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
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