NM’s film tax credits scrutinized by powerful Democrat committee chair

State Sen. George Muñoz, a Democrat from Gallup and the chairman of the powerful Legislative Finance Committee has raised concerns about New Mexico’s film production incentive program. This initiative has been a subject of scrutiny as questions persist regarding its cost-effectiveness.

Sen. Muñoz has previously questioned the workings of the incentive program, as have other skeptics who wonder if the economic impact of New Mexico’s thriving film industry is truly as substantial as it seems.

In a letter to the New Mexico Film Office, Sen. Muñoz has requested a detailed report on how the film tax credit is calculated, eligibility requirements, and any updates or changes to the criteria. His concern primarily revolves around the unique structure of the program, where dividends are paid out after production companies submit receipts for their costs, unlike traditional tax credit initiatives.

Moreover, Sen. Muñoz has sought an opinion from Attorney General Raúl Torrez on whether the incentive program violates the state’s anti-donation clause, which prohibits government agencies from making donations to private enterprises. If the attorney general’s office determines a violation, it may necessitate a revision of the program.

The film incentive program has long been scrutinized, with a recent Legislative Finance Committee study revealing that it accounts for a significant portion of all state economic development incentives but provides less than 1% of the film industry’s share of private employment. The study questions the cost-effectiveness of the program, citing that it costs the state over $100 million in payouts in fiscal year 2023 but does not attract substantial private investments.

The film industry’s employment figures are also under scrutiny, with the program generating approximately 8,000 jobs per year at a cost of around $22,800 per job created, higher than other job-creation programs.

While New Mexico has become a popular destination for filmmakers due to the incentive program, which offers significant rebates on qualified expenses, the recent questions raised by Sen. Muñoz and the legislative committee study have rekindled doubts about the program’s economic payoff.

Despite these concerns, the program continues to enjoy political support, making it unlikely to change or disappear in the near future. It benefits from strong revenues generated by the oil and gas industry, which contribute to the state’s coffers. If these revenues were to decline significantly, lawmakers might reconsider the program’s incentives and evaluate their value to the state’s economy.

NM’s congressional reps. demand Israel ‘pause’ defending itself against Hamas

New Mexico’s fully Democrat U.S. House delegation demanded the nation of Israel, which has been ravaged for weeks by Hamas terrorists, “pause” their defensive moves against the unprovoked massacre by the terrorist organization.

Hamas, which rules the failed state of Gaza, is responsible for thousands of deaths in Israel, along with rape, torture, and kidnapping of innocents.

I call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas. A pause would allow desperately needed aid to reach Palestinian civilians in Gaza, provide time to negotiate the release of hostages who Hamas kidnapped, and help civilians reach safety,” wrote Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez of the Third District.

She added, “As the U.S. supports Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorist attacks, Israel must protect against the innocent loss of life. Hamas and its allies must also stop their attacks on Israelis. Civilians should not pay the price for Hamas’s terror.”

Rep. Gabe Vasquez of the Second District chimed in, “Two wrongs don’t make a right. The U.S. must not be complicit in the deliberate death and harm to civilians in Gaza,” saying, “That’s why I’m calling on the Administration to work with Israel and its partner nations to pause this conflict and ensure that food, water, fuel and medicine are available to civilians in Gaza and that they are kept out of harm’s way, as we work to release the hostages taken by Hamas.”

“We need a humanitarian pause in Israel and Gaza. Every conflict has consequences for innocent lives caught in the crossfire, violence that shatters families and destroys the futures of the innocent. We must respect the rights of our allies and the innocent,” added Rep. Melanie Stansbury of the First District, sharing a lengthy statement, saying the pause is necessary to enshrine the “inherent dignity of Israeli and Palestinian lives.” 

Stansbury added, “Just as we support our allies in their inherent rights, we cannot turn a blind eye to extremism that undermines peace, security, and democracy, either through violence or through policy. I stand resolute in my support for a two state solution and for a lasting peace across the region.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich joined New Mexico’s U.S. House Democrats, writing in a statement, “I join my colleagues in Congress and the Biden Administration in calling for a humanitarian pause in conflict so that lifesaving aid can quickly reach civilians in Gaza. As a nation, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the innocent and most vulnerable.”

