Category Archives: New Mexico

Uniformed Service Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Republican Party of New Mexico, New Mexico Spaceport

This week on New Mexico in Focus, producer and correspondent Floyd Vasquez examines a legal claim made by the State of New Mexico that could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It involves the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the law that protects service members’ reemployment rights when returning from a period of service in the uniformed services, including those called up from the reserves or National Guard. It prohibits employer discrimination based on military service or obligation. Following a 3 week trial earlier this year, a New Mexico jury found that the Children, Youth & Families Department violated the rights of an Iraq war Veteran. CYFD did not appeal the jury’s verdict but argued successfully before the New Mexico Court of Appeals that the State of New Mexico is not subject to USERRA based on sovereign immunity. The case is now before the New Mexico Supreme Court and is being watched closely by stakeholders nationwide.

NMiF host Gene Grant and The Line opinion panel look at the shift in the New Mexico House of Representatives to Republican control for the first time in 62 years, and the new leadership, including Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro, who will be speaker of the House, and Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, who will be majority leader. Change is also coming to the Republican Party of New Mexico, with Chairman John Billingsley announcing he will not seek re-election. He has been publicly critical of Gov. Susana Martinez’s political advisor, Jay McCleskey, and has expressed concern about funding trends in campaigns.

The Line also looks at the outlook for the New Mexico Spaceport following the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo in the Mojave Desert recently. Experts say the uncertainty about when the company may actually launch tourists into sub-orbit has exposed the Spaceport’s vulnerability in putting all its eggs in the Richard Branson basket. Critics say the Spaceport should have diversified its infrastructure and business by attracting more tenants, and thus capitalize on the growth of the commercial space industry that is taking place elsewhere.

And the Line discusses a proposed ordinance in San Miguel County that would impose some of the strictest requirements in the country on oil and gas drilling. This comes as a federal judge considers the future of an ordinance that bans oil and natural gas drilling in neighboring Mora County. He ruled some parts of the ban are unconstitutional.

Host: Gene Grant

Correspondent: Floyd Vasquez

Guests:
Gary Kaiser, Employer Support of The Guard and Reserve
Dave Pederson, General Counsel, Office of the New Mexico Attorney General
Sgt. First Class Phillip Ramirez, Afghanistan and Iraq veteran

Line Guest Panelists:
Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group
Sophie Martin, Editor, DukeCityFix.com & Attorney
Rob Nikolewski, New Mexico Watchdog
Inez Russell Gomez, Santa Fe New Mexican

The Producers of NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS are Megan Kamerick and Floyd Vasquez. Associate Producer is Kathy Wimmer. Funding for this program was provided in part by the McCune Foundation.

Episode 818 for air November 14, 2014

Investigative Journalist Radley Balko, Election Analysis, APD Settlement

This week on New Mexico in Focus, correspondent Gwyneth Doland interviews investigative journalist Radley Balko about his book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.” Balko writes a popular blog for the Washington Post on the criminal justice system and civil liberties. In his book he traces the evolution of police forces across the country, starting with the creation of SWAT units in response to civil unrest in the 1960s all the way to a post-9/11 world where massive federal grants have allowed police departments to purchase military gear once reserved for soldiers. Balko offers important context for how police departments, including the Albuquerque Police Department, have reached a point where federal officials must intervene to reform departments and policies, especially regarding their use of force.

NMiF host Gene Grant and The Line opinion panel analyze this week’s elections, which saw the victory of Republican incumbents CD2 Representative Steve Pearce, Gov. Susana Martinez and Secretary of State Dianna Duran. Democrats won races for U.S. Senate, CD1 and CD3, Auditor, Treasurer and Attorney General races, while the Land Commissioner contest was still in a dead heat the day after the polls closed. And Republicans have taken control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 62 years.

The Line also looks at the sweeping settlement agreement signed by the Albuquerque Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice last week. APD will overhaul a number of policies and practices in a variety of areas, including recruitment, training and use of force. The consent decree also calls for a new civilian oversight body, a use of force review board, and the creation of a mental health advisory committee to review department policies on responding to people with mental illness, such as James Boyd, who was shot by APD in a confrontation last spring in the Sandia Mountains foothills.

The Line also looks at the Virgin Galactic disaster in California last week and what it means for the New Mexico Spaceport, and the outcome from ballot questions on marijuana penalties and funding more mental health services.

Host: Gene Grant

Correspondent: Gwyneth Doland

Guests:
Radley Balko, Author, “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces”

Line Guest Panelists:
Lonna Atkeson, UNM Political Science Professor
Julie Ann Grimm, Editor, Santa Fe Reporter
James Monteleone, Political Reporter, Albuquerque Journal
Steve Terrell, Political Reporter, Santa Fe New Mexican

The Producers of NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS are Megan Kamerick and Floyd Vasquez. Associate Producer is Kathy Wimmer. Funding for this program was provided in part by the McCune Foundation.

Episode 817 for air November 7, 2014