NM Gov Signs Bills Enhancing Teacher Pay, Profession

Gov signs bills enhancing teacher pay, profession

Flanked by lawmakers, educators and students, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday signed Senate Bill 1, which increases all three tiers of teachers’ minimum salaries by $10,000. New Mexico teachers also received 7% raises in the budget, the governor’s office says, making them now the “highest paid” teachers in the region. “New Mexico cannot fully realize a cradle-to-career educational system that lifts up every student and family without supporting our educators,” the governor said in a statement. She also signed House Bill 73, which shortens the amount of time teachers must wait to return to the classroom to work after retirement; House Bill 13, which increases the stipend for resident teachers, provides stipends for mentor teachers involved in the state’s teacher residency program and requires teachers who go through the program to work in the same district for three years; and Senate Bill 36, which increases employer contributions to the educational retirement fund. “I think we should name 2022 the ‘Year of the Teacher,’” Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, co-sponsor of both Senate bills, said in a statement. “Our educators have been going above and beyond for a long time, and in the last two years they have truly demonstrated what it means to be dedicated to this noble profession.” The legislation signed into law yesterday, she said, “reflects how much we value and respect their many contributions. This is going to represent a real turning point for education in New Mexico: more people being drawn to a career in teaching, and greater retention within our current workforce.”

State Supreme Court rules against stream rule

The state Supreme Court yesterday ruled in favor of several recreation groups who sued the New Mexico Game Commission and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2020 over a Game Commission rule that allows private landowners to limit public access to streams and rivers (the rule predates Lujan Grisham’s term and was enacted during former Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration). The court heard oral arguments yesterday in which the group’s attorneys argued that the state constitution protects the use of any waterway for recreational use, such as fishing or boating, as long as it does not require trespassing on private land. The state rule, however, allows private landowners to seek certification to make portions of rivers and streams on their properties “non-navigable.” That rule, Seth Cohen, a lawyer representing Adobe Whitewater Club of New Mexico and recreation and conservation groups, makes it “nearly impossible” on “most stretches of most rivers in New Mexico for the public to enjoy that public use right guaranteed in the constitution with the rule in effect.” (A map posted by Adobe Whitewater Club illustrates the certification status of waterways in the state as of last summer). The court ruled unanimously from the bench (with a written opinion forthcoming) that the rule is unconstitutional and, as part of its decision, said previous certificates the Game Commission granted to landowners will be voided. Both US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, and former US Sen. Tom Udall filed an amicus brief before the New Mexico Supreme Court in April 2020 defending New Mexicans’ right under the state constitution to access public surface waters. In response to yesterday’s decision, Heinrich released a video statement cheering the court’s ruling: “Today is a pretty exciting day in New Mexico history,” he said. “Our state Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutional rights of New Mexicans to their public waters. This is a huge victory for people who care about our history, our culture, and our natural resources.”

New Mexicans protest expanded underground nuke waste facility

Environmental activists, elected officials and others gathered at the state Capitol yesterday to present a petition signed by more than 1,000 residents to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham protesting expansion of the federal Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, operated by the Department of Energy. “Unless New Mexico says ‘NO’ to WIPP expansion, other disposal locations will not be developed, and WIPP and NM will always be the only dump site, which is not fair,” the petition reads. “New Mexico never agreed to bear the burden of being the only nuclear waste dump site in the country.” The petition also contends the federal government “has not been transparent about its WIPP expansion plans, and has repeatedly refused to discuss the plans publicly, including in hearings on the WIPP Permit. Many New Mexicans are not even aware of those plans. We deserve a transparent and fair process that includes the voices of all impacted communities.” Most recently, groups such as Santa Fe’s Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety have highlighted the environment department’s approval of expansion of WIPP underground, despite broad opposition. The Associated Press reports the governor’s office says it has been in touch with US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm regarding New Mexicans’ concerns. “This citizen petition highlights the frustration of New Mexicans with DOE’s Environmental Management program,” the governor’s press secretary, Nora Meyers Sackett, told the AP. “We fully expect the Department of Energy to meaningfully engage with stakeholders in New Mexico communities on this issue.” Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen was among those present yesterday, and told the Albuquerque Journal she is concerned about the transportation route for the nuclear waste: “It does not protect us here in Santa Fe County,” she said. “We are going to have waste transported twice through our communities. That is a very serious thing especially not knowing how it’s packaged.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

March 1:

New cases: 692; DOH, however, reports yesterday’s new case counts include some from the weekend, due to a “disruption of the electronic data feed to databases” over the weekend. 512,120 total cases

Top three counties: Bernalillo County with 223; Sandoval County with 66; Doña Ana County with 65.Santa Fe County: 46Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase will provide a weekly COVID-19 update at 1 pm today, which will stream on the health department’s Facebook page, and with Spanish translation on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s YouTube page.