Responses from New Mexicans cmae critical of the move that will no doubt benefit Hamas terrorists, with one person writing to Leger Fernandez, “No, sorry.  A bit late to think about food and water.  Hamas dug up water lines to create missiles.  Let me ask, was there a humanitarian pause during the Hamas attack?  No?  Then why should the attackers get a reprieve.”

A Democrat constituent of Vasquez wrote in response to his statement, “I strongly disagree with you regarding this. Fuel and other supplies that might be allowed into Gaza would [be] used by Hamas.”

To Sen. Heinrich’s post, a commenter wrote, “There was a humanitarian pause. Hamas crossed the border, killed and captured many. Now there’s a war. How wonderful for Hamas that they have supporters like you.” 

Amid Lujan Grisham’s FFL inspection mandate, RLD chief retires

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) has been slow to inspect licensed firearms dealers in compliance with Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s anti-gun public health order. The Department has visited only seven percent of them since September 8 out of a total of 750 federally licensed firearms retailers in the state, according to reports.

The public health order, part of Lujan Grisham’s attacks on the Second Amendment, mandates the RLD to conduct monthly inspections to ensure compliance with sales and storage laws. However, the agency, responsible for certifying and regulating over 500,000 individuals and businesses across the state, has not previously performed inspections of firearms dealers.

The inspections, referred to as “spot inspections,” have not yet led to any reports to law enforcement authorities. RLD staff members conduct observations related to state laws, including the storage of firearms and compliance with requirements for the legal transfer of firearms.

Amid these new mandates from the governor to RLD, the Department’s superintendent, Linda Trujillo, is suddenly leaving. 

“After 25+ years of public service, I’m embarking on a new journey: retirement,” Trujillo said in a statement. She started in the position in 2020 and oversaw the state’s hurried legalization of recreational marijuana.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry trade association, has threatened legal action against these inspections. They argue that federally licensed firearm retailers in New Mexico are heavily regulated by the ATF and subject to federal laws, making state inspections unnecessary. According to the foundation’s general counsel, New Mexico lacks statutes or regulations governing the sales and business practices of such retailers.

The foundation claims the RLD lacks legal authority to enforce federal regulations and suggests that the inspections may violate the rights of New Mexico members, warning of potential litigation to protect these rights.

The RLD maintains that its inspections are conducted under the authority of an executive order from the governor declaring a state of public emergency due to gun violence and the public health order issued by the Department of Health.

Despite the public health order already triggering a series of lawsuits, mainly related to restrictions on carrying firearms in public places, this new dispute centers on the inspection of firearms dealers, with the National Shooting Sports Foundation challenging the state’s authority to conduct such inspections and raising concerns about legal rights and regulatory authority.

Deputy Superintendent Clay Bailey will assume the role of Acting Superintendent in the interim after Trujillo’s exit. 

Lujan Grisham launchez PAC to help Gabe Vasquez, others in 2024

Three prominent leftist former members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) have announced the launch of a new super PAC with a mission to help elect Democrat Hispanics and Latinos to Congress.

Led by leftist New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), along with former Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas), this new initiative is called Bold America. Their primary objectives include increasing Hispanic representation in Congress, meaning they will be helping bolster the campaigns of people like far-left U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, who faces an uphill battle in his hopes of reelection.

Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “When one of us breaks through, we do not close the door behind us, we pave the way for countless others to follow.”

The name “Bold America” is a clear nod to the CHC’s campaign arm, Bold PAC, indicating their intent to build upon it. The CHC has experienced substantial growth in the past decade, particularly following the 2016 election. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, there are presently 62 Hispanic members in Congress, spanning both Democrats and Republicans, constituting approximately 11 percent of the total congressional membership, encompassing representatives, senators, and nonvoting delegates. 

This growth within the CHC has occasionally led to tensions with the Democrat Party, but it has also given rise to a network of experienced campaign operatives within the CHC sphere. Amy Strathdee, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) operative, and Dominic Gabello, who served as Governor Lujan Grisham’s chief of staff, have been appointed as strategic advisors to Bold America. Additionally, the group will be joined by former Joe Biden White House adviser Adrian Saenz, along with DCCC veterans Lucinda Guinn and Dan Sena.

Bold America’s initial mandate is to place a significant emphasis on boosting Latino voter turnout and safeguarding the positions of CHC incumbents, meaning Democrats like Vasquez. Vasquez is trailing former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell in recent polls.

