Friday News Roundup: Taos Lawmaker Proposes Funds To Upgrade Tracks, Protect Amtrak Route

Jan 10, 2014

Taos Lawmaker Proposes Funds To Upgrade Tracks, Protect Amtrak Route- Santa Fe New Mexican

Representative Roberto Gonzalez, from Taos, announced plans to pre-file a bill that would fund rail improvements to keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief running on its historic route through Northern New Mexico. The passenger train, which runs between California and Illinois, is at risk of being rerouted through Southern New Mexico if an agreement isn't reached for upgrading portions of the tracks. Gonzales' bill would allocate $4 million from the state’s general fund for upgrades while a second bill would request matching dollars from the Capital Outlay Fund. Governor Suzanna Martinez hasn’t been enthusiastic about proposals that call for New Mexico to contribute funds for the vital upgrade. Currently the Governors proposed budget has no line item for such a thing.  A member of the Southwest Chief Coalition told the Santa Fe New Mexican that he considers the train an important transportation link for residents living in various rural communities. 

More Than $1M Worth Of Cocaine Seized At NM Border - The Associated Press

Federal authorities say they've seized nearly 33 pounds of cocaine worth more than $1 million from a trailer at the New Mexico border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry commercial cargo facility made the seizure Thursday.

They say a pickup truck hauling an empty flatbed trailer entered the Santa Teresa cargo facility from Mexico.

CBP officers selected the vehicle for a gamma-ray exam and identified several anomalies in the appearance of the trailer.

The vehicle was moved to the inspection dock where CBP officers drilled one of the trailer axels and extracted 21 bundles of cocaine.

Authorities arrested the truck's driver, a 61-year-old man from Mexico, and turned him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI special agents.

Attorney General Criticizes Governor Martinez Over CYFD - The Associated Press

Attorney General Gary King is criticizing Gov. Susana Martinez over the state's response to the death of an Albuquerque boy who police say was repeatedly kicked by his mother.

King is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. He contends caseloads at the Children, Youth and Families Department have risen to unmanageable levels and the state's shirking of responsibility in the case of 9-year-old Omaree Varela is calloused.

State officials say there were no open cases involving Varela's family at the time of his death.

Martinez was a prosecutor for 25 years before becoming governor. Her spokesman says she specialized in prosecuting child abuse and child homicide cases and has dedicated her professional life to protecting children.

Martinez's administration has hired more than 300 social workers in the past three years.


Newspaper: Records withheld in police shootings - The Albuquerque Journal

A newspaper reports that the Albuquerque Police Department is withholding numerous documents and other material requested in connection with officer-involved police shootings.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the material requested under the state Inspection of Public Records Act in recent months but not provided includes documents, 911 calls and lapel camera videos.

The newspaper reports that the department asks for delays without explanation, denies requests involving ongoing investigations and is reviewing one request without further comment.

Deputy city attorney Kathryn Levy says some records are withheld temporarily so criminal investigations aren't compromised.

Levy says that's allowed under an exception to the records law and that records are released as soon as they're not needed for investigations.

Legislative Budget Hearings Start Next Week - The Associated Press

A legislative committee is starting work early on developing a budget to finance state government and public education.

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee will hold its first hearing next Monday, about a week before the Legislature convenes for a 30-day session.

Lawmakers will be briefed on proposed $6 billion spending blueprints by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and the Legislative Finance Committee, which is the permanent budget oversight panel for the Legislature.

The governor has proposed a 3 percent budget increase next year and the LFC has recommended spending growth of about 4 percent.

The Legislature convenes on Jan. 21. Lawmakers can consider budget, tax and financial issues, constitutional amendments and proposals placed on the agenda by the governor.


NM, Arizona Tribes Get Preservation Grants - The Associated Press

American Indian communities in New Mexico and Arizona are among the dozens of tribes that will share $2.2 million in historic preservation grants.

The funding was announced Thursday by the National Park Service.

The pueblos of Pojoaque, Santa Ana and Zuni and the Mescalero and Jicarilla Apache will share nearly $92,000.

In Arizona, the San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Tohono O'odham, Hualapai and Gila River Indian Community will get more than $100,000.

The funds will go toward programs that range from the preservation of native languages and oral history to the protection of sacred and historic places.

Tribes can also use the money to prepare nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, for the development of community preservation plans and for repairs to historic buildings.

5 Fraudulently Try To Get Driver's Licenses - The Associated Press

Authorities say five people from Mexico have been arrested for trying to fraudulently obtain New Mexico driver's licenses.

They say the suspects drove from Texas and Oklahoma to get the licenses.

State and federal agents say the suspects falsified residential requirements, including using the Social Security number of a deceased person in one case.

Two of the suspects were arrested Monday and three more on Tuesday.

All were taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol and will be deported.