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Mail Theft Concerns Prompt Hiring Of More Inspectors, House Approves Ethics Commission Amendment

Mar 10, 2017

Mail Theft Concerns Prompt Hiring Of More Postal Inspectors – The Associated Press

With New Mexico's largest metropolitan area being plagued by mail thefts, the U.S. Postal Service has agreed to add two more postal inspectors in the Albuquerque office.

The announcement was made Friday by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The New Mexico Democrat met with the chief postal inspector last year after hearing from constituents about mail thefts.

Lujan Grisham says mailbox break-ins are a major problem, especially for elderly, disabled and low-income residents who may have difficulties traveling to the nearest post office to pick up their mail or prescriptions drugs.

The congresswoman's office says the Postal Service is replacing older neighborhood delivery collection box units with high security boxes in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. The service also pledged to take other measures to prevent mail theft.

New Mexico House Approves Creation Of Ethics Commission Associated Press

A proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission in New Mexico has been approved by the state House of Representatives.

The House voted 66-0 to create a seven-member commission to enforce standards of conduct for state officers, employees, lobbyists and contractors, along with campaign finance restrictions and reporting requirements for political candidates.

The commission would be appointed by legislative leaders and the governor to investigate public complaints, subpoena records and apply civil sanctions.

New Mexico has been shaken since 2015 by a string of corruption scandals that led to resignations by the New Mexico secretary of state, a longstanding state senator and a former Cabinet secretary who has not been charged.

Senate approval still is needed before the amendment goes to a statewide vote in 2018.

Court Issues Order To Preclude Release Of Some DefendantsThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has issued an order aimed at preventing the inadvertent release of defendants in criminal cases where detention motions are pending or a detention order is already in effect.

The court publicized the order Friday, notifying attorneys and judges around the state that it takes effect immediately.

The justices stated that the issue demanded immediate action pending a review and any changes to release and detention rules.

The order comes as courts adapt to a constitutional change that was approved by voters last November that allowed judges to deny bail to defendants considered exceptionally dangerous. The constitutional amendment also granted pretrial release to those who aren't considered a threat but remain in jail because they can't afford bail.

'Waco' Movie To Begin Filming Near Santa FeThe Associated Press

A miniseries about the 1993 standoff between a religious group and federal authorities in Waco, Texas, is set to begin filming in Santa Fe County.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that assistant production coordinator Dustin Dellavecchia says the six-episode series "Waco" is in preproduction at Santa Fe Studios. Officials say producers have begun scouting exterior county locations.

The show, which documents the standoff between the Branch Davidian sect and federal authorities, will star Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians, and Michael Shannon as FBI negotiator Gary Noesner. Recording artist and actor Ludacris is rumored to play a sect member in the show.

Spike TV won the bidding process for the show. A premiere date has not been announced.

Advocates: New Mexico Lawmakers Stall Anti-Poverty EffortsAssociated Press

Advocates say the Democratic-controlled New Mexico Legislature isn't doing enough to tackle poverty in one of the nation's poorest states.

They say the brushing off of proposals like strong payday loan reform and the unclear future of early childhood education expansion could deepen poverty in New Mexico.

However, Democrats say their proposed budgets and support for raising the minimum wage show they are concerned about New Mexico's poor.

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, says bishops were furious a Senate committee debated making the green chile cheeseburger the state's official hamburger. Instead, he said senators should be discussing of early childhood education expansion.

Bill Jordan, a New Mexico Voices for Children policy adviser, says lawmakers' hands are tied since Gov. Susana Martinez is refusing to raise taxes.

New Mexico Gets Federal Grant To Boost Energy Sector Jobs Associated Press

New Mexico has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Energy Department to boost the creation of energy sector jobs.

Officials with the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department say the funding will be used to develop a roadmap that supports partnerships and involvement with energy producers in all sectors, from oil and gas to renewable resources.

State Energy Secretary Ken McQueen says the work will build on the energy plan rolled out by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2015. That plan called for improving infrastructure and workforce training, streamlining regulation and looking for new energy opportunities.

With the roadmap, officials will consider future environmental requirements, policies, market forces and other factors needed for a more diverse energy portfolio.

New Mexico Senate Cobbles Together Budget PlanAssociated Press

A Senate panel has released a plan to raise $350 million in new taxes and fees to shore up New Mexico state finances in the coming fiscal year.

The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday announced proposed amendments to a House-approved taxation bill that more aggressively increases revenues to close a $128 million budget shortfall and rebuild state reserves to protect the state's credit rating.

The plan modifies and merges House-approved tax increases on auto sales, health care providers and internet sales with a Senate-approved tax hike on gasoline and diesel. The committee took no action.

The Democrat-led Legislature is moving cautiously forward with a $6.1 billion general fund budget plan that would hold educational spending flat and increase judiciary spending. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vows to oppose outright tax increases.

