Monday News Roundup: Lobbyists Dole Out $400K In Campaign Contributions

Feb 3, 2014

  Lobbyists dole out $400K in campaign contributions The Associated Press

New state reports show that lobbyists and their clients handed out about $400,000 in campaign contributions to legislators, Gov. Susana Martinez and others in the months leading up to this year's legislative session.

The contributions are in addition to more than $600,000 spent by lobbyists last year for food, drinks, gifts and entertainment for lawmakers and other state officials.

The oil and gas industry accounted for not quite half of the lobbyist campaign contributions from late April through the end of last year.

A top lobbyist donor was J.D. Bullington, who reported about $81,000 in contributions on behalf of himself and his clients. Nearly $29,000 went to the governor.

Lawsuit against NM seeks marijuana license - The Associated Press

A Santa Fe man is suing New Mexico health officials to address what he says is a severe medical marijuana shortage.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Mark Springer filed a lawsuit late last week against the state Department of Health.

In the suit, Springer, who owns Medical Marijuana Inc., requests that the department reopen the application period for eligible marijuana growers and permit them to grow more of the plant.

Brian Egolf, Springer's attorney, says his client has met all the requirements for a license but has been rejected with no explanation.

Springer says the rigid application process is causing a hardship for patients.

Department of Health spokesman Kenny Vigil says the agency is not aware of the lawsuit.

Last year, the department granted 23 licenses.

Gov. Martinez could derail Amtrak partnership The Associted Press

 A proposal to bring Amtrak's Southwest Chief train through New Mexico and two other states could get stopped in its tracks by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The New Mexican reports that proponents fear the plan to run Southwest Chief on tracks owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway will hinge on the Republican governor's support.

Martinez has said in recent months that Amtrak is funded by Congress and any agreement should not leave New Mexico taxpayers with a large bill.

Under the plan, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and would split track maintenance costs and ensure the train route remain active beyond 2015.

A bill introduced by State Rep. Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales that would call for New Mexico to contribute funding is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow before a House committee.

Farmington school district gets $500,000 grantThe Associated Press

A Farmington school district has just gotten a $500,000 boost for its students.

The Daily Times reports the Farmington Municipal School District has been awarded the grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The grant will fund training for teachers at Bluffview and McKinley elementary schools tasked with assisting students who struggle with reading.

School officials say the goal is to increase reading proficiency for students by the end of third grade by providing "targeted intervention."

The teachers will work with consultants to learn about after-school tutoring and different instruction models.

The grant will support the project for the next two years.

NM high school band students to get PE credit - The Associated Press

 New Mexico high school students in marching band will be allowed to receive physical education credits.

The state says it will now consider granting P.E. waivers for current high school juniors who have taken at least one full credit of band their freshman or sophomore year.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Education Deputy Secretary Paul Aguilar stated the new policy in a Jan. 16 memo but some administrators weren't aware of it until recently.

Jo Galvan, spokeswoman for Las Cruces Public Schools, says district officials read the memo late last week and are asking the state officials for clarification.

According to the memo, the state would extend waivers to 2015 graduates who are already taking athletics, band or JROTC for credit in their first two years of high school.