KUNM

Lawmakers Slam DOH On Medical Marijuana Delays, State Police Arrest Ex-Mora Superintendent

Aug 5, 2016

Lawmakers Criticize Backlog On Medical Marijuana Applications – Albuquerque Journal

Lawmakers slammed the New Mexico Department of Health Thursday at an interim committee hearing for a backlog of applications for medical marijuana cards.

The Albuquerque Journal reported State Auditor Tim Keller testified that if the issue is not remedied it could put the state at risk for lawsuits.

In response, Democratic Sen. Cisco McSorley of Albuquerque warned DOH could be held in contempt.

State law requires applications for cards to be processed within 30 days, but that has risen to about 43 days. No one from DOH attended the hearing, but the department submitted a written update indicating it’s working to address the backlog.

The number of people enrolled in the medical cannabis program has risen to more than 26,000 from 14,000 a year ago.

A DOH spokesman said the processing time has dropped from 60 days in June and added the department will take part in a separate legislative hearing on the issue later this month.

State Police Arrest Former Mora Schools SuperintendentSanta Fe New Mexican

New Mexico State Police arrested the former superintendent of the Mora Independent School District Thursday on fraud charges stemming from allegations he lied about his credentials.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Charles Trujillo came under scrutiny last fall when the Las Vegas Optic raised questions about his education and experience.

Trujillo claimed he had a master’s degree from New Mexico Highlands University. He also oversaw the Public Education Department’s Licensure Bureau, which licenses teachers.

The Mora school board, which was headed by Trujillo’s uncle, George Trujillo, initially voted last fall to continue his salary. But PED Secretary Hannah Skandera mandated they stop payments. Trujillo eventually resigned.

Archaeological Excavations Finds 26K Artifacts In New MexicoThe Associated Press

Crews conducting archaeological excavations for an electrical transmission line project southeastern New Mexico have uncovered 26,000 artifacts.

Xcel Energy said this week the team found ion Eddy County the American Indian items dating back 5,000 years.

The historic finds are believed to include a rare shallow basin pit house which was a form of shelter from the archaic period. Final testing is being conducted on the items.

William Whitehead, the lead archaeologist with SWCA Environmental Consultants, says scientist hope to use the items to analyze human behavior including diet and their environment.

After being examined the artifacts will be turned over to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe to be curated.

Xcel Energy is currently expanding infrastructure in southeastern New Mexico through 2020.

New Mexico Tax Holiday Underway As School Year Approaches The Associated Press

New Mexico's annual tax holiday is underway as the start of a new school year approaches.

The start of the tax-free weekend started Friday, and will last through Sunday.

The annual gross receipts tax holiday runs Friday through Sunday, with the state lifting its 5.1 percent sales taxes on items that include clothing and shoes, some outdoor and athletic supplies, computers, and pens and pencils.

Gov. Susana Martinez says "getting ready to go back to school can be expensive" for families, and the tax-free weekend aims to ease the cost.

Clothing and footwear must be $100 or less, and computers must cost $1,000 or less to be sales tax-free. The cap on other classroom necessities is $30.

New Mexico Official Slashes Requested Electric Rate IncreaseThe Associated Press

A New Mexico hearing examiner has recommended cutting a rate increase requested by an electric utility by about two-thirds.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico sought an increase of $123.5 million a year, but Public Regulation Commission hearing examiner Carolyn Glick on Thursday recommended an increase of only $41.3 million.

PNM's request would have meant a rate increase of nearly 16 percent for residential customers. According to Glick's recommendation, her plan would result in a 6.4 percent rate increase for the average customer. A typical residential customer in Albuquerque or Santa Fe would likely see a 7.24 percent increase.

PNM President and Chief Operating Officer Pat Vincent-Collawn says the recommendation is unreasonable.

New Mexico Business Leaders Urge Lawmakers To Keep Job FundThe Associated Press

A coalition of New Mexico business leaders is urging state lawmakers to keep intact a closing fund to help recruit businesses to the state amid a looming special session.

The New Mexico Coalition for Jobs sent a letter Thursday to key lawmakers, asking them not to sweep Local Economic Development Act money into the state's General Fund.

The group says such a move would take New Mexico out of contention for future opportunities to improve the economy.

New Mexico is one of many states dealing with declines in the general fund linked to reduced energy prices. The state is confronting an estimated $159 million general-fund shortfall for the budget year that ended in June.

Sen. John Arthur Smith has warned that anywhere from $300 million to a half-billion dollars in projected state revenue could fail to materialize.

