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Lawmaker Calls For NMSU Regents To Resign, State Lawmakers Debate Crime Bills

Feb 14, 2018

Key New Mexico Lawmaker Calls For NMSU Regents To ResignThe Associated Press

A top leader in the New Mexico Legislature is asking for New Mexico State University's regents to resign following a recent vote to limit the administrative powers of the school's outgoing chancellor.

Democratic Senate President Mary Kay Papen drafted a letter calling out the regents and asked her colleagues to sign it Wednesday.

Fellow lawmakers voiced their concerns about the politicization of regent appointments over the years. Regents are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The developments come after lawmakers last week failed to move forward with a proposal to overhaul the selection process for regents who oversee the state's public universities and flagship medical center.

Supporters of the effort have argued that the nominating system has long emphasized loyalty to the governor over experience in higher education and accountability to local communities.

State Lawmakers Debate Crime Bills - The Associated Press

New Mexico's rising crime rate put public safety at the center of daily legislative debates this year in Santa Fe — from battles on how to stem child abuse, auto theft, domestic violence and other violent crimes.

In the end, though, it's been mostly a handful of bi-partisan public safety measures that have gained the most traction, out of more than 75 total criminal justice bills proposed at the start of the session.

Six of those bills have been combined into one wide-ranging package that includes both tough-on-crime sentencing enhancements and reform-driven measures.

It won approval today in the Senate, and now must go back to the House for a floor vote before it can be sent to the governor.

The Legislature adjourns Thursday.

Group Sues DOH, Claims Neglect Of Boarding House OversightThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

A nonprofit group is suing the New Mexico Department of Health for failure to enforce rules and regulations pertaining to the oversight of boarding homes.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Disability Rights of New Mexico, a group that advocates for the rights of people with mental illness, claims the department is neglecting its responsibilities, which "poses a dire public health and safety risk to some of the state's most vulnerable populations."

The group is asking a judge to issue an order requiring the department to begin enforcing provisions of the state Public Health Act on boarding homes or show cause why not.

Disability Rights visited multiple boarding homes in Las Vegas and Albuquerque and found "a multitude of egregious residential conditions.'

A health department spokesman would not comment on the lawsuit.

Court Settles Questions Over School Funding DeductionsThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court says annual certification from the federal government is required before state education officials can withhold funds for public school districts based on how much federal aid they receive.

The ruling came this week in a 2010 case involving the Zuni school district.

The dispute centered on a funding formula that takes into account federal dollars meant to help districts that have a limited tax base due to tribal lands, military installations or other federal lands that are exempt from property taxes.

The court found that the state erred in lowering the district's monthly allotments of state equalization funding before getting federal approval.

However, the court also found that the school district ended up getting more than it was entitled to in state aid for the 2010 fiscal year so it denied Zuni's request for funding.

Romero Steps Down As University Of New Mexico RegentThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

University of New Mexico Regent Alex Romero has stepped down after publicly voicing concerns about communication problems on the board.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez had appointed Romero to the board of regents at New Mexico's flagship university last spring. It was announced on the Senate floor Wednesday that her office was removing his name from the list of appointees awaiting confirmation hearings.

Romero told the Albuquerque Journal that he tried to work with regent leadership but was unsuccessful. He said it was time to move on.

He also encouraged the regents to gather to discuss priorities and how the board can support incoming President Garnett Stokes, who starts March 1.

Romero last year retired as president and chief executive of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

House Vote Blocks Senate Budget ChangesAssociated Press

A $6.3 billion annual spending bill for New Mexico state government is in limbo after the House of Representatives rejected Senate amendments.

The House voted Tuesday not to concur with an assortment of Senate amendments that provided greater pay increases to police, prison guards and Albuquerque-based prosecutors and more money for state universities.

Leading House budget negotiators say the disagreement hinges on funding for road construction and maintenance. Democratic Rep. Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup says the House allocated $60 million toward roadwork as an engine for economic development and that Senate amendments would have reduced that to $34 million.

The House and Senate are likely to resort to a conference committee to negotiate a compromise.

New Mexico Urges Congress To Rein In Dark MoneyAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature is urging the U.S. Congress to restore greater federal and local regulation of political spending that influences elections and governance — and hopes other statehouses will do the same.

