AlamogordoTownNews.com Community Spotlight: Debra & Joe Lewandowski “Getting it Done”, in Historic Preservation

When one looks at a small-town community like Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico or any town for that matter; there are those that stand back and point to what needs to be done, there are those that criticize but never add value to the community, there are those that work discretely behind the scenes to fund and work the cogs of the bureaucracy to get things done, and then there are those that are “doers” that work daily, each and every day with passion, conviction and purpose in “getting it done.” 

When one looks at every major historical preservation project in Alamogordo over the last decade plus, Debra & Joe Lewandowski are “Getting it Done” in Historic Preservation. Taking a drive around the community, one sees the fingerprints of a passionate conviction and the “get it done” commitment of Debra & Joe Lewandowski.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” Mr. Shaw would be impressed by the conviction to historic preservation of Debra and Joe Lewandowski. 

When one looks at the Tularosa Basin Historical Society; it is backed by a volunteer board of directors, that are passionate about preserving the stories, and the structures, that make up the history of Alamogordo, and of Otero County. This platform has allowed Debra & Joe Lewandowski to find their passions and to shine.

These two individuals daily do the legwork or grunt work to bring about results in historic preservation. Long hours of mental and physical hard work, from research to actually building walls, nailing, painting, garbage removal, leading volunteers, interfacing with government officials, bureaucrats and the business community, building bridges and partnerships and doing it daily – is all in a day’s work for Debra and Joe Lewandowski.

A bit about Deb and Joe:

Joe and Deb Lewandowski were Alamogordo Mid-High School sweethearts. After graduating in 1974 and 1975, Joe joined the U.S. Army starting their adventure of moving around the world. This opportunity allowed for them to visit historical locations in the areas they served. After 6 1/2 years, they returned to Alamogordo, starting their first business in the solid waste collection business in 1981. 

Over the years, they started other businesses and continuing their involvement in solid waste consulting and management. Both have always had a love and curiosity of the true history story not the way it may have been portrayed. As Joe says, “Hollywood History”. 

In 2012, they started their involvement with the Tularosa Basin Historical Society. Working with great volunteers, they have been honored to be involved with the renovation of the “Plaza” and the La Luz Pottery Factory, two significant projects that put the Tula Basin Historic Society on the map, preserving two iconic buildings that otherwise could be derelict. 

The two are aggressively working on two more very visible projects in partnership with the Tularosa Basin Historic Society, the city of Alamogordo and the business community of the New York Avenue Business District. 

The first project is evolving, as previously reported by AlamogordoTownNews.com, on the corner of 10th Street and White Sands Blvd, as the Alamogordo Railroad History Park. The evolving park that will have artifacts and photographs from the early days of Alamogordo as a railroad town dating to the early 1900’s. The planning for the city and its roots date to 1898. 

Background on the importance of the railroad to Alamogordo, thus the park.

In 1912, incorporated Alamogordo, was founded as a company town, to support the building of the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, a part of the transcontinental railway that was being constructed in the late 19th century.

Initially its main industry was timbering for railroad ties. The railroad founders were also eager to find a major town that would persist after the railroad was completed; they formed the Alamogordo Improvement Company to develop the area, making Alamogordo an early example of a planned community. The Alamogordo Improvement Company owned all the land, platted the streets, built the first houses and commercial buildings, donated land for a college. The early days of Alamogordo was driven by commerce around the railroad.

A modern park evolves under a partnered approach.

This walking park will showcase the influence of the railroad, across from the Tularosa Basin Museum and Walgreens. The park upgrades and preservation work are a joint historical preservation project between Alamogordo MainStreet (which secured a $20,000 grant from Union Pacific), the city of Alamogordo, and the design, implementation and oversite of the building project is being done by Joe and Debra under the umbrella of the Tularosa Basin Historic Society, and Operational Consultants.

Debra is tasked with creating the photo essay on the walking path that will tell the story of Alamogordo as the railroad town it once was. Joe is tasked with managing the buildout. Together the new park is evolving, and they are “getting it done via community partnerships.”

Dudley School Preservation Project:

The next project, the duo of Debra and Joe, recently kicked off, was a well-attended public meeting seeking volunteers is the Dudley School Preservation Project. Since kickoff there have been two volunteer days where a large amount of cleanout has begun. The work is ongoing and will need volunteers again in the upcoming weeks.

Alamogordo’s Hispanic History, A Story Getting Representation Through Preservation:

Dudley School was the historically Hispanic School. Dudley School was built in 1914 and had four classrooms. Dudley School was set up as part of a segregation plan at the time and specialized in children that did not speak English being educated in a separate school facility. Hispanics could not go north of 10th Street or into the “plaza” at the time. The city of Alamogordo, New Mexico with its proximity to Texas was a racially divided city until the 1950’s. The Dudley School project is important in that it is a historic structure from the early 1900’s, and it was one of the two schools that served students of color during the years of segregation. The project will bring the building back to its origins of 4 rooms and will be a community center as well as a museum telling firsthand family stories of students that attended the Dudley School. The revitalized school will also have playground equipment and will be available to the public for rentals. This is another community partnership effort led by the duo in working the process of partnerships between the city, the Tularosa Basin Historic Society and the public in volunteering to assist in the grunt work of preservation.

According to Joe and Debra, “helping with the setup and planning of these projects, supporting the history, gathering and educating public on the stories of the Basin has been and continues to be very rewarding.”

Both have served at different times on the TBHS Board of Directors.  Debra serves as the TBHS Manager which oversees the daily operations of the museum on White Sands and 10th Street, schedules with Joe the tours and preservation of the Pottery Factory and of course these other multiple projects. 

Passion, Commitment, Heart:

As one drives around the city of Alamogordo and Otero County from the La Luz Pottery Factory to the Plaza, the Dudley School and beyond; the commitment, passion and hard work ethic of Debra & Joe Lewandowski can be felt. Steve Jobs the founder of Apple said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

It is apparent, in each interaction with Debra & Joe Lewandowski, they are creating a legacy of historic preservation. Each puts the elbow grease and hard work into the projects, and they have found the work “they love.” 

We as a community in Alamogordo, and Otero County are fortunate to have them as leaders in our community. From our hearts on New York Avenue and beyond, Thank you!

