Legislative Roundup: 11 Days Left In 2021 Session

Legislative Roundup
SFNM

Call for investigation: A Republican senator from Tijeras asked state Attorney General Hector Balderas Monday to investigate patient evictions at rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We must act to protect our most vulnerable residents,” Sen. Gregg Schmedes wrote in the letter, which follows a May 2020 letter he wrote to Balderas regarding what he described as the eviction of elderly residents from Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque “to free up beds for coronavirus patients”.

Schmedes said Balderas never responded to his letter last year, but a recent investigation by the Attorney General’s Office in New York brought the issue back to his attention.

“We know that vulnerable New Mexicans were evicted from facilities to make room for coronavirus patients, and that these facilities were offered significant financial incentives from the state to do so,” Schmedes said in a statement.

Public records complaint: A vice chairman of the Republican Party of Santa Fe County filed a complaint in the First Judicial District Court accusing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office of violating the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

Brett Kokinadis’ complaint asks for declaratory judgment against Associate General Counsel Kyle Duffy, who was acting as public records custodian for the Governor’s Office at the time of the request.

Kokinadis requested all travel records for Lujan Grisham for November, December and January. His complaint says Duffy first called the request “broad and burdensome” and then sent a March 3 email saying there were “no responsive records” related to that request. Kokinadis replied he found that “very remarkable” and asked Duffy to search again for the information. 

Duffy said the governor did not travel anywhere during that time frame and referred Kokinadis to two other departments for records pertaining to the governor’s expenses and security detail.

Kokinadis says in the complaint the Governor’s Office must be aware of such records. He is asking for statutory damages, attorney’s fees and other legal costs.

Nora Meyers Sackett, spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, wrote in an email: “Our office is not aware of any complaint or lawsuit. We respond to every IPRA request thoroughly and timely.” She said the governor’s travel plans are posted on her website. 

Federal Impact Aid: The Senate Education Committee requested a side-by-side comparison Monday of two separate pieces of legislation that both would remove the 75 percent state funding credit for school districts that receive federal Impact Aid money intended to offset property tax losses from federal lands.

A recent report by the Legislative Finance Committee recommended the Legislature reduce or eliminate the Impact Aid credit to allow more state funding to go to those districts.

The request for a comparison came after the committee considered House Bill 6, sponsored by Rep. Patty Lundstrom, (D-Gallup), and House Speaker Brian Egolf, (D-Santa Fe). The other measure, Senate Bill 41, is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, (D-Albuquerque).

“Both bills get close to the same aim,” Sen. Bill Soules said, a Las Cruces Democrat who chairs the committee. “They’re slightly different in process.”

Sen. Gay Kernan, (R-Hobbs), said she “really liked” Stewart’s bill and needed to be persuaded why House Bill 6 would be better. “I would like to sit down and see a side-by-side of the two bills and take a little bit deeper look because I’m still confused on the differences between the bills,” she said.

Quote of the day: “I will be happy to put everyone to sleep. It’s a 42-page bill, and I’m fairly boring, so you guys can get a good nap and catch up on your sleep.” —Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, responding to a joke that it’s tradition in the Senate Rules Committee for bill sponsors to read their legislation in its entirety.

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