carpet treatment while American citizens get the shaft.”

Vasquez’s vote against the legislation is consistent with his history of advocating for progressive immigration policies. He has previously called for defunding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and has supported shutting down ICE facilities altogether. 

Critics also point out that Vasquez has downplayed the severity of the border crisis, accusing Republicans of politicizing the issue rather than addressing it substantively. He has consistently voted against stricter border security measures despite concerns about an increase in crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

The decision to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections in the nation’s capital has been a flashpoint, with many arguing that voting should be a privilege reserved for citizens. 

Vasquez faces a tough reelection battle against GOP former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, who has the support of Republican House leadership and many other key voices.

You might be surprised by just how close Biden and Trump are polling in NM

According to a poll commissioned by the campaign of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kenney, Jr., 45th President Donald Trump and Joe Biden are neck-and-neck in New Mexico.

John Zogby Strategies, which did the April 14-21 poll, found that of the 505 voters surveyed, 48.6 percent supported Biden, 41.7 percent supported Trump, and 9.7 percent supported another candidate. That means Biden is leading Trump only by 6.9 points after Biden is said to have won the state in 2020 by a 10.79 percent margin.

National favorability polls show Biden underwater, including in New Mexico, where he is -2 percent favorable. Despite Trump being -18 percent favorable in Democrat-dominated New Mexico, per the Zogby poll, he is still neck-and-neck with Biden.

According to the Kennedy campaign, “This poll surveyed more than 26,000 likely voters across the country and has a margin of error of only 0.6%.” 

“[Joe] Biden cannot beat President Trump. When you actually poll every state, and tally the electoral votes, Biden loses in a head-to-head against Trump and he loses in a three-way too,” the campaign added.

The presidential race is not the only race that could shift the winds of power in New Mexico. All three congressional seats are up in November, as well as the U.S. Senate seat held by far-left Democrat Sen. Martin Heinrich, whose primary residence is in Maryland—not New Mexico. 

He is being challenged by Republican Nella Domenici, the daughter of the late GOP Sen. Pete Domenici, a revered figure in New Mexico politics due to his 36-year tenure in the Senate. 

The state also has many pick-up opportunities for the GOP in the New Mexico Legislature, with key Democrats retiring and the 2024 presidential election set to excite Republicans, who last had a majority in the New Mexico House from 2015-2016 and last ruled the New Mexico Senate in 1931. 

With woefully unpopular far-left Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham running primary challengers to many legislative Democrats, Republicans see pick-up opportunities, such as in 2020 when a far-left Lujan Grisham-backed Democrat knocked off Democrat former state Sen. John Arthur Smith in the primary for District 35 and Republican Crystal Diamond won that seat over the “progressive” Democrat nominee. Smith kept that seat in Democrat hands for 31 year, and Republicans now comfortably hold the district. This same scenario will likely play out if some of the governor’s primary challengers succeed in the June 4, 2024, election.

NRA takes MLG to court over New Mexico’s 7-day waiting period law

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in New Mexico, challenging the state’s new waiting period law for firearm purchases. The lawsuit, Ortega v. Grisham, was filed in collaboration with the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

New Mexico’s “Unlawful Sale of a Firearm Before Required Waiting Period Ends Act” mandates a seven-day waiting period before a firearm purchaser can take possession of the weapon, even if they pass a background check immediately. While the law exempts concealed carry permit holders, it does not provide exceptions for urgent situations, such as imminent threats to the buyer’s safety.

“The NRA fights every day in Washington, DC, state capitals, and when necessary, the legal arena, to protect the constitutional freedoms of law-abiding Americans and NRA members,” said Randy Kozuch, Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “The State of New Mexico’s waiting period law is a clear violation of its citizens’ Second Amendment rights – needlessly delaying their ability to acquire a firearm for self-defense or sporting purposes. With this legal challenge, NRA is committed to seeing that this unconstitutional law be wiped from the state statutes.”

The NRA is suing New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Raúl Torrez, arguing that the waiting period infringes upon both the Second Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, which applies the Second Amendment to the states. The NRA has also requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of the law during litigation.

The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs Samuel Ortega and Rebecca Scott, details how the waiting period law has impacted their attempts to purchase firearms. Ortega and Scott both passed federal background checks but were unable to take possession of their purchased firearms due to the waiting period requirement. They argue that the law unnecessarily burdens their Second Amendment rights.