Breakthrough cases: According to the most recent weekly vaccine report published yesterday, between Jan. 31-Feb. 28, 48% of COVID-19 cases were among people who had not completed a primary vaccination series; 27.9% were among those who had completed the series but had not received a booster; and 24.1% were among those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. For hospitalizations, those figures change to 65%, 18.3% and 16.7%. The percentages shift to 63.1%, 20.7% and 16.2% for fatalities.

Deaths: six recent deaths; there have been 6,925 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: As of yesterday, 252 were hospitalized with COVID-19, 24 more than the day prior

Vaccinations: 91.9% percent of adults 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 78.1% have completed their primary series; 44.5% of adults 18 years and older have had a booster shot; 12-17-year-old age group: 71.1% of people have had at least one dose and 61.1% have completed their primary series; Children ages 5-11: 38.6% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 29.6% have completed their primary; Santa Fe County: 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 87% have completed their primary series.

CDC metrics: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced new metrics last week that measure at the county level COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days; the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients; and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days. Accordingly, the CDC then ranks counties as low, medium or high for risk of transmission, and recommends people in counties with high levels of transmission wear masks indoors. In New Mexico, 10 counties currently have high levels of transmission according to the CDC, including Santa Fe County. The state’s current public health order does not require masks in any indoor setting. The state’s most recent report on community transmission, published yesterday, shows 32 counties red for high transmission; Lea County is orange, indicating substantial transmission.Resources: Vaccine registrationBooster registration Free at-home rapid antigen testsSelf-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

Whatever else March brings, it’s time to start preparing for spring gardening. On the most recent edition of The Garden Journal, produced by the Santa Fe Master Gardener Association, host Christine Salem talks with regular guest Jannine Cabossel, aka The Tomato Lady, about what that should entail. “It’s always iffy in March,” Cabossel says. “It can be cold; it can be warm, we don’t ever know. But it’s the time to start getting going.” Cabossel provides veggie growing tips on the last Saturday of the month; and a whole lot more on her blog.

Spring fever

Santa Fe makes Cosmopolitan magazine’s list of 12 “best adult spring break destinations,” specifically for those who are “departing from the South” (the story’s premise is that each destination is “tailored it to your personal travel style and your starting location in the US”). Other picks include Placencia, Belize for those who want to spend spring break on the beach and Bayfield, Wisconsin for anyone looking to explore an ice cave. As for Santa Fe, this is apparently a spring break destination for anyone who wants to eat (and seems to feature a three-year-old photo of a breakfast burrito from Taos). To wit: “Burritos, eggs, and burgers are drenched in chili sauce in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Order yours “Christmas style” if you can’t decide between the red and the green.) And breakfast can last until 3 p.m., including at the legendary Cafe Pasqual’s. Also, be sure to make a reservation ASAP for the exciting Mexican tasting menu at Sazón.” To summarize: If you hear lots of folks requesting “Christmas style” food with Southern accents in the coming month, now you will know why.

Soaking up T or C

Truth or Consequences’ hot springs have received lots of love of late from afar (here’s Thrillist’s recent feature, for instance, in case you missed it), but New Mexico Magazine’s recent story by Molly Boyle stands out for its in depth knowledge, natch. Spa-destination town? Yes, but so much more. Boyle’s visit begins with a night at Blackstone Hotsprings Lodging & Baths, “where the kitschy quarters are named for 1950s television shows,” as she watches Hannah Jayanti’s 2020 documentary Truth or Consequences “beside an imposing photo of Rod Serling.” The Twilight Zone feels apropos as Boyle wanders “the enigmatic streets of the town…Truth or Consequences has a bizarre, out-of-time allure that goes beyond its geothermal attractions. It seems to approach something like, as Serling’s intro to The Twilight Zone goes, ‘a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.’” Still, soak one must, not to mention eat, see art and talk with local residents about their off-beat town. Boyle does it all. As Rooster’s Giddy Up Café chef/owner and executive director of MainStreet Truth or Consequences Rooster Blackspur tells her: “Everyone who lives here has a serendipitous story to tell.”

T-shirt weather

The National Weather Service claims Santa Fe will have a high near 67 degrees today with north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word found this video of a young boy playing piano at a Kharkiv hotel as Russian troops approached very moving; so, apparently, did the music’s composers, Philip Glass and Paul Leonard-Morgan.