KUNM

APD Presses Ahead With Reforms, Gov Says 'Meaningless Bills' May Force Special Session

Mar 7, 2017

Albuquerque Police Press Ahead With Mandated ReformsThe Associated Press

Efforts are moving forward to reform the police force in New Mexico's largest city as part of a settlement over use of excessive force.

There have been indications that scrutiny of local law enforcement by the federal government could be relaxed under the Trump administration. But those involved in the process in Albuquerque say there are no signs that the U.S. Justice Department will be shifting gears.

Police officials and the union that represents officers say they're committed to the court-ordered reforms, including new policies for de-escalating crisis situations.

'Meaningless Bills' May Force New Mexico Special SessionThe Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says state lawmakers' focus on "meaningless bills" such as establishing the official state dance may force her to call a special session.

The Republican governor's office told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she may have no choice but to call a special session to address pressing issues since the Democratic-controlled Legislature is debating measures such as a holiday song about empanadas and posole.

The governor's office says Democrats instead are refusing to hold confirmation hearings and killing important legislation.

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, says lawmakers are wasting time on proposals like making the green chile cheeseburger New Mexico's official burger rather than tackling child poverty in one of the nation's poorest states.

House and Senate Democrats did not immediately respond to emails.

New Mexico Warily Studies Republican Health Overhaul PlanThe Associated Press

New Mexico's health care sector is warily studying a proposal by U.S. House Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act that cut the state's uninsured rate in half since 2013.

New Mexico Primary Care Association President David Roddy said Tuesday that proposed limits on future federal funding for Medicaid could threaten expanded capabilities at community health clinics that rely heavily on federal funding to treat the poor and uninsured.

The House Republican proposal would reduce federal matching funds for newcomers to Medicaid health coverage starting in mid-2019, and implement overall federal spending to a limited, per-beneficiary amount.

New Mexico's expanded Medicaid program covers nearly 900,000 residents. State government is struggling to keep up with its Medicaid demands amid a budget crisis linked to a downturn in the oil sector.

Albuquerque Cab Company Shutters, Cites Ride-Hailing AppsThe Associated Press

Albuquerque Cab Co. is shutting down and laying off all its employees after 40 years of service.

Cab Co. officials said Monday that competition, particularly from ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, made operating financially unfeasible. Albuquerque has five cab companies in the city in addition to three airport shuttle firms and ride-hailing apps.

Officials say business dropped by a third in the last few years, meaning the company couldn't afford to pay employees.

Cab Co. laid off 70 employees, including cab and shuttle drivers, mechanics and administrative staff.

Amazon To Collect Sales Tax In New Mexico Starting In April Associated Press

Online retail giant Amazon will soon begin collecting taxes on purchases being sent to New Mexico addresses.

The New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department confirmed Monday that the new sales tax will begin in April.

Department spokesman Ben Cloutier says the state gross receipts tax amounts to just over 5 percent and the revenues generated by Amazon's collections will be significant, likely in the tens of millions of dollars.

Some of the revenue will go into the state's general fund, and some will be allocated to the cities where the item was purchased.

As New Mexico looks to fill a budget gap, lawmakers are considering measures to force internet vendors without a physical presence in the state to collect taxes.

Democrat Rep. Carl Trujillo of Santa Fe said such legislation would more evenly distribute the tax burden among New Mexico businesses.

Number Of Drilling Rigs In San Juan Basin Sparks Optimism Daily Times, Associated Press

A recent increase in the number of drilling rigs operating in the San Juan Basin is sparking optimism that the downturn in oil and gas production may turn around.

The Daily Times of Farmington reports there currently are four active rigs in the basin — a significant jump in 16 months.

The last time a weekly rig report listed four or more active drilling rigs in the basin was November 2015. During subsequent months, that number gradually dwindled to just one rig.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association spokesman Wally Drangmeister says each operating drilling rig creates around 50 to 75 full-time jobs.

Two of the active rigs belong to BP America. One belongs to Encana Corp. and the other to WPX Energy

New Mexico Lawmakers Debate Naming 'Official State Dance'Associated Press

New Mexico Senate Democrats are debating a bill to name an official state dance despite a deadline to pass more pressing bills.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Rules Committee on Monday approved a measure to identify "La Marcha de los Novios" as the state's official dance number.

The move comes as Democrats have faced criticism for focusing on superficial bills and memorials while ignoring proposals ranging from ethics reforms to reining in the payday loan industry.

New Mexico lawmakers also have taken up time during this 60-day session to discuss bills such as identifying the state's official "winter holiday song" and making the green chile cheeseburger the state's official burger.

The Legislature will adjourn at noon on March 18.

Española School Board Puts Superintendent On Paid LeaveSanta Fe New Mexican

The Española School Board voted to place Superintendent Eric Martinez on paid leave after the state Public Education Department warned it would take steps to remove him.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the board voted 4-1 Monday night to remove Martinez. State Education Secretary Hanna Skandera announced last fall that her department would take over the Española district’s finances. She subsequently warned PED would remove Martinez if he did not follow state rules on many other matters.

