Saturday, November 30, 2013

BREAKING: Valencia County advances ABQ-like abortion ban, Public comment sought before vote

Valencia County, NM -- By a 3-2 vote, Valencia County Commissioners advanced an Albuquerque-like abortion ban measure that could make Valencia County the first in the nation to insert politicians between doctors and women facing difficult decisions.

Voters in the City of Albuquerque recently defeated an almost identical ballot measure question in a first-of-its-kind municipal vote on the issue.

As we first reported in November, Valencia County (20 minutes south of Albuquerque) took the opportunity to propose its own ban as a county ordinance, avoiding a special election and instead permitting the 5 elected commissioners to decide the issue.

With their recent vote, the commission moved the proposed ordinance forward for full consideration and public comment at their next meeting on December 11.  The vote could come as early as December 20th.  

The 3-2 vote indicates early support by at least 3 commissioners for debate and possible passage.  Voting for advancing the measure were bill sponsor Commissioners Romero, Aragon and Eaton.

ProgressNow NM has launched a public petition which permits signers to send their comments directly to commissioners.  View and sign the petition here:

Read the full story from the Valencia News-Bulletin below:

Commission to hold public hearing on late-term abortion ban ordinance

On a 3-2 vote, Valencia County commissioners pushed a proposed late term abortion ordinance forward for public hearing Wednesday evening.

The vote does not approve the ordinance, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks in the unincorporated areas of the county, but rather publishes the legal title and begins the countdown to a public hearing.
The public will be able to present arguments, both for and against the proposed ordinance, at a hearing at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the county commission chambers, 444 Luna Ave., in Los Lunas.
A vote on the ordinance will most likely be scheduled for the commissioners’ Dec. 20 meeting.
The ordinance was sponsored by Commissioner Lawrence Romero, and his motion to publish was seconded by Commissioner Jhonathan Aragon.
The discussion amongst the commissioners didn’t debate the contents of the ordinance, but instead focused on the possible legal repercussions for the county if it is approved.
Commissioner Alicia Aguilar asked if the attorneys could clarify what the cost of the ordinance would be.
“I’m just asking questions,” Aguilar said. “I’m not addressing the issue, whether I’m for or against.”
County Attorney Adren Nance said unlike the city of Albuquerque, the county would not hold and pay for a special election on the ordinance.
“You had also asked about the cost for enforcement,” Nance said. “There’s really no way to quantify the cost of enforcement of an ordinance. We have code enforcement department but there’s really no way to calculate that.”
The real potential cost to the ordinance is in litigation, Nance said.
“We have groups that say they will litigate this whether it’s passed here or Albuquerque or elsewhere,” he said.
Best case scenario is the county’s insurance would cover the cost of a lawsuit, leaving it on the hook for a $10,000 deductible, Nance said.
“But insurance probably won’t cover it,” the attorney said. “There’s a real potential this could cost up to tens of thousands of dollars if litigated.”
Aguilar asked if the ordinance was unconstitutional.
“As a local board, can we go there?” she asked.
County attorney Dave Pato said the commission had the legal right to impose ordinances that addressed the health, safety and welfare of residents.
“There certainly differences in legal opinion. We reviewed a number of cases and articles to prepare for this very discussion,” Pato said. “Some take the position that it is unconstitutional and unenforceable, while others have taken the stand that the court hasn’t taken a position on the issue.”
Pato said laws and court opinions have changed at the federal level since the original Roe v. Wade.
“There are arguments on both sides but it has not been decided by a court in New Mexico or the 10th Circuit Court,” he said.
Aguilar asked if New Mexico Attorney General Gary King had issued an opinion. Pato said King has taken the position that it is not enforceable and is unconstitutional.
The commissioner asked who drafted the ordinance. Nance said he was asked by Commissioner Romero to work with Jackie Farnsworth, the person who requested the ordinance.
“This is a draft proposed by the citizenry that we have massaged and molded into the county’s ordinance form,” he said.
After the meeting, Nance said the language in the Valencia County ordinance is identical in some ways to the Albuquerque ordinance that failed on Tuesday.
Holding up a copy of petitions said to contain 1,100 signatures of residents supporting the ban, Aguilar said she believed the people had a right to be heard.
“They are saying listen to us. I’m not saying I’m for or against but I am willing to hear and listen and make a decision in the end,” she said. “Let everyone come forward and talk to us.”
Aguilar noted that since the ordinance was drafted by someone who supports the ordinance, it was important for those in opposition to come to the public hearing to testify.
After some discussion between Aguilar and Commissioner Mary Andersen over whether to table the item — something that could not be done because of Romero’s motion and Aragon’s second — Andersen said if the vote was only to publish the title of the ordinance, then she didn’t have a problem with it.
“I need more time to study this. If there are 1,100 people that show up then we’ll know,” Andersen said. “I fully expected it to pass in Albuquerque yesterday. More people voted in that than the mayoral election. This is a hot button issue.”
She continued, saying her concern was the legal ramifications for the county.
“What position does this put us in legally. No one wants this thing, but we are here to protect the county,” Andersen said.
Romero said all the commissioners could do was listen to both sides and made a decision.
“It’s not that complicated,” Romero said.
Aguilar said she received calls about the proposed ordinance. During the discussions, she told people that it would only apply to the unicorporated area of Valencia County — not the city of Belen, village of Los Lunas, town of Peralta, village of Bosque Farms or even the new town of Rio Communities.
“They asked, ‘How many clinics are there in the county?’” Aguilar said. She held up her hand, forefinger and thumb forming a circle to indicate zero.
Commission Chairman Charles Eaton said he had studied the issue from many angles since it have been brought forward.
“We have just been briefed by our attorney that this will probably immediately be challenged,” Eaton said. “I looked at issues the city of Albuquerque was facing on their referendum and they were quite expensive. This is a constitutional issue. We don’t have a demand at this time for these kinds of services in the county, especially with the defeat in Albuquerque.
“My position — after we’ve just heard of the many, many financial shortfalls we are facing — is this will put the county in a position to litigate an unconstitutional issue that will be expensive defend. I am not prepared to move forward with publication.”
Aguilar asked if he thought it would be better to table the matter, but Eaton pointed out that there was already a motion on the floor unless Romero was willing to withdraw. Romero said he wanted to continue with his motion and Aragon indicated he would not withdraw his second.
When Eaton called for the vote, Romero and Aragon immediately voted yes, and Eaton and Andersen voted no.
There was a very long pause as they waited for Aguilar to vote.
“As difficult as this can be, abstaining would not be right and I think we need to hear from the public,” she said. “I go along with commissioners Romero and Aragon.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Auditor Filings: Gov. Martinez Administration Altered Audit, Used Altered Findings to Justify Cancelation of State Contracts

