New Mexico

Gabe Vasquez votes against bipartisan ‘Laken Riley Act’ immigration bill

In a decisive move, the House approved the Laken Riley Act, mandating that immigration authorities detain non-citizens charged with crimes. This measure is seen as a rebuke to the current administration’s immigration policies. Despite the bipartisan nature of the bill, with 37 Democrats voting in favor, it passed mainly with Republican support, the final count being 251-170.

The act, named after Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student from the University of Georgia who was allegedly killed by an immigrant with a previous arrest for illegal border crossing, has put immigration and border security firmly on the legislative agenda. As the nation approaches Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, Republicans are sharpening their focus on immigration, challenging the administration’s approach to border management.

“The Laken Riley Act would help prevent future tragedies. If Senator Schumer and [Joe] Biden care to protect Americans and are serious about securing the border, they will bring this legislation up for a vote and sign it into law immediately,” House Speaker Mike Johnson stated.

However, the passage of this bill has highlighted stark divisions among legislators, with far-left, open-borders Representative Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico’s Second Congressional District, which runs along the border, voting against the life-saving legislation. His vote has been met with intense criticism from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

“Americans murdered in cold blood – but Gabe Vasquez does not care about the safety of his community. As Joe Biden’s lackey in the House, Vasquez allowed for this open border crisis to flourish and this vote means he has blood on his hands,” NRCC Spokeswoman Delanie Bomar expressed in a scathing rebuke. Other Democrat Reps. Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernandez voted against the bill.

The Laken Riley Act, at its core, is designed to mandate that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detain migrants arrested for committing a crime. Riley’s tragic death has ignited a firestorm among Republicans, who cite it as a preventable consequence of what they perceive as the Biden administration’s failed border security policies. They have called for a reinstatement of more stringent border measures from the previous administration.

The issue of immigration policy has become increasingly charged as Republicans press Joe Biden to address the issue directly in his State of the Union speech, suggesting that a failure to mention victims like Riley would signify a neglect of the real-world impacts of immigration policy.

While Riley’s parents declined an invitation to attend the State of the Union, Representative Mike Collins of Georgia honored them with a moment of silence on the House floor, leaving a vacant seat to represent not just Riley but all American victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

As the debate continues, Representative Vasquez’s vote is likely to be an election issue, especially due to the Second Congressional District direcly harmed by his inaction on the border crisis. GOP former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell is the Republican nominee to take on Vasquez in November. 

Rebuking families and teachers, Lujan Grisham’s PED OKs harsh mandates

Far-left Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) has announced a new rule to enforce a mandatory 180-day school calendar, stirring fury among educators, administrators, and lawmakers. While the rule aims to standardize instructional time across the state, exemptions have been included for certain schools, acknowledging the major pushback from the educational community.

Public Education Secretary Arsenio Romero articulated the Department’s stance, “In order to equalize instructional time across the state, we have chosen to adopt the 180-day calendar rule. We must improve student outcomes across the state, our students deserve better, and that begins with quality instructional time in the classroom.”

This adjustment is slated to be implemented in the 2024-25 academic year. Notably, the Santa Fe Public Schools had preemptively planned for such a change, indicating an adaptation of the school year calendar to fit the new requirements by modifying holiday breaks and other scheduled closures.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has been a vocal advocate for this expansion of the school year, reiterating her commitment to a 180-day school year in her State of the State address and displaying her stance by vetoing language in the budget that would have precluded her from enacting the 180-day rule.

However, this proposal has been met with substantial resistance from the educational sector, including the state’s teacher’s unions, who came out in full force against the mandate. A large number of teachers and school administrators voiced their dissent at a public hearing, labeling the move as an overextension of the Public Education Department’s authority. This sentiment was echoed in the thousands of written comments submitted in opposition to the rule change.

Mary Parr-Sánchez, president of the New Mexico branch of the National Education Association teacher’s union, underscored the opposition, stating, “We believe that [the calendar] is a local decision. There was public outcry, and educators were included in that outcry.”

Legislators also criticized the rule, suggesting it contradicts the Legislature’s intention and the principle of local autonomy in decision-making. The 2023 bill passed by both legislative chambers advocated for increased school time measured in hours rather than days.

Concerns have also been raised about the potential erosion of public trust in state decision-making. House Education Committee Chairman Andrés Romero voiced his apprehensions: “I really fear for that, that they’re not going to trust what the state is doing,” alluding to the close timing between the legislative extension of the school year and the new rule’s introduction, per the Santa Fe New Mexican.