Most Of New Mexico Experiencing Abnormally Dry ConditionsAssociated Press

Most of New Mexico is battling abnormally dry conditions thanks to high temperatures last month.

Data released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that 95 percent of New Mexico is experiencing at least abnormally dry conditions. Twenty-seven percent of the state is under moderate drought.

It's a slight improvement from last week when 96 percent of the state was "abnormally dry" and 21 percent was under moderate drought.

The dry conditions are returning a year after the state received a good amount of rainfall.

For example, Albuquerque Sunport saw 3.28 inches in July 2015. This July, Albuquerque Sunport received only 1.14 inches and below the average amount for the month.

New Mexico Coalition Starts Council To Push Trade With Cuba – Associated Press

A New Mexico coalition of advocates and business leaders has launched a bipartisan council aimed at promoting trade with Cuba.

The Engage Cuba New Mexico State Council, made up of agriculture, energy and American Indian representatives, wants to lift travel and trade restrictions on the communist island amid opening relations with the U.S.

Engage Cuba president James Williams says potential trade with Cuba would provide exciting opportunities for New Mexico's agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Among the members of the council are Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce President Alex Romero and Picuris Pueblo Gov. Gary Pyne.

Energy Groups Support PNM's Proposal To Attract Facebook – Associated Press

Six groups have filed motions to intervene in a case filed by New Mexico's largest electric provider in connection to a proposed Facebook data center in Los Lunas.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the parties motions all appear to support the Public Service Co. of New Mexico's filing, but if they were allowed to be intervening parties the organizations would be allowed to make arguments in the case.

PNM has asked the Public Regulation Commission for expedited approvals for mechanisms to provide renewable energy to the data center.

Western Resource Advocates, New Energy Economy, New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, the Renewable Energy Industries Association of New Mexico, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, and the city of Albuquerque have all filed motions to argue for the proposal.

Documents: Officer Told Woman To Drop Scissors Before FiringAssociated Press

Witnesses say an Arizona police officer who fatally shot a Native American woman told her repeatedly to drop the scissors in her hand before he opened fire.

Winslow officials on Wednesday released the Arizona Department of Public Safety's full investigative report into the March 27 shooting of Loreal Tsingine.

Police say Officer Austin Shipley was responding to a shoplifting complaint when he shot Tsingine, who was holding a pair of medical scissors, on a sidewalk.

A prosecutor has cleared Shipley in the shooting, saying a review of the case determined he felt his life and that of another officer were threatened.

Native American activists have protested the shooting, saying it was excessive.

The U.S. Justice Department says it's reviewing the shooting investigation.

Deal To Bring Electricity To Over 1,000 On Navajo NationAssociated Press

More than 1,000 Navajos who live without electricity in their homes soon could get power for the first time as the tribal utility buys a system of southern Utah substations and electrical lines.

Officials say the deal between the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and Salt Lake City-based Rocky Mountain Power will help them connect some of the thousands of people on the 27,000 square-mile Navajo Nation who live without a utility considered among the most basic for most Americans.

NUTA spokeswoman Deenise Becenti says the tribal utility expects to start connecting people after they take ownership of the Utah system near Montezuma Creek early next year.

Annie Hamm is without power in her home. The 59-year-old says she's looking forward to getting a refrigerator at home and electric light at night when she finally gets connected.

First Human Case Of West Nile Virus This Year In New Mexico – Associated Press

State health officials are reporting the first human case of West Nile virus in New Mexico this year.

The New Mexico Department of Health announced Thursday that a 40-year-old woman from Rio Arriba County has been diagnosed with West Nile.

She was hospitalized with neuroinvasive disease, which is the more serious form of the illness.

But health officials say the woman now is recovering at home.

Mosquitoes transmit the West Nile virus.

People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus.

State health officials identified 14 cases of West Nile infection in humans last year including 12 with neuroinvasive disease. There were no deaths.

Archaeological Excavations Finds 26K Artifacts In New Mexico Associated Press

Crews conducting archaeological excavations for an Xcel Energy transmission line project in southeastern New Mexico have uncovered 26,000 artifacts.

Xcel Energy said this week the team found in Eddy County the American Indian items dating back 5,000 years.

The historic finds are believed to include a rare shallow basin pit house which was a form of shelter from the archaic period. Final testing is being conducted on the items.

William Whitehead, the lead archaeologist with SWCA Environmental Consultants, says scientist hope to use the items to analyze human behavior including diet and their environment.

After being examined the artifacts will be turned over to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe to be curated.

Xcel Energy is currently expanding infrastructure in southeastern New Mexico through 2020.

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