For Immediate Release
Nov. 26, 2013

Contact: Patrick Davis

Auditor Filings: Gov. Martinez Administration Altered Audit, Used Altered Findings to Justify Cancelation of State Contracts
Motivations increasingly questioned after article shows political operative approves and pushed major policy issues

Albuquerque -- New revelations from New Mexico’s State Auditor appear to show that the administration of Governor Martinez altered the findings of an audit, removing a finding that “no credible allegations of fraud” existed among the state’s behavioral health providers, and then publicly announced that the audit had uncovered just that.
PROGRESSNOWNM, a non-profit progressive advocacy group, first cried foul on October 23, 2013 when a heavily redacted copy of the audit was
PN Post
released.  At least one unredacted portion included the auditors’ finding that, "PCG's Case File audit did not uncover what it would consider to be credible allegations of fraud, nor any significant concerns related to consumer safety." (Audit, p. 22, Section 4.6)
The question of “credible allegations of fraud” is critical because it is the legal threshold, under federal law, which must be met before a state can cancel Medicaid provider funds.  
In court filings today, State Auditor Hector Balderas noted that a version of the audit released by the administration through the Human Services Department had that conclusion removed.  After announcing that the audit, which they have repeatedly refused to release to the public or the providers targeted, had found "credible allegations of fraud" (see NPR interview, Sept 2013) they promptly canceled state contracts with those in-state non-profit providers and replaced them with Arizona-based providers selected without bid.

Patrick Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNowNM, on the revelations:

“Government should not work in secret and it has no right to create its own facts, no matter how many millions of taxpayer dollars they wasted trying to do it.
So far, we know that the governor’s administration paid $3 million to a firm to create a crisis where none existed and when that didn’t work, they altered the audit and used altered facts to justify actions they intended to take all along. Not only was there no fraud, but the auditor they hired said there wasn't so they just erased that fact and inserted their own. 
As the governor herself likes to say, this is unacceptable and we deserve the full truth. And now."
PROGRESSNOWNM joins dozens of legislators and hundreds of patients and providers who call for a full accounting of the secret process used to turn New Mexico non-profit companies over to these new Arizona competitors.