According to the lawsuit, “The right to keep and bear arms recognized in the Second Amendment is made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Waiting Period Act burdens the right of residents of the State of New Mexico, including Plaintiffs, in exercising their right to keep and bear arms, a right which is explicitly protected by the Second Amendment.”

The lawsuit further contends that there is no historical precedent for such a waiting period, stating, “It is impossible for the State to meet this burden because there is no historical tradition of firearms being regulated in this manner either at the time of our founding and the ratification of the Second Amendment, or during the Reconstruction era and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The NRA and the plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the waiting period law is unconstitutional, a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to halt its enforcement, and other relief as deemed appropriate by the court.

Court halts Lujan Grisham’s 180-day PED rule in shock win for rural schools

A coalition of New Mexico school superintendents has initiated legal action against state officials, challenging the public education department’s imposition of a 180-day school calendar. 

The superintendents argue that the rule represents a case of “executive overreach,” according to Stan Rounds, the executive director for the New Mexico School Superintendents Association.

During a court session in Roswell, a District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) mandate, which was set to start in fall 2024. 

The rule would abolish the four-day school weeks prevalent in many of the state’s rural areas. “If you do a four-day week under the new rule, you essentially will have to go to school about 49 of those 52 weeks,” explained Rounds.

The lawsuit, supported by over 50 school districts and including officials from Mosquero, contends that the extended calendar would significantly increase travel times, costs, and burdens for both students and staff. 

Superintendent Johnna Bruhn of Mosquero Municipal Schools highlighted these concerns, stating, “The issue is, it’s going to be an increase in travel time and an increase in costs and an increase in the burden on the students and the staff.”

The discontent extends beyond administrators to the community. Ronald Dixon, whose grandchildren attend school in Grady, expressed his disapproval, emphasizing the impact on recovery and rest. “I just totally object to it because they don’t give the kids an opportunity to rest, as well as the teachers, and give everybody a break,” he said.

In response to the lawsuit, the PED provided a statement defending the policy by pointing to schools that voluntarily adopted longer calendars and reportedly saw improved student outcomes. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also voiced support for the rule, asserting that it would enhance the state’s educational performance.

However, a court just ruled that PED’s mandate violates 2023’s law change requiring 1140 instructional hours and does not comply with legislative history. Additionally, the rule was found to be at odds with legislative history. The judge emphasized that legislative power prevails in determining the structure of educational policies.

Referencing the 2009 law that initially introduced the 180-day requirement and its repeal two years later in 2011, the judge highlighted this legislative action as indicative of the intent not to enforce such a mandate. Furthermore, the judge pointed out that PED’s delay of 12 years to enact the 180-day rule, as noted in a December communication to the Legislative Finance Committee, suggests that the department itself doubted its authority to impose this requirement.

As a result, the judge granted a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the rule, citing its inconsistency with established statutes and its contravention of legislative objectives. The court also mandated that PED must approve school budgets that adhere to current legal standards.

The court requires the submission of findings within ten days to support this order. Additionally, a scheduling discussion is set for Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. to address the matter further.

Heinrich slapped with ethics watchdog request over campaign methods

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), an ethics watchdog group, has requested that the Senate Select Committee on Ethics investigate New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. FACT’s concerns center around allegations that Heinrich intertwined official legislative actions with campaign fundraising efforts.

In a detailed letter, FACT’s Executive Director, Kendra Arnold, pointed out to the committee chairs, Senators Chris Coons and James Lankford, that Heinrich’s campaign emails may have violated Senate ethics rules. These emails reportedly invited recipients to “co-sponsor” legislation by making donations to his campaign, suggesting donation amounts ranging from $10 to $1,000.

Arnold expressed concern over this practice, stating, “Federal law and Senate ethics rules do not allow senators to fundraise based upon their official duties, in part because it would lead to the public rightfully question whether the senator’s primary concern was their political campaign.” She highlighted the potential conflict this creates, as it may give the impression that legislative actions can be influenced by campaign contributions.

One specific email cited by FACT was sent on behalf of Heinrich’s principal campaign committee on March 18, promoting the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Act. The email asked recipients to sign a petition supporting the legislation, which led to a page soliciting campaign donations. Similarly, another campaign email dated April 10 discussed the Infant Formula Made in America Act, also directing supporters to a donation page after prompting them to endorse the legislation.

These instances, Arnold argues, blur the lines between official duties and campaign activities, which could undermine public trust and violate ethical standards designed to maintain a clear separation between the two.

As of now, the Senate Ethics Committee has not publicly responded to FACT’s request for investigation. Heinrich, who has held his Senate seat since 2013 and is up for reelection in a district considered solidly Democratic, has also not commented on the allegations. His office and campaign were reached out to for responses by The Washington Times.

As MLG refuses to act on crisis, Border Patrol works with NM border DA instead

Last month, over 137,000 illegal immigrants were intercepted trying to cross into the U.S. at non-designated entry points along the border near El Paso, Texas. Doña Ana County District Attorney Gerald Byers has entered into a cooperative agreement with U.S. Border Patrol to address this issue.

The purpose of the agreement is to enhance the safety and security of border communities by increasing prosecutorial actions. This collaboration comes in response to growing safety concerns for both residents and Border Patrol agents in the area. 

The move also comes after open-borders Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pulled all New Mexico National Guard personnel from the border early in her first term and said, “I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the Southern border.” She also dubbed the crisis as a “charade of border fear-mongering.”

Mount Cristo Rey, a key landmark and cherished monument, has become one of the primary locations affected by the scourge of illegal immigration. Border Patrol agents were caught telling a Fox News reporter the sacred mountain was “theirs” now, referring to the Cartel. Despite the crisis, Lujan Grisham will not work with federal authorities to alleviate the effects of the invasion, not even during the special session she has called for July 18, which is supposed to deal with public safety.

 “Mount Cristo Rey has a history here. It was built by El Pasoans, so a lot of people have made their pilgrimages,” explained Ruben Escandon, Jr., a representative of the Mount Cristo Rey Restoration Committee. Escandon also noted the monument’s recent challenges with migration, recalling times when the area saw significant crossings. “Even years ago, when we had smaller groups that would go, we would escort a church group of maybe 60 to 70 people, and there would be 90 to 100 people come down,” he stated.

Crime has escalated in the area, making it riskier for individuals visiting alone. “When people are isolated up there, there [were] a lot of robberies going on, a lot of events that would happen,” added Escandon, who now advises visitors to participate in organized group events for safety.

The new pact with Border Patrol was initiated by the agency itself, which expressed concerns about the local community’s safety in southern Doña Ana County, as well as that of its agents. Byers emphasized that the agreement is geared towards enforcing state laws against criminal activities detected by border officials, focusing on public safety rather than immigration issues. “If the message is brought to those folks who would attempt to cross illegally, that Doña Ana County is not the place to do that because of safety hazards to themselves and prosecution because it violates public safety, then that is more incentive for people to go through the port of entry,” Byers stated.

Moreover, Byers highlighted that border towns such as Sunland Park, Santa Teresa, and Anapra have been particularly affected by heavy trafficking and illegal immigrant crossings. The focus of legal scrutiny under this agreement will include crimes such as breaking and entering, harboring a felon, extortion, human trafficking, and other severe violent offenses.

Lujan Grisham officially declares special session

Far-left Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico has declared that she will convene a special legislative session on July 18 to address so-called urgent public safety concerns within the state, although she has said she refuses to address the border crisis, as all other border-state governors have. This decision follows what the governor described as incomplete efforts in the regular session to bolster the safety of New Mexican communities. “While we made some progress toward a safer New Mexico during the 30-day day session, we agree that we must do more,” Lujan Grisham stated.

The Governor emphasized the necessity of this special session to implement critical legislative measures to diminish the threats facing residents daily. “The special session in July will enable us to deliver additional statutory changes that reduce the danger and risk New Mexico communities face every day,” she elaborated.

Lujan Grisham also mentioned that she is open to suggestions on how to enhance the state’s safety laws, inviting lawmakers to propose effective solutions. “The best proposals for making our state safer will be under consideration, and I welcome input from my colleagues in the legislature,” she added, refusing to give specifics. 

The session, which marks the fifth special session called during Governor Lujan Grisham’s administration, is expected to be brief. “Based on discussions with legislative leadership, the governor anticipates that the special session will be completed within several days,” her office disclosed in a news release.

Recently, the governor sat down with “New Mexico In Focus” on PBS to talk about the potential of a special session.

She told the program, “It’s a decision I can make. I have the authority to do that as governor [of] the state of New Mexico, so why not just decide? You know, part of it is I want to be successful for the public.”

She added, “We have a lot of public safety issues that still require, in my view, immediate and dramatic attention. And what I want is these strategies to get through a very narrow, very tight, special session.”

In the New Mexican’s report, the governor claimed she was leaning “80/20” in favor of calling a special session. Previously, the governor called a special session in 2021 to ram through a bill to legalize recreational marijuana sales in the state.