The district has faced other challenges in the last few years. The Attorney General sued Martinez and the district’s record clerk over alleged violations of public records law. Parents also sued the district over a basketball coach who they contend intimidated students and parents. 

New Mexico To Gain $65M In Tax Revenue From Facebook Project Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico could gain about $65 million in gross-receipts tax revenue over the next 10 years from construction and infrastructure costs of a Facebook project.

That's according to state Economic Development Department spokesman Ben Cloutier.

He told The Albuquerque Journal that the figure was extrapolated from an economic analysis done last year for the village of Los Lunas, where Facebook is building a data center.

The center is expected to be fully running by late next year.

Facebook officials say the first of what could be up to six phases will cost $250 million and bring an estimated 30 to 50 data center jobs and several hundred construction jobs to Los Lunas.

New Mexico Lawmakers Want To Keep Obamacare Birth Control Associated Press

Access to contraceptives at no personal cost under the federal Affordable Care Act would be enshrined into New Mexico state law under a bill approved by the state House of Representatives.

The House voted 39-29 Monday to guarantee the same no-cost access to a range of contraceptives granted in 2012 under President Barack Obama's signature health care law, with a few new additions.

The bill adds one-year refills on birth control pills, over-the-counter birth control and male contraception such as vasectomies without costs for patients.

The bill applies to a broad variety of individual and group health insurance along with Medicaid, but not Medicare.

Democratic Rep. and bill sponsor Debbie Armstrong says the bill is designed specifically to ensure a federal health care overhaul does not affect access to contraceptives.

Ethics Commission Proposal Advances In New Mexico Associated Press

A proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission in New Mexico has earned the endorsement of state lawmakers including the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday acted unanimously to send the amendment to a House floor vote.

One of eight states without an independent ethics commission, New Mexico has been shaken since 2015 by a string of corruption scandals involving the former secretary of state, a longstanding state senator and a former Cabinet secretary who has not been charged.

Approval by a majority of lawmakers would put the amendment on the statewide ballot for final approval. House speaker Brian Egolf promised swift action to leave time for Senate consideration.

The commission would have subpoena powers in civil cases.

DHS Chief: Agency May Separate Parents, Children At Border By Alicia A. Caldwell, Associated Press

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says his agency is considering separating children and parents caught crossing the Mexican border illegally.

Kelly says such a move would be part of a broader effort to stop families from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to the United States border. He confirmed that he's considering the action during an interview with CNN Monday.

Tens of thousands of parents and children mostly fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been caught crossing the border illegally in recent years. Generally, the families are detained for a few days or weeks before being released to wait for an immigration judge to decide their fate.

It can take years for a case to be completed in federal immigration court.

Solitary Confinement Suits Cost New Mexico Counties Millions By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press/CJ Project

New Mexico lawmakers are weighing whether the state will join a small but growing list of states that have placed limits on solitary confinement.

A bill proposes banning solitary confinement for pregnant women, juveniles and inmates with severe mental illness who are held in jails and prisons.

Other similar measures have been proposed in recent years.

Debate over the bill comes as former jail inmates in the state win major payouts from counties over their treatment while in isolation.

A lawsuit filed by George Abila of Roswell resulted in the most recent judgment against a county. Eddy County agreed to pay him $1.9 million in January.

He says he was held in a cell without a bed, sink or toilet for six months.

Bill To Bar Carrying Guns In The Roundhouse Clears Senate Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has approved a proposal to make it illegal for anyone but police officers and concealed-carry license holders to have a gun in the state Capitol.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the bill by Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque and Republican Sen. Bill Sharer of Farmington was approved Saturday in a 29-12 vote.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

The proposal would make it a misdemeanor for non-police to openly carry a gun in the Roundhouse.

And it would be a fourth-degree felony to discharge a gun in the Capitol unless done in self-defense or defense of another.

The bill was prompted by instances of people carrying rifles to hearings in the Legislature.

Albuquerque Cab Company Shutters, Cites Ride-Hailing Apps Associated Press

Albuquerque Cab Co. is shutting down and laying off all its employees after 40 years of service.

Cab Co. officials said Monday that competition, particularly from ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, made operating financially unfeasible. Albuquerque has five cab companies in the city in addition to three airport shuttle firms and ride-hailing apps.

Officials say business dropped by a third in the last few years, meaning the company couldn't afford to pay employees.

Cab Co. laid off 70 employees, including cab and shuttle drivers, mechanics and administrative staff.

Southeastern New Mexico Town Hires 1st Female Police Chief Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

A small southeastern New Mexico town has its first female police chief.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports town councilors in Tatum voted last week to appoint Mae Jackson to lead its small police department.

Officials believe she also is Lea County's first female police chief.

The 30-year law enforcement veteran began her career as a dispatcher with the Cockrell Hill Police Department in Cockrell Hill, Texas. She later attended the academy and worked as a police officer. She then worked at the Dallas County Sheriff's Department and Dallas County District Attorney's Office.

Jackson was born and raised in Lovington.

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