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New Mexico Congresswoman Announces Bid For Governor, UNM President to Leave Early Under Deal

Dec 13, 2016

New Mexico Congresswoman Announces Bid For Governor – Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she is running for governor of New Mexico in 2018.

The Democrat from Albuquerque on Tuesday became the first contender to enter the race. Second-term GOP Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run again in 2018 because of term limits.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced last week that he will not run for governor after consulting with his family, colleagues and constituents.

In an email message, Lujan Grisham listed a long list of social and economic problems afflicting New Mexico and emphasized her political qualifications as a four-term congresswoman and former head of New Mexico's Department of Health.

No Republicans have entered the race for governor so far. State Attorney General Hector Balderas says he is giving serious consideration to becoming a candidate.

University Of New Mexico President To Leave Early Under DealAssociated Press

The board that oversees the University of New Mexico and President Bob Frank reached an agreement today for Frank to leave office early. Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Chaouki Abdallah will become acting president on Jan. 1.

The Board said Frank will be provided a paid leave of absence for "professional development" to run until the end of his current contract. He'll then begin a faculty appointment at a salary of $190,000, reduced from his current $362,136.

Board President Robert Doughty said the Regents have determined it is in the best interest of UNM to bring a quick resolution to this matter.

Frank has been UNM president since June 2012. Without giving a reason, he announced in September that he wouldn't seek a contract renewal.

The regents held a 3½-hour closed-door special meeting last week to consider suspending or firing Frank but ended up taking no action at that time.

Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty To A Federal Firearms Charge – Associated Press

A man accused of fatally shooting an Albuquerque police officer last year has pleaded guilty to another federal firearms charge from eight months ago.

Prosecutors say 35-year-old Davon Lymon pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating the federal firearms laws by unlawfully possessing a firearm in May.

Under terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss two counts of a superseding indictment after Lymon has been sentenced on the two other counts.

A federal judge returned a guilty verdict two months ago against Lymon for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in October 2015 when Lymon allegedly shot Officer Daniel Webster during a traffic stop.

Webster later died of his injuries. Lymon has been charged with murder in a separate state case.

Senators Blast Climate Change Questionnaire Sent To DOE – Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s Democratic Senators criticized a move by the transition team of President-elect Donald Trump to find federal employees doing climate change research.

The Albuquerque Journal reports U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall issued statements seeking explanations for a questionnaire sent to the Department of Energy and warning against intimidating researchers at national laboratories.

Trump’s transition team is asking Energy Department employees for information about the agency's operations and personnel, including a list of employees and contractors who attended international meetings on climate change over the past five years.

Heinrich said in a press release he will not tolerate efforts to intimidate scientists and researchers at the national laboratories “who are tackling some of our nation’s greatest challenges, including climate change.” Udall wants Trump to explain why his team is seeking the information.

A study by UNM found Los Alamos National Laboratory injects more than a billion dollars into New Mexico’s economy. Sandia National Laboratories spends more than $2 billion annually in the state.

New Mexico Elections Agency Adds Two OfficialsAssociated Press

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is using her first full day in office to appoint a new deputy secretary and an executive assistant.

The agency announced Monday that New Mexico native and attorney John Blair has been named deputy secretary of state. Theresa Chavez-Romero of Albuquerque will serve as executive assistant to the secretary.

Additional staff appointments at the agency are on hold because of recent state spending cuts.

Blair worked most recently at the U.S. Interior Department as director of intergovernmental and external affairs, and previously was legislative director for then-Congressman Martin Heinrich of Albuquerque, now a U.S. Senator.

Chavez-Romero previously worked with Toulouse Oliver at the Bernalillo County Clerk's Office, and has held positions at Sandia National Laboratories and in the private sector.

GOP State Senators Reappoint Minority Leaders In New Mexico – Associated Press

Republicans in the New Mexico state Senate are sticking with their current leadership team when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

GOP lawmakers on Monday reappointed Stuart Ingle as senate minority leader, a role he has performed since 2001. Sen. William Payne of Albuquerque will continue as minority whip. Steve Neville of Farmington is minority caucus chair.

