Governor Martinez’s History of Attempting to Deny Spanish-Speaking New Mexicans of Their Rights Comes to Light During Debate of Bill to Improve Court Interpreter Services

During debate of a bill on the State Senate floor that changes the method of paying New Mexico’s court interpreters, it was revealed that Governor Susana Martinez fought to exclude non-English speaking residents from serving on juries when she was a District Attorney in Las Cruces.  In 2000, then-DA Susana Martinez took legal action to disqualify people who do not speak English from serving as jurors.  The Constitution of New Mexico protects people who speak and read either English or Spanish.  The Supreme Court denied Martinez’s request to keep Spanish-speaking people off juries.

“We hope that Gov. Martinez’s lengthy history of opposing the constitutional rights of Spanish-speaking New Mexicans will not hinder her from signing this bill if it arrives on her desk,” said Sen. Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Benalillo and Valencia).  “I am frankly disturbed by her record as DA, of which I have only recently learned.  New Mexico is unique in that our Constitution explicitly protects the right of citizens who may speak Spanish instead of English to serve on juries.  It is an important part of who we are.”

House Bill 89 (HB 89), ‘Court Language Access Fund’ creates a new fund to be administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) for paying court interpreters and related expenses.  It removes court translators from being paid through the Jury and Witness Fee Fund.  The bill passed by a vote of 40 – 0 in the Senate.

In addition to ruling against DA Susana Martinez in 2000 in the issue of excluding non-English speakers from jury service, the New Mexico Supreme Court reaffirmed the decision in 2013 in State v. Samora.  The Court wrote that excusing a Spanish-speaking prospective juror violated Article VII, Section 3 of the state Constitution.  That section provides that the right of any citizen to sit upon a jury may never be impaired on account of inability to speak the English or Spanish languages.

Gov. Martinez frequently speaks Spanish with residents when she travels around New Mexico.

Weekly Address: It’s Time to Confirm Loretta Lynch

In this week’s address, the President called on Republicans in Congress to stop playing politics with law enforcement and national security and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the United States.

Loretta is an independent, career prosecutor who deserves to be confirmed as soon as possible. She has proven herself time and again throughout her 30-year career, yet come Monday, the amount of time her nomination will have languished on the floor of the Senate will total more than that of the past seven Attorney General nominees combined.

In his address the President asked Republicans in Congress to stop denying a vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch and end the longest confirmation process for an Attorney General in three decades.

Watch and share President Obama’s weekly address.

Leaders of New Mexico’s Domestic Violence Community Continue Drumbeat: Governor Susana Martinez Must Give Abuser’s $120,000 Contribution to DV Shelters

Leaders of New Mexico’s domestic violence community continued to call today for Governor Susana Martinez to donate the $120,000 of campaign contributions she accepted from convicted batterer Marcus Hiles to abuse victims programs and shelters. Senator Linda M. Lopez (D-11-Bernalillo), the author of many of the state’s laws to protect victims and survivors of domestic abuse, spoke out in the State Capitol about the Gov.’s refusal to hear advocates’ plea. Lopez questioned whether it is ethical to not donate Hiles’ campaign contributions to programs and groups that help women and their children who are victims of violence.

“It is ethically wrong and also hypocritical of Governor Martinez to keep this vicious abuser’s money. Frankly, she ought to be too ashamed to keep it,” said Sen. Lopez. “Just this week, senators voted unanimously in support of my bill that puts strong new protections in place for women who are victims of violence. But all we heard from Governor Martinez is that she is keeping the money from abuser Marcus Hiles. That is callous disregard for our concerns. When we in the Senate rejected her unqualified political ally, Matt Chandler, for an appointment to the UNM Board of Regents recently, she called the decision ‘extreme’, ‘disgusting and pathetic’, and said it was ‘despicable politics at its worst’. Governor Martinez has no such outrage for a terrible and violent perpetrator who beats women. Her inaction on returning these campaign funds is truly despicable politics at its worst. That man is the top contributor to her PAC and a valued supporter whose contributions she is keeping.” Gov. Martinez’s response to the recent news of Marcus Hiles 2013 conviction for domestic violence stands in stark contrast to that of neighboring Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. They immediately announced last month that they are donating a combined $702,600 — the amount the Texas developer Marcus Hiles gave to their 2014 campaign — to services for abuse victims throughout Texas.

Hiles choked a nightclub dancer in October, 2012 – long before he gave Gov. Martinez $120,000 – after the two had been out drinking, and began to fight in a cab on the way to the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, according to news reports. Hiles then was captured on a security camera punching the woman in the hotel, throwing her to the ground on an elevator, and stomping on her cellphone. The woman told police that Hiles later choked her to unconsciousness in their hotel room.