See what Gov. Lujan Grisham vetoed from her massive $10.2 billion budget

Democrat New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham enacted numerous line-item vetoes in the massive $10.2 billion House Bill 2 budget. Wednesday was the last day to sign or veto legislation otherwise it is by default pocket vetoed.

The governor’s vetoes, reflecting a strategic adjustment of the executive branch’s budgetary powers, axed several legislated spending specifics, reducing the Legislature’s prescribed utilization of funds.

She wrote in her veto message, “…I have vetoed parts of the Act that impermissibly intrude into the executive managerial function. I object to provisions in the Act that unduly restrict appropriations to specified types of expenditures. These restrictions on agency functions exceed the Legislature’s proper, constitutionally defined role, unduly constraining the Executive’s ability to effectively administer programs to meet the State’s needs.”

Governor Grisham also reduced various reporting obligations of executive agencies, continuing her trend of continuing her quest for less oversight from the Legislature.

In a turn that veered from her administration’s usual narrative, Governor Grisham removed numerous mentions of “evidence-based” services, an approach her office often champions for its program expansions.

Notably, the governor refrained from vetoing the $6 million allocated for legislative district staffing.

While only a single junior appropriation item was entirely eliminated, Governor Grisham revised numerous others, subtly redirecting the flow and application of funds.

The governor’s vetoes affected a wide array of appropriations and mandates, ranging from education, health, infrastructure, to cultural initiatives. This included the removal of restrictions on the Department of Education regarding the number of instructional days and school week configurations, as well as blocking expansions in Medicaid eligibility without legislative consent.

A significant $50 million destined for the unestablished Indian Education Trust Fund was struck down, alongside a $24 million earmark for a Paid Family and Medical Leave Act bill, which did not pass in the legislative session.

Other notable vetoes targeted special appropriations for health facilities in Taos County and Tucumcari, Quay County, with the word “construction” being specifically removed.

The Veterans Services Department faced a cut regarding a mobile unit meant to expand outreach services. At the same time, earmarks for the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo, as well as for the University of New Mexico’s School of Public Health, were also scrapped.

Changes to junior appropriations spanned a spectrum from public-private partnerships to cultural events, highlighting the governor’s nuanced approach to budget management.

To read the governor’s full executive veto message, it is available linked here. The final version of H.B. 2 is linked here under “Final Version.”

Jury delivers guilty verdict for armorer in deadly Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ case

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter following the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust” in October 2021. Despite facing allegations of evidence tampering related to a supposed cocaine exchange, the jury acquitted her of this charge. 

The verdict came swiftly from a Santa Fe County jury after less than three hours of deliberation, leading to Gutierrez-Reed’s immediate custody pending sentencing, where she could face up to 18 months in prison.

As the film’s armorer, Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for the firearms used on set. The prosecution argued that her negligence in allowing live ammunition to mix with prop rounds directly led to the tragic incident, where a live bullet discharged from a revolver held by Alec Baldwin resulted in Hutchins’ untimely death. 

Baldwin, who faces similar charges, has pled not guilty, with his trial set for July.

The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office has expressed its dedication to seeking justice for Hutchins’ family, highlighting the thorough investigation that underpinned the prosecution’s case. The trial featured extensive testimonies and evidence, educating jurors on firearms handling in film productions. 

The defense likened Gutierrez-Reed’s mistake to a medical error, asserting her innocence due to the lack of willful disregard for safety. However, the prosecution countered by presenting evidence suggesting Gutierrez-Reed was the source of the live ammunition found on set, criticizing her professionalism and safety protocols. 

The jury also had the option to consider a lesser charge related to negligent firearm use, but ultimately convicted Gutierrez-Reed of involuntary manslaughter.

Ex-BLM employee’s $10.7K fraud scheme included personal flight to NM

Adrian Anthony Aragon, a 52-year-old from Butte, Montana, and a former employee at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), acknowledged his involvement in a scheme in which he illicitly acquired $10,700 from government resources, utilizing a colleague’s forged signature for personal gains.

As an administrative assistant at BLM, Aragon had access to official financial tools, including a government travel card and a purchase card, which were meant strictly for work-related expenses. 

“The indictment in the case said Aragon used the government cards to pay for $2,500 in pottery, a $622 personal flight to New Mexico and cash withdrawals. The government alleged he attempted additional cash withdrawals and also tried to rent a car using the government card while on personal vacation. Aragon tried to cover his tracks by doctoring the statement on the card for the pottery and the flight, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” wrote the Daily Montanan.

BLM Field Office in Butte, Montana. DOI.

