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Credit Agency Downgrades NM Debt, Airbnb Taxes Boost Income For Santa Fe

Oct 26, 2016

Credit Agency Downgrades New Mexico Debt – The Associated Press

A major credit rating agency has downgraded New Mexico's financial standing shortly after the adoption of new budget solvency measures by the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez.

Moody's Investor Services confirmed Wednesday the downgraded of the state's general obligation bond rating from its highest rating of Aaa to Aa1. That will create slightly higher borrowing costs in the future. Thirteen states currently maintain the highest credit rating.

Martinez signed off this week on a package of measures designed to shore up the state's general fund and restore depleted operating reserves.

Airbnb Taxes Boost Income For Santa Fe – The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

The vacation rental company Airbnb will now tax visitors who rent Santa Fe accommodations, adding money to the city's coffers.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a new agreement between Airbnb and Santa Fe calls for the company to collect what's known as a bed tax or lodgers tax. The 7 percent tax is charged on the total cost of all rentals for 30 days or less.

Airbnb began charging for rentals Aug. 1. Santa Fe collected 60 percent more revenue from short-term rentals this August than it did in August 2015.

In response to complaints from the hospitality industry and others, Santa Fe recently beefed up penalties for rental owners who don't register with the land-use department, which involves tax certification as well as fire and safety inspections.

Researchers: Prescribe Anti-Overdose Drug Alongside OpioidsThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

University of New Mexico researchers have developed a new protocol for patients relying on opioid painkillers: having doctors co-prescribe an anti-overdose drug.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that researchers studied 164 patients at the UNM Pain Center for a year and published their findings in the journal Substance Abuse in April.

Narcotic painkillers were responsible for nearly half of New Mexico's drug overdose deaths in 2014. Many people, however, depend on the drugs to manage chronic pain.

Study co-author and pain center director Dr. Joanna Katzman says researchers found that explaining the use of naloxone to family members and friends of the patients took just 10 minutes. She says that's crucial because the drug can't be self-administered by someone experiencing an overdose.

New Mexico National Guard Launches Probe Into BonusesThe Associated Press

The New Mexico National Guard says it is investigating if its soldiers received improper enlistment bonuses like those reportedly paid to some soldiers in California.

New Mexico National Guard Joseph Vigil said late Tuesday officials are doing "due diligence" to determine if any of New Mexico members were affected.

Vigil did not say if the New Mexico National Guard so far has found any soldiers who received improper enlistment bonuses.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to suspend its effort to seek repayments of enlistment bonuses given to thousands of California National Guard members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The announcement does not end the reimbursement process but postpones collection efforts while the Pentagon and Congress look for a long-term solution.

New Mexico Struggles To Close Government Spending GapAssociated Press

New figures from state economists show New Mexico government continues to spend beyond its means even after the enactment of special solvency measures by the governor.

A report released Tuesday by the Legislative Finance Committee shows that state government still has $103 million more in planned expenses than estimated revenues for the current budget year.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed off this week on a package of legislation designed to shore up the state's general fund and restore depleted operating reserves.

Legislative analysts say state reserves remain at "risky levels."

The state is expected to end the year with $30 million in operating reserve accounts — a tiny fraction of the $6 billion in approved annual spending. Agency spending has been slashed by $150 million.

New Mexico Sheriff Challenged Mayor To Fist Fight The Associated Press & The Portales News-Tribune

A lawsuit claims an eastern New Mexico sheriff is interfering with a town's police business and even challenged its mayor to a "fist fight in the middle of the road."

The town of Elida filed a lawsuit last week against Roosevelt County Sheriff Malin Parker to prevent him from further interfering with town ordinances or law enforcement.

According to the lawsuit, Parker has interfered with Elida police business on at least three occasions.

When Elida Mayor Durward Dixon attempted to ask Parker about the interference, court documents say Parker challenged the Dixon to a fist fight.

Dixon told the Portales News-Tribune he tried twice to reconcile with the sheriff and filed the lawsuit as a last resort.

Parker said in a statement the fight challenge was "completely false."

New Mexico Extends Eligibility For Childcare AssistanceAssociated Press

New Mexico child welfare officials say more families will be able to keep kids enrolled in childcare programs longer without having to reapply for assistance.

The state Children, Youth and Families Department says it's now allowing families to maintain their eligibility for childcare assistance for 12 consecutive months. The previous certification period was only six months.

Secretary Monique Jacobson says the change will help reduce temporary lapses in eligibility due to work, school or other life circumstances and allow more families to access high-quality childcare.

Right now, about 18,000 children are in the program, but Jacobson says that represents only one-third of those who are eligible.

She says quality child care can help combat abuse and neglect and allow parents to pursue school or work while knowing their children are safe.

Judge Sets Trial Date For Lawsuit Over Teacher Evaluations Associated Press

An ongoing legal fight between teachers unions and the state over New Mexico's teacher evaluation system will get its day in court next year.

A District Court judge on Monday agreed to hear the case on Oct. 23, 2017. The long wait comes after Albuquerque Teachers Federation and American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico attorney Shane Youtz requested time to review New Mexico Public Education Department changes to the evaluation process.

In January, the department announced changes that simplify the evaluations, moving from 107 assessment categories to just three.

The teachers unions argue the evaluation system is forcing veteran educators to retire or have their licenses jeopardized. The system ties teacher performance to test scores.

PED has argued that their system creates accountability and helps teachers improve.

Court Denies Request To Stop Transit ProjectAlbuquerque Journal

An appeals court in Denver denied a motion by opponents of a transit project in Albuquerque to stop construction already underway.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals did not go into reasons for the denial. Crews are already ripping up concrete and medians along Central Avenue to prepare for a nine-mile system of dedicated bus lanes and stations.

Opponents argued the Federal Transit Administration has not given final approval for the grant that will pay for most of the project. The city is paying for the nearly $120 million project now and counting on the grant to cover the costs.

Federal officials and the city of Albuquerque argued construction could move ahead while final approval is pending.

Opponents contend the bus rapid transit project will create too much congestion and hurt the historical nature of Route 66. They still have an appeal pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Millions In Bonds On The Ballot For New Mexico ProjectsAssociated Press

It'll be up to New Mexico voters to approve more than $186 million in general obligation bonds to support everything from senior citizen centers and schools to the construction of a new state crime lab.

Supporters say the funding is key to completing brick and mortar projects as New Mexico struggles with a budget crisis that has forced lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez to curb spending.

If voters approve all four bonds on the ballot this year, finance officials estimate that property owners would pay $9.34 annually on each $100,000 of a property's assessed value to pay for the bonds over the next decade. It's the same amount assessed to property owners in 2015.

The largest of the bonds would fund construction projects at colleges and universities around the state

Lawsuit: New Mexico Sheriff Challenged Mayor To Fist FightPortales News-Tribune, Associated Press

A lawsuit claims an eastern New Mexico sheriff is interfering with a town's police business and even challenged its mayor to a "fist fight in the middle of the road."

The town of Elida filed a lawsuit last week against Roosevelt County Sheriff Malin Parker to prevent him from further interfering with town ordinances or law enforcement.

According to the lawsuit, Parker has interfered with Elida police business on at least three occasions.

When Elida Mayor Durward Dixon attempted to ask Parker about the interference, court documents say Parker challenged the Dixon to a fist fight.

Dixon told the Portales News-Tribune he tried twice to reconcile with the sheriff and filed the lawsuit as a last resort.

Parker declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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