Senator Udall Encourages New Mexicans to Participate in Saturday’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

U.S. Senator Tom Udall encourages New Mexicans to participate in the 10th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, September 26, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. MT, and to return unwanted, unneeded or expired prescriptions for safe disposal.

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and provides free anonymous drop-off sites throughout the state for New Mexicans to safely dispose of unwanted medications. Residents can search online by county, city or zip code for the collection site nearest them by clicking here or calling 1-800-882-9539.

Prescription drug abuse and misuse pose serious health and law enforcement issues for New Mexico communities. Udall continues to work to create more ongoing opportunities for safe drug disposal, and has introduced legislation to increase the safety of prescription drug use.

“Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic nationally, and while we’ve taken strong steps to combat this abuse in New Mexico, we must keep up the fight,” Udall said. “Many who abuse prescription pain relievers get them from friends or relatives, and teens are particularly susceptible to thinking that prescription drugs are less dangerous than illicit drugs because they’re prescribed by a doctor. Events like Prescription Drug Take-Back Days are helping New Mexicans protect their families and loved ones from the threat of abuse. I encourage everyone to take advantage of Saturday’s Take-Back event. It’s an opportunity to safely clean out medicine cabinets, helping keep unused or expired prescriptions out of our water systems – and most importantly, out of the hands of our children.”

Udall introduced legislation earlier this year to combat prescription drug abuse and misuse. His Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act would expand access to treatment options for addicted patients, strengthen training for medical professionals, and increase abuse prevention opportunities. Importantly, the bill would help medical professionals avoid overprescribing medication to patients by giving them access to real-time prescription databases across state lines. The bill would also help make it easier to dispose of unused prescription medications as often and safely as possible, especially in rural communities.

According to the DEA, more than 4.8 million pounds of drugs have been collected during the previous nine national Take-Back events from 2010-2014.

State Auditor Releases “The Findings Report: A Summary of New Mexico’s Governmental Financial Audits”

Provides insight into the financial health of governmental entities across the state

The New Mexico Office of the State Auditor (OSA) has released The Findings Report: A Summary of New Mexico’s Governmental Financial Audits. The report is the first of its kind and compiles information that would otherwise remain buried deep within thousands of pages of annual audits. This shines a light on how public dollars in state and local governments are protected and managed. The comprehensive, statewide report is designed to make audit information from state and local governments more transparent to the public, legislators, and oversight bodies.

The Findings Report compiles and analyzes data from the most recent audits of 449 government entities across New Mexico, illustrating the financial health of government. The report provides a snapshot of how government is working using three audit measures: audit opinions, types of annual audit findings, and repeated audit findings.

“New Mexico can be proud that the vast majority of our state and local governments are accounting for public dollars in a transparent and reliable manner. However, there are a few that are not up to par and need to address weaknesses in their financial controls immediately,” stated Auditor Keller.

Below are some of the major takeaways from the report:

  • Audit Opinions: a determination of whether the financial statements accurately reflect the
    position and activities of the entity.

    State Auditor Tim Keller

    State Auditor Tim KellerAudit 

    • The vast majority of New Mexico’s governmental entities, 94 percent, are providing reliable financial information to the public. They received “unmodified” audit opinions, meaning the financial statements accurately describe what is happening with public money. Twenty-six percent of entities had an unmodified opinion with no findings, indicating a clean bill of health.
    • Five state agencies received “qualified” audit opinions, meaning there are material misstatements or possibly undetected misstatements in the financial statements. These agencies are: the Corrections Department, Education Trust Board of New Mexico (Administrative Fund), General Services Department, Office of the Secretary of State, and Regulation and Licensing Department.
  • Audit Findings: the number of audit findings speaks to accounting practices and compliance with federal and state laws (fewer is better).
    • There were over 2,000 findings across audited entities, of which about 50 percent represented significant issues or problems. The entities with the most findings are: the Public Education Department, Taos Municipal Schools, Albuquerque Public Schools, Santa Fe Public Schools, City of Gallup, City of Lovington, Village of Columbus, Cibola County, City of Albuquerque, and City of Santa Rosa.
    • Almost half of all audit findings were repeated from a previous year, indicating a need for those entities to focus on corrective action plans to ensure the weaknesses are addressed. The entities with the most repeated findings are: the Public Education Department, City of Gallup, Village of Columbus, Albuquerque Public Schools, Village of Angel Fire, Catron County, Jal Public Schools, Village of Cimarron, and the Village of Questa.

