Albuquerque Curbs Arrests, Jail Time For Minor Crimes – The Associated Press
A special order directing Albuquerque police to scale back on arrests for two dozen non-violent misdemeanor offenses marks the latest reform in New Mexico's largest city that aims to ease arrests and jail time for low-level offenders.
The May 10 order — spurred by a recent settlement agreement in a long-running lawsuit over local jail conditions — follows a voter-approved constitutional amendment in November that bars the courts from keeping inmates jailed solely because they can't afford bail, while allowing judges to deny bail to those considered exceptionally dangerous.
Criminal justice reform advocates nationwide have focused on reducing arrests and prosecutions for non-violent infractions — such as panhandling, prostitution and marijuana possession — that they say often disproportionately involve the homeless, people with mental illness and minorities.
Teacher In Cage Locking Flap Running For Santa Fe Mayor – The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican
A former New Mexico high school teacher, once accused of putting a student in a cage, is running for mayor of Santa Fe.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports former math and automotive mechanics teacher Abigail Fox said Friday she is jumping into the race as a political outsider and education advocate.
The 53-year-old Fox taught at Santa Fe High School for almost 13 years before resigning in 2011.
Fox stepped down after cellphone video surfaced of her locking an automotive student in an outdoor chain-link storage area at the school. She was placed on paid administrative leave, and police investigated potential child abuse and false imprisonment charges.
No charges were filed.
On her Twitter profile, Fox describes herself as a "hemp advocate" and "outspoken activist for social change."
Navajo Nation Proposes Lease Extension For Coal Power Plant – The Associated Press & The Arizona Republic
The Navajo Nation has introduced legislation to extend the lease on the coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona so it can operate through 2019.
The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that the lease extension would allow for the Navajo Generating Station to be used through December 2019 and then be torn down. If the tribe does not approve a lease extension by July 1, the plant will have to close at the end of this year to be torn down by 2020.
If the deal is approved, the Navajo Nation will earn $110 million in lease payments throughout the next 35 years. This is because the generating stations owners will be required to monitor the land after the facilities are removed.
The tribe also hopes to keep several pieces of the operation when it closes.
Effort To Overhaul Tax Structure Dies In Legislature – Santa Fe New Mexican
A bill that would have implemented major changes in the state’s gross receipts tax system died in a House committee during the legislative special session Thursday.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jason Harper of Rio Rancho, was tabled by the House Labor and Economic Development Committee. Democrats had criticized the idea of trying to do sweeping tax reform during a short session without being able to evaluate the full fiscal impact. But lawmakers did approve $400,000 to study tax reform.
The idea of Harper’s bill was to close some tax break loopholes and lower the overall gross receipts tax rate. A preliminary analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee found the bill would bring mixed results for economic development.
State Auditor Tim Keller released a report Thursday pointing out that the largest chunk of tax breaks are in the extractive industries such as mining and oil and gas development.
New Mexico Advocates To Join Texas Immigration Law Protest – Associated Press
Dozens of immigrant advocates from New Mexico are heading to Texas to protest that state's new law allowing police officers to ask about a person's immigration status.
The advocates from the New Mexico Dream Team will join immigrant activists in Texas on Monday for a demonstration against the law at the Texas Capitol Building.
The Texas law also requires police chiefs and sheriffs — under the threat of jail and removal from office — to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects in jail for possible deportation.
Opponents blast the Texas bill as a version of Arizona's immigration crackdown law, SB 1070, which sparked protests and led to legal challenges in 2010. They say the Texas law will result in racial profiling.
Feds: Rio Chama Boasts Most Robust Spring Runoff In Years – Associated Press
Federal water managers say flows on the Rio Chama are on the rise, marking one of the most robust spring runoffs in years.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is releasing 3,000 cubic feet per second from El Vado Reservoir into the river to keep up with the snowmelt.
Agency officials say they also want to ensure there's enough room to safely store additional water that's expected to fill the reservoir as more snow melts in the higher elevations.
Forecasters say about 100,000 acre-feet of runoff will reach the reservoir before the end of July. One acre-foot equals more than 325,000 gallons, or 1.2 million liters.
Officials say the higher flows will provide opportunities for recreation over the long weekend, but they're also urging people to be cautious of the faster flows.
New Mexico Governor Praises Budget Agreement – Associated Press
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is praising efforts by lawmakers to balance the state budget for the coming fiscal year, though she intends to veto outright tax increases.
The Republican governor issued a statement by email Thursday saying that she is "pleased that we were able to come to an agreement on the budget."
The Democrat-led legislature delivered a collection of tax and savings measures aimed at filling a budget shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1. The governor has the long weekend to act on legislation that would reinstate funding to the Legislature and state universities that she vetoed earlier this year.
The budget can be narrowly balanced with the approval of a bill to suspend infrastructure projects and use severance tax bonds to shore up state finances. Martinez says she supports the measure.
Snowmelt Boosts Water Level At Popular New Mexico Lake – Associated Press
RV owners prepping for the Memorial Day weekend say unexpected high water levels at a popular lake in southern New Mexico have dampened their plans.
Elephant Butte State Park officials say the lake is currently 14 feet higher than this time last year. Park Superintendent Kay Dunlap says the water is coming from snowmelt flowing from the upper Rio Grande.
Many people left their RVs parked on the beach ahead of the weekend. Many came back to the lake after they were notified by a park employee or saw photos on Facebook.
One owner told Albuquerque television station KRQE that when he left, his truck was not in the water. He found the front tires in the water Wednesday.
Reports say the water level will continue to rise until mid-June.
FBI Raids New Mexico Taxation And Revenue Department Office – Associated Press
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has raided the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department as part of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.
The agency raided the state department Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez says agents executed a federal search warrant, but she declined to provide any details about the investigation.
Taxation and Revenue Department spokesman Ben Cloutier says the search warrant involves a classified employee who has worked for the department since 2006.
He said the employee has been placed on administrative leave and the agency is cooperating with authorities.
It is unclear whether the raid had been related to a state investigation of Demesia Padilla, former taxation and revenue secretary. Padilla resigned in December after state investigators seized tax documents belonging to her and her husband.
AG Launches Inquiry Into UNM Spending On Golf Trip - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is launching a formal inquiry into the spending of public money by the University of New Mexico on a 2015 golf trip to Scotland that included athletics officials and private donors.
Balderas sent a letter to the university's acting president Thursday, saying he's committed to ensuring transparency and accountability in state government.
Balderas went on to say that public admissions by Athletics Director Paul Krebs are contrary to the ethical standards he and other university officials must uphold and implicate violations of the state Governmental Conduct Act.
Krebs has said the $65,000 trip was meant to strengthen relationships with donors and that UNM had not planned to pay for the donors' trips.
The attorney general's action comes a day after the state Auditor's Office confirmed it also was reviewing the spending.
New Mexico Judge Denies Convicted Killer's Plea Withdrawal – Associated Press
A judge has denied a convicted killer's attempt to get out of prison by trying to withdraw his guilty plea in the murders of five people in New Mexico between 2005 and 2008.
Clifton Bloomfield pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 195 years in prison.
Late last year, Bloomfield filed a writ of habeas corpus to withdraw his plea.
The Office of the Attorney General Criminal Appeals Division argued in December that Bloomfield's petition should be dismissed.
Second Judicial District Court Judge Benjamin Chavez agreed with the AG's Office on Thursday.
Bloomfield was convicted of killing 37-year-old Carlos Esquibel in October 2005 and Josephine Selvage three days later.
He also was charged with murdering Tak and Pung Yi in December 2007 and 40-year-old Scott Pierce in June 2008.