Byline Chris Edwards, AlamogordoTownNews.com, Influence Magazine

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AlamogordoTownNews.com Otero County Commission Approves A Resolution Declaring Otero County as a Sanctuary for Life

To a packed County Commission Chamber the Otero County Commission tackled the issue of abortion with a non-binding resolution with much public dialog and a packed commission meeting. Couy Griffin sponsored the resolution and dialog after a constituent brought it to him for discussion. The County Attorney on multiple occasions reinstated that the resolution has “no enforcement mechanism” and that it is just a “statement of opinion.”

Couy Griffin specifically said that “abortions should not happen in any place except a hospital but not in clinics.” Debate shifted often with public comment. Couy welcomed other counties to declare themselves a “Sanctuary County for Life.”

The commission unanimously passed the resolution declaring the community a Sanctuary County for Life. Throughout the debate Commissioner Mattingley commented that he ensured that there were medical provisions made into the resolution to balance the resolution out of respect for health professionals and if a woman’s life was at risk.

The commission meeting can be viewed at:

Abortion clinics are primarily located in the northern counties of the state. A large abortion provider from out of state, has announced their planned relocation to Las Cruces. There has been dialog of an additional relocation of another abortion provider from out of state to Southern, New Mexico to serve those from Texas and surrounding states with more conservative state abortion laws.

This is an evolving story within the state of New Mexico and how local governments will respond to the recent supreme court ruling pushing the decisions back to the state governments. 

This idea of a Sanctuary County was not an original though of Commissioner Griffin nor the Otero County Commission the movement dates back to 2019…

On August 19, 2019, the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners in Yadkinville, North Carolina, passed a resolution to become the nation’s first sanctuary county to protect pre-born children from abortion. The resolution was the first step in a larger, three-pronged strategy put forth by the Personhood Alliance that is calling the pro-life movement back its roots and replicating the approach of early Christians in shifting the culture.

“The passage of this pro-life resolution is a historic event,” says Pastor Keith Pavlansky, president of Personhood North Carolina, who leads the Sanctuary for Life effort in the state. He and several other pastors and community leaders came together to build the momentum that led to the passage of Yadkin County’s resolution. “We have returned to constitutional law,” says Pavlansky. “We have rejected the ideologies of politicians and judges who permit the killing of pre-born and newly born children, and we look forward to drawing together as a community and helping expectant mothers and fathers as we work to create and defend a culture of life.”

To learn more about the origin of this initiative and the groundwork in working with counties such as Otero County in laying groundwork for further dialog visit:

The county commission has NO authority over the legislation of abortion within the state of New Mexico laws. However, it opted to debate a resolution today that reads…

https://agendasuite.org/iip/otero/file/getfile/23472

Resolution No. 07-14-22/111-09

A Resolution Declaring Otero County as a Sanctuary for Life

WHEREAS, the BOCC of Otero County stands in agreement with the Supreme 

Court of the United States’ recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and appreciate the 

Court’s decision to provide respect to state and local governments by allowing them to

decide if the lives of our unborn will be protected. The functioning of the American 

Republic is truly respected and restored by the Court’s decision; and

WHEREAS, the Declaration of Independence affirms that all men are created 

equal and have been endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights, chief among them 

the right to life, and that the protection of these rights is an affirmative duty of federal, 

state, and local governments; and 

WHEREAS, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States 

Constitution provide for the protection of all human life and liberty; and 

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States in Poelker v. Doe, 432 U.S. 

519 (1977), concluded that the Constitution does not forbid a state or county or city, 

pursuant to democratic processes, from expressing a preference for normal childbirth 

instead of abortion; and

WHEREAS, state police power derives from the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives states the power not delegated to the United States; and 

WHEREAS, the power to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public is a core function of the state’s Tenth Amendment police power, which includes the local government; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, consider life to begin at conception. This is proven by the multiplication of cells which is proven evidence that life is forming and a living human being is beginning to develop; and

WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, desires to express its deep concern that all human life, beginning from life inside the womb, through every stage of development, up and until a natural death, in Otero County should be afforded protection by their government, including local government, from acts of cruelty, and should be treated humanely and with dignity; and 

WHEREAS, there are instances where medical intervention is necessary and difficult decisions are required. The Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, believe the following: 1) emergency medical interventions performed to protect the life of the mother and/or unborn are decisions only to be made and decided on by the doctor and mother without government intervention. Otero County takes a neutral position out of respect for those involved, and 2) instances of rape/incest are criminal matters and those decisions are to be decided on by doctor/victim without government intervention. In such cases a full criminal investigation shall be conducted by the Otero County Sheriffs Dept. Otero County takes a neutral position out of respect for those involved; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, stands firmly against the presence in the County of Planned Parenthood clinics or any other clinics where abortion is practiced at will and on demand. Any procedures that need to be performed in regards to protecting the health of a mother will take place in a local hospital under the care of a physician; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, stands firmly against any medications which cause a miscarriage. We do so, not only to protect the developing child but also to protect the mother of any adverse reactions that these drugs may cause; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, condemns voluntary abortion practices used for any reason and believe that the intentional killing of an innocent human life is never acceptable. 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF OTERO COUNTY, NEW MEXICO AS FOLLOWS: 

1. That the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, hereby recognizes and declares the full humanity of the preborn child through all states of life up and until a natural death and declares Otero County, New Mexico, to be a sanctuary for life where the dignity of every human being will be defended and promoted from life inside the womb through all stages of development in life up and until a natural death. 

2. That the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, hereby resolves to enforce this resolution by all means within its power and authority, in accordance with its responsibility as the people’s elected local representatives

3. That the Board of County Commissioners of Otero County, New Mexico, hereby stand on this resolution to not only protect life, but also to honor God, who gives life. We believe that life is God ordained and God is the author and finisher of every life. No matter if at the beginning or at the end. We stand in full agreement that, as a body of commissioners, we will protect and sustain life at every stage. As we ask God to bless America, we first have to honor and respect God.

By protecting life and passing this resolution we feel that we do both. PASSED, APPROVED AND ADOPTED this 14th day of July, 2022. 

THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF OTERO COUNTY, NEW MEXICO 

Vickie Marquardt, Chairman

Chairman Gerald R. Matherly, Vice-chairman 

Couy D. Griffin, Commissioner 

The resolution has no authority tied to it except as a statement of opinion, but many legal scholars debate if these resolutions of opinion are the foundation for groundwork to further erode abortion protections at the local levels of government. Time and certainly more lawsuits in the future will define that opinion. New Mexico state law protects a woman’s right to an abortion. 