Gov. Martinez said through her spokesman that she did not know about the donor’s criminal history when she accepted the donations. She will not return the $120,000, or alternately give it to domestic violence programs or shelters, because “the campaign has long since ended, and you can’t return money that’s already been spent.” [Albuquerque Journal. 3/16/15]

However, last summer when her Democratic opponent Gary King returned $35,000 in campaign contributions he received from the convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, Gov. Martinez referred to Epstein as King’s “largest donor”, and had this to say:

“I certainly think you would know where your money comes from… and it just so happens to be a sex offender.” [Santa Fe New Mexican 9/9/14]

On Tuesday the Senate passed unanimously Senate Bill 660 (SB 660), sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez. The legislation permanently prohibits those convicted of a domestic abuse crime from having contact with their victims as a condition of their probation or parole. Currently, domestic abuse victims must deal with their violators face-to-face in the courts for hearings; this bill also allows them to appear at hearings telephonically or have a representative present. Sen. Lopez calls on the Governor to make sure this bill is enacted into law.

On Wednesday women’s and community groups called on Gov. Martinez to donate the $120,000 from Hiles to DV programs and shelters in New Mexico. The groups include Strong Families NM, Ending Gender Based Violence Taskforce, Tewa Women United, One Billion Rising Santa Fe, and the NM Forum for Youth in Community.

Senator Tom Udall: Congress Must Reform Broken Chemical Safety Law, Protect Our Kids From Dangerous Chemicals

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) released the following statement yesterday after the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on his bipartisan bill to protect our families from toxic chemicals. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act protects Americans from toxic chemicals by enacting common-sense and necessary reforms to update the broken and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“Today’s hearing showed that Democrats, Republicans, environmentalists, public health advocates and manufacturers all agree: our current chemical safety law is fatally flawed. It’s failed to ban asbestos, and it’s failed to protect our most vulnerable — infants, pregnant women, children and the elderly. Our challenge is to come together to find a solution that will protect the next generation from dangerous chemicals. We took a critical step forward today. I’m proud to have included as many stakeholders and advocates who would come to the table to write the The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Our bill achieves what we have struggled to do for 39 years — it gives the EPA strong authority to regulate asbestos and other dangerous chemicals, ensures that our kids will be protected, and it does so in a way that continues to attract bipartisan support. Most importantly for me, it will ensure that states like New Mexico — states that can’t afford to regulate chemicals on their own — are protected from toxic substances.

“No one got everything they wanted in this bill. And there is still room to improve it. But I want to echo Bonnie Lautenberg, who passionately spoke today on behalf of her husband, the late Senator Lautenberg, whom I greatly admired for his dedication to protecting public health. I strongly urge my fellow public servants: We need to act now. Let’s not allow a search for the ideal prevent us from protecting families for another 39 years. The New York Times editorial board today encouraged lawmakers to keep working on chemical safety reform. As the Senate moves forward, I plan to continue to engage all sides constructively. Compromise is a great challenge, but it has given us the opportunity to reform a broken law and improve lives. We must meet this challenge now.”

Click here for Udall’s opening statement.

Click here for video of Udall’s remarks.

New Mexico Senate Passes Budget That Protects Children, Schools, Courts and Environment

The New Mexico Senate yesterday passed a $6.23 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2016 by a vote of 38-3. The Senate budget debate was characterized by general overall consensus on spending goals under the State’s current revenue constraints. The fiscal year (FY) ’16 budget begins on July 1st and reflects the State government’s planned operating expenses for the coming 12-month period.  The FY ’16 budget contains a 1.3 percent increase over the FY ’15 budget of $6.15 billion. Falling oil prices, which have a negative impact on the State’s revenue, were a central concern of senators in crafting the budget plan.

“It’s the best we could do with what we have,” said Finance Committee Chairman Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-35-Dona Ana, Hidalgo, Luna & Sierra). “We certainly hope that oil prices will turn around. We’re moving ahead precariously. The oil and gas industry is the backbone of our budget, and the falling prices are having a tremendous impact.”

The Senate budget differed from the House and the Governor’s recommended budgets in several important areas, including the judicial system, economic development, schools and environmental regulatory agencies.

When it came to funding the state’s judiciary, the Governor and House’s proposed budgets flat-lined spending for district courts, drug courts, court-appointed attorneys and public defenders. The Senate, in its budget, improved the courts’ funding and included needed, healthy increases for the judicial system.