“Gabe Vasquez has every reason to be nervous about his chances in 2024. Voters have seen all they need to see to know that Vasquez is an anti-American energy advocate, border crisis denier and defund the police crusader who is out-of-step with New Mexico values.,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Spokeswoman Delanie Bomar.

NM Dems freak out after Mike Johnson wins U.S. House speaker’s gavel

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to appoint Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a Republican, to the speakership. 

Johnson garnered 220 votes to Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ 209 votes. 

Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM-CD2) wrote melodramatically on X, “Rep. Mike Johnson is an extremist, election denier who wants to gut Social Security & Medicare and eliminate reproductive rights nationwide. I won’t support an extremist like Johnson running our government.”

In an email his campaign sent out shortly after the vote titled “RED ALERT,” Vasquez’s team wrote, “This is BAD… worse-than-Kevin-McCarthy bad.” The email continued, “A far-right extremist like Mike Johnson holding the Speakership could all but clear a path for Gabe’s opponent to win this race.”

Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM-CD1) called Johnson a “MAGA Republican” with the hashtag “#NotOurSpeaker.”

She claimed in another X post, “The House GOP just elected Rep Mike Johnson as Speaker. Rep. Johnson is a Trump extremist with a track record of anti-LGBTQ+, anti-abortion, anti-Medicare & Social Security activism and support for Trumps (sic) election fraud and decertification of the vote.”

The Democrat Party of New Mexico retweeted a message via X from the national Democrat Party freaking out that Johnson stood up for election integrity.

“Reminder: Mike Johnson, House Republicans’ new pick for speaker, helped lead the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results,” the Democrats wrote.

“Although the House can finally get back to work, there’s no doubt under an extremist like Mike Johnson, House Republicans will try to thwart any meaningful legislation and progress, making it all the more critical that Democrats take back the House and restore its purpose to serve the American people,” the New Mexico Democrats wrote in a subsequent fundraising email. 

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, from New Mexico’s Third Congressional District, a Democrat, has not immediately commented on Johnson winning the vote for speaker. 

Gabe Vasquez walks the tightrope on border security

Amidst the ongoing border crisis and dwindling approval ratings for Joe Biden’s immigration policies, U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, whose district encompasses all of New Mexico’s southern border, has taken a 180-degree flip in his approach to border security. This shift is raising eyebrows among political observers and opponents who point to his earlier border rhetoric as inflammatory and extreme.

Vasquez is now advocating for an increase in the number of border agents, emphasizing the need for cross-border collaboration, and participating in roundtable discussions. This marked change in his stance on border security stands in stark contrast to his previous positions.

Biden’s approval rating on the immigration crisis is a meager 26 percent. After vehemently claiming he would never build any more border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, as his predecessor did, he is now ordering the construction of 20 miles of barrier in Texas — a complete flip-flop on the policy.

Back in 2018, Vasquez described the border crisis as a “non-existent threat” and criticized then-President Donald Trump’s border security efforts as “ill-informed” and “in bad taste.”

In 2020, he went further, calling for the elimination of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), claiming that the agency had “no regard for humanity.” 

Throughout 2021, Vasquez repeatedly voiced his intention to dismantle Trump’s border wall, going so far as to state, “Tear what’s left of it down” and “Let’s tear it down.” 

He went on to label the border wall as the product of a “crooked, racist administration” and commended Joe Biden for halting its construction, characterizing it as a “racist, environmentally destructive, massive waste of money” and a “glorification of xenophobia.”

This shifting stance has raised concerns among those who view it as part of a pattern of behavior. Vasquez previously faced criticism for deleting progressive tweets to create a more moderate image in 2021.

These shifts have led to questions about the sincerity of Vasquez’s positions and his credibility among voters. Critics argue that his tendency to change his rhetoric based on political expediency raises doubts about his commitment to the people of New Mexico.

In response to these allegations, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokeswoman, Delanie Bomar, emphasized, “Gabe Vasquez is an extremist who adjusts his rhetoric for whatever is politically beneficial for him in the moment. Voters cannot trust Gabe Vasquez to put New Mexico first.”

The first-term Democrat faces fierce opposition from GOP former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, who is polling ahead of the incumbent.

Vasquez’s evolving stance on border security and his fluctuating political rhetoric reflect the broader debate surrounding border policies and immigration issues in the United States. As the border crisis continues to be a focal point in national discussions, Vasquez’s lack of a clear stance on the border leaves voters in the Second Congressional District guessing. 