This ABQ teen was attacked for being gay. You won't believe what happened next

Last night I saw a news story I couldn’t believe.   A 14-year old gay teen was attacked for being gay inside Albuquerque’s Coronado Mall and instead of being helped, he was banned from the mall for fighting.
It would be unbelievable if it wasn’t for the video the attacker’s friends took and posted online.
 Gay attack story

There is no excuse for anti-gay bullying or violence.   But how the Albuquerque Police Department and mall management responded is even worse.
Instead of recognizing the signs of anti-gay bullying or investigating the violent attack, they banned both young men and sent the victim away.
“Issaic” is a hero for standing up and coming forward.  Growing up gay is hard enough.  I know. 
That’s why I want to be sure this never happens to another gay teen. My friends at Equality New Mexico and ProgressNowNM are teaming up to demand that Coronado Mall and APD do what’s right for Issaic.
I’m urging you to go to to watch the full video, read the story, then sign the petition to Coronado Mall and APD urging them to get to the bottom of this story and welcome Issaic and his friends back.  You’ll be as disgusted as I am, I’m sure.
The video is horrible.  It shows the attacker planning his attack, running up behind Issaic and punching him so hard he falls to the ground.  The cowardly attacker runs away but the reaction he got from police and Coronado apparently didn’t mean much to him – he and his friends posted the video online for all the world to see.
Our police officers must recognize the danger signs of anti-gay violence and respond accordingly.
Sign this petition to Mayor Berry and Chief Banks to ensure that APD officers receive the proper training to respond to anti-gay crimes and requesting that Coronado mall lift Isaaic's ban.

Thanks for stepping up for Issaic!
Sen. Jacob Candelaria
Senator Jacob Candelaria

Monday, November 25, 2013

REPORT: Detailed analysis of dollars, organizations and tactics behind Albuquerque abortion ban campaigns provides lesson for other cities, nation

REPORT:  Detailed analysis of dollars, organizations and tactics behind Albuquerque abortion ban campaigns provides lesson for other cities, nation
Albuquerque – A new report from PROGRESSNOWNM provides an inside look at the groups, dollars and tactics behind last week’s vote on a 20-week abortion ban, the first of its kind in the country.
Six major national organizations and their affiliates coordinated the vast majority of the $445,000 raised and spent in just two months by five political committees promoting the ban to local
Behind the ban
Some organizations, like Operation Rescue, hid their involvement by providing services to affiliated organizations or by ignoring local election laws all together.  PROGRESSNOWNM has filed complaints with the city’s ethics board regarding those unreported efforts.
PROGRESSNOWNM, a progressive advocacy group promoting and defending progressive values in New Mexico, spent months tracking dozens of events by the various groups, monitored TV and radio ads, hundreds of social media posts, more than 20 different direct mail and flier actions and researched finance reports throughout the campaign.
Among the findings:
·      Led by out-of-state based organizations including Operation Rescue and the Susan B. Anthony List and a “usual suspects” list of national conservative mega-donors, proponents raised $445,000 in the two months leading up to the election.  With 38,000+ votes cast, the groups spent more than $11 per vote and came up short.
·      The national Susan B. Anthony list alone spent more than $200,000 in local advertising in support of the ban and provided access to its email list to local groups with whom they coordinated.
·      Operation Rescue and Created Equal, organizations based in Kansas and Ohio, contributed technical IT support and advertising support in the form of graphic mobile billboards but never disclosed reported their involvement in the race.
·      Unlike opponent groups who organized together to defend women’s rights, differences in ideology and tactics divided the opponents causing them to work as much against each other as they did together.
The Albuquerque campaign provides a blueprint for other municipalities facing this new organized attack on women at the local ballot box.  In the weeks following the arrival of the Susan B. Anthony List in Albuquerque, the group announced plans to introduce a national ban in Congress, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). 
Albuquerque voters turned down the measure on November 19th, voting 55-45% against the ban.  Proponents have promised to take the lessons learned from Albuquerque and apply them to other municipalities in the near future.
A new local abortion ban has already been introduced in Valencia County, just south of Albuquerque.