KUNM

Feds Move To Replace Border Barriers In New Mexico, NM Prosecutor Sees Child Abuse Loophole

Jan 22, 2018

Feds Move Ahead To Replace US Border Barriers In New MexicoThe Associated Press

The Trump administration is waiving numerous laws to clear the way for replacing existing vehicle barriers along a stretch of the US-Mexico border in New Mexico.

The notice published Monday in the Federal Register says the waiver extends around 20 miles west of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will replace the existing barriers with bollard walls to deter and prevent illegal crossings.

This marks the third time the Trump Administration has used broad powers under a 2005 law to waive laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act for the border barriers. In September, it waived reviews for a 3-mile stretch in Calexico, California.

Critics say the waivers are an overreach and a threat to the environment.

Top New Mexico Prosecutor Sees Loophole In Child Abuse LawThe Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is calling for new legislation that expands the duty to report child abuse or negligence.

Balderas on Monday endorsed a bill that aims to close a loophole in the New Mexico Abuse and Neglect Act. He says current law makes it a duty to report abuse by parents, guardians and custodians of children but leaves out abuse by other people such as school personnel.

Balderas invoked as a cautionary tale the case of former teacher Gary Gregor, who has been charged with sexually abusing elementary school girls after concerns were raised in other states.

Democratic Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City introduced a bill Tuesday that would broaden state reporting obligations to cover abuse and neglect by almost anyone.

New Mexico Oil And Gas Lease Sale Spurs Numerous ProtestsThe Associated Press

Dozens of protests have been filed by tribal officials, environmentalists and others as federal land managers consider leasing parcels in northwestern New Mexico for oil and gas development that critics say are too close to sites they consider culturally significant.

The upcoming lease sale marks the latest flare-up in a long-running dispute over management of vast expanses of land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The Bureau of Land Management has received 120 protests opposing the March sale. In 2014, similar concerns boiled over, resulting in the agency considering 116 appeals.

It's not clear when a final decision will come on the latest protests.

Efforts in recent years to petition the agency to set aside parts of the Chaco region as an area of critical environmental concern have been unsuccessful.

New Mexico Weighs Whether To Save Or Spend Now On EducationThe Associated Press

A proposal to increase funding for early childhood education in New Mexico by distributing more money from a multibillion dollar state sovereign wealth fund has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

A panel of House lawmakers on Monday recommended approval of the constitutional amendment by a 7-6 vote with only Democrats in support.

The initiative would increase annual distributions from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to roughly 6 percent of assets, from the current 5 percent rate.

Supporters of the measure say preschool programs desperately need more money now to expand sufficiently. The administration of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez is seeking more general fund spending for public schools and early childhood education and opposes greater investment withdrawals.

Approval by the Legislature would set up statewide vote in November on the issue.

Utility Seeks New Wind, Solar Farms For Facebook Data Center Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric provider is seeking state regulatory approval for power purchase agreements with two companies that would build new wind and solar farms to provide electricity for Facebook's new data center.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Public Service Co. of New Mexico's request for the Public Regulation Commission last week comes after Facebook announced plans to expand the data center under construction south of Albuquerque.

The utility has negotiated agreements with Avangrid Renewables and NextEra Energy Inc. to build and operate two wind farms and a solar facility. The companies would sell the power to the utility for delivery to the Los Lunas data center.

The utility is looking to expedite the approval process by bringing it directly before the commission instead of going through rounds of initial hearings.

Bernalillo County Authorities: Human Remains Have Been FoundKOB-TV, Associated Press

Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say they're investigating the discovery of a dead body in northeast Albuquerque.

KOB-TV reported the discovery was made around 1:30 a.m. Sunday after sheriff's detectives were called to the scene.

The body reportedly was found near an irrigation ditch north of Montaño near Edith.

Sheriff's officials say it is too early to confirm a cause of death, but it's being treated as suspicious.

There's no immediate word on the body's identity.

Latest Figures Have Flu Deaths In New Mexico Up To 16Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The number of flu deaths in New Mexico continues to rise.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the latest figures attribute 16 deaths in New Mexico to the flu but a state Department of Health spokesman says the number is likely higher.

That’s up from seven deaths reported in the previous week. Department spokesman David Morgan says that's because many of this season's 60 deaths from pneumonia are related to the flu.

Morgan said most of the flu deaths involved people over age 65, though some were younger than 50. The reported deaths from flu don't include any children.

Last season, a total of 27 people died from the flu in New Mexico.

