The Democratic Party of New Mexico has elected its’ leadership team for 2015-2017. Debra Haaland was elected Democratic Party of New Mexico State Chair. Juan Sanchez was elected State Vice Chair. Haaland was elected by a strong majority at the DPNM State Central Committee (SCC) meeting held in Albuquerque on Saturday, April 25. Also elected […]Continue reading
The Democratic Party of Doña Ana County has elected its’ leadership team for 2015-2017 Liz Rodriguez-Johnson has been elected Doña Ana County Democratic Party Chair Julian Alexander has been elected Doña Ana County Democratic Party Vice Chair District 33 Director – Mary Helen Ratje District 34 Director – Virginia Gomez District 35 Director – Eugene Alvarez District […]Continue reading
Dems held line on Governor’s extreme partisan agenda New Mexico Democrats began the 60 day session doing what Democrats always do: drafting and proposing common sense legislation that would help and benefit New Mexican families. Governor Martinez and state Republicans had other ideas that revolved around divisive wedge issues, like right to work for less […]Continue reading
In this week’s address, the President laid out why new, high-standards trade agreements are important for our economy, our businesses, our workers, and our values. These new trade deals are vital to middle-class economics — the idea that this country does best when everybody gets their fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules. The President has been clear — any deal he signs will be the most progressive trade agreement in our history with strong provisions for both workers and the environment. It would also level the playing field — and when the playing field is level, American workers always win.
Legislation would improve public health, support economic growth, and strengthen the future of conservation in America.
Yesterday, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, a bill to make it easier for kids to connect with the outdoors and realize the many physical and mental health benefits associated with a more active, outdoor lifestyle. Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-Wis.) in the House of Representatives.
“The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would enrich the lives of our children, improve public health, and benefit our outdoor recreation economy,” said Sen. Heinrich. “By taking a holistic approach to improving child well-being, this bill would provide our kids the opportunity to gain hands-on outdoor education, while giving them an introduction and lifelong connection to conservation and all that the natural world has to offer.”
Specifically the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would:
- Authorize federal financial assistance to eligible entities, in cooperation with local partners, for development of state-level strategic plans designed to support outdoor recreation, primarily for children;
- Direct the President to develop, with significant public input, a national plan, aligned with the state-level plans, to promote outdoor activity; and
- Give the the Secretary of the Interior the resources to conduct a study of the health impacts of the state-level strategies, provide technical assistance to eligible entities that receive funds, and disseminate best practices learned from the state-level strategies.
Senator Heinrich is a long time supporter of enhancing educational outdoor recreation opportunities for communities in New Mexico. He played a key role in establishing the 570-acre Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, the Southwest’s first urban wildlife refuge. Early in his career, Senator Heinrich served in AmeriCorps for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was the Executive Director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation where he led youth educational wilderness expeditions and outdoor programs in the American Southwest.
The Health Kids Outdoors Act is backed by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), which brings together more than 70 businesses and organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Association of State Park Directors, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, the Outdoor Foundation, Public Lands Service Coalition (a program of The Corps Network), REI, Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the natural world.
“The National Wildlife Federation has worked to connect people with nature for decades so that they will form a deeper desire to protect wildlife and wild places,” said Kevin Coyle, vice president for education and training for National Wildlife Federation. “We applaud Congressman Kind and Senator Heinrich for introducing legislation to bring families outside seeing wild places on a regular basis.”
Full text of the bill is available here.
Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined the majority in confirming Loretta Lynch as our next U.S. Attorney General. The senate confirmed Loretta Lynch by a vote of 56 to 43. She is the first woman of color to hold the position of U.S. Attorney General.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall issued the following statement after voting confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General:
“With a wealth of experience and her lifetime commitment to justice, Loretta Lynch is extremely well-qualified to be attorney general, and I was honored to vote to confirm her. New Mexicans understand that diversity makes us stronger, and I’m proud she’s making history as the first African-American woman to serve as our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Republicans and Democrats alike have praised her qualifications for the job, which is why I’m disappointed by the unprecedented delay in her confirmation. I’ve championed filibuster reform to ensure that senators can work together to confirm nominees and enable them to do their important work for the American people, but the majority still insisted on partisan delay. Now that she can finally assume leadership of the Department of Justice, I look forward to working with Loretta Lynch to ensure DOJ upholds fairness and continues its important work in New Mexico and across the country.”