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AlamogordoTownNews.com Otero County Commissioners Pass Sanctuary of Life County Resolution July 2022

AlamogordoTownNews.com New York Avenue’s Pins and Needles New Owner Susan Bollinger

Pins and Needles New Logo 913 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico AlamogordoTownNews.com

On April 1st Alamogordo’s Main Street New York Avenue welcomed a familiar face, but in a new role, as a new business owner in this historic Alamogordo Main Street District. Pins and Needles at 915 New York Avenue, transitioned its ownership from Victoria Alamogordo’s proprietor Mrs. Alice Weinman, to that of her former “fabrics manager” Susan Bolinger and her business partner Penny Maurer.

Mrs. Alice Weinman is the veteran of Alamogordo’s New York Avenue having begun her adventure on New York Avenue almost 40 years ago. Mrs. Alice Weinman’s adventure in Alamogordo and on New York Avenue began as a result of the oil and gas bust of the mid 1980’s. She first set foot on New York Avenue in Alamogordo, New Mexico in October 1985. She said because she has been running three large ladies ready to wear stores in Texas she was bored to death after arriving in Alamogordo.Alice Weinman Owner Victoria Alamogordo 

Alice Weinman owner Victoria Alamogordo 915 Néw York Avenue AlamogordoTownNews.com

According to Mrs. Weinman also known affectionately on the street as “Mrs. Alice” when she came to Alamogordo, the Victoria store was already in operation but not doing well. She said she went into the store and said, “Hi, I am Alice Weinman, and I am here to help you.” The owner at the time responded, “Hi, I am Jatonne and I can’t pay you.” Ms. Alice says when she left the store that day, she had “the keys in her hand.”

Several years later she purchased Victoria at 913 New York Avenue. Over the next 37 years the business evolved and prospered and became a family business that included her husband, son and daughter Barbara; each assisting and working the business to grow. The business did indeed evolve and grow.

Alice and her family are the longest continuously operating business owners on New York Avenue, with businesses that have grown, survived and prospered, over almost 4 decades.

Ms. Alice has modified and tweaked the business over the years to ensure sustainability with the evolving taste of her customer base. That evolution has continued over the decades and in October of 2019 she had the idea of getting into the fabrics and the quilting business. She converted the vault area of her store into a sales area focused on quilting and fabrics. She hired a “fabrics manager” Susan Bollinger to lead the new part of her business. 

Susan Bollinger is an Alamogordo native that worked in a frame shop for many years. She had an eye for art and colors, is a hobbyist artist and always admired Ms. Alice and wanted to go to work with her. That opportunity came about in October of 2019 when Ms. Alice hired her to manage to lead the “fabrics section” in the vault. The business was a success and grew and they made the decision to make Pins and Needles at Victoria into a separate business and acquired the building at 915 New York Avenue and renamed it simply, Pin and Needles.  
Susan Bollinger the new owner of Pins and Needles Alamogordo, New Mexico. 

Susan Bollinger new owner of Pins and Needles Alamogordo #AlamogordoMainStreet AlamogordoTownNews.com

Susan Bolinger continued to run the business and expand it under the watchful eye and mentorship of Ms. Alice. 

The new store opened in January of 2021 offering an expanded line of the highest quality fabrics and more, and to include quilt making classes from quality experienced quilting and sewing educators. 

Both businesses evolved and prospered, and both survived the turbulence of Covid-19 with tweaks to the business offering along the way. 

Pins and Needles 913 New York Avenue, Alamogordo New Mexico #AlamogordoMainStreet AlamogordoTownNews.com

Ms. Alice’s daughter Barbara jokes, but is correct in her assessment, that the Roadrunner Emporium and the Local Bodega, both newer businesses on the street, that market themselves as small business incubators, are indeed incubators; but that her mother, “Ms. Alice was incubating and mentoring before it was a trendy buzzword on New York Avenue.”  Brenda Barber continued that, “she is excited and proud to see Susan fly the coup, so to speak, having been incubated by Ms. Alice and the family operators of Victoria.”

Susan Bolinger is very complimentary of her relationship with Ms. Alice and the family operation of Victoria Alamogordo. She says that she always admired Ms. Alice’s grit, stamina and the care she shows for her staff and her customers. “Ms. Alice is one very special person and a treasure to New York Avenue and to Alamogordo,” according to Susan.

Susan Bollinger came to New York Avenue to assist Ms. Alice and grew under her leadership and mentoring. Susan has partnered with Penny Maurer in the acquisition of Pin and Needles. “Penny brings her accounting background to assist in our growth which helps me a lot,” according to Susan Bollinger.Shoppers at Alamogordo Main Streets Pins and Needles

Susan says that her “years of framing experience, the mentoring by Ms. Alice and her eye for color is what provides her the strength to want to own and build upon the brand of her own business.”

It appears that Susan is also making the business a “family affair” in the transition to her ownership that took effect April 1st. She is hitting the ground running with a store that is busy and as of today has new signage and a new logo. Susan’s daughter Meg Bolinger designed a brand-new logo and sign that was installed in the front window today. The new logo for Pins and Needles is sleek, trendy and current but with a nod to “the love and compassion of the art of sewing.” The needle threading a heart in the new signage is symbolic of Susan’s love of quilting and needle arts.New Pins and Needles Sign created by Meg Bollinger

Both Susan and her business partner have the bug for quilting and needle arts. Her business partner Penny Mauer started sewing and quilting during the Covid-19 lockdown and caught the “quilting bug” about two years ago.

When asked what makes Pins and Needles such a success, Susan said, “it is absolutely about providing the highest quality fabrics that are not found in big box retailers at the mall or online, and it’s about getting to know the customer by name and understanding their needs and their projects.”

Pins and Needles, Alamogordo, at 915 New York Avenue, offers classes and workshops, it is focused on a quality offering that cannot be found online nor at big box stores. Individual attention, knowing the customer’s name, understanding their project and how to help facilitate that project is what makes Pins and Needles successful and sustainable for the long run.