“This report turns hundreds of annual audits into a useful tool to improve the financial health of our state and local governments,” stated Auditor Keller. “The Auditor’s Office plans to release The Findings Report on an annual basis. State and local leaders should use this report as a public accountability mechanism to track the progress, or in some cases the lack of progress, of agencies in their communities.”

The report and supporting data are available here:

Senators Udall and Heinrich Press for Permanent Authorization and Strong Investment in the Nation’s Premier Land and Water Conservation Program

With the expiration of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) fast approaching, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined a bipartisan coalition of 51 other senators to call on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid to permanently reauthorize and adequately fund the nation’s premier federal conservation program, now in its 50th year. The LWCF has helped create and protect parks and open spaces that enhance recreation and outdoor opportunities in urban and rural communities alike, such as the Valle de Oro in Bernalillo County and Valles Caldera National Preserve.

“Investments in LWCF support public land conservation and ensure access to the outdoors for all Americans, in communities and cities alike,” the senators wrote. “It has created outdoor recreation opportunities in every state and 98 percent of counties across the country, opening up key areas for hunting, fishing and other recreational access; supporting working forests and ranches; acquiring inholdings and protecting critical lands in national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, Civil War battlefields and other federal areas; and making additions and improvements to state and local parks and recreation facilities.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1964 established one of America’s most successful conservation programs. Authorization for the program expires on Sept. 30, threatening the continuation of LWCF’s long and successful history. Using funds primarily derived from oil and gas receipts paid to the federal government by energy companies that extract publicly owned resources, the program supports the nation’s land, water, historic and recreational heritage. The program also supports America’s outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economies, which contribute more than $1 trillion to the nation’s economy each year and support 9.4 million American jobs. More than $261 million has been spent in New Mexico since 1965 to protect natural resources and provide recreational opportunities, including more than $41 million for state and local grants.

Udall and Heinrich have worked to permanently fund LWCF to conserve and promote public access to the country’s national parks, forests and public lands. In their request, the senators note that adequate and consistent funding will help ensure that the fund plays the strongest possible role in revitalizing local communities while having the greatest conservation impact across the country.

The senators’ letter can be found here.

In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the following senators signed the letter: Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Senator Udall Presses EPA Administrator on Response to Gold King Mine Spill at Indian Affairs Hearing

Hearing included testimony from Navajo President and rancher; Udall reiterates plans to introduce 2 bills to ensure EPA compensates those impacted by spill, reform laws to prevent another mine accident

During a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the Gold King Mine spill, U.S. Senator Tom Udall pressed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy about the impact on the Navajo Nation and San Juan County. Udall, who serves on the committee and requested the hearing, pushed McCarthy to commit to a smooth claims process for spill victims seeking compensation, a strong government-to-government relationship between the EPA and the Navajo Nation, and to support designating the area as a Superfund site.

“In the West, rivers are a lifeline. This is especially true for the Navajo Nation — which depends on limited surface water resources,” Udall said. “The San Juan River is crucial. It brings water for drinking, irrigation and recreation, and also has cultural and religious significance to the Navajo people. So the federal government must own up to this tragedy.”

To prepare for the hearing, Udall visited earlier this month with Navajo Nation leaders and farmers who showed him the impact that the spill has had on their land. Many farmers suffered significant damage due to the spill, Udall told McCarthy: “Those on the Navajo Nation and others affected by this spill must be compensated,” Udall said. “The Navajo Nation has been on the receiving end of devastating environmental disasters — brought on by the federal government and others — for far too long. Mistakes have been made. We need to do everything in our power to make sure they are not made again.”

