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Feds Seek To Release More Wolves In NM, Businesses Join Day Without Immigrants Protest

8 hours ago

Feds Propose Wolf Releases In Southwestern New Mexico By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Federal officials want to release two packs of Mexican gray wolves in wilderness areas near the Arizona-New Mexico border this year in an effort to bolster a struggling population threatened by inbreeding.

It will ultimately be up to New Mexico and a federal court whether that happens since the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are locked in a legal battle over the endangered predator.

New Mexico contends there's no way to determine whether the proposed releases would conflict with the state's own wildlife management because federal officials have yet to develop a comprehensive recovery plan for the wolves.

Such a plan is due later this year.

Federal officials say the releases are an important tool for avoiding a genetic bottleneck since most of the wolves in the wild are related.

New Mexico Democrats Rally Around Tax Plan To Fix Budget GapAssociated Press

Democrats in the New Mexico House of Representatives are rallying around a package of tax and revenue measures designed to shore up state finances and stave off spending cuts to education and Medicaid health care.

State lawmakers including the speaker of the House of Representatives announced Thursday a push to collect more money from internet sales, nonprofit hospitals, interstate truck permits and motor vehicle registrations.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has steadfastly opposed tax increases and called for further belt tightening by state government, but also indicates she may agree to close some tax loopholes.

House Speaker Brian Egolf says Democrats sought out tax measures the governor might sign and that without action spending cuts are likely to public schools, health care and job-creation incentives. The proposals would raise $214 million annually.

Thousands Join Rep. Pearce's Telephone Town Hall Current-Argus, Associated Press

About 10,000 callers participated in U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce's telephone town hall, which his office said was an alternative way for the Republican congressman to meet with his constituents who are spread throughout New Mexico's rural 2nd District.

The Current-Argus reports that callers brought up a range of issues for Pearce on Wednesday, including housing, regulation of state and federal lands and Republicans' efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

To concerns about immigration, Pearce said President Donald Trump has "been pretty straight forward" about saying he would cut funding to sanctuary cities.

Many of those who joined the call said they liked the non-traditional format.

But Pearce's telephone town hall was criticized by leaders in New Mexico's Democratic Party, who said the congressman should address constituents' concerns face-to-face.

New Mexico Reconsiders Subsidies To High-Risk Insurance Pool Associated Press

The administration of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is seeking to shift the state's financial obligations for a group of 2,700 people with serious and expensive medical conditions onto the private health insurance market.

Legislation drafted by the administration in response to a state budget crisis would reduce tax credits and other subsidies that help underwrite New Mexico's high-risk medical insurance pool for the chronically ill.

The reforms would usher more people out of the pool and onto federally subsidized policies through the state health exchange. The Republican-sponsored bill is scheduled for discussion by lawmakers Friday in committee.

State government stands to save tens of millions of dollars, but a top insurance regulator says the changes are likely to drive up private-market insurance premiums by hundreds of dollars a year.

Conversion Therapy Ban Advances In New Mexico LegislatureAssociated Press

Proposed legislation is advancing in New Mexico to ban the use on minors of conversion therapy that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Senate voted Thursday to approve the Democrat-sponsored bill from Sen. Jacob Candelaria and Rep. Andres Romero, both of Albuquerque.

The prohibition would apply to licensed physicians, nurses, psychologists and other health practitioners who apply conversion therapy to people under 18. It changes provisions of a consumer protection law and outlines disciplinary measures that can be taken by state licensing boards. Candelaria says the ban does not apply to ministers or clergy.

At least six states have enacted bans on conversion therapy, which some religious conservatives believe can stop gay people from being gay.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

Some New Mexico Businesses Join 'A Day Without Immigrants'Associated Press

Some businesses in Albuquerque and Santa Fe have joined "A Day Without Immigrants" national protest by closing for a day.

Shopping centers in immigrant enclaves sat largely empty on Thursday as businesses posted signs in support of immigrants around the country opting to stay home from school and work.

Jose Lopez, the owner of La Michoacana Del Sur restaurant in Albuquerque's South Valley neighborhood, says it was important to demonstrate how vital immigrants were to the country. He closed his restaurant for a day and told his immigrant employees to take the day off.

Popular Albuquerque Mexican restaurants Taqueria Mexico in downtown and Los Compadres on the historic Route 66 also were closed.

"A Day Without Immigrants" actions hit various cities, including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Houston, Chicago and New York.

Panel Oks Measure To Ban Coyote-Killing ContestsAssociated Press

Legislation aimed at banning coyote-hunting competitions in New Mexico has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The majority of the Senate Conservation Committee gave the bill a do-pass recommendation during a packed hearing Thursday. The measure must win approval from two more committees before reaching the Senate floor for a vote.

The bill sponsored by Democrat Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would outlaw coyote-killing contests after a number of recent competitions drew anger from animal rights advocates. The bill would not prevent landowners from hunting the predators on their property.

Ranchers and outfitters from around the state argued that the contests can be a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten cattle and sheep.

Supporters of the legislation called the practice barbaric and questioned whether there were any scientific benefits.

Effort Tabled To Revamp New Mexico's Game And Fish Agency Associated Press

A Senate committee has tabled a proposal to significantly shift the mission of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

The legislation sponsored by Democrat Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would give the department the authority to manage all wildlife as a public resource rather than managing game animals and fish for recreation and food as currently provided under law.

The measure also would give the gubernatorial appointees of the Game Commission authority over all wildlife rather than just game species.

The department argues that the legislation would effectively add another 6,000 species to the list of animals it's responsible for managing, costing millions of dollars more each year.

Game and Fish Director Alexa Sandoval called the measure an unfunded mandate, noting that the department's work is funded by sportsmen through licenses and other fees.

New Mexico Democrats Rally Around Tax Plan To Fix Budget Gap Associated Press

Democrats in the New Mexico House of Representatives are rallying around a package of tax and revenue measures designed to shore up state finances and stave off spending cuts to education and Medicaid health care.

State lawmakers including the speaker of the House of Representatives announced Thursday a push to collect more money from internet sales, nonprofit hospitals, interstate truck permits and motor vehicle registrations.

Republican Gov. Martinez has steadfastly opposed tax increases and called for further belt tightening by state government, but also indicates she may agree to close some tax loopholes.

House Speaker Brian Egolf says Democrats sought out tax measures the governor might sign and that without action spending cuts are likely to public schools, health care and job-creation incentives. The proposals would raise $214 million annually.

Teachers Union Calls On Albuquerque Schools To Avoid CutsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The teachers union is calling on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education to avoid pay cuts, furloughs or increased class size and to instead rely on cash reserves to cover budget reductions.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that members of a caucus within the Albuquerque Teachers Federation protested outside district headquarters Wednesday, calling on the district to find a way to cover a $12.5 million budget cut that won't negatively affect teachers.

District administrators have said the financial situation is so dire they must consider all options. A message from the APS Budget Steering Committee to employees a few weeks ago said the district is dipping into cash reserves as much as possible before considering options such as laying off 750 people or shutting down for four days to save $10 million.

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