Congratulations to Susan Bolinger and her partner Penny Mauer on acquiring Pins and Needles, Alamogordo. Congratulations to Alice Weinman for her mentorship of this business venture. Congratulations to New York Avenue, for having another business success, that is transitioning to the next generation of business ownership that has the wisdom of history, traditions and an appreciation for the artisan skills of quilting and the art of the needle. 

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AlamogordoTownNews.com Alamogordo MainStreet Appoints New Executive Director & Upcoming Main Street Events

Alamogordo MainStreet, in a press released today, announced that Nolan Ojeda has been hired as the new Director for the nonprofit focused on economic development in Alamogordo’s downtown historic district. 

Mr. Ojeda has hit the ground running during his first week in the position by working with the board in its monthly board meeting, conducting several one-on-one meetings with merchants and today meeting with the senior leadership of the City of Alamogordo. 

According to the press release from Alamogordo MainStreet…

Mr. Ojeda is originally from Las Cruces; Ojeda’s passion lies in community building. As a downtown merchant on New York Ave., Ojeda and his wife run The Local Bodega, a shop and small business incubator that features local makers and artisans. Ojeda’s experience also includes Mechanical Engineering and Project Management with the US Navy. This background makes Ojeda uniquely positioned to understand the needs of the downtown businesses and implement Alamogordo MainStreet’s Economic Transformation Strategies through the New Mexico MainStreet Four Point Approach -Economic Vitality, Promotion, Organization and Design.

Cindy Boylan, President of Alamogordo MainStreet, is excited to welcome Ojeda, “The Alamogordo MainStreet Board of Directors was unanimous in our decision for a new Executive Director. We are looking forward to Nolan’s leadership in facilitating an aggressive agenda and multiple events, starting with our Atomicon Cosplay Event on May 14th.”

Ojeda’s hiring comes as the nonprofit is poised to bring back the first full calendar of in person events since the start of the pandemic, as well as implementation of the Great Blocks Grant Program and creation of an Arts and Cultural District, both of which have the potential to bring major monetary investments into the local economy.

Ojeda is also very excited for his new role, “I’m thrilled to be a part of the efforts to revitalize downtown. I look forward to working with our passionate and talented board, as well as New Mexico MainStreet and the City of Alamogordo, to get closer to creating a space downtown for people to enjoy and small businesses to thrive. I’m up for the challenge to move the organization forward on its ambitious goals and a transition that will make the community proud.”

Alamogordo MainStreet and the Downtown Merchants of New York Avenue have several events planned the end of April and into May to entice and entertain the community…

April 30, New York Avenue from 1oth Street to 12th Street will be closed off for an “Evening Under the Stars” Gala Event with is an arts and culture event sponsored by Roadrunner Emporium, New York Art and Music Studio and Patron Hall which is a free to the public street party showcasing live music, art, culinary arts, a street beer garden, food trucks, live radio remote, live performance art and more.

There is a VIP ticket for a special Patrons Hall wine and appetizers events showcasing Lacy Reynolds on the Harp, belly dancing demonstrations and more. 

May 6th, New York Avenue Presents Downtown Nights Alive After 5, Most of the New York Avenue Businesses will be open from 5 pm to 8 pm with special pricing and events. This event under the leadership of Alice Weinman of Victoria Alamogordo is a merchant driven event to drive awareness of the New York Avenue businesses after 5. This month there will be a live radio remote, live music at some storefronts, food trucks and more.

May 14th, Atomicon Alamogordo sponsored by Alamogordo MainStreet.  ATOMICON is Alamogordo’s version of “Comic-Con”

Comic-con is an international comic book convention and nonprofit multi-genre entertainment event that is normally held annually in San Diego, California.

A comic book convention or comic con event has a primary focus on comic books and comic book culture, in which comic book fans gather to meet creators, experts, and each other. Main Street is in hopes to try and gather as many fun-filled themed vendors, performers, and guests dressed in costume as possible to fill the streets!

Guests, vendors, and MainStreet merchants dress up and decorate and join in the fun of the event. There will be a costume contest, entertainment, vendors, food trucks, live music and much more!

There will be live music by Rosewater Blues & Doso Dirtbags & beer gardens located throughout the streets

Live entertainment by:

OddLab (neon light parade) http://www.odd-lab.com/

Ghostbusters impersonators

RAD Studios (Dance performers)

Belly Dancing performances

Burlesque show (After hours 18+)

Children’s Music Theater (CMT) will be presenting the live performance of “The Hobbit” that same night as Atomicon at The Flickinger Center for Performing Arts @ 7pm – (event link posted) https://www.facebook.com/events/506869514251934/506869524251933/?active_tab=about

Patron’s Hall will be turned into “Hobbiton” to showcase the hard work put into the performance and to coincide with the comic theme, there will be photo ops and fun activities for the whole family!

Alamogordo’s New York Avenue, the New York Avenue Merchants, Arts Community and AlamogordoMain Street are all collaborating in a renewed effort to showcase the best of history, culture, arts and commerce at heart of Alamogordo – New York Avenue.

Come shop the local businesses in the MainStreet district and stop by the Alamogordo MainStreet office to congratulate Nolan – that is, if you don’t find him walking downtown and chatting with the MainStreet business owners or walking the streets during the upcoming 3 street festival and shopping events.

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Flickinger Center Showing of “Alamogordo Center of the World Trinity 1945”

The Flickinger Center is partnered with the Tularosa Basin Museum to proudly show – “Alamogordo, Center of the World, Trinity 1945” on April 1st at 6 pm. 

Created by Larry Sheffield and Trent DiGiulio, the film discusses how Alamogordo was chosen as the site for atomic bomb testing at what became the Trinity Site on what is now White Sands Missile Range.

The movie will start at 6pm and a Q&A will follow.

Tickets are available at the Flickinger Center box office for $10, you can also purchase the day of the show.

Event link – https://www.facebook.com/events/500806501483215/?acontext=%7B%22event_a…

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AlamogordoTownNews.com Couy Griffin & Cowboys for Trump to re-File Based on 10th Circuit U.S. C

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declined to reverse the U.S. District Court’s dismissal of Cowboys for Trump’s allegation that New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act was unconstitutional as reported yesterday.

The AlamogordoTownNews.com staff reached out to Couy Griffin for comment, and he said: “I just got off the phone with council. We are going to clean up the complaint and re-file. We are also going to file a stay to prevent the state from applying the fine and penalties of about $7800 until the complaint is revisited.”

