KUNM

Molina Healthcare Seeks Injunction Over Medicaid Contract, NM Official Concerned About Trust Lands

Feb 1, 2018

Molina Healthcare Seeks Injunction Over Medicaid ContractThe Associated Press

An insurance provider that lost its contract with the state to provide Medicaid services is seeking an injunction against the New Mexico Human Services Department and the agency's secretary.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Molina Healthcare also plans to seek a temporary restraining order.

The company claims the consultant hired by the state to help evaluate Medicaid proposals has a conflict of interest involving one of the successful bidders and that not all stakeholders — including state insurance regulators and child welfare officials — were involved in the procurement process.

The Human Services Department says the process was competitive and fair and that Molina can protest following the end of the procurement period.

A recent financial filing indicates the loss of the contract will slash hundreds of millions of dollars from Molina's premium revenues.

State Official Concerned About Trust Lands Near White SandsThe Associated Press

New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says the state is losing potentially millions of dollars a year because military restrictions are preventing the leasing of state trust lands adjacent to White Sands Missile Range.

Dunn sent a letter to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, saying public schools and other beneficiaries should be compensated if the U.S.. Defense Department is going to prevent the leasing of state trust land in the area.

In 2004, an agreement was reached with the Defense Department on restrictions and lease payments in call-up areas to the north and west of the range. That expired in 2006 and negotiations have been ongoing since then.

Range officials argue they don't restrict use or prevent leasing of adjacent lands, but Dunn's office contends the way the military uses the area creates a de facto prohibition.

New Mexico City Settles Tort Claim From Former Police ChiefThe Associated Press

A northern New Mexico city has settled a tort claim filed by its former police chief over allegations of city misconduct and creating a hostile work environment.

The Las Vegas Optic reports the city of Las Vegas paid out more than $54,000 after Juan Montano filed the claim last year.

City officials say Las Vegas paid $33,500 to Montano and the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico. Montano also received about $21,000 for accumulated vacation and sick time.

Montano's attorney Raul A. Carrillo Jr. sent a letter to the city last summer, claiming Montano faced retaliation from the city for the "performance of his legal duties and obligations."

Montano became chief in December 2014. He recently left the department.

Latino Group Leader Rebuked For Backing Trump Border PlanThe Associated Press

The chief executive officer of the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. is rebuking the group's elected president for endorsing President Donald Trump's immigration plan that seeks to build a border wall.

League of United Latin American Citizens CEO Brent Wilkes said late Wednesday a letter to Trump from group president Roger Rocha was a "clear contradiction" of its immigration reform stance.

Rocha wrote Trump this week saying the storied civil rights group would support his plan for a wall in exchange for protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally.

He rescinded the letter after backlash from members in New Mexico, Texas, and California.

Wilkes says Rocha sent the letter with the group's logo without its board's consent.

Some members are calling for Rocha to resign.

New Mexico Prison Gang Trial Begins With Agent's TestimonyThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The first witness to testify in the trial of four members of a New Mexico prison gang was the FBI agent who used confidential informants to build the racketeering investigation.

The Albuquerque Journal reports FBI Special Agent Bryan Acee testified in a Las Cruces courtroom Wednesday, describing how an inmate informer was provided a cellphone that the alleged ringleader of the Sindicato Nuevo Mexico prison gang used to call members outside the prison.

The agent told the court that the call recordings helped build the criminal case. The informant was in a cell next to Anthony Ray Baca.

Baca's attorney Marc Lowry told jurors that his client was not the gang leader anymore as he had fallen out of favor with the gang.

New Mexico House Approves More Pay, Infrastructure Spending – Associated Press

A New Mexico state spending plan that would increase pay for teachers, top elected officials and state workers has been approved by the New Mexico House of Representatives.

House lawmakers voted 65-3 Wednesday in favor of a $6.32 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The plan would increase spending by 3.9 percent over the current fiscal year, while rebuilding state reserves. An oil-sector boom has increased state income.

The bill now goes to the Senate for amendment. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez eventually can veto provisions line-by-line.

Funding for public education would increase by $62 million — with enough money to boost average teacher salaries by about 2.5 percent.

New infrastructure spending includes $80 million for roadways and $10 million toward the state's spaceport launch facility.

Molina Healthcare Seeks Injunction Over Medicaid ContractAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An insurance provider that lost its contract with the state to provide Medicaid services is seeking an injunction against the New Mexico Human Services Department and the agency's secretary.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Molina Healthcare also plans to seek a temporary restraining order.

The company claims the consultant hired by the state to help evaluate Medicaid proposals has a conflict of interest involving one of the successful bidders and that not all stakeholders — including state insurance regulators and child welfare officials — were involved in the procurement process.

The state has yet to comment on the legal action.

A recent financial filing indicates the loss of the contract will slash hundreds of millions of dollars from Molina's premium revenues. Molina also claims wait times for behavioral health services will increase.

New Mexico Proposal Hopes To Wipe Out Pecan Weevil BugCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

New Mexico state lawmakers want to help eradicate an invasive bug threatening New Mexico's pecan industry.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports a proposal in the New Mexico Senate and House seeks to appropriate around $250,000 to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture for studies and eradication programs.