The misconduct came to light when an unnamed BLM worker, referred to as Jane Doe, reported unauthorized transactions totaling $10,700 on a government account under her name. Investigations revealed the funds were diverted to Aragon’s accounts at Wells Fargo and squandered on various personal expenditures.

Jane Doe indicated that Aragon manipulated office schedules to ensure he was often alone in the office, giving him the opportunity to misuse her financial documents. 

Further inquiries unveiled Aragon’s misuse of government-issued cards for non-official purposes, including a personal trip and luxurious purchases, with attempts to disguise these transactions.

Facing serious charges of government property theft and aggravated identity theft, Aragon now confronts the possibility of significant prison time, hefty fines, and a period of supervised release. His sentencing is anticipated on June 26, as he remains in custody awaiting further court actions.

Extremist anti-gun group endorses Gabe Vasquez

On Tuesday, socialist Rep. Gabe Vasquez took to X, formerly Twitter, to announce he has been endorsed by the fringe anti-gun group, Giffords, run by Democrat ex-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona.

Vasquez wrote, “Thank you [Giffords] for the endorsement!”

Ex-Rep. Giffords wrote, “With so much on the line, I’m proud to endorse Representative Gabe Vasquez, who’s committed to passing commonsense gun safety legislation.”

The far-left New Mexico Democrat added on his X post, “In Congress, I will continue to champion gun safety and provide the perspective of a hunter and gun owner. We can, and we must do more to keep our families safe.”

Vasquez backs extreme gun bans that infringe on New Mexicans’ Second Amendment rights. He obviously doesn’t understand that the Constitution’s provisions granting the right to bear arms were not written for the intention of “hunting” but rather upon the discretion of the nation’s citizens, which is why it writes, “… shall not be infringed.”

When asked in a forum about guns the first time he ran for Congress, Vasquez said, as reported by the Las Cruces Sun-News, “I think that I personally have to learn a lot more about different styles of firearms that can be used both for self-defense and for hunting purposes,” admitting he does not know enough about guns even to warrant having an opinion on the matter.

He added at the time, “I know for sure that an AR-15 is not a weapon that you should use for hunting, for example. But I want to be somebody that comes to the table and talks about these in a way that reflects both the values, the culture of New Mexicans, and at the same time keeps our kids safe.”

Vasquez faces a tough race in November against Republican former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, who is leading in the polls in the Second Congressional District.

Gas prices set to skyrocket after MLG signs 50+ cent per gallon gas tax bill

On Tuesday, the far-left, anti-energy Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed H.B. 41 into law. The bill sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) is dubbed the “clean fuel standard.”

The bill will increase gas prices by at least 50 cents per gallon, and you can expect similar increases in groceries and supplies and pretty much everything else. This bill will make life more expensive in New Mexico for average consumers — harming the poorest New Mexicans, who will take the biggest hit with the new law. 

The bill finally passed the Legislature by a thin margin of 36-33 in the House of Representatives.

California, Oregon, and Washington have similar laws in place, and the gas prices in these states have risen significantly due to the radical proposal. 

According to the California Energy Commission, “Filling up the tank in California also costs more since gasoline prices are higher on average than the rest of the United States for a few reasons. These reasons include the isolated nature of the state’s transportation fuels market, a special gasoline recipe that reduces air pollution, environmental program costs, and taxes.” 

Washington State’s Department of Ecology’s May 12, 2022 report admitted the price increase due to the Clean Fuel Standard in the state, while an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality report acknowledged significant cost increases due to its version of the law.

Now, as New Mexicans battle the crippling burdens of inflation among ramifications from other legislation passed, consumers will be saddled with the brunt of the extreme legislation to hike gas prices to high levels the state has never seen before. 

Despite the ramifications to New Mexicans, Democrats celebrated the extremist bill being signed into law:

State Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo), also the Piñon Post’s editor, wrote about the bill taking effect, “Remember the gas prices now here in NM — and this is after over three years of Joe Biden’s hellscape. The governor and her allies in the Legislature are hiking our gas prices by over 50 CENTS PER GALLON with the horrific HB41. Hold THEM accountable by electing the strongest conservative fighters in the June primary and then the November general election to take them out and finally take out the trash!” 

“It’s clear that Governor Lujan Grisham took a look at California’s highest gas prices in the nation and decided that’s what she wants for New Mexico’s families,” said Larry Behrens, Communications Director for Power The Future, following the bill’s signing. “As a national leader in oil production, New Mexico’s leaders should do all they can to support our energy industry. Instead, Santa Fe politicians want to copy failed policies that punish families by driving up prices.”

New Mexico’s marijuana sales soar past $1 billion mark

New Mexico’s legal marijuana market sales have topped $1 billion in less than two years since the introduction of the adult-use market. Those figures include medical and recreational marijuana sales.