Udall pressed McCarthy to commit to working with the Navajo Nation and other spill victims to handle damage claims quickly and appropriately, without trying to avoid responsibility. He also asked McCarthy to prioritize funding for long-term monitoring of the rivers and for compensation for those impacted. “That is our responsibility and we will meet that,” McCarthy told Udall.

Udall also questioned Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and other witnesses about costs associated with the spill, the long-term impact on human health and whether communities have received appropriate assistance from the EPA so far. “The government-to-government relationship could have been done much better, and we’re going to stand with you to make sure it improves every day into the future,” Udall said to Begaye.

“It’s easy for Washington to expect things will return to normal in due time,” he continued. “But it is clear this disaster will continue to affect the Navajo people.”

The hearing before the Indian Affairs Committee was the second of two in the Senate to address the spill today. Earlier, Udall addressed a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the spill and outlined two bills he plans to introduce. Along with Senator Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Luján, Udall plans to introduce a bill this week to ensure the EPA continues to work with communities in Northwestern New Mexico and the Navajo Nation. It would require the EPA to compensate those who were impacted by the spill and continue to monitor water quality from the mine, which had been leaking contamination even before the spill.

Udall and Heinrich also plan to introduce a second bill in response to the spill that would reform the nation’s antiquated mining laws, which date back to 1872, to ensure mining companies pay a royalty for the minerals they take from public lands. The royalty — similar to that paid by oil and gas and coal companies — would help pay for abandoned mine cleanup.

“I believe in the principle of the polluter pays…. But we are stuck with the 1872 mining law, which requires none of this,” Udall said at the hearing. “These big mining companies are refusing reform, refusing to pay. Some look at this area and say that the 1872 mining law is some of the laxest public oversight of any industry. We cannot continue that way.”

Senator Heinrich Calls For Reforms To Mining Law In Environment and Public Works Hearing On Gold King Mine Spill

“Beyond the immediate cleanup of this spill, we must overhaul our abandoned mine cleanup policies to make future disasters less likely.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich spoke at a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) oversight hearing yesterday on the Gold King Mine spill that occurred last month. The committee examined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to the accident, which caused a large plume of bright orange toxic waste to spill into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and pollute the Four Corners region, and the subsequent impact it had on the environment and economies of local states, communities, and Indian tribes.

In the hearing, Senator Heinrich said, “In the Southwest, water is our most precious resource, so you can imagine the kind of impact this disaster has had on our communities in Colorado, New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, and Arizona. I have demanded that the EPA act with urgency to protect our health and safety and repair the damage inflicted on this watershed. This must be our first and top priority.”

Senator Heinrich also highlighted the need for reforms to federal mining laws. He displayed maps of New Mexico and Colorado–the two states most affected by the spill–that show the abandoned hardrock mines and the waters polluted by hardrock metals.

“Beyond the immediate cleanup of this spill, it’s high time that we overhaul our abandoned mine cleanup policies to make future disasters like this less likely,” said Senator Heinrich. “While developers of resources like oil, natural gas, and coal all pay royalties to return fair value to taxpayers for our public resources, hardrock mining companies can still mine valuable minerals for free.”

Last month, Senator Heinrich traveled to northwestern New Mexico to deliver water to local farmers impacted by the Gold King Mine spill and was briefed by EPA officials on its response to the disaster. During his travel to the area, Senator Heinrich also met with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye in Window Rock, Ariz., to discuss the response efforts in Indian Country.

Watch and share Senator Martin Heinrich’s remarks.

LULAC Applauds the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Decision to Withdraw Controversial Sanctuary Cities Bill

LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha, Jr. has issued the following statement in response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision to pull the Sanctuary Cities Bill from a scheduled committee mark-up:

“The ‘Stop Sanctuary Cities Bill’ is yet another attempt by anti-immigrant members of Congress to push forward radical legislation instead of enacting comprehensive immigration reform. The bill would have undermined attempts by local communities to build trust between the immigrant community and local law enforcement, and would have forced more immigrants back into the shadows. LULAC hopes that Congress will look past piecemeal approaches to immigration reform and instead, focus on enacting comprehensive immigration reform that does not penalize hard-working immigrant families.”