Man Who Created The Iconic Navajo Nation Seal Dies At Age 82Associated Press

Tribal officials say the man who created the iconic Navajo Nation Seal has died.

They say 82-year-old John Claw Jr. died Thursday in Gallup, New Mexico.

Claw's daughter says he had been taken to the emergency room at Gallup Indian Medical Center for complications stemming from heart-related conditions.

In 1952 while attending Ganado High School, Claw entered a competition to design the Navajo Nation Seal.

His winning design incorporated arrowheads, a rainbow, cornstalks, the Four Sacred Mountains and livestock.

Tribal President Russell Begaye says the seal "signifies the essential core of Navajo life, culture and teachings and is identifiable far beyond the reaches of the United States.

Claw is survived by a sister, 11 children, 33 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

Funeral plans are pending.

New Mexico Governor Vetoes More Sick Days For Teachers Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed a bill that would have increased the number of sick days that public school teachers can take without impacting their job performance evaluations.

Vetoing the bill Thursday, the Republican governor said the bill threatened to reverse recent reductions in teacher absentee rates and increase the use of substitutes in classrooms.

The bill would have allowed teachers to take up to 10 days of sick leave without impacting their attendance record, while deferring to local school boards. Currently the possible consequence of taking more than three sick days is a reduction of the score on a teacher's evaluation. Education unions say that prevents teachers from using leave they have earned and may need.

Martinez says the changes would increase costs and hurt academics.

New Mexico Tells School Kids: No Lunch Money, No ProblemAssociated Press

A bill to ensure that New Mexico children are served school meals even if their parents do not pay on time has been approved by the state Senate.

The Senate voted 30-7 on Thursday in favor of the bill that outlines debt collection procedures for unpaid breakfasts and lunches at public, private and religious schools that accept federal subsidies for student meals.

The bill also prohibits schools from calling attention to a child who can't pay or requiring they do chores to help pay for food, to avoid any stigma.

Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla says the bill separates parents' debt from a child's need to eat. Republican Sen. Craig Brandt says it would hurt public school finances unnecessarily.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

New Mexico Senate OKs Ban On Coyote Killing ContestsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has taken a step toward outlawing coyote killing contests for prizes or entertainment, without placing restrictions on hunting or trapping the animals.

The state Senate voted 26-15 Thursday on a bill that would make it illegal to organize, sponsor or participate in a coyote killing contest. The initiative now moves to the House, where lawmakers debated a similar bill in 2013 for two hours before voting it down.

Ranchers and outfitters from across the state say the contests are a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten cattle and sheep. Supporters of the legislation called the practice barbaric and ineffective in the long run.

Republican Rep. and bill sponsor Mark Moores of Albuquerque estimates that at least 32 contests were held over the past year.

Alaska Airlines Adds Daily Albuquerque-San Francisco FlightAssociated Press

City officials say Alaska Airlines is adding a non-stop, daily flight from Albuquerque to San Francisco and back this fall.

The flights will begin Sept. 18 with one flight leaving for San Francisco International Airport at 7:15 a.m. and another flight headed back to Albuquerque International Sunport at 6:15 p.m.

The daily flights will be operated by Horizon Air on 76-seat E175 jets.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says Alaska Airlines now will serve four nonstop destinations from the Sunport.

Since 2009, the Sunport has added three new airlines with service to three new destinations and expanded options to five existing destinations.

The city also has announced a major renovation project to the pre-security portion of the terminal this spring, with completion scheduled next year.

Effort To Rein In Payday Loan Industry Gains SteamAssociated Press

A measure that would cap the amount of interest and fees charged by the payday loan industry in New Mexico has cleared its latest legislative hurdle.

The House Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill on a 9-1 vote Thursday, meaning the legislation will now be considered by the full House of Representatives.

This marks the most steam such legislation has had in recent years. Typically, any proposals to rein in storefront lending fall flat and never find their way out of committee.

The legislation effectively eliminates payday loans by definition and bans small loans that have terms less than 120 days. It also caps interest rates at 175 percent.

Some consumer advocates have pushed unsuccessfully for a 36 percent cap, but the higher rate has won support from industry lobbyists.

Ciudad Juárez Group Eyes Tourism Campaign For Border CityLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A group in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, is launching a campaign about safety in the border city in hopes of sparking more tourism.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that members of Love Jrz, a nonprofit, non-governmental association based in Ciudad Juárez, also are highlighting recreation and tourism opportunities.

In 2011, the city recorded 1,500 homicides widely blamed on violence between rival drug cartels. That number dropped to 269 in 2015. Ciudad Juárez has not experienced a rise in tourism concurrent with the drop in violence.

But the city saw more than 80 homicides last month, one of the highest numbers for a month in years.

The group has launched a Facebook page and is working on an interactive kiosk and mobile app. The kiosks will be placed in hotels, convention centers, and airports.

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