“Loretta Lynch’s impressive legal career and commitment to justice will make her an outstanding Attorney General. She is intelligent, fair, and an admired public servant. It’s embarrassing that her confirmation process took this long, and it is my hope that Republican leadership immediately ends this dysfunctional practice when confirming important executive and judicial nominees. I look forward to working with Loretta Lynch in her new role and know that she will lead the U.S. Department of Justice with honor and integrity.”
Senator Udall: Momentum Growing to Permanently Authorize, Fully Fund Land and Water Conservation Fund
Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall welcomed growing support to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which conserves and promotes public access to the country’s national parks, forests and public lands, and also funds state and local conservation grants. The program is set to expire in September of this year, and Udall has introduced legislation to find a permanent solution for the LWCF.
The LWCF has helped create and protect urban parks and open spaces that enhance recreation and outdoor opportunities in urban and rural communities alike, such as Valle de Oro in Bernalillo County and Valles Caldera National Preserve. It’s funded through revenues from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf and does not use taxpayer dollars. Udall’s bill ensures the LWCF can continue to access this dedicated funding.
A hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today highlighted how the LWCF has invested in local communities for more than 50 years. More than $261 million has been spent in New Mexico since 1965 to protect natural resources and provide recreational opportunities, including over $41 million for state and local grants, and 62 New Mexico businesses called on Congress to fully fund the LWCF.
“For every $1 invested, the Land and Water Conservation Fund brings in $4 for local communities. Bernalillo County used the LWCF to complete Valle de Oro — the first urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest — just last year, and it’s quickly become a treasured place that will inspire generations to come,” Udall said. “The LWCF works for communities nationwide, and it needs to be reauthorized and fully funded so it can meet its full potential. I’m pleased to see growing support for this pragmatic program, especially from the dozens of New Mexico businesses that came together in support of full funding today. Together, we’ll make sure the LWCF continues to strengthen our communities well into the future.”
“We hope Congress gets the message and sees that LWCF has broad support from businesses from all across New Mexico. This is not just a conservation issue, it’s an economic issue as thousands of American jobs and businesses are supported by this great program,” said Carrie Hamblen, Executive Director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.
“Unfortunately, there are some in Congress who just don’t get it and would let LWCF expire,” said Glenn Schiffbauer, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce. “LWCF has benefitted our country and New Mexico in immeasurable ways. If you take your kids to recreate in a local park or national forest in New Mexico, there’s a good chance LWCF helped make that opportunity possible. Thankfully, New Mexico has strong champions for LWCF in Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.”
Senator Udall at Appropriations Hearing: VA Must Improve Care in New Mexico, End Waitlist & Claims Backlog
During a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senator Tom Udall continued to press Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on efforts to improve care for veterans in the wake of the appointment scheduling scandal and unacceptable delay in processing a backlog of benefit claims. VA officials assured Udall that the benefit claims backlog in New Mexico would be zero by the end of the year — something Udall has long called for.
“Too often, veterans are prevented from receiving the care they deserve because of barriers to access. Starting with disability claims, many veterans are not able to have their claim adjudicated in a timely manner,” Udall said, referencing a chart he brought to the hearing showing a bar graph of veterans who are still waiting to have their claims resolved by the Albuquerque VA hospital. “In New Mexico, progress to reduce the backlog has stagnated … and I’m hopeful we can get the resources to make progress in reducing the backlog once again.”
Veterans Benefits Administration Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits Danny Pummill assured Udall that the VA is working overtime to resolve veterans’ benefit claims and will catch up this summer. “We should have zero backlog this year,” Pummill said.
The hearing today follows Udall’s meeting with McDonald last week, in which he pushed the secretary to improve rural veterans’ access to care, the benefit claims backlog, research for ailments caused by exposure to burn pits, and other issues affecting veterans’ services, like appointment scheduling.
Nearly one year since news broke of unacceptable wait times for appointments at VA hospitals across the country, some New Mexico veterans still have to wait more than a month to see a doctor. “Last summer showed that we had a lot of work to do to ensure that veterans are seen on time and that the scheduling system was not being utilized in a fraudulent manner,” continued Udall, who has called for independent and criminal investigations of the troubled Albuquerque VA hospital.
McDonald has committed to working with Udall and the New Mexico VA’s new director to improve veterans’ services across the state, through steps including addressing the stagnated claims backlog at the Albuquerque VA hospital and decreasing wait times for appointments at local clinics.
Today’s hearing was part of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs’ ongoing work to hear testimony and question agency officials in preparation for drafting legislation to fund the VA for Fiscal Year 2016 later in the year.
State Representative Doreen Gallegos (D, District 52, Dona Ana) announced today that she has been appointed to the Legislative Council of New Mexico State Legislature.
The Legislative Council consist of twelve members of the legislature who oversee the day to day management and policy operations of the Legislature while it is in session and during the interim period between Sessions. The Legislative Council approves the interim committee work plans, their budgets and hiring of key legislative staff positions. They also set employee policy and handle other matters regarding the State Legislature.
Gallegos said, “I am honored by this appointment as it comes from the House Leadership in a bipartisan decision. I believe it demonstrates that leaders in both the House Democratic and House Republican parties have confidence in my abilities.
House District 52 includes Anthony, Vado, Bernino and the Las Alturas and Talavera area in Las Cruces.
The first meeting of the Legislative Council will take place in Santa Fe next Monday.
New Mexico Labor Organizations Launch Legislative “Thank You” Bus Tour to Recognize Champions for Working New Mexico Families
With the 2015 Legislative Session complete, New Mexico’s Labor Organizations will tour the state via bus in order to thank Legislators in their home towns.
We want to recognize their courage in standing up for working New Mexicans, and for taking positions against harmful legislation which would have hurt the middle class in New Mexico.
All events on the tour are free, and public is encouraged to attend to talk with their elected officials.
What: Tacos and live music with Legislators and public to say “Thank You” to for standing strong for working New Mexico families.
Who: New Mexico Labor Organizations and invited Legislators, including Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, Sen. Bill Soules, Rep. Doreen Gallegos, Rep. Bill McCamley, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, and Rep. Bill Gomez.
When: Thursday, April 23th at 5:00pm.
Where: Munson Center, 975 South Mesquite Street, Las Cruces, NM.
Senator Udall Statement on Senate Vote to Extend Children’s Health Insurance Program, Fix Medicare Payments
U.S. Senator Tom Udall has joined the Senate in voting 92-8 for a measure that will extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which ensures thousands of New Mexico children can get health care, and reform the federal government’s system for reimbursing physicians who provide health care to seniors and the disabled under Medicare. The bill provides a permanent solution for the Medicare repayment system, a formula that has for many years needed to be adjusted annually with temporary fixes. Udall released the following statement:
“The Children’s Health Insurance Program helps nearly 10,000 New Mexico kids access reliable health care, and families need assurance that this affordable lifeline is here to stay. This bill is a bipartisan compromise that gives us that certainty for two more years. But it is far from perfect — two years isn’t nearly enough. I supported amendments to extend CHIP for a full four years and to invest in important women’s health programs so more New Mexicans can access the care they need. My Saving Our Next Generation (SONG) Act would strengthen CHIP and increase our investments in other proven child well-being programs. All children deserve access to quality health care, and I’ll keep working to make this a reality.
“Despite its shortcomings, this bill does make progress in a number of important areas. It extends several programs New Mexicans rely on, including diabetes care, funding for community health centers, payments to counties containing national forests through the Secure Rural Schools program, and infant home visiting. And it permanently reforms the Medicare payment system. This reform finally ends the years of uncertainty that seniors, physicians and health care providers have felt each year while they waited to see whether Congress would prevent cuts to the formula payments caused by the broken reimbursement system. This is a important and long-overdue step.”
Senator Udall, Federal Reserve Bank and Money Smart Week Partner Organizations Announce Kick-off Event for Money Smart Week 2015 in Las Cruces
The office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall, the El Paso Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and partner organizations will host a Saturday kickoff for Money Smart Week (MSW), featuring a series of events designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances.
The Money Smart Week (MSW) Kick-off event will be held on Saturday, April 18, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main Street. The program will include FREE giveaways, a money machine, MSW essay/art projects, and so much more!
Money Smart Week, a collaborative effort with local nonprofits and financial institutions, is designed to educate consumers about money management and create awareness of financial education programs on topics such as budgeting, saving and using credit wisely.
“Managing your money wisely is crucial to planning for the future and making big financial decisions,” Udall said. “I’m excited to partner with organizations across Doña Ana County to bring Money Smart Week to New Mexico, and encourage everyone to take advantage of these free events. Whether you’re saving to buy a house, have questions about student loans or just want to sharpen your basic budgeting skills, there’s a class that will help you make smart decisions and gain financial independence.”
“Doña Ana County is an enthusiastic partner in Money Smart Week,” Doña Ana County Commission Chairman Billy G. Garrett said. “We have committed resources and personnel to this initiative, because it will empower our constituents in meaningful ways.”
“This has been a season of challenges for our economy,” Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said. “It has also been a season of challenges for consumers as they cope with protecting their money, hanging on to their homes, and trying to decide what to do next with their hard-earned cash. Financial literacy is vital in meeting those challenges.”
Money Smart Week runs April 18-25. More information on the events, including personal finance classes in English and Spanish, is available on the Money Smart Week El Paso website at www.MoneySmartWeekEP.organd on Facebook at Facebook.com/moneysmartweekep.
The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act will create jobs, boost local economies, help control flooding
U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) have introduced legislation to promote innovative ways to prevent flooding and water pollution created when rain or melted snow (stormwater) picks up toxic chemicals and sediment as it flows over roads, parking lots, roofs and lawns and into rivers and streams. The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act encourages new outside-the-box strategies to help prevent and manage stormwater pollution. In addition to reducing pollution and flooding, the bill would create jobs and strengthen local infrastructure. The lawmakers introduced the bill as international, state and local water and wastewater professionals visit Washington, D.C., for Water Week 2015 to highlight the importance of clean water and pollution control in our communities.
Promoting innovative stormwater infrastructure — such as permeable pavement, natural drainage features and green roofs — can help manage and reduce pollution from stormwater runoff while restoring natural landscapes. These newer approaches can be more cost-effective than traditional stormwater infrastructure projects, which use large amounts of concrete and steel infrastructure to collect runoff and rapidly move it downstream. Investing in innovative solutions to combat stormwater pollution would also create jobs and stimulate local economies.
“We’re reaching a crisis point when it comes to managing our clean water,”Udall said. “Year after year, heavy rains hit New Mexico communities, causing dangerous floods, damaging roads and dumping toxins into our rivers. It’s time to invest in a 21st-century solution. From green roofs to stronger water efficiency standards, our bill promotes innovative projects that can help protect New Mexico communities during major storms and recharge groundwater year round. These cost-effective alternatives will upgrade aging infrastructure, create local jobs and restore natural green space.”
“A growing threat to water quality throughout the U.S. is polluted stormwater runoff, flooding, and sewer overflow from highly urbanized areas flowing into surface waters without being treated,” Edwards said. “This is especially true for Maryland with the Chesapeake Bay and several of its tributaries, including the Anacostia, Patuxent, Potomac, and Severn Rivers that flow through the Fourth Congressional District. I am proud to introduce this legislation with Sen. Tom Udall to provide an innovative, environmental, and economically cost-effective approach to water management strategies that improve water quality throughout the nation while creating good-paying jobs for the future.”
Udall and Edwards introduced identical versions of the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act in the Senate and the House. The bill would:
– Improve our nation’s ability to manage clean water resources, including drinking water;
– Increase research and development of innovative green infrastructure techniques;
– Create jobs across diverse sectors, such as plumbing, landscaping and engineering;
– Save taxpayer money by reducing the amount of water entering treatment plants, keeping energy costs low and prolonging the life of existing conventional water infrastructure; and
– Provide environmental and economic benefits to communities, including reduced flooding and energy use, as well as increased community greenspace and property values.
The bill has received broad support from water and environmental organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, American Rivers, the American Society of Landscape Architects, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Water Environment Federation.