Democrats in November retook majority control of the House of Representatives and extended their Senate majority. Democrats will outnumber Republicans 26-16 in the Senate and 38-32 in the House.

Ingle said Senate Republicans are open to considering a wide array of proposals for resolving New Mexico's state budget crisis. He expects the Senate will discuss solvency measures including proposals to reduce tax incentives and increase to the state gasoline tax.

Appeals Court Sides With Albuquerque in Rapid Transit Case - Associated Press

Albuquerque has won another legal ruling as it proceeds with construction of a bus rapid transit system.

In a 57-page opinion Tuesday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling that allowed construction of the $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project to proceed.

Crews already are building a nine-mile network of bus-only lanes and bus stations in the middle of Central Avenue.

Critics say the construction will likely create traffic jams in one of the city's busiest areas.

Some business owners say the project would spark traffic congestion and ruin the car-friendly persona of the nation's largest urban stretch of Route 66.

Rapid Transit officials say at least one traffic lane is open in each direction and they're encouraging people to use Central and support local businesses.

New Mexico Traffic Deaths On The RiseAssociated Press

Traffic fatalities in New Mexico this year are on pace to far exceed the number of deaths recorded on the state's roadways last year.

The latest data available from the state Department of Transportation shows 369 people have died in crashes from January through November. In 2015, fewer than 300 died on New Mexico roads, marking the lowest number in nearly a decade.

State transportation officials have not attributed the uptick to any particular cause but say they're continuing with campaigns against distracted driving and drunken driving.

Alcohol-related crashes make up nearly 40 percent of the total, about the same as last year.

Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes says reckless driving has become a big problem in New Mexico and she's planning to reintroduce legislation for stiffer punishments for those convicted in deadly cases.

Los Alamos Officials Hope To Develop Park Tourism Plan Los Alamos Monitor, Associated Press

Los Alamos officials want to develop a strategic plan aimed at boosting tourism around the relatively new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports that officials discussed their plans late last week during a meeting with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

Officials expect the plan to serve as a road map for the next several years on how Los Alamos County can use Manhattan and the neighboring Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument.

The Manhattan Project Park is one of the more unique parks in the national system. It also includes sites at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.

Las Cruces Prepares For Another Minimum Wage HikeLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Businesses in Las Cruces are bracing for the city's next mandated minimum wage hike.

City councilors agreed in 2014 to phase in a higher minimum wage, starting at $8.40 in 2015. That will go up to $9.20 on Jan. 1 and then $10.10 in 2019.

Richard Aguilar is the vice president of Tresco Inc., a company that provides services to developmentally disabled people, including job placement.

He tells the Las Cruces Sun-News that he's worried about some of the disabled clients who have been placed in jobs because a higher minimum wage has translated into fewer hours for the clients.

City officials acknowledge the challenges local businesses face with the increased labor costs, but they say the reductions in worker hours and increased prices at the register aren't as damaging as some had predicted.

Heist Thriller Filmed In New Mexico Gets Golden Globe NodsAssociated Press

Filmed entirely in New Mexico, "Hell or High Water" has earned three Golden Globe nods, including best film drama.

The nominees were announced Monday in Beverly Hills, California. Aside from "Hell or High Water," those vying for best drama include "Hacksaw Ridge," ''Lion," ''Manchester by the Sea" and "Moonlight."

The awards ceremony will be Jan. 8

New Mexico stood in as West Texas for the backdrop to David Mackenzie's heist thriller starring Jeff Bridges. Bank robbery scenes were filmed in Clovis and Portales, and Quay County's caprock escarpment also makes an appearance along with spots in Moriarty and Tucumcari.

The Albuquerque Journal reports other nominees with New Mexico ties include Viggo Mortensen. He’s up for best actor in a drama for “Captain Fantastic,” which filmed in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Mesilla.

