New Mexico Democrats Elect New Leadership Team

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 […]

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Doña Ana County Democrats Elect Their 2015-2017 Leadership Team

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 […]

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DPNM Legislative Wrap-Up

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 […]

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Senator Heinrich Lauds New Rules To Extend Overtime Pay Protection For New Mexico Workers

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich welcomed President Obama’s plan to extend overtime pay protection for workers in New Mexico and across the country. The President’s plan would guarantee overtime pay to most salaried workers earning less than an estimated $50,440 next year. The increased threshold would tie overtime protections to the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers.  The plan would raise the salary threshold from $455 a week — below the poverty threshold for a family of four — to a projected level of $970 a week in 2016. In New Mexico, 20,000 workers stand to benefit from this proposal.

“Updating our overtime rules is a step in the right direction that will help grow our middle class and create a stronger economy,” Sen. Heinrich said. “New Mexicans are no strangers to hard work – we embrace the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get ahead. Today’s announcement also creates a level playing field for business owners who are already doing right by their employees. Our economy is stronger and our workforce is better served when we reward an honest day’s work with fair pay.”

In January, Senator Heinrich joined a group of 26 senators in supporting updating overtime rules to ensure more middle-class workers are paid fairly for overtime hours. In a letter to President Obama, Senator Heinrich and his colleagues urged the administration to increase the income threshold in order to strengthen overtime protections for millions more middle-class workers. The current annual salary threshold to receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours is $23,660 impacting 11 percent of salaried workers nationwide.

Senators Udall, Nelson Urge FTC to Investigate Concussion Prevention Claims Used to Sell Soccer Headgear

Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate potentially misleading safety claims used to sell soccer headgear. The FTC enforces federal consumer protection laws that prevent fraud, deception and unfair business practices. The senators asked that the FTC take action if the investigation findings reveal that makers of soccer headgear or other children’s sports safety equipment are engaged in false or deceptive advertising practices.

In a letter to the FTC Chairwoman, the senators outlined their concerns that some sports equipment marketers and manufacturers may be taking advantage of parents’ and athletes’ concerns about sports-related concussions by advertising soccer headgear with unsupported claims about preventing head injuries.

“With the Women’s World Cup underway, there is growing awareness of the risk of concussions in soccer. In fact, for female athletes, soccer has one of the highest concussion rates among high school and college sports,” the senators wrote. “Although the benefits of sports far outweigh the risks for almost everyone, sports-related concussions do represent a significant health concern.”

The senators continue, “Given these risks, it is not surprising that many parents today seek out sports gear that offers the best protection for their children. And, as soccer players of all ages and their parents watch the World Cup over the next few weeks, they likely will notice that some players wear headgear. Unfortunately, some sports equipment makers seem to be taking advantage of the public’s concerns about concussions.”

An extensive National Academy of Sciences report, Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture, previously found that there is a lack of scientific evidence that protective devices designed for youth athletes, such as headbands for soccer, reduce concussion risk.

The senators cite several sports equipment makers’ specific claims that seem to imply the products reduce the risk of concussion, despite a lack of evidence to support these claims. “The use of seemingly unsubstantiated marketing claims for soccer headgear is especially concerning since athletes may use these products in ways that actually lead to increased injury risk,” the senators wrote.

In 2012, the FTC warned nearly 20 sports equipment manufacturers that they might be making deceptive protection concussion claims, but the FTC’s actions thus far have not deterred companies from continuing to make such claims. Udall introduced the Youth Sports Concussion Act of 2013 to allow the FTC to seek civil penalties in such cases, and also warned about the dangers of deceptive marketing campaigns in a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing earlier this month.

The full text of the letter is available HERE.

Weekly Address: The Affordable Care Act is Here to Stay

In this week’s address, the President called the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act a victory for hardworking Americans across the country, whose lives are more secure because of this law.  The Affordable Care Act is working, and it is here to stay. So far more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage.  Nearly one in three Americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today. The uninsured rate in America is the lowest since we began to keep such records. With this case behind us, the President reaffirmed his commitment to getting more people covered and making health care in America even better and more affordable.

Watch and share President Obama’s weekly address.

NM Dem Chair Haaland Statement on Marriage Equality

Today, New Mexico Democratic Chairwoman Deb Haaland released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding marriage equality across the US:

unnamedDS“As the mother of a lesbian daughter, I am thrilled to know that her future is free from barriers to marry whomever she wishes. Somáh came out to me as a senior in high school and since that time she has advocated for acceptance of this fundamental right. I share this victory with her. Love wins!

The court’s ruling simply affirms that LGBT people deserve the same rights and protections under the law as every citizen of the United States. This is more than a partisan political issue, it is a major step forward in the fight for civil rights in our country.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico joins with the President in applauding this important decision.”

