KUNM

Lawmakers Prepare Criminal Justice Reforms For Next Gov, Contract Awarded For Historic Building

Jun 19, 2018

Lawmakers Prepare Criminal Justice Reforms For Next GovernorThe Associated Press

New Mexico state lawmakers say they are setting a course for criminal justice reforms in anticipation of a new administration in 2019.

Lawmakers who specialize in public safety and criminal justice issues are participating in a daylong forum Tuesday to consider proven strategies for reducing crime and coping with mental illness and addiction without putting more people in jail. They also are seeking to reduce prison recidivism and better integrate people with criminal histories into society.

Second-term Republican Gov. Susan Martinez leaves office this year after a prolonged standoff with lawmakers on major issues of crime and punishment.

Democratic Sen. Bill O'Neill wants to revive vetoed legislation that would remove the criminal history question from initial job applications. Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey is concerned about a growing female prison population.

Contract Awarded For Repairs Of Historic Santa Fe BuildingThe Associated Press

The National Park Service has awarded a contract worth more than $4 million to an Arizona-based company as the agency prepares to restore a national historic landmark in Santa Fe.

The contract calls for MW Morrissey Construction to repair the exterior adobe walls and other historic elements of the Old Santa Fe Trail Building.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced earlier this month that more than $256 million would go toward rebuilding critical national park infrastructure. The Old Santa Fe Trail Building is on the list.

The Park Service closed the building to the public in May to prepare for the upcoming rehabilitation project.

Officials say the building is the largest in-use adobe office building in the United States. It was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Democratic Attorneys General Urge End To Border SeparationsThe Associated Press

Democratic attorneys general are demanding the Trump administration end a "zero tolerance" policy that has resulted in children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, 21 top state prosecutors from California to Massachusetts sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The attorneys call the policy inhumane, saying it raises concerns about violations of children's rights and constitutional principles of due process and equal protection.

Nearly 2,000 minors have been separated from their families since Sessions announced the policy where everyone caught crossing the border illegally will be prosecuted. Children can't go to jail with their parents, so they're separated.

U.S. officials say the children are well cared for.

New Mexico Pension Liabilities Trigger Credit DowngradeThe Associated Press

Concerns about New Mexico's pension liabilities and general financial health have prompted a downgrade in the state's credit rating by a major ratings agency.

Moody's Investors Services on Monday reduced the state's bond rating in a move likely to lead to higher borrowing costs.

It cited extremely large liabilities at two major state pension funds for public employees and teachers.

A Moody's analyst says New Mexico's pension pressures are compounded spending demands linked to the state's large enrollment in Medicaid, a lagging state economy and volatile sources of state government income. The state's financial reporting practices are unusually weak.

At the same time, New Mexico state government is experiencing a surge in tax revenue and royalties linked a rebound in the oil and natural gas sectors.

New Mexico Diner Sued By Agency For Religious DiscriminationThe Associated Press

Federal authorities say the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued a diner in Farmington, New Mexico for subjecting a Muslim woman to religious discrimination by refusing to let her wear a head scarf.

Elizabeth Cadle, director of the agency's five-state district office in Phoenix, said Tuesday the commission sued the Blue Moon Diner for refusing employee Samantha Bandy's request to work while wearing a hijab, a head scarf some Muslim women wear. The commission also alleges Bandy was fired because of her religion.

A man who answered the telephone at the diner said he had no knowledge of the lawsuit and hung up.

The lawsuit asks that Bandy be given back wages and compensatory and punitive damages, and that the diner be permanently banned from engaging in religious discrimination.

Family Separation Policy Faces Headwinds In New MexicoAssociated Press

The Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parents is being met by doubts from a Republican candidate for governor of New Mexico and forceful condemnation from the Democratic competitor. Both candidates in the border state also serve in Congress.

Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce said in a statement Thursday that it is almost never a good idea to separate children from families and that immigrant children need to be treated humanely and reasonably.