As Cartel conquers NM land, MLG shuns state action for federal help

Far-left open-borders Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico has decided against convening a special legislative session focused on border security measures despite the border catastrophe, with the Cartel taking over New Mexico land. The governor punted the issue to the federal government despite neighboring states like Texas working with federal authorities to protect the homeland.

In a statement, Lujan Grisham said, “While I share my Republican colleagues’ concern about border security, calling a special session doesn’t give me federal authority over the border.” This response came after Republican senators penned a letter to the governor early in the week, advocating for legislative action to mitigate the impact of illegal crossings at the southern border. 

House members were not asked by the Senate GOP to sign, although the only bills proposed to fix the border crisis in the last two years came from House Republicans, with Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo) leading the charge, including a measure to finish the border barrier between New Mexico’s approximately 50.3 wide-open miles of border.

Despite Republican concerns over fentanyl, human trafficking, and human suffering, Lujan Grisham reaffirmed her stance that border security enhancements would require intervention from Congress rather than state-level actions. She urged New Mexico legislators to support federal efforts to improve border management and address immigration issues comprehensively, another refusal by her administration to aide federal authorities. Early in her first term as governor, Lujan Grisham removed New Mexico National Guard personnel from assisting border authorities, claiming at the time, “I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the Southern border.” She also dubbed the crisis as a “charade of border fear-mongering.”

She is now taking a 180-degree turn in policy, although refusing to alleviate the crisis. She even admitted on a recent podcast the concerns of Hispanic and Latino voters that illegal aliens coming into the country unvetted is unfair.

“The same issues are expected to be addressed here, and Hispanics and Latinos both want that. For example, if I had to wait in line to come here, then other people should too. But they also recognize you can’t get a visa anymore. They recognize that all of the drama about all the nefarious activity at the border — they recognize that more of that nefarious activity is organized crime at ports of entry,” she told Greg Sargent of “The New Republic.”

Her interview highlighted what many see as a pattern of failing to address the tangible crisis at the border — a crisis amplified by her early actions as governor, which directly contributed to the current state of affairs.

“We need to beef up border security, and that requires additional funding and policy changes from Congress,” the governor stated in her recent press release, encouraging a deal to manage the migrant flow and overhaul the asylum process. It is unclear how the governor defines “asylum.”

As discussions continue, the governor’s office, through Michael Coleman, the communications director, hinted that a special session is likely, with Lujan Grisham being “85 percent sure” that it will be convened. The special session, if it takes place, would deal with panhandling. 

Alleged crook Stapleton, accomplice face judge in graft scheme case

Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a former New Mexico state legislator and Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) official, alongside Joseph Johnson of Virginia, entered pleas of not guilty to multiple felony charges relating to the misappropriation of federal funds earmarked for vocational education. The charges were heard in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, marking Stapleton’s initial court appearance since her state indictment in 2021.

Dressed formally, Stapleton, aged 66, faced 29 federal counts, including serious allegations of defrauding the United States, alongside charges of bribery, fraud, and money laundering. Her plea was entered by her legal representative, Ahmad Assed, as she affirmed her understanding of the charges to U.S. Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar.

Shortly after Stapleton’s plea, Joseph Johnson, 72, of Chantilly, Virginia, also pleaded not guilty to 28 similar felony charges. Both defendants were released on their own recognizance, with specific conditions including the surrender of their passports and restrictions on possessing firearms and acquiring new credit lines without federal pretrial services’ approval.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on March 26, accuses both Stapleton and Johnson of engaging in bribery, mail fraud, money laundering, and conspiracies to defraud the United States and commit money laundering. Additionally, Stapleton faces a charge of fraud for allegedly providing false information to the Internal Revenue Service regarding her 2015 tax return.

Central to the allegations is Johnson’s company, Robotics Management Learning Systems LLC, based in Washington, D.C., which is implicated in both state and federal investigations. The federal indictment highlights a significant sum of $3,251,550 paid by APS to Robotics between 2013 and 2021, with a majority derived from federal funds intended for career-technical education programs. It is alleged that Stapleton misappropriated over a third of these funds for personal benefit through around 233 checks totaling $1,152,506.

Stapleton, who had a longstanding political career representing House District 19 in Albuquerque since 1994, resigned shortly after legal actions commenced in July 2021. Her case continues to unfold both at the federal and state levels, with her state court case still pending and a hearing scheduled for late April.

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