Opening the door for the ruling to be overturned the court suggested a potential path forward when it said:

“We will not disturb the district court’s ruling because plaintiffs failed to include allegations in their complaint related to registration and forfeited these arguments without arguing plain error,” the Feb.15 ruling stated. “Had (Cowboys for Trump) included the allegations made for the first time in their reply brief in their complaint or made similar arguments in their opening brief, the challenge to the registration requirement may have been preserved. But they did not do so.”

The initial suit filed was filed by Cowboys for Trump in 2020 after an arbitration between the two parties found that Cowboys for Trump fell under the jurisdiction of the Campaign Reporting Act.

Cowboys for Trump was founded by Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin who has been viewed by some as a lightning rod of controversy.  Griffin has been the organization’s spokesman since its inception and has led the organization in appearances around the country to include a visit with then President Donald Trump. 

Based upon the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals statement and the pending re-filing, Couy Griffin was feeling upbeat in relation to this case as it rewinds through the courts. 

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AlamogordoTownNews.com: 100 Years AGO, in Alamogordo Sports History – Coach L R “Peanuts” Robins picks principle and ethics over a State Title.

The Founding of the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA)

In 1921 The New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) was formed as a nonprofit organization that regulates interscholastic programs for junior and senior high schools in New Mexico. It became the official host and record keeper for the statewide sports championship games each year thereafter and collaborated with the University of New Mexico to continue to host events. keeping and leading interscholastic events within New Mexico today.

NMAA was organized in 1921 by John Milne, James Bickley, F. H. Lynn, and J.D. Shinkle as the New Mexico High School Athletic Association.

Alamogordo High School joined the association in 1921 and proceeded to send athletes to its events.

The 1920’s has been called the Golden Age of American Sports. It also has been called the Age of the Spectator.

The United States had a strong economy for most of that decade with extensive growth on the west coast with the formation of New Mexico and new cities and school systems. Organized sports were at a pinnacle many workers had more leisure time. New and bigger stadiums and gymnasiums were built, interest and pride in local High School and College Teams became America’s pastime.

The introduction of radio made it easier for fans to keep up with their favorite teams. Radio and local newspapers increased their coverage of sports building local community support of their hometown teams. High School interscholastic sports gained significant traction and community pride via local media.

Alamogordo High School had a very limited sports program in 1922 but the Boys Basketball team was a bright spot for the citizens of Alamogordo that provided much community pride.

The citizens of Alamogordo had significant pride in their Boys Basketball Team that season of 1922 under Coach & Professor L. R. “Peanuts” Robins. Coach Robin’s was a disciplined athlete that took education seriously. The coach expected his boys to perform well academically and athletically. Citizenship and good stewardship of their reputation and that of the Alamogordo High School was a paramount lesson he intended to instill upon his student athletes.

The 1922/23 season was a strong one for the the Alamogordo Tiger Boys which were picked to win the district tournament and carry that victory forward to the state championships hosted by the NMAA in Albuquerque.

According to the Alamogordo News at the time, “Close performance of the teams that were to participate in the high school tournament for the basketball teams of the southern district of New Mexico, agreed that Alamogordo would give a good account of its team at the tournament. And winning the tournament it was conceded that the Alamogordo high schools’ boys would mix it up pretty strong at the state contest in Albuquerque. The Alamogordo boys had already won from the Albuquerque team, winner of the central tournament. But Alamogordo did not win the Las Cruces district tournament.”

Alamogordo did not win the Las Cruces district tournament.

The why of the matter was very nicely told in the El Paso Times by Gene Fromme.

“Why Alamogordo Withdrew…

Alamogordo High School’s failure to enter the district basketball tournament for the state title for the 1922/23 school year had everyone wondering.

Every fan in the southwest knew Alamogordo High packed probably the classiest crew of cage performers in the entire state. Their slashing victory over the strong Albuquerque High School boosted them to a lofty standing and a championship for the team seemed almost assured.

Coach “Peanuts” Robins had molded a masterful quintet from the rawest kind of material. All of his backers had expressed their willingness to bet their boots Alamogordo would march off with the state title.

Then came the time for them to show their basket of wares and they failed to make an appearance.

Here is the mystery unreeled by one the shrewdest and fairest athletic followers, who is more than merely interested in the welfare of the Alamogordo High school basketball team:

It takes downright courage for a successful young athletic coach who has toiled night and day with his team to refuse to enter a tournament he would most probably have won, for sheer sake of principle. And that is exactly what Coach “Peanuts” Robbins of Alamogordo High did. This is the kind of coaching that places athletics on a plane worthwhile.

Without entering into a full discussion of the cause of the young coach’s commendable action, suffice it to say a small number only of the boys on the team who, after riding over the rough bumps of the Alamo trails, took of the cars and said they wished to take a ride around town. They feel victims to the smooth El Paso-Las Cruces Road, and before they knew it they were doing things not consistent with the best athletic conditions. 

While this kind of a lark is not a legal crime, it showed poor judgement on the part of the boys, and certainly could not be tolerated by the coach. 

Upon the boys’ return from their adventure the Alamogordo, Coach Robins promptly removed them from the team.

This naturally incapacitated the club for such as contest as was before them, and in which, considering all former “dope” they no doubt would have won. With crushed hearts the other boys who had remained true to their teachings and colors, along with their comrades, who would willingly have given anything to undo the wrong which they had done, moved our for the long night ride to their home. Thus, Alamogordo went unheralded for the season.”

Other accounts of the events around the district tournament report that Coach L R Robinson had every intention of entering the boys into the competition and believed strongly that they could carry the banner for a state title. According to the coach, “ the Alamogordo Boys took the trip entirely too lightly. The boys broke training and went joy riding.”

The public was confused. From the viewpoint of the chances of Alamogordo gaining basketball fame in the state tournament, the incident from some was considered deplorable. But from the angle of what sport in the schools stands for, cleanliness and training of the body and mind, the development of discipline and sportsmanship. Coach Robbins was eminently correct.

Coach “Peanuts” Robin’s goes down in New Mexico High School sports history and Alamogordo Sports History as the coach that placed principle and discipline over the accolades of winning a state championship.

The question of course is what kind of pressure did the coach face upon his return without a district or state title in hand?

Mr. Robins had the full support of the faculty and of the directors or school board of Alamogordo. He well deserved it. According to a statement from a school administrator at the time; “Coach R L “Peanuts” Robins proved himself a thorough sportsman and a man fit to be given the direction of young athletes.”

One wonders. if that same level of ethics and stamina exists within the coaching staff and administration to take on the public scrutiny of such a decision today. Would the same decision be made by the coach to pull the team in our modern times of today? Thoughts to ponder from lessons of the history of the Alamogordo Sports Program dating back over 120 years.

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This Alamogordo shop brings antique bank vaults, celebrations of local culture and more to the city

Nicole Maxwell Alamogordo Daily News

Outside Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue in Alamogordo, are street signs, rotating window decorations that included a to Alamogordo High School sports and has since changed to a Día de los Muertos theme. 

Inside the store is a trove of arts and crafts made by local artisans, relics of a history of the not too distant past and classrooms to teach and inspire the next round of the community’s artists.

Currently, the decor is for Día de los Muertos. Skeletons alongside paintings, soaps, books and antique bank safes among other things such as clothing, lamps and more.

Roadrunner Emporium is under the management of authors Rene Sepulveda and Chris Edwards.

“We believe in the history of the building, we’re refurbishing the building trying to showcase the history that’s here,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to not only become an art gallery but a center for culture for Alamogordo.”

Sepulveda and Edwards wrote two books about Alamogordo High School sports including “Coach Bob Sepulveda: The Early Years” and “Coaches Bob and Marilyn Sepulveda with Coach Gary Hveem.”

Both books are available at Roadrunner Emporium.

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Roadrunner Emporium is located in the original location of the First National Bank of Alamogordo which was chartered in 1900 and closed during The Great Depression of the 1930s.

The safes the bank used were custom-built in Cleveland. Ohio with the locking mechanism from Hartford, Connecticut.

Chris Edwards, local auther and co-owner of roadrunner Emporium shows one of the existing bank vaults in the Roadrunner Emporium building. The building was hte original First National Bank of Alamogordo from 1900 unti the 1930s.

Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue in Alamogordo, features an eclectic mix of local history and artistry.

“It still operates today, if you can believe it, that was created in 1898,” Edwards said. “The vault was assembled in 1900, brought here by rail at a cost of $36,000. Which would be about $1.2 million in today’s dollars. Then the bank was created.”

It was not affiliated with the current First National Bank of Alamogordo which was chartered in 1954, Edwards said. 

Aside from the historical essence of the building, Roadrunner Emporium also holds classes and events.

This week there is a book signing and discussion with a couple of local authors and their illustrator and a Halloween Spooktacular from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Oct. 30 where Roadrunner Emporium has teamed up with the newly established MainStreet Entertainment, 928 New York Avenue.

MainStreet Entertainment is hosting Nightmare on Main Street which runs from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Oct. 30.

Josette Herrell wrote “Timmy’s Big Adventure” and Barbara “BJ” Oquist wrote “Farmer Jon’s Very Special Team” and their illustrator Diana Sill will be at Roadrunner Emporium Oct. 30.

Nicole Maxwell can be contacted by email at nmaxwell@alamogordonews.com, by phone at 575-415-6605 or on Twitter at @nicmaxreporter.

https://www.alamogordonews.com/story/community/2021/10/25/alamogordo-shoppping-roadrunner-emporium-bank-vaults-celebrations-local-culture/8438383002/

June 29th, Marijuana Possession is Legal, Local Politicians Have Shown Mixed Support. Jobs & How are citizens impacted in New Mexico?

Photo of Marijuana which is legal in New Mexico June 29th, 2021 (Alamogordo Town News Photo)

The road to legalization of recreational marijuana use in New Mexico has been a mixed and complex journey which finally culminated on the legislature approving and the governor signing into law legalized marijuana in the state of New Mexico. Effective June 29th, 2021 possession of marijuana is no longer a punishable offense by city nor state law.

However. be careful on Federal lands and at border control checkpoints. It is still a violation of Federal law to be in procession of marijuana so technically a border control agent at a checkpoint or on any Federal lands if in procession of marijuana one is in violation of Federal laws.

The road to legalization has been a mixed one, locally in Otero County and the city of Alamogordo politicians have been mixed in their support of the changing laws.

In Tularosa, Mayor Margaret Trujillo was happy that the new cannabis bill passed the state legislature.

She told the Alamogordo Daily News Reported Nicole Maxwell in March per an Article in the Alamogordo Daily News April 3, 2021; “I think it was a fantastic idea. I’m glad that it was finally done,” Trujillo said. “I think were several years behind the whole thing. I mean other states have done the same thing and they have raked in lots of money and we’re (New Mexico) barely getting started. At least we’re getting there.”

On the flip side of the coin, Alamogordo City Commissioner, Susan Payne seeing the writing on the wall, has shown support in voting to align local laws with the state laws concerning marijuana, yet she has issued a statement in opposition to marijuana decriminalization law revisions.

During a revision to the local laws to align decriminalization to the state laws in July of 2019, Commissioner Susan Payne, issued a statement in opposition to decriminalization of marijuana laws. The city commission voted to update an ordinance regarding unlawful possession of marijuana to be in line with a new state law in 2019.

Per the city attorney “It decriminalizes the first offense up to half an ounce, just to make it easier for everybody, we are staying right in line with the state just as we do with all of our ordinances,” City Attorney Petria Bengoechea said before commissioners.

The motion to update the ordinance passed unanimously at the meeting, but Commissioner Payne was not happy with the outcome. District 3 County Commissioner Susan Payne voted in favor of the motion but said she disapproved of the ordinance changes after the vote per the Alamogordo Daily News report of July 25th, 2019; Professionally speaking, I think that we do need to be in line with the state but personally, no I am absolutely not in favor of this and I just wanted to make that clear,”
Payne said.

Meanwhile, Marijuana legalization means JOBS for Alamogordo, Tularosa and Otero County citizens.

Just outside the Tularosa Village Limit is Ultra Health’s hemp farm. Through this farm legal marijuana means JOBS for the Otero County community and Southern New Mexico. This company is building the largest cannabis cultivation site in North America. Ultra-Health is New Mexico’s #1 Cannabis Company and the largest vertically integrated medical cannabis provider in the United States.