According to recent data released by the New Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department (NMRLD), this amount includes $678.5 million from adult-use cannabis across approximately 15.7 million transactions and $331.6 million from medical marijuana sales through around 6.5 million transactions.

The record-breaking sales figure is based on the latest monthly cannabis transaction data provided by the NMRLD, which also noted that February saw $35.7 million in recreational sales and $12.3 million in medical sales. 

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As of February, there are 1,050 retail marijuana outlets operational within the state.

December 2023 marked a record month for New Mexico’s adult-use cannabis market, generating $37.5 million in sales. A significant portion of the state’s cannabis market revenue is attributed to tourists, particularly those coming from Texas, due to its proximity and the legal restrictions in their home state.

Albuquerque leads in recreational marijuana sales with a total of $202.5 million. Following closely are Sunland Park and Las Cruces, both near the El Paso, Texas border, with cumulative recreational sales of $57.4 million and $45.4 million, respectively, highlighting the influence of cross-border shopping on New Mexico’s market. 

After NM Court of Appeals overturns child porn conviction, high court steps in

The New Mexico Supreme Court has reinstated the conviction of David Rael, a Los Alamos resident, overturning a previous Court of Appeals decision that had annulled his conviction for producing child pornography. 

Rael had initially been sentenced in 2017 to a nine-year prison term on multiple counts related to the manufacture, distribution, and possession of child pornography, as reported by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The appellate court had previously vacated Rael’s convictions on the grounds of insufficient evidence to demonstrate his intent to breach state law, with Rael maintaining that the downloading of child pornography was unintentional. 

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However, the Supreme Court’s recent judgment countered this view, highlighting substantial circumstantial evidence from the trial that suggested otherwise.

The justices pointed out that Rael’s claims of accidental conduct were not convincing, given the compelling evidence. They noted, “This evidence and reasonable inferences from the evidence are sufficient for a factfinder to reasonably conclude that Defendant intentionally copied these videos with the intent to copy child pornography because he knew they depicted child pornography.”

With the Supreme Court’s decision, the case will return to the district court to reaffirm the original judgment and sentence against Rael.

MLG holds photo op at ABQ school to sign two anti-gun bills

On Monday, far-left anti-gun Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had a photo op at Albuquerque’s West Mesa High School, where she signed two anti-gun bills and two crime-related bills.

“These four bills are an incredible effort to do more,” she said at the presser, per the Santa Fe New Mexican.

At the press conference, she was flanked by discredited anti-gun group “co-president” Miranda Viscoli of “New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence” and the sponsor of the extreme H.B. 129 anti-gun bill State Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe)

“All four bills become effective immediately, the governor said as she prepared to sign them,” the outlet reported, although the governor’s remark is inaccurate because these bills did not pass with an “emergency clause.” They will go into effect 90 days following the Legislature’s adjournment, which is in mid-May. 

Among the bills set to become law is House Bill 129, which forces through a mandatory seven-day waiting period for all gun purchases, with minor exceptions of law enforcement agencies and those who hold concealed carry permits. This is the most stringent anti-gun law passed this session, although it was significantly weakened from its original form.

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She will also sign Senate Bill 5 to make carrying a firearm within 100 feet of a polling station during active voting a misdemeanor. This rule comes with exceptions for law enforcement personnel on duty, legitimate business activities, individuals in their vehicles, and those possessing a concealed firearm, rendering the bill essentially meaningless.

Another bill she is set to sign is Senate Bill 96, which will toughen penalties related to violent crimes, escalating the punishment for attempted murder from a maximum of three years to nine years in prison. The bill also proposes to increase the sentence for second-degree murder from 15 to 18 years.

Finally, Senate Bill 271 introduces a new measure for repeat felony offenders, establishing an automatic no-bail hold for those who breach their release conditions by committing another felony, a minor fix to the state’s catastrophic 2016 ballot measure, which resulted in violent offenders to be released without bail pending trial. 

The governor wrote on X, formerly Twitter, following the event, “It’s time that we treat crime like the serious problem it is in New Mexico. That’s why today I signed four bills that will help make our state safer. Thank you to West Mesa High’s wonderful students for the warm welcome today!”

It is not uncommon for the governor to use children for political gain, especially to promote her extreme anti-gun agenda. 

Of the over a dozen extreme anti-gun bills proposed during the 2024 Legislative Session, these two measures were the only ones that passed — a huge defeat for the anti-gun governor who attempted to ban most firearms in the state after signing an illegal, unconstitutional executive order last year to snatch guns.

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