Bob Odenkirk and Nick Nolte are also nominated in the television category for “Better Call Saul,” set and filmed in Albuquerque, and “Graves.”

Former NM Representative Heather Wilson Meeting With Trump TeamAssociated Press

A former U.S. representative from New Mexico is meeting with Donald Trump's transition team about a potential senior national security position.

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology says that President Heather Wilson traveled to New York for a Monday meeting with Trump's team to discuss the position. The school's statement said Wilson wouldn't comment.

Wilson was a Republican U.S. representative for New Mexico from 1998 to 2009 and became president of the South Dakota university in 2013.

She served on the National Security Council staff under President George H.W. Bush. Wilson earned a degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and went on to be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

Kassetas: Outside Investigations Of Shootings Not NeededSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The leader of the New Mexico State Police is standing by his agency's practice of investigating fatal shootings by its own officers — a practice that experts have roundly criticized.

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that he feels his agency can do such investigations with its utmost ability.

Kassetas has been tapped to serve on a committee that will examine how each police agency in the state reviews use of deadly force by officers.

Kassetas says he is open to changing state police procedures, but he argued that independent reviews aren't necessary.

While he said other agencies have investigated shootings by state police officers in the past, he says few agencies have the expertise or resources to take on such cases.

Funeral Home That Handled Officer's Services Hit By GraffitiKOB-TV, Associated Press

A funeral home that handled the services for a Valencia County sheriff's deputy killed last week in a vehicle crash has found itself the victim of anti-police graffiti.

KOB-TV reports that Noblin Funeral Service home and other businesses in Belen and Rio Communities were hit with anti-police graffiti message.

The graffiti began with acronym for a profane insult toward police officers and finished with the words, "Crash harder next time."

Deputy Ryan Thomas was responding to a call Tuesday night when the single-vehicle crash occurred in the Belen area.

The 30-year-old officer was ejected after losing control of his vehicle.

New Mexico Elections Agency Adds 2 OfficialsAssociated Press

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is using her first full day in office to appoint a new deputy secretary and an executive assistant.

The agency announced Monday that New Mexico native and attorney John Blair has been named deputy secretary of state. Theresa Chavez-Romero of Albuquerque will serve as executive assistant to the secretary.

Additional staff appointments at the agency are on hold because of recent state spending cuts.

Blair worked most recently at the U.S. Interior Department as director of intergovernmental and external affairs, and previously was legislative director for then-Congressman Martin Heinrich of Albuquerque, now a U.S. Senator.

Chavez-Romero previously worked with Toulouse Oliver at the Bernalillo County Clerk's Office, and has held positions at Sandia National Laboratories and in the private sector.

AG Wants Procedure For Police Use-Of-Force CasesAssociated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and a group of district attorneys plan to develop a procedure for handling the prosecution of police officers who are involved in shootings.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Balderas said Monday that it's the responsibility of his office and the district attorneys to come up with a transparent process that promotes timeliness and accountability.

The group also expects to push legislation to ensure adequate funding for such cases, including those where independent prosecutors are needed.

Balderas announced last week that another subcommittee would review how police agencies investigate deadly force by officers after questions were raised about the handling of body camera video by Albuquerque police.

A review by The Santa Fe New Mexican and New Mexico In Depth also found the state has a patchwork of policies for reviewing and prosecuting such cases.

GOP State Senators Reappoint Minority Leaders Associated Press

Republicans in the New Mexico state Senate are sticking with their current leadership team when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

GOP lawmakers on Monday reappointed Stuart Ingle as senate minority leader, a role he has performed since 2001. Sen. William Payne of Albuquerque will continue as minority whip. Steve Neville of Farmington is minority caucus chair.

Democrats in November retook majority control of the House of Representatives and extended their Senate majority. Democrats will outnumber Republicans 26-16 in the Senate and 38-32 in the House.

Ingle said Senate Republicans are open to considering a wide array of proposals for resolving New Mexico's state budget crisis. He expects the Senate will discuss solvency measures including proposals to reduce tax incentives and increase to the state gasoline tax.

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