Aug. 15 First News:Calls for a public forum on Medicaid pay freezes to some providers. (listen)

The suspension of Medicaid payments to in-state providers of mental health and substance abuse services in the wake of fraud allegations now has democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation calling for a public forum. Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham say they’ve heard too many reports of services delayed and/or cancelled.  They’ve asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to meet with constituents in the next two weeks to hear their grievances and concerns.  The freeze on payments to 15 providers has the state now contracting with Arizona companies to prevent disruption of services. 

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe is among a number of hospitals statewide facing a Medicare penalty for exceeding the re-admission rate after treatment for certain conditions.  Today's New Mexican says the action comes from requirements stipulated by the nation's new Affordable Care Act and the penalty will be applied as of October 1st.  Christus is one of 14 New Mexico Hospital that have higher-than-expected re-admission rates after giving care for heart attacks and pneumonia and will thus lose a quarter of one percent of their Medicare funds.

Santa Fe City Council has approved spending $100,000 to move the city's  Arts Commission  into space at downtown's Community Convention Center. It's  currently housed with other city entities in the Joseph Montoya federal building which the city plans to vacate in October as it relocates to the market station complex in the Railyard. 

In other action, the governing body approved of plans to facilitate attendance at September 5th's annual burning of Zozobra at Fort Marcy Park. All city parking facilities will charge a flat $5 fee that evening and will provide shuttle services to the event site. Also, Bus transit will be provided from the South Capitol RailRunner depot.

Two workers fired from the Santa Fe Tortilla Company  are back at work after a federal judge granted a temporary injunction against the employer and ordered immediate re-instatement. In a case brought by the National Labor Relations Board, a US District Judge found that there was reasonable cause to believe that Yolanda Galiviz and Delfina Bruno were  fired in August 2012 because they organized for better working conditions. Such activity is protected under the National Labor Relations Act. The employees had formed a committee  to complain about sexual harassment, unsafe conditions, verbal abuse, and no bathroom breaks. 

Portions of eastern New Mexico will this morning witness practice of tactical exercise flights by NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.  Folks in the vicinity of Alamagordo and the White Sands Missile Range may see and hear NORAD-controlled fighter jets in close proximity to various types of U.S. Air Force aircraft. The closely-controlled exercises simulate airspace restriction violations, hijackings and responses to unknown aircraft. They’re part of Operation Noble Eagle, NORAD’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Political watchdog group, Progress Now New Mexico, is sounding alarm over a letter to US senators from the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council –or ALEC-- containing signatures from non-existent people. The expletive-filled public letter was sent in response to Illinois Democratic senator Dick Durbin’s investigation of ALEC as a driving force behind “Stand Your Ground” laws. Progress Now New Mexico says four New Mexico republicans loaned their names to the letter; ALEC’s state co-chair senator William Payne and senators Lee Cotter and William Burt along with representative Yvette Herrell.

Weather for Santa Fe – Monsoonal moisture backs off for the next few days. Look for mostly sunny skies with highs in the low-to-mid 80s and just a 10% chance for late day showers.