Democratic candidate and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham traveled Thursday to a border crossing and immigration detention facilities in California to condemn the separation of child immigrants as shameful and immoral.

Nearly 2,000 children initially were taken from parents under a "zero tolerance" policy for those arrested for illegally entering the country.

Democratic Attorneys General Urge End To Border Separations - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Democratic attorneys general are demanding the Trump administration end a "zero tolerance" policy that has resulted in children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, 21 top state prosecutors from California to Massachusetts sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The attorneys call the policy inhumane, saying it raises concerns about violations of children's rights and constitutional principles of due process and equal protection.

Nearly 2,000 minors have been separated from their families since Sessions announced the policy where everyone caught crossing the border illegally will be prosecuted. Children can't go to jail with their parents, so they're separated.

U.S. officials say the children are well cared for.

House Candidate Blames Congress For Family SeparationsAssociated Press

New Mexico's Republican congressional candidate in a district along the border with Mexico is blaming Congress for an immigration crisis that has led to the separation of immigrant children from their parents.

In a statement Monday, Yvette Herrell said she supports Trump's zero-tolerance policy on border security.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May under the Trump administration's response to illegal border crossings.

Herrell describes the separation of children from their families as unacceptable and the result of years of inaction by Congress. She is running against Democratic attorney Xochitl Torres Small.

Congressman Steve Pearce will not seek re-election to the seat as he campaigns for governor. Trump won the vote in the 1st District in 2016, though he lost statewide.

'Papa! Papa!' Audio Of Children Stokes Rage Over Separation - By Nomaan Merchant And Anita Snow, Associated Press

An audio recording that appears to capture the heartbreaking voices of Spanish-speaking children crying out for their parents at a U.S. immigration facility has stoked the outrage over the Trump administration's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.

"Papa! Papa!" one child is heard saying in the audio file that was first reported by the nonprofit ProPublica and later provided to The Associated Press.

Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower and told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week. She did not provide details about where exactly it was recorded.

Panel Cites More Safety Issues At New Mexico Nuclear LabSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

An independent panel that monitors federal nuclear installations around the United States has documented more safety issues at Los Alamos National Laboratory's plutonium facility.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a crew of pipefitters in May was decontaminated after radioactive contamination was found on a worker's hands, on the crew's protective clothing and in the work area.

The contamination wasn't discovered until after the job was finished, and all pipefitting work was paused.

Weekly briefings from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board also show that members of another crew placed plutonium salts in a prohibited area last month.

The instances are the latest in a series of radiation releases and operational mistakes as Los Alamos lab ramps up its work with nuclear material.

Lawmakers Prepare Criminal Justice Reforms For Next GovernorAssociated Press

New Mexico state lawmakers say they are setting a course for criminal justice reforms in anticipation of a new administration in 2019.

Lawmakers who specialize in public safety and criminal justice issues are participating in a daylong forum Tuesday to consider proven strategies for reducing crime and coping with mental illness and addiction without putting more people in jail. They also are seeking to reduce prison recidivism and better integrate people with criminal histories into society.

Second-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office this year after a prolonged standoff with lawmakers on major issues of crime and punishment.

Democratic Sen. Bill O'Neill wants to revive vetoed legislation that would remove the criminal history question from initial job applications. Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey is concerned about a growing female prison population.

Agency Disciplines Workers In Wake Of Trafficking CaseAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An internal investigation by New Mexico's child welfare agency into its handling of the case of a 7-year-old girl who authorities say was sexually exploited has resulted in 11 suspensions, demotions and terminations.

State Children, Youth and Families Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson confirmed the disciplinary action in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal.

She said all of the employees were from the agency's office in Bernalillo County. They ranged from case workers to supervisory management.

Court documents say the agency and law enforcement had encountered the girl and her family multiple times dating back to 2012.

