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KUNM News Update
Fri January 24, 2014
Friday News Roundup: Seismologists To Study Earthquakes
Seismologists To Study Earthquakes - KRDO and The Associated Press
A research team from the U.S. Geological Survey plans to visit the Las Animas County area just north of Raton to study a recent series of minor earthquakes. The area has had seven earthquakes just this month. The strongest was a magnitude of 3.6. There have been no reports of injury or damage from the quakes. A spokesman from USGS says the quakes need to be studied since the average number of quakes above magnitude 3 in the area has quadrupled in the last decade and that the majority of them appear to be related to deep injections of large volumes of wastewater from drilling.
Interior Secretary Jewell Visits New Mexico - The Associated Press
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is in southern New Mexico for a hike through a rugged stretch of desert.
She's also here to discuss federal legislation that aims to protect the Organ Mountains along with other scenic areas near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jewell, officials with the Bureau of Land Management and New Mexico's two U.S. senators are hosting a public hearing on the proposal Friday afternoon in Las Cruces. Several hundred people are expected to attend.
Under the legislation, about 780 square miles would be designated as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The effort has been more than a decade in the making.
The monument would include eight wilderness areas, prompting concerns among some law enforcement officials that the proposal could limit their ability to patrol the area.
Lawmakers Face Flood Of Constitutional Proposals - The Associated Press
If some lawmakers have their way, New Mexico voters will be busy in the November general election deciding a host of policy questions ranging from legalizing marijuana to increasing the minimum wage.
A flurry of proposed constitutional amendments in the Legislature has Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and some lawmakers questioning whether the Constitution — a document defining fundamental law and rights — is being misused.
Constitutional amendments, unlike a bill to change statutory law, go straight to voters if approved by the Legislature. That provides a way to bypass the governor and a potential veto.
Senate President Mary Kay Papen, a Las Cruces Democrat, says she doesn't want lawmakers to make it a habit of using constitutional amendments to push proposals they don't think the governor would sign.
NM Lawmakers Flooded With Water Funding Requests - The Associated Press
New Mexico lawmakers are being inundated with requests for state funding to help pay for water infrastructure improvements.
From contaminated wells to a lack of storage for drinking water in Las Vegas, members of the Senate Finance Committee heard Thursday from state and local water officials and fellow lawmakers about the growing needs around the state.
The problem now is prioritizing which projects should be tackled first.
Gov. Susana Martinez has asked that lawmakers use at least 60 percent of capital outlay funds on water projects, but her administration has not put forward any specific list.
Finance Chair Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming says if Mother Nature doesn't get to work quickly in easing the drought, lawmakers need to be more efficient with the limited funding they have.
NM House, Senate Schedule Weekend Break - The Associated Press
Lawmakers have an opportunity for a long weekend before the pace of work quickens in the 30-day legislative session.
The House and Senate aren't holding floor sessions until Monday, although some committees will meet.
The House Appropriations and Finance Committee plans to continue budget hearings on Friday, and the House Education Committee is scheduled to meet Saturday to listen to testimony from teachers and other educational workers.
The Legislature convened on Tuesday, and the first week traditionally is devoted to starting the introduction of bills and organizing committees.
Lawmakers approved and sent to the governor one measure this week — a proposal providing about $5.3 million to cover expenses of the session.
Senate Leader Upset With Democratic Party Official - The Associated Press
A Senate Democratic leader is upset with the state Democratic Party chairman for suggesting a southern New Mexico lawmaker consider becoming a Republican if he blocks a proposed constitutional amendment for funding early childhood education.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen said Thursday that party chairman Sam Bregman was wrong in recent remarks about Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming.
Bregman and some Democratic lawmakers want to use a state permanent fund to provide more money for early childhood education. The measure stalled last year when it didn't surface for a vote in Smith's committee.
Bregman isn't backing off his comments about Smith, a moderate Democrat who said he worries the proposed permanent fund change could leave less money in the future to meet the state's needs.
NM Officials To Allow Digital Signs Along Highways - The Associated Press
State officials will allow digital billboards along interstate highways and other federal routes in New Mexico.
The state Transportation Commission on Thursday approved rule changes that will legalize electronic billboards.
The current rules hadn't been revised since being adopted in 1998.
The commission approved an amendment that requires off-premises digital billboards to be spaced at least 1,000 feet apart regardless of face orientation.
The state Department of Transportation and representatives of Scenic America and the outdoor advertising industry also agreed to an amendment to restrict off-premises digital billboards to municipalities, towns and villages.
Outdoor advertisers already use digital signs in some places in New Mexico, including within the city of Albuquerque.
Critics say the signs are visual blight that damage the night sky, but outdoor advertising companies deny that claim.