NM Dem Chair Haaland Applauds Supreme Court Decision on ACA

Today, New Mexico Democratic Chairwoman Deb Haaland released the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act in King v. Burwell:

“Because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 50,000 New Mexicans don’t have to choose between paying bills and going to the doctor. Access to affordable health care should be a basic right and not an overwhelming financial burden for those who need medical attention. I am proud that our Supreme Court has once again affirmed that the Affordable Care Act is indeed the law of the land, regardless of what the GOP Presidential field may think. Thanks to today’s ruling Americans are happy to know their family, friends and neighbors will not lose their health insurance.”

Attorney General Balderas Calls New Mexico’s Energy System Dysfunctional; Demands Energy Security for all New Mexicans

In a statement issued yesterday, Attorney General Hector Balderas called the current New Mexico energy system dysfunctional, demanding creation of a system that actually delivers affordable clean energy, and energy security to every New Mexico family. Energy security means access, affordability and reliability for all New Mexicans.

“We have an urgent public safety and public health issue on our hands because the system is focused on representing the interests of wealthy corporations and wealthy special interests rather than looking out for all New Mexico families,” Balderas said in a press conference. “New Mexico needs a statewide energy security plan that leads the nation and includes the many families who right now can’t even afford to pay their utility bills. The current system is dysfunctional and it is embarrassing that children in New Mexico may have access to cell phones, but lack access to affordable, clean energy to cook their food. In addition, extreme heat and extreme cold threaten the survival of vulnerable New Mexicans, who cannot afford their utility bills.”

Attorney General Balderas announced three important steps to improve energy security in New Mexico:

1. The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) should investigate the value of solar and wind distributed generation (DG).
2. Balderas is directing the Office of Attorney General to lead in the creation of a statewide strategic energy security plan for all families in New Mexico.
3. The Attorney General calls on all parties, stakeholders, and PNM who have been locked in a regulatory debate over the San Juan Generating Station to return to the table. The current plan is not good enough, which is why the Attorney General is calling on the parties to create a better plan that provides the most affordable, cleanest energy for all New Mexico families.

Senator Udall Discusses Critical Need to Address Youth Suicide in Native Communities

At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall discussed the critical need to address the high rate of suicide among Native American youth. He questioned the acting director of the Indian Health Service, Tribal leaders and a Psychological and Developmental Sciences expert about improving desperately needed mental health services.

Udall highlighted some of the challenges facing New Mexico’s Tribal communities and cited recent research by the University of New Mexico (UNM) on risk factors that may place Native youth at increased risk for suicide. Last year, UNM researchers found that 20 percent of Native Americans from seven New Mexico Tribes had been exposed to four or more traumatic experiences as children, including alcohol and drug abuse, physical violence at home, neglect, abuse, divorced or separated parents, or the imprisonment of a close family member.

“The New Mexico Department of Health estimates that at least 201 Native American youth have died by suicide between 1999 and 2013,” Udall said in his opening remarks. “There has been evidence of ‘suicide clusters’ – a series of two or more suicides in a community over the course of a year or less – occurring on the Mescalero Apache reservation and the Eastern Navajo Nation. It is likely that the statistics are significantly undercounting these tragedies.”

Udall continued, “It is critical that we listen to our Native youth and remove the stigma on talking about suicide and trauma. We must create and sustain opportunities for them to learn the value of their cultures and identities. We need to make sure that they are connected to adequate mental health services. We must show them that their lives matter.” Udall also called for more federal resources for Indian Country and to expand programs that have shown positive results, like the youth suicide prevention intervention curriculum developed by Zuni Pueblo, with the help of experts and input from community members.

Nationally, suicide rates among Native Americans ages 15 to 24 are more than double the national average.

Below are Senator Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Barrasso and Vice Chairman Tester, for holding this hearing today to discuss such a serious issue in Indian Country.

The loss of one child’s life is debilitating for families and for entire communities. In my home state of New Mexico, we have lost far too many young people in our Native communities.

The New Mexico Department of Health estimates that at least 201 Native American youth have died by suicide between 1999 and 2013. There has been evidence of “suicide clusters” – a series of two or more suicides in a community over the course of a year or less – occurring on the Mescalero Apache reservation and the Eastern Navajo Nation. It is likely that the statistics are significantly undercounting these tragedies.

There are also high concentrations of risk factors in New Mexico’s Native communities. Last year, in a survey of 1,300 Native Americans from seven different Tribal communities in the state, University of New Mexico researchers found that 29 percent had been exposed to four or more traumatic experiences as children – such as alcohol and drug abuse, physical violence at home, neglect, abuse, separated or divorced parents, or a close family member in prison.

It is critical that we listen to our Native youth and remove the stigma on talking about suicide and trauma. We must create and sustain opportunities for them to learn the value of their cultures and identities. We need to make sure that they are connected to adequate mental health services. We must show them that their lives matter.

I want to thank the witnesses for the work they are doing to address this crisis in their communities. I have some questions on what we can do as a Committee and what the federal government can do to provide appropriate support to help address this crisis.

Udall Statement on Vote against Fast-Track Trade Authority, for Trade Adjustment Assistance

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall once again voted against Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which would give the administration fast-track authority for six years to move trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, through Congress with limited debate and no amendments. The Senate passed the TPA measure by a vote of 60-38.

Separately, Udall voted in favor of legislation to expand Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides aid and training to workers who lose their jobs because of increased imports or because their jobs have been shipped overseas. The Senate passed the TAA measure on a strong bipartisan vote.

Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement:

“I opposed Trade Promotion Authority legislation when we first voted last month, and I opposed it again today. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the largest free trade agreement ever negotiated, and taking away Congress’ authority to fully debate and amend the proposal affects my ability to stand up for New Mexicans’ interests. Trade deals like this have a direct impact on New Mexican families – affecting wages, worker safety, environmental standards, the open Internet and a host of other important matters. I’m disappointed that a majority of senators voted to limit our oversight power.

“As we move closer to another major trade agreement, it’s critical that we expand Trade Adjustment Assistance. TAA provides aid to workers who suffer the consequences of outsourcing, and this lifeline will be crucial for New Mexico workers if the Trans-Pacific Partnership moves forward.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement that aims to increase trade and investment between the United States and 11 other Pacific nations. Negotiations have been done mostly behind closed doors, and have encompassed agreements on intellectual property rights, government procurement, investment, privacy, labor rights, and international environmental issues.

Senators Udall, Carper, Whitehouse, Merkley, Booker Statement on House Passage of Chemical Safety Bill

Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Democratic cosponsors of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, issued the following joint statement in response to passage of chemical safety reform in the U.S. House of Representatives:

“The nation needs a workable chemical safety law, and while we don’t agree with the details of the House bill, tonight’s vote is yet another bipartisan demonstration that Congress must act. We expect the Senate’s comprehensive TSCA reform bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, to receive a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate in the coming weeks.

“Families in our states — and across the country — want a strong, comprehensive law that will finally keep their communities safe from dangerous chemicals. We are committed to ensuring EPA has the necessary tools, resources and mandates to create a comprehensive chemical safety system. That includes a clear focus on chemicals that pose a risk to the environment and public health, a mandate to review the safety of all new and existing chemicals, authority directing the EPA to test chemicals, assurance that companies can no longer hide information from the public, and clear regulatory authorities. We look forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to ensure that the bill that goes to the president’s desk is as strong and comprehensive as possible.”

Tribes Recognize Sen. Michael Sanchez for Preservation of Native Culture, Indian Day

Sanchez Called “Tireless Champion of All New Mexicans” in Proclamation

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo and Valencia) was honored by New Mexico’s tribal leaders on June 18th, who called him a champion of all New Mexicans and an unwavering supporter of tribal sovereignty. Nearly 100 tribal leaders and others from across the state gathered at a reception to honor Sanchez at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Leaders praised Sanchez for his years of work in the Legislature advocating successfully for the preservation of Native traditions.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez

“It is important that we honor the cultures and traditions that make New Mexico so special. Growing up, my parents taught me to treat everyone with respect. It’s an important lesson that we all should follow,” said Senator Sanchez, who drew upon his Belen upbringing in his remarks. That lesson, years later, played an important role in the preservation of Indian Day at the 2015 Session of the New Mexico Legislature. When Republicans chose to break from tradition and deny tribal leaders the opportunity to speak to a joint session of the House and Senate, Sanchez took action to provide a forum that allowed tribal leaders to address state legislators.

The event honoring Senator Sanchez was led by Pueblo of Isleta Governor Eddie Paul Torres Sr., and Laguna tribal member and Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Debra Haaland. They presented Sen. Sanchez with a proclamation praising his commitment to native concerns and well-being.

“Senator Sanchez has been a tireless advocate on the issues confronting tribal communities throughout New Mexico,” Haaland said. “This event represents only a token of our appreciation for what Senator Sanchez has accomplished during his time in the Senate for Native Americans and all the people of New Mexico.”

Tribal leaders pointed to Sanchez’s demonstrated support for tribal peoples and governments in numerous ways over the past years, including his support for the Tribal Infrastructure Fund and setting aside 5% of the state’s severance tax bond capacity for it – as well as his protection of the fund from attempts to reduce its capacity and/or eliminate it. Leaders thanked Sanchez for fighting for the State Tribal Collaboration Act; for elevating the Indian Affairs Department to a cabinet-level position in state government; for pushing through the Indian Education Act; for passing the 2015 Gaming Compact; and for many millions of dollars worth of capital outlay infrastructure projects requested by tribal governments and entities. At the Isleta Pueblo, this included the newly opened senior center and for water line and treatment projects on the Pueblo.

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