The girl's father is charged with human trafficking, promoting prostitution and other counts. The mother was taken into custody on charges of child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Advocates Eye New Mexico Fund For Rural Village LibrariesSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Dozens of nonprofit village libraries across New Mexico are in danger of closing without adequate funding and a steady stream of municipal support.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports advocates are pushing for new legislation that would create a $50 million state permanent fund to save small libraries in rural areas that lack bookstores. Advocates say the permanent fund would provide an estimated $50,000 per year for more than 40 rural community libraries.

Under the proposal, New Mexico voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment creating the endowment.

Leaders from the Embudo Valley Library in Dixon, New Mexico, and the Pueblo de Abiquiú Library in Abiquiú, New Mexico, say the plan would give them a greater ability to thrive with annual disbursements from a state rural library endowment.

Contract Awarded For Repairs Of Historic Santa Fe BuildingAssociated Press

The National Park Service has awarded a contract worth more than $4 million to an Arizona-based company as the agency prepares to restore a national historic landmark in Santa Fe.

The contract calls for MW Morrissey Construction to repair the exterior adobe walls and other historic elements of the Old Santa Fe Trail Building.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced earlier this month that more than $256 million would go toward rebuilding critical national park infrastructure. The Old Santa Fe Trail Building is on the list.

The Park Service closed the building to the public in May to prepare for the upcoming rehabilitation project.

Officials say the building is the largest in-use adobe office building in the United States. It was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Police Identify Man Killed In Albuquerque And Woman In CustodyAssociated Press

Authorities have identified a man fatally shot by Albuquerque police after an armed robbery and pursuit and his female accomplice who was arrested.

Police say 47-year-old Richard Rivera who shot Saturday in a supermarket parking lot following the robbery of a cellphone store.

He later died at a hospital.

Police say 39-year-old Jennifer Rael of Albuquerque was arrested.

She's being held on suspicion of aiding and abetting armed bank robbery and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Rael made her initial court appearance Monday in federal court in Albuquerque.

It was unclear if she has a lawyer yet.

Federal prosecutors say Rael will remain in custody until a preliminary hearing and detention hearing that are scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Hobbs Considering Another Police Pay Hike Amid Oil BoomHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

A New Mexico city in the heart of the state's booming oil and gas country is considering giving its police officers another raise to keep them from leaving to higher paying jobs.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports that Hobbs city officials are examining a proposal that would boost the pay rate of police officers by 5 percent.

Police officers in Hobbs, New Mexico, are already the highest paid officers in southeastern New Mexico and among the highest paid city police in the state.

Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall said the Hobbs Police Department has found itself in the position that many area businesses find themselves as the local economy bustles with oilfield activity.

The current starting pay for non-certified Hobbs police officers is $24.78 an hour, or about $51,500 annually.

Groups Sue Over Reclamation Plan For Arizona Coal MineAssociated Press

Navajo environmental groups are asking a judge to review actions that led a federal agency to renew an operating permit for a coal mine near the Arizona-Utah border.

The federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement didn't properly account for the Kayenta Mine's expected closure in 2019.

The groups say they want assurances that Peabody Energy will restore the land to pre-mining conditions.

The federal agency didn't immediately respond to messages left late Friday.

The Kayenta Mine is the sole supplier for the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona. The operating permit expires in July 2020.

The owners of the generating station are closing it in favor of cheaper energy produced by natural gas.

Peabody is trying to secure new ownership for the plant.

Private Jet Once Owned By Elvis Presley For Sale – AgainAssociated Press

A private jet once owned by Elvis Presley that has sat on a runway in New Mexico for nearly four decades is back on the auction block.

The online auction site IronPlanet announced this week that the plane with red velvet seats had returned the market after its current owner bought it last year for $430,000.

A previous auction house says Elvis designed the interior that has gold-tone woodwork, red velvet seats and red shag carpet. But the red 1962 Lockheed Jetstar has no engine and needs a restoration of its cockpit.

The plane was owned by Elvis and his father, Vernon Presley.

It has been privately owned for 36 years and sitting on a tarmac in Roswell, New Mexico.

Photos of the plane also show the exterior in need of restoration.

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