Ultra-Health is expanding its outdoor cultivation capacity with the acquisition of 150 acres of additional farmland and more than 750 acres of water feet in Tularosa, New Mexico. The operator purchased an initial 200 acres of farmland and 1,000-acre feet of water in the same area in early 2018.

Between all its operations, Ultra Health has more than 15.8 million square feet of retail, production and cultivation space and has already invested more than $30 million into the New Mexico cannabis market. Ultra-Health’s 2020 expansion efforts exceeded $12 million including constructing a new, state-of-the-art, 35,000-square foot greenhouse on its Bernalillo campus as well as the purchase of HQ1, a 35,000-square foot commercial building in Albuquerque that will serve as the organization’s New Mexico headquarters.

The provider currently employs nearly 300 New Mexicans and plans to hire several hundred more employees to satisfy retail, cultivation, packaging, distribution, and professional services required to support both increased medical patient and adult-use demand for commercial cannabis activity. With the expansion of the facilities new Tularosa, it means jobs for Otero County residence.

The Law and How it Impacts Citizens Daily:

The verbiage of the law can be found at https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/21%20Special/final/HB0002.pdf

On June 29th, 2021, cannabis or more commonly referred to as marijuana, will be legal to possess or use in New Mexico by adults aged 21 years or older.

How much possession is allowed after the 29th?

  • Up to 2 ounces of cannabis;
  • up to 16 grams of extract;
  • or up to 800 milligrams of edible cannabis.

Where can I consume marijuana legally after the 29th?

Like alcoholic beverages, public consumption of cannabis is limited to licensed “consumption areas” where it may be served and consumed — and those don’t exist yet. Consuming cannabis elsewhere in public could get you a $50 ticket. So, if you have your marijuana don’t smoke it out in the public but you may in your house or backyard.

Private property owners and businesses can forbid it, and your workplace can institute zero-tolerance policies against it. Under federal law, “marijuana” is a Schedule One controlled substance, classified with heroin and other narcotics, which means any amount is forbidden on federal territory so do not take it to the base or Federal public lands.

Where can I buy it?

Legally, nowhere in New Mexico yet, unless one is a registered medical cannabis patient who buys medicinal products at licensed dispensaries. For non-medicinal cannabis, the state has until September to begin processing business licenses and until January to establish rules for producing, marketing, and serving cannabis. Retail sales are to commence no later than April 1 of next year, if not sooner.

And yes, that means for a few months, possession of small amounts of cannabis will be decriminalized while it is not yet legal to buy or sell it in the state but of course you can pop over to Colorado or Arizona where it is legal and buy from one of their dispensaries until April 2022 in New Mexico.

Or of course you can plant it between the tomatoes or in your flower garden…

The law permits individuals up to six mature cannabis plants and six immature plants, or a maximum of 12 in a household with multiple residents. The law also says you can make edibles or extracts — with nonvolatile solvents, alcohol or carbon dioxide or no solvents.

Whatever the case, on June 29th in New Mexico, Otero County and Alamogordo you can roll yourself a joint, and you can share some with a friend if they are at least 21 years old and with that a new era begins.

For some there will be the flashback to the 60s and a reminder of the song by the 5th Dimension The Age Of Aquarius, Let the Sunshine In!

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Aquarius
Aquarius

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Aquarius
Aquarius

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Aquarius
Aquarius
Aquarius
Aquarius

Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in…

Given the modern political climate of our time, a look back at the age of Aquarius and letting a little sunshine in would be a particularly good thing.

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Supreme Court Upholds ADA for a 3rd Time

The Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out a closely watched legal battle targeting the Affordable Care Act, rescuing the landmark health care law from the latest efforts by Republican-led states to dismantle it.

The court ruled 7-2 that the red states and two individuals who brought the dispute do not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance and ordered the case to be dismissed.

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the majority opinion for the court.

As originally enacted in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required most Americans to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage. The Act also imposed a monetary penalty, scaled according to in- come, upon individuals who failed to do so. In 2017, Con- gress effectively nullified the penalty by setting its amount at $0. See Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. 115–97, §11081, 131 Stat. 2092 (codified in 26 U. S. C. §5000A(c)).

Texas and 17 other States brought this lawsuit against the United States and federal officials. They were later joined by two individuals (Neill Hurley and John Nantz). The plaintiffs claim that without the penalty the Act’s min- imum essential coverage requirement is unconstitutional.  The court concluded they had no standing. 

To read detail of the ruling visit

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-840_6jfm.pdf

Thursday’s 7-2 ruling was the third time the court has rebuffed major GOP challenges to former President Barack Obama’s prized health care overhaul. Stingingly for Republicans, the decision emerged from a bench dominated 6-3 by conservative-leaning justices, including three appointed by President Donald Trump.

“The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land,” President Joe Biden said, using the statute’s more formal name, after the court ruled that Texas and other GOP-led states had no right to bring their lawsuit to federal court.

At the time of printing no statement has been released by the New Mexico Republican Party concerning the ruling. 

The lawsuit, initially fashioned as Texas v. United States, was filed in February 2018 by 20 Republican state attorneys general and Republican governors. The plaintiffs wanted to revisit National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius (NFIB), where the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, upheld the mandate as constitutional. In that decision from 2012, Chief Justice Roberts construed the mandate as a tax, concluding that it was valid under Congress’s authority to tax and spend.

The challenge in Texas is related. The plaintiffs argued that the individual mandate is unconstitutional after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, in which Congress set the penalty for not purchasing “minimum essential coverage” coverage to $0. That bill was adopted in December 2017 using the budget reconciliation process after Congress repeatedly tried and failed to repeal the ACA throughout 2017. Without the penalty, the plaintiffs argued, the mandate is unconstitutional. They further argued that the mandate is so essential to the ACA that it cannot be severed from the rest of the law, meaning the entire ACA should be struck down. At a minimum, they asked the court to strike down the law’s guaranteed issue and community rating provisions alongside the mandate.

The state plaintiffs were later joined by two individual plaintiffs who live in Texas and purchased unsubsidized marketplace coverage. These individuals objected to having to comply with the mandate but intended to purchase ACA-compliant coverage in 2019, even after the penalty was set to $0, because they wanted to follow the law. The individual plaintiffs were likely added to the lawsuit to bolster the states’ weak standing argument in the lawsuit—which we now know was to no avail.