The state Senate voted 24-16 on Tuesday for an initiative aimed at regulating and possibly limiting the role of money in politics through an amendment to the federal Constitution. Both chambers of the Democrat-led Legislature have now approved the measure.

The effort seeks to reverse Supreme Court actions including the 2010 Citizens United decision that cleared the way for unlimited independent elections spending.

Similar measures are slated for introduction soon in Alabama and New Hampshire. The non-binding resolution called a "memorial" also pledges support for a constitutional amendment to end partisan gerrymandering.

Court Settles Questions Over School Funding DeductionsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court says annual certification from the federal government is required before state education officials can withhold funds for public school districts based on how much federal aid they receive.

The ruling came this week in a 2010 case involving the Zuni school district.

The dispute centered on a funding formula that takes into account federal dollars meant to help districts that have a limited tax base due to tribal lands, military installations or other federal lands that are exempt from property taxes.

The court found that the state erred in lowering the district's monthly allotments of state equalization funding before getting federal approval.

However, the court also found that the school district ended up getting more than it was entitled to in state aid for the 2010 fiscal year so it denied Zuni's request for funding.

Trial Dates, Venue Set For Fatal Library Shooting CaseEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

The start date and location have been set for a teenager's trial in a fatal New Mexico library shooting.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports Nathaniel Jouett will be tried as an adult on charges including first-degree murder in a trial set to begin March 18, 2019, in Roswell.

Jouett was 16 when 2 people were killed and 4 injured at the Clovis library last August.

The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles accused of crimes. It is identifying Jouett, however, because of the seriousness of the crime and because authorities are seeking adult sanctions.

Defense attorney Stephen Taylor wants Jouettt, now 17, transferred from the Curry County Juvenile Detention Center to an adolescent treatment facility in Albuquerque pending trial.

District Attorney Andrea Reeb says she'll oppose that.

New Mexico Reviews Status Of Threatened White Sands PupfishAssociated Press

State wildlife managers are reviewing the status of a threatened fish found only in southern New Mexico's Tularosa River Basin.

The Game and Fish Department has initiated an investigation into the White Sands pupfish, a 2-inch long fish that can be found in two springs and two streams on White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.

Because of its extremely limited distribution, the pupfish has been classified by the state as a threatened species since 1975.

The department is accepting comments and data on the species status that will be considered by the agency's director before a final decision is made later this year.

The department has been working federal wildlife and military officials since 1994 on conservation measures aimed at maintaining the current populations and establishing new ones in suitable locations.

Head Of National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation Resigns Associated Press

The head of the fundraising arm of the National Hispanic Cultural Center is resigning after nearly three years of boosting the nonprofit organization's profile.

Anna Sanchez's last day as the director of the cultural center's foundation will be Feb. 23. The organization said a search is underway for a new director.

Sanchez began working for the foundation in June 2015. Within a year, the organization's membership program doubled participation to 240 members.

Sanchez also is credited with increasing programmatic fundraising support by more than 40 percent. She raised just under $1 million last fiscal year.

Foundation Board Chair Anthony Trujillo said Sanchez was able to improve relations with members and donors.

The fundraising efforts by the foundation support the cultural center's operations, staffing needs and capital projects.

UNM Regents Won't Accept Lobos Coach's Appeal Of SuspensionAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico's Board of Regents won't accept football coach Bob Davie's appeal of his 30-day suspension.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the seven-member board made the decision in executive session Tuesday, but didn't release a reason for not accepting Davie's appeal.

UNM interim President Chaouki Abdallah announced the suspension last Thursday after the school released the results of two recent investigations involving Davie and the Lobos' football program.

Davie was suspended without pay following the investigations that examined whether he and coaching staff interfered with criminal investigations or misconduct cases involving players.

Davie is two seasons into a six-year contract that runs through the 2021 season and pays him $822,690 annually, not including bonuses and incentives.

New Mexico Democratic Party Hit By Misconduct ClaimsAssociated Press

The Democratic Party of New Mexico vice chair says she was a target of unwanted sexual advances by a party official who also is a Doña Ana County commissioner.

Neomi Martinez-Parra said in a letter Monday that she's been a victim of inappropriate sexual misconduct by Doña Ana County Commissioner and Doña Ana County Central Committee member John Vasquez.

Martinez-Parra also wrote that she strongly disagreed with a proposal from New Mexico Democratic Party chairman Richard Ellenberg that she not pursue a complaint in exchange for Vasquez resigning from a post.

Ellenberg says he didn't mean to suggest Martinez-Parra should drop her claim. He says it's up to the Doña Ana County Democratic Party to remove Vasquez.

Vasquez didn't respond to emails and his voicemail was full.

Gonzales Drops Out Of New Mexico Lieutenant Governor's RaceAssociated Press

Democrat Javier Gonzales is ending his current bid for higher office, saying his heart is not in the race for lieutenant governor.

Gonzales said in a statement issued Tuesday that he plans to return to the private sector once his term as Santa Fe mayor ends.

The Democratic field for lieutenant governor remains crowded. Candidates include state Sen. Howie Morales, Eagle Nest resident and teacher Jeff Carr, Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett and former House Majority Leader Rick Miera.

Santa Fe's first openly gay mayor, Gonzales has been outspoken on immigration issues. He gained attention last year for his defiance of President Donald Trump's executive order to revoke funding for cities that don't fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Gonzales served previously as chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Facebook Joins Effort To Fight Opioid Crisis In New Mexico - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Facebook is joining the fight against the opioid crisis in New Mexico as the social media giant faces criticism for allowing sellers to use its platform to offer illegal drugs.

The Menlo Park, California company said Tuesday it will work with the state's attorney general to show Facebook users how they can use its digital tools to combat addiction.

The move comes as Facebook is preparing to open a data center in central New Mexico.

Ana Martinez, head of Facebook's community engagement for the U.S. Southwest, says the social media company's online groups offer families support and information to fight addiction.

Last year, a CNBC investigation found that sellers in the U.S. and overseas were using Facebook pages and videos to offer opioids that require a prescription.

Condom-Wearing Chile Helps Raise STD Awareness In New MexicoLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

February is National Condom Month and New Mexico health officials are spreading the word.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the New Mexico Department of Health started the month with an Instagram post: "Wrap it up! It's your health - Take charge and be safe! #CondomMonth," paired with a red chile pepper outfitted with a condom.

The chile is one of the designated state vegetables of New Mexico (the other being frijoles). A recent study by Backgroundchecks.org. says New Mexico is the fifth-most "sexually diseased" state in America.

New Mexico Department of Health spokesman David Morgan says the agency "takes the spread and treatment of all sexually transmitted diseases as well as the number of teen births in our state very seriously."

New Mexico Man Planned To Harm Texas YouTube StarsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Court records say a New Mexico man drove to Austin, Texas, late last month with a plan to harm two YouTube celebrities with whom he had become obsessed.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a warrant searching Christopher Giles' cellphone and other electronics returned more than a thousand notes about YouTube stars Gavin Free and Megan Turney.

Giles broke into the couple's Texas home early on Jan. 26 after shooting out the glass in a door. The couple called police while hiding in a bedroom closet.

When Austin police arrived, they had a brief altercation with Giles in the driveway. When Giles fired his gun, an officer returned fire. Giles died from injuries, but the medical examiner has not officially determined whether he died from police gunfire or a self-inflicted wound.

Democrat Disqualified From New Mexico Congressional RaceLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A Democratic nominee for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District has been disqualified.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports a release from New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says Angel Peña was disqualified "because a number of his submitted petition pages failed to meet the requirements set forth in state statute. As a result, Mr. Peña did not meet the minimum number of signatures required for qualification."

An office spokesman says eight pages of petitions had alterations or errors and could not be counted.

Secretary of State spokesman Joey Keefe says Peña would have needed 623 valid signatures

Peña campaign worker Carlos Contreras says the campaign is aware of the situation and is consulting with an attorney.

The primary election is June 5 and the general election is Nov. 6.

Survivor Recounts New Mexico Helicopter Crash In NTSB ReportAssociated Press

The lone survivor of a New Mexico helicopter crash last month that killed five people, including key Zimbabwean opposition leader Roy Bennett, recalls that the aircraft hit the ground with a loud bang before rolling forward and coming to a stop upside down.

Andra Cobb, of Texas, also says the wreck ignited a fire that set off explosions in the moments after the crash on a grassy plain east of Raton. Her account was detailed in a National Transportation Safety Board report released Tuesday.

The preliminary report does not indicate what may have caused the crash. A full investigative report isn't expected for months.

Authorities say the crash claimed the lives of Bennett, his wife, Heather, wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III, pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd and co-pilot Paul Cobb.

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