In funding the state’s public education system, the Senate protected school districts from cuts, and budgeted modest increases in several key areas in the FY ’16 budget. The ‘Kindergarten to 3 Plus’ Fund received an increase from $21 million in FY ’15 to $23 million in FY ‘16. The Preschool Fund was increased from $19 million in FY ’15 to $21 million in FY ’16. New teachers will see a pay increase of $2,000 in FY ’16 to raise their starting pay to $34,000. Funding for the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam or standards-based assessment was removed in the Senate budget from the formula portion or State Equalization Guarantee (SEG), and included instead in the non-mandatory or the ‘below the line’ portion of the education budget.

The Senate rejected budget increases pushed by the Governor that would allow the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) more discretion than local school districts to select recipients of state education budget dollars. The Senate also disagreed on increasing the education budget’s ‘below the line’ or discretionary funds for PED, preferring instead to maintain fund increases in the formula portion of the budget that distributes monies evenly across school districts.

The troubled Children, Youth and Family Department (CYFD) will see an $8 million increase in FY ’16 under the Senate budget, mostly for more staff and program support in the Child Protective Services (CPS) division, which works to protect at-risk children. In the past, Gov. Martinez failed to spend $6 million appropriated for CPS by the Legislature.

The Corrections Department also will see substantial increases of 3.8 percent overall for increased salaries, recruitment and other needs.

Other areas where senators disagreed with the Governor and House on the FY ’16 budget were the funding levels for regulatory agencies such as the Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources (EMNRD). Reflecting the Senate’s high prioritization of protecting water and air, the Senate budget wants $20 million for EMNRD, compared to the Governor’s $16 million budget for the agency.

Governor Martinez:  First, violates state law for partisan schemes; next, allows personal campaign committees to accept over $120,000 from convicted domestic violence felon

Bitter and spiteful Governor will do anything to further national political career

Item: Over the past few days, Governor Martinez sent notices to numerous County Commissions instructing them to schedule “emergency” meetings so she could ram through a replacement Senator in SD39.  She sent out these notices with full understanding that NM Statute 10-51-1 F stipulates that the meetings should NOT take places without at least 72 hours’ notice.

DPNM Chairman Sam Bregman:  “With critical bills involving worker’s rights, women’s rights, our education system and numerous others still being debated in the Senate, Governor Martinez clearly did not like how things were going for her and implemented a deceitful plan to give her an added advantage.”

Item:  Last week in a story by New Mexico In Depth which reported that Marcus Hiles, a Texas developer who donated $100,000 to Advance New Mexico Now and more than $20,000 from both him and his wife to the Gov.’s re-election campaign was convicted 2 years ago for domestic violence.

NM Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez: “Mr. Hiles was convicted two years ago for viciously attacking a woman.  Governor Martinez certainly would have known about this when she accepted his money for her re-election effort.  He was the largest single donor to her PAC, Advance New Mexico Now,” said Sen. Sanchez.  “One in four women experience violence in our country.  What kind of message does that send to the people of our state?”

The message that Governor Martinez is sending is simple—you don’ t have to follow laws you dislike and you don’t/won’t return money from anyone, no matter what crimes they have committed. And the money has been spent anyway.

There is a difference: Democrats are fighting for workers, for women, a world class education for our kids and for the rule of law that protects women and families from domestic violence.

Join the fight today for a better future for all New Mexicans.

 

 

Public Service Announcement: Senator Heinrich Promotes Free Tax Assistance

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich has released a public service announcement (PSA) to inform residents about free tax assistance available at locations across New Mexico. The PSA is available in English and in Spanish for television and radio stations.

Senator Heinrich’s staff is also holding a series of Mobile Office Hours events with Tax Help New Mexico during tax season at convenient locations across the state to assist residents. For a list of Mobile Office Hours, go to Senator Heinrich’s website.

Tax Help New Mexico provides certified tax preparers to help residents prepare and file their tax forms. Tax Help New Mexico is a free service for people whose household income is $53,000 or less and those who are 65 years or older. For more information about the program, go to the Tax Help New Mexico website.

PSA in English: Heinrich Informs Residents About Free Tax Assistance 

PSA en Español: Mensaje de Servicio Público Sobre Tax Help New Mexico

Bipartisan Bill will Ensure Health of Our Children

While the country grapples with the issue of vaccinating children prompted by the frightening resurgence of measles outbreaks, both bodies of the Legislature passed a  bill  with bipartisan support that would require health insurance to help the state purchase vaccines for privately insured children in New Mexico.