In November, New Mexico agriculture officials issued a quarantine in hopes of stopping the spread of the pecan weevil. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture said at the time the emergency pecan weevil quarantine would last for 180 days.

No pecan shipments from Chaves, Curry, Eddy and Lea counties are permitted.

The agency is also working with pest control companies to remove the weevil from residential and commercial trees.

New Mexico Lawmakers Push Bi-Partisan Package To Curb CrimeAssociated Press

Lawmakers have assembled a bi-partisan package of proposals meant to curb crime, and it has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved an omnibus package of public safety bills that now goes to the House floor for a vote.

It includes six bills, including one that would push jails and prisons to screen more inmates for health problems and connect them with treatment services. Reps. Daymon Ely, a Corrales Democrat, and Nate Gentry, an Albuquerque Republican, say the intent of the bill is to reduce recidivism.

A measure sponsored by Republican Rep. David Adkins to provide bonuses to veteran police officers also is included. It's meant to increase the number of officers on the streets.

Democratic Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas calls the package a "common sense approach" to public safety.

New Mexico Bill Wants Students To Have Post-High School PlanAssociated Press

Two New Mexico lawmakers want high school students to fill out at least one college application as a condition of graduation, with a bill that so far has received mixed reviews from educators.

Under the measure, students also would have the option of showing they have made other post-graduation plans, like enlisting in the military, or committing to an internship or apprenticeship.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Nate Gentry and Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is scheduled for a hearing Thursday.

The president of National Education Association-New Mexico is among the bill's critics, saying it doesn't account for the range of situations New Mexico students face. For example, she says, rural students may want to work on a family farm, and others may need to work a low-wage job before college.

LULAC Letter Supporting Trump's Immigration Plan Draws Fire - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

The leader of the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. is facing harsh criticism for endorsing President Donald Trump's immigration framework that includes a border wall.

Roger Rocha, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, wrote Trump this week saying the storied civil rights group would support his plan for a wall in exchange for protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally.

Rocha also wrote that LULAC would endorse new restrictions on legal immigration.

Those comments drew strong reactions from LULAC members and activists across the country who say such policies would hurt Hispanics.

LULAC member Ralph Arellanos of Albuquerque says the wall should not be part of any compromise.

Washington State LULAC Director Diana Perez says Rocha's letter wasn't approved by the national board.

1 Dead After Crash At Albuquerque Rapid Transit Bus StationAssociated Press

A man is dead after a two-car crash at an Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus station.

Police in Albuquerque say they were called to the scene about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday.

They found a car up on its side against a bus station platform with the driver dead inside the vehicle.

The name of the man wasn't immediately released.

Witnesses told police that a driver ran a red light before running into a car that had a man and woman inside. The two weren't seriously hurt.

Police are reviewing surveillance video from a business near the crash site that could show the collision.

Experts Warn Of Cracks Forming Above New Mexico Cavern - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Experts are painting a dire picture for lawmakers about the impending collapse of a giant cavern that has formed under a highway interchange that serves as a gateway to southern New Mexico's oilfields and two national parks.

They say new cracks are developing at the site on the edge of Carlsbad, where a now-defunct company had operated a well that produced millions of gallons of brine from salt layers deep underground for use in oil and gas operations.

Lawmakers from the region are seeking more than $40 million from various state funds to keep the area from turning into a massive sinkhole. The city of Carlsbad and Eddy County are pitching in $4 million.

State officials are concerned about siphoning money from funds used for cleaning contamination around the state.

Commissioners Reach Rights-Of-Way Agreements With 4 PueblosSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe County commissioners have approved settlements ending rights-of-way disputes with four northern New Mexico pueblos.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the settlements approved Tuesday clarify rights of way for 34 miles of roads through Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque pueblos through the year 2216.

Under agreements with Pojoaque and Tesuque, the county is granted rights of way for roads it maintains within the pueblo boundaries. The rights of way for roadways within Nambe and San Ildefonso pueblos go to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

All roads will remain open to the public, but San Ildefonso and Nambe have the right to close roads temporarily for cultural events.

County Manager Katherine Miller says she believes the county and pueblos can resolve any other issues that arise.

Robots Could Descend Into Old Mines To Prevent Toxic Spills - By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

Scientists are developing robots that may one day be able to creep through old mines to help prevent environmental disasters.

The Colorado mountains have dozens of inactive mines that are filled with polluted water. If it leaks out, the water can devastate the surrounding landscape.

The first step in addressing the problem is finding out what's inside the mines, some of which date to the 1860s. That's where the robots come in. They could navigate the pitch-black passages to map the mines and analyze the water.

The robots could take several years to develop. They might resemble golf carts and cost $90,000 each.

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally released 3 million gallons of mustard-colored water from the Gold King Mine. The spill tainted rivers in three states, including New Mexico.

Albuquerque Zoo Acquires Female Snow Leopard From ChicagoAssociated Press

The Albuquerque zoo has another snow leopard.

ABQ BioPark officials say they've started visually introducing Sarani, a 7-year-old female, to the zoo's male leopard, Azeo.

The hope is that the zoo can breed the two snow leopards to help the species survive.

Sarani arrived in New Mexico in December from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

Azeo is parent to 11 offspring from his former mate, Kachina, who died last year.

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