U.S. House GOP ramps up investigation into Haaland for misusing position

Republican U.S. House Natural Resources Committee leaders have escalated an ongoing investigation into Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary Deb Haaland regarding her connections to the left-wing environmental activist group Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA).

A letter sent to Secretary Haaland and the top Interior Department ethics official, Heather Gottry, and spearheaded by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., raises concerns about a potential “lack of impartiality and misuse of her position” in support of PAA and certain family members. Haaland’s daughter has been involved with PAA, while her husband has been engaged in consulting work related to Interior Department actions.

The GOP letter asserts that there is evidence suggesting Secretary Haaland may not have acted impartially and may not have avoided creating an appearance of partiality in her official duties. It further alleges that Haaland may have misused her position to benefit the non-profit organization Pueblo Action Alliance and even used her position, title, and authority to endorse the organization’s work.

The letter highlights that prior to her role as Secretary of the Interior, Haaland was associated with the origins of PAA. Additionally, evidence suggests that she has maintained a close relationship with PAA since assuming her position.

The investigation was initiated by Chairman Westerman in June, shortly after Secretary Haaland implemented a ban on fossil fuel leasing within 10 miles of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. This move garnered opposition from local Native Americans and residents but received support from other tribes and environmental groups.

The Pueblo Action Alliance had previously advocated against new leasing near Chaco Canyon, with Haaland’s daughter, Somah, playing a role in lobbying on behalf of the group during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The letter also points to Haaland’s meetings with PAA Executive Director Julia Bernal, during which they discussed the group’s opposition to oil and gas leasing. Moreover, it highlights Haaland’s husband’s consulting work for the Laguna Development Corp, an entity affiliated with the Laguna Pueblo, which has advocated for a buffer zone around Chaco Canyon.

The investigation raises concerns about Secretary Haaland’s impartiality in matters involving PAA and the potential misuse of her position for the benefit of the organization. It also questions whether non-public information may have been inadvertently conveyed to PAA due to the group’s extensive access to Secretary Haaland.

The letter further notes PAA’s associations with groups like the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party and the Venceremos Brigade. The Republicans are seeking communications and documentation related to the investigation and have requested documents that the Department of the Interior has yet to provide.

“The Committee feels there is evidence that Secretary Haaland may not have acted impartially and did not avoid the appearance of a loss of impartiality in the performance of her duties. More alarmingly, there is evidence that Secretary Haaland misused her position for the potential benefit of a nonprofit, the Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA), and used her position—or at the very least permitted the use of her position, title, and authority—to endorse PAA and PAA’s work,” the letter read.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, co-signed the letter with Chairman Westerman. As of now, there has been no immediate response from the Department of the Interior or PAA regarding the investigation.

“We support this investigation because these are serious allegations against Secretary Haaland, and we deserve to know the truth,” said Larry Behrens, Communications Director for the pro-energy group Power The Future. “There is no question there are close ties between Secretary Haaland and radical eco-left groups, but that doesn’t mean she gets to use her position to force their agenda on the rest of us. The Interior Department has proudly declared they are offering the fewest oil and gas leases in history, and that raises questions if they are serving Americans or doing the bidding of their closely-tied special interest groups.”

Alamogordo man reports confrontations over Walmart self-checkout machines

Walmart is facing renewed criticism over its self-checkout policies, with customers expressing frustration at feeling like criminals during their shopping experiences. Charles Bisbee, a Walmart shopper from Alamogordo, shared his encounter while using the self-checkout lane at his local store, according to a report by The Sun.

According to Bisbee, an employee approached him and reached into his bag to retrieve a container of energy drink mix, bluntly asking, “Are you going to pay for that?” Bisbee described the interaction as “confrontational” and explained that he had already scanned the item, even pointing to the screen as proof.

Bisbee, who resides in Alamogordo, New Mexico, emphasized the tight-knit nature of his military community and how accusations of theft can tarnish one’s reputation unfairly. He also shared a similar incident involving his father, a retired colonel, who was confronted by a worker due to a missed-scan alert for a gallon of milk. The alert system, implemented by Walmart in 2019 to deter theft, has inadvertently caused discomfort and hostility in various customer interactions.