Doña Ana County Democrats Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

The Democratic Party of Doña Ana County is proud to celebrate diversity and to join in the observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, with the 2015 national theme,Honoring our Heritage.  Building our Future.”

We celebrate both the heritage, the achievements, and the ongoing contributions of our Hispanic communities, here in New Mexico, and throughout the United States, during this observance this month, and throughout the year.

We join in the national theme “Honoring our Heritage.  Building our Future.” The theme recognizes the long history of leadership that people of Hispanic heritage have given to the nation in every field, here in New Mexico, and nationally. This year’s theme also looks to a strong future built on the foundation of the past.

We join in celebrating the diversity that we, as a nation, as a community organization, and as a political party must embrace, if we are to continue to ensure the future success of this great nation and remain a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. We also celebrate the great cultural contributions Hispanic people have brought to the American quilt, and the ongoing economic contributions of those communities, which have greatly benefited all of us throughout our nation.

Each year, Americans observe Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors made a home in the American southwest, including New Mexico, and elsewhere in the United States, and those whose forebears came from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. On September 16, 1810 Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s El Grito de la Independencia, or “Cry of Independence,” began the long Mexican war for independence. Mexico’s Declaration of Independence fell on September 28, 1821. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.  Also, Columbus Day, which is celebrated as Día de la Raza in many Latin American nations, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

The observance started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15, annually. Hispanic Heritage Month as a national observance was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, with the passage and approval of Public Law 100-402.

Senators Udall and Heinrich Welcome BLM Decision to Maintain New Mexico State Office

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have announced that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has heeded their call to reconsider a proposal to merge the New Mexico and Arizona state offices and will allow the offices to remain separate. The senators released the following statement:

“New Mexico’s many unique public lands issues — including our landscape’s strong connection to our state’s history and culture — require strong leadership from the Bureau of Land Management. Having our own BLM state director has worked well for decades, and we shared many New Mexicans’ questions about whether combining offices with Arizona would hurt BLM’s local services and its ability to balance the many competing uses of our natural resources. BLM manages outdoor recreation, mineral leasing and other activities on 13.4 million acres of public land in our state, and New Mexico communities deserve leadership that understands the unique issues we face. The agency’s decision to keep a dedicated New Mexico office is a sign that it remains committed to addressing these local challenges. We look forward to BLM selecting a new New Mexico State Director in the near future.”

In June, Udall and Heinrich, along with U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham, sent a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze expressing concerns that a merger would conflict with the land management missions of both states.

Weekly Address: A New College Scorecard

In this week’s address, the President announced the launch of a new College Scorecard, meant to help students and parents identify which schools provide the biggest bang for your buck. Designed with input from those who will use it most, the Scorecard offers reliable data on factors important to prospective students, such as how much graduates earn, and how much debt they have when they graduate. In an economy where some higher education is still the surest ticket to the middle class, the choices that Americans make when searching for and selecting a college have never been more important. That’s why the President is committed to making sure there exists reliable information that helps students find the college that best fits their needs so that they can succeed.

Watch and share President Obama’s weekly address.

Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks: A Day for Patriotism and Service

President Obama calls on all Americans to observe the anniversary of 9/11 as an officially designated Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.

As we reflect on the lives we lost and pay tribute to the families who still live with extraordinary pain, let us resolve to continue embodying the American spirit that no act of terror can ever extinguish.

President Obama, September 10, 2015

To mark the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, President Obama is asking all Americans to observe today as an officially designated Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, with acts of selflessness and charity.

This morning the President,the First Lady, and members of White House staff gathered on the South Lawn to observe a moment of silence on at 8:46 a.m. EDT – the time that the first airplane struck the World Trade Center.

Later today, the President will spend time with service members for a live, worldwide televised Troop Talk town hall at Fort Meade in Maryland.


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