Democratic state attorneys general from (initially) 16 states and the District of Columbia—led by then-California Attorney General (and now Department of Health and Human Services Secretary) Xavier Becerra—were allowed to intervene in the case to defend the ACA. These states sought to protect their interests in billions of dollars in federal funding under the ACA, to ensure that their residents have access to health care, and to prevent chaos in their health care systems if the ACA was found to be unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) partially agreedwith the plaintiffs and declined to defend the constitutionality of the mandate and other key ACA provisions. This was a highly unusual position: historically, the DOJ has defended federal statutes where a reasonable argument could be made in their defense. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed Congress of the DOJ’s position that the mandate was unconstitutional and that the ACA’s provisions on guaranteed issue, community rating, preexisting condition exclusions, and discrimination based on health status were inseverable and should also be invalidated. At that point, the DOJ had drawn the line there, arguing that the rest of the ACA was severable and should remain in effect.

In December 2018, Judge O’Connor, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas, agreed with the plaintiffs and declared the entire ACA to be invalid. He reaffirmed this decision in late December when issuing a stay and partial final judgment. Many of district court’s legal conclusions, from standing to severability, were criticized by conservative legal scholars, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and the National Review editorial board, among others. 

The Fifth Circuit

The DOJ and Democratic attorneys general appealed Judge O’Connor’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Democratic attorneys general from an additional four states and the U.S. House of Representatives were allowed to intervene to defend the ACA while two plaintiff states withdrew from the case. On appeal, the DOJ under then-Attorney General William Barr took the new position that the entire ACA should be declared invalid. From there, the DOJ changed its position twice more, suggesting first that the district court’s decision applied only to the plaintiff states and two individuals, and second that the court’s remedy should be limited only to the provisions that injured the individual plaintiffs.

After oral argument, the Fifth Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, partially affirmed the district court, agreeing that the mandate is now unconstitutional. However, instead of determining what this meant for the rest of the ACA’s provisions, the court remanded the case for additional analysis on the question of severability. One judge disagreed with these conclusions and filed a lengthy dissent arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that, in any event, the mandate remains constitutional and severable from the rest of the ACA. She opined that there was no need to remand, especially on severability.

At The Supreme Court New Mexico Joined The Argument the ACÁ Should Stay Intact

The Democratic attorneys general and the House appealed the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. They initially asked for expedited review, which was denied. However, the Court agreed to hear the appeal on a non-expedited basis and also granted a conditional cross-petition filed by Texas, which asked the Court to uphold the district court’s decision. By granting both petitions, the Court considered the full scope of legal issues in Texas—from whether the plaintiffs have standing to whether the rest of the law could be severed from the individual mandate.

During the briefing and oral argument, 18 Republican attorneys general and governors, two individuals, and the Trump administration argued against the validity of the ACA, which was defended by 21 Democratic attorneys general and the House. The 18 challenger states were Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. The 21 intervenor states were California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. Republican attorneys general in Montana and Ohio were not parties to the case but filed an amicus briefarguing that the mandate is unconstitutional but severable from the rest of the ACA. And a bipartisan group of governors from Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin filed a separate brief arguing that the ACA should be upheld. All but four states took a formal position in the lawsuit.

Briefing was completed in mid-August, and all filings are available here. Prior posts analyzed opening briefs from California and the House; amicus briefs from nearly 40 health care and other stakeholders; opening briefs from Texas, two individuals, and the Trump administration; amicus briefs from six organizations; reply briefsfrom California and the House; and reply briefsfrom Texas and the two individuals.

Oral Argument

Oral argument was held on November 10, 2020 by the full panel of judges, including then-newly seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett whom President Trump nominated after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (The Texas litigation and oral argument loomed large over Justice Barrett’s confirmation process in the Senate.) All three core issues of the litigation were discussed during oral argument: whether the plaintiffs had standing to sue, the continued constitutionality (or not) of the individual mandate, and whether the rest of the ACA could be severed if the mandate is unconstitutional.

As discussed here, much of the oral argument focused on standing. Many Justices seemed troubled that the penalty-less mandate could not be enforced against the plaintiffs and that invalidation of the mandate alone would not address their alleged injuries. Many also raised concerns about the “standing through inseverability” theory advanced by the plaintiffs and DOJ. These topics were key in the Court’s ultimate decision, discussed below.

Post-Oral Argument

Following the 2020 election, the Biden administration formally changed its position in the litigation. In early February, DOJ submitted a letter to inform the Court that it had reconsidered its position and no longer adhered to the conclusions in previously filed briefs. Upon reconsideration, DOJ’s new position was that the individual mandate, even with a $0 penalty, remained constitutional: The 2017 amendment to the ACA to reduce the penalty to zero “did not convert [the mandate] from a provision affording a constitutional choice into an unconstitutional mandate to maintain insurance.” DOJ’s argument echoed the briefs filed by California and the Housebut did not address standing at all.

It is worth noting that Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. This new law expanded upon the ACA by temporarily enhancing marketplace subsidies for lower- and middle-income people through 2022. To the extent that the Court looked to subsequent congressional action, this would have showed that the current Congress believed the ACA remained sound and constitutional. 

New Mexico Health and Human Services Department estimated that over $1.7 billion in federal funding was at risk because if the Medicaid expansion went away, then that would have away too, and so underpinning all of the ACÁ is not just the coverage that people have. It’s also the money that comes into New Mexico from the Federal system.

There was also concern about people with preexisting conditions, which is a protection under the Affordable Care Act that prevents insurers from discriminating against those who have them. If it had been overturned those protections would have also gone away.

Yet serious problems remain.

Nearly 29 million Americans remained uninsured in 2019, and millions more likely lost coverage at least temporarily when the COVID-19 pandemic hit according to the Kaiser Foundation. In addition, medical costs continue to rise and even many covered by the law find their premiums and deductibles difficult to afford as inflation rises.

In response, Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package enacted in March expanded federal subsidies for health insurance premiums for those buying coverage. His infrastructure and jobs proposal being negotiated in Congress includes $200 billion toward making that permanent, instead of expiring in two years.

But his plan includes none of his more controversial campaign trail proposals to expand health care access, like creating a federally funded public health care option or letting Medicare directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. While those proposals are popular with Democratic voters, they face tough odds in a closely divided Congress.

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