Walmart employees conveyed that they are not allowed to directly accuse customers of theft, even in cases where suspicions arise. However, shoppers have reported feeling labeled as thieves due to innocent mistakes or technical glitches, causing distress. Daniel Jones, another customer, expressed his shock when the self-checkout kiosk played security footage of an alleged missed-scanned item. He felt accused of a crime and feared that the video playback in his work uniform might lead others to believe he was stealing. An employee approached Jones, questioned him, and reactivated the system, leaving him feeling “punished” for utilizing the hand scanner.

These incidents have left many honest shoppers feeling unwelcome and unfairly treated, as they are erroneously perceived as thieves. Walmart responded to the concerns, stating, “We’re continuously working on our security processes, and we encourage customers with concerns to let us know. Our associates are trained to handle these situations professionally and respectfully, ensuring our customers have the best shopping experience possible.”

The ongoing criticism underscores the importance of striking a balance between loss prevention and maintaining a welcoming shopping environment where customers are not unfairly subjected to suspicion or embarrassment.

Failed TX candidate Beto O’Rourke visits NM to promote book

Former El Paso-area U.S. Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, a failed candidate for Texas governor and U.S. Senate, visited Las Cruces on Friday to promote his new book and complain about “democracy” not working.

During the event, O’Rourke discussed the themes of his book, “We’ve Got to Try: How the Fight for Voting Rights Makes Everything Else Possible.” The book explores what he claims to be the link between voting rights and the broader spectrum of societal improvements.

“I wrote this book to understand why our democracy and the right to vote is under such serious attack and what we can do to prevail in what I believe to be the fight of our lives,” O’Rourke said.

He added, “In the research and writing, I discovered truly inspiring stories of people who’ve been in this fight before, people like Lawrence Nixon, a Black doctor who lived in El Paso and spent 20 years of his life fighting and ultimately defeating the ‘white primary’ in Texas and laying the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Not only can we overcome the challenges in front of us, we’ve overcome them before against much greater odds.”

The public gathering took place at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts, situated at the intersection of University Avenue and Espina Street. 

O’Rourke has been a fervent opponent of gun rights and supporter of extreme abortion up-to-birth, among other radical policies. 

MLG under fire for nixing missing and murdered Native Americans task force

Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s regime has decided to discontinue a state task force that was established to address the crisis of missing and murdered Native American people. The task force had not convened since May, shortly after some of its members publicly opposed the appointment of former San Ildefonso Pueblo Gov. James Mountain as the head of the Indian Affairs Department, which housed the task force.

Task force member Cheryl Yazzie (Diné) expressed disappointment, feeling that they were making significant progress and that their work had only just begun. The fate of the task force remains uncertain, with neither the department nor James Mountain communicating with its members regarding its future.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the task force, the governor’s press secretary, Caroline Sweeney, claimed the group had fulfilled its objectives outlined in an expired executive order. However, the administration continued to fund and convene the group for a year after these objectives were met.

Several state lawmakers have called for additional staff to support the recommendations made by the task force. However, some, including Democrat Sen. Shannon Pinto (Diné), believe that additional staff alone may not be sufficient, as the task force brought together a diverse group of individuals to advocate for more effective action.

The task force was initially established in response to the crisis of missing and murdered Native American people, an issue that has affected Native American communities for generations. New Mexico leads the nation in the number of missing and murdered Native American women and girls. The task force faced challenges due to a lack of data from various law enforcement agencies but managed to make some headway.

The group’s recommendations led to legislative actions, such as creating a new position in the Attorney General’s Office focused on missing Native American people and organizing Missing in New Mexico, an annual event to connect families with law enforcement. In May 2022, the task force delivered a comprehensive plan outlining solutions that could be pursued at all levels of government.

The governor’s executive order expired in June 2022, but the Indian Affairs Department continued to support the task force until earlier this year. The task force’s future now depends on legislative action, as the members were under the impression that Governor Lujan Grisham would extend the executive order.

Advocates emphasize addressing the root causes of the crisis, saying they are concerned about the lack of political will and question whether sufficient funding and resources will be allocated to make meaningful changes.

The state response plan includes recommendations for mandatory law enforcement training on trauma-informed care and cultural sensitivity, funding for liaisons to assist families, financial support for affected families, improved data collection, and expanded access to housing, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment.

The dissolution of the task force has amplified concerns about a lack of political will to confront these critical issues. Advocates stress the urgency of addressing the problem to prevent it from persisting for future generations.

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