Senate Bill 121 (SB 121), Vaccination Purchasing Act, was unanimously passed by the New Mexico House of Representatives last Friday after clearing the Senate floor with no opposition on March 5. The bill, which carries an emergency clause, was sponsored by Senator Bill O’Neill (D-13-Bernalillo) and Representative Terry H. McMillan (R-37-Dona Ana). The bill, amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would immediately become law upon the governor’s signature.

“SB 121 is an example of successful legislation that can be crafted if all stakeholders are willing to compromise,” said  Sen. O’Neill. “We worked closely with the state Department Of Health, the Superintendent of Insurance, the New Mexico Pediatric Society, the Governor’s Office, and representatives from both insurance companies and drug manufacturers.”

“This is an important bill that ensures our state’s children will continue to be vaccinated at an exemplary rate in comparison with other states.”

New Mexico is among a handful of states that operate universal vaccine purchasing programs aimed at boosting immunization rates. But here, paying into the program is voluntary.

Sen. O’Neill adds that the legislation will help the state maintain its standing as it works to keep immunization rates from slipping. In 2013, New Mexico rated 17th nationally in child-vaccination ratings.

“This is something that we do well as a state,” Sen. O’Neill added. “Now is not the time to lose ground.”

New Mexico Senate Unanimously Passes Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez’s Bill to Extend Property Tax Exemptions for Disabled Vets

Senate Bill 248 (SB 248), which extends the current property tax exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans to all impositions of special benefit assessments outside of the property tax code, unanimously passed the State Senate on Saturday. Bill sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia) said he was extremely satisfied with the outcome in the Senate and hopes House members, particularly those who represent disabled veterans in Valencia County, will give this bill the priority that it deserves.

According to the provisions of the bill, disabled vets would be exempt from paying assessments for conservation, irrigation, hospital, and flood control districts. The exemptions would continue to apply to the veteran’s surviving spouse if the couple was married at the time of the veteran’s death, the spouse has not remarried, and the spouse continually occupies the primary residence after the veteran has passed.

“This bill is important not only to disabled veterans and their families, but to all New Mexicans who value the sacrifices of veterans who have fought for our freedoms,” said Sen. Sanchez. “Through this bill we are recognizing the personal sacrifices our disabled veterans endured to serve our country. I hope others in the legislature will support this bill to benefit those who have bravely served our country.”

There are about 3,132 fully disabled vets in New Mexico. SB 248 has not yet been introduced in the House.

New Mexico State Senate Leader Calls for Governor to Return Campaign Funds from Perpetrator of Domestic Violence

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia) today called on Governor Susana Martinez to direct one of her political action committees (PACs) to return more than $100,000 received from a donor who pleaded guilty to domestic violence in 2013, and to return more than $20,000 from her own re-election campaign committee from the same donor.  The criminal incident publicly came to light last week in a story by New Mexico In Depth which reported that Marcus Hiles, a Texas developer who donated $100,000 to Advance New Mexico Now and more than $20,000 from both him and his wife to the Gov.’s re-election campaign, pleaded guilty two years ago in Las Vegas, NV to domestic violence charges.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez

“Mr. Hiles was convicted two years ago for viciously attacking a woman.  Governor Martinez certainly would have known about this when she accepted his money for her re-election effort.  He was the largest single donor to her PAC, Advance New Mexico Now,” said Sen. Sanchez. “One in four women experience violence in our country.  It is a serious national problem that harms women in New Mexico, too.  What kind of message does that send to the people of our state?  Now that the incident has come to light, the right thing to do is for the Governor to return those contributions.”

According to reports, Hiles choked a nightclub dancer in October, 2012 after the two had been out drinking and began to fight in a cab on the way to the Wynn Hotel.  Additionally, The Dallas Morning News reported that Hiles was captured on a security camera slapping the woman in the Las Vegas hotel, throwing her to the ground on an elevator, and stomping on her cellphone.  The woman later told police that Hiles afterwards choked her to unconsciousness in their hotel room.

Last summer when her Democratic opponent Gary King returned $35,000 in campaign contributions he received from a convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, Gov. Martinez referred to Epstein as King’s “largest donor”, and had this to say:

“I certainly think you would know where your money comes from… and it just so happens to be a sex offender.” [9/9/14, Santa Fe New Mexican]

The treasurer of the Advance New Mexico Now PAC, at the time Hiles contributed $100,000, was Gov. Martinez’s close political ally and former District Attorney, Matt Chandler.  Chandler was rejected for an appointment to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents last week by the Senate.   Melissa Sousa, who managed Martinez’s 2014 campaign, is currently listed as the PAC’s treasurer.

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