It was a tumultuous time in New Mexico over the last year. Here are some of the state's top stories in 2017:
The Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights Act—more commonly known as the “Anti-Lunch Shaming Bill”—was signed into law by Gov. Martinez earlier this year, making national headlines for being the first of its kind. The bill, introduced by former candidate for lieutenant governor Michael Padilla, outlawed practices like throwing away lunches when students can't pay for them or making them work off lunch debts with chores. It also requires schools to assist students in signing up for free or reduced-price meals.
The Office of the State Auditor has been asking if the New Mexico Environment Department's settlement policies caused the state to miss out on millions of dollars in a settlement with the US Department of Energy over a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Power Plant (WIPP) in 2014. According to auditors, NMED allowed the DOE to avoid millions in civil penalties in return for providing funding for “special environmental projects,” which they were reportedly obligated to do, anyway.
The early stages of the 2018 gubernatorial race have brought a round of allegations leveled between the Democratic candidates. Earlier this month, Democrat Michael Padilla abandoned his campaign for lieutenant governor after gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat, called for his resignation over decade-old harassment allegations. Last week, rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca was accused of trying to kiss a staffer with the Albuquerque Teachers Federation while smelling of beer at a wiffle ball game—a claim his campaign flatly denied and alleged was an attempt by Lujan Grisham's campaign to divert attention from the recent accusation that she had discriminated against a transgender woman who was fired from an internship in Lujan Grisham's office.
Former Albuquerque mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson was named as the state auditor last month, replacing rival Tim Keller. Keller and Johnson publicly struggled with one another when Johnson filed a complaint with Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics alleging that Keller violated public campaign financing laws. The board confirmed the violation—Keller's political consulting firm counted cash donations as “in-kind” donations—but said it was unintentional and didn't fine Keller.
The state received national attention when eight members of a paramilitary Christian sect from Fence Lake, N.M. were arrested on charges of various counts of child abuse and neglect, including sexual assault. Federal law enforcement called the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps. a “religious militia,” and said the fundamentalist group organizes themselves by military rank. Claims of child abuse rose after a woman came forth and accused members of the organization of sexual assaulting her as a child.