New Mexico Considers Pension Forfeiture In Corruption Cases – Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are proposing a pension-forfeiture law aimed at elected officials who are convicted or plead guilty to corruption charges.

The bill from Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen of Santa Fe and Republican Sen. Mark Moores of Albuquerque responds to a string of high profile corruption cases against New Mexico elected officials.

The pension forfeiture proposal would erase certain retirement benefits when an elected official is convicted of corruption-related charges such as fraud, bribery, perjury or kickbacks. Elected officials would retain pension benefits accrued during prior government service.

Former state Sen. Phil Griego is awaiting sentencing after a jury found him guilty of fraud and felony ethical violations.

A 2012 campaign finance law allows judges to increase sentences against the value of salary and fringe benefits.

Santa Fe River Trail Project Expected To Be Finished By JulyAssociated Press

The long-running restoration and trail project along the Santa Fe River is moving along.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Santa Fe County started construction on a mile-long stretch of the River Trail between Frenchy's Field and Siler Road in November and expects the work to be completed by July.

Scott Kaseman, who has been the county's project manager for the River Trail and Greenway since 2013, says ideally the River Trail will extend underneath the Siler Road overpass and include routes from either side of the road, extending the paved commuter path for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The project, officially called the Santa Fe River Greenway, is a collaboration between the city and the county, each of which oversees a different part of the project area.

New Mexico To Share In Federal Broadband DollarsAssociated Press

New Mexico is among the states that will benefit from federal dollars aimed at boosting broadband connectivity in rural areas.

USDA Rural Development New Mexico State Director Art Garcia says more than 60 percent of the state's population is spread across more than 120,000 square miles, underscoring the importance of broadband.

Garcia said such investments are critical to rural residents, allowing them to access health care and employment.

New Mexico Junior College will receive more than $411,000 to connect to end-user sites in Tatum, Eunice, Lovington and Jal. This will help with the development of distance learning projects.

Western New Mexico University will get nearly $192,000 to purchase video conferencing equipment to provide interactive distance learning services.

Santa Fe Mayor Tells Trump Administration Where To Find HimSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales says the Trump administration knows where to find him in response to a U.S. Justice Department threat that politicians who run so-called sanctuary cities could be criminally charged.

In social media posts on Wednesday, Gonzales listed his office hours, saying he will "stand up for all New Mexicans keeping their families together."

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the posts on Facebook and Twitter by Gonzales elicited hundreds of reactions including a comment by Santa Fe City Councilor Signe Lindell, saying she would be "just down the hall."

Gonzales is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, and he has been an advocate for Santa Fe's status as a safe place for immigrants.

US Docks Lab For Improper Shipments Of Radioactive MaterialAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The federal government is imposing a $3.1 million penalty on the Los Alamos National Laboratory's operators for a previously disclosed mistake involving improperly packed shipments of small amounts of radioactive material sent by commercial air cargo service for.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the National Nuclear Security Administration reduced payments to Los Alamos National Security LLC because of "inadequate management controls" leading to the June shipping incident.

Lab officials previously said the shipments arrived safely at facilities in California and South Carolina and caused no injury but that the mistake was unacceptable and that firings and other personnel actions were taken in response.

US Docks Lab For Improper Shipments Of Radioactive MaterialAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The federal government is imposing a $3.1 penalty on the Los Alamos National Laboratory's operators for a previously disclosed mistake involving improperly packed shipments of small amounts of radioactive material sent by commercial air cargo service for.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the National Nuclear Security Administration reduced payments to Los Alamos National Security LLC because of "inadequate management controls" leading to the June shipping incident.

Lab officials previously said the shipments arrived safely at facilities in California and South Carolina and caused no injury but that the mistake was unacceptable and that firings and other personnel actions were taken in response.

Parties Reach Agreement In New Mexico Rate CaseAssociated Press

New Mexico's largest electric utility and other parties are throwing their support behind a rate increase proposal adopted by state regulators.

A divided Public Regulation Commission approved the revamped proposal earlier this week. It calls for spreading out a roughly 1 percent increase over two years.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico estimates the average increase would be closer to 1.4 percent when other adjustments are factored in.

The commission had set a deadline of noon Friday for the parties to sign off. With their acceptance, the contentious case is expected to be closed soon.

Part of the negotiations among the utility, state attorney general's office, consumer groups and others focused on coal-related investments. The federal tax overhaul also ended up playing a role as the utility plans to pass along savings from lower corporate tax rates.

Tags: