New Mexico Ethics Commission Proposal Clears Senate – The Associated Press
New Mexico voters could be asked next year to create an independent political ethics commission in the wake of a recent string of corruption scandals.
The state Senate voted 30-9 Thursday in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that calls for creating a seven-member body to investigate and sanction ethics violations. The House must sign off on Senate revisions before the amendment goes to a statewide ballot initiative in November 2018.
The commission would enforce standards of conduct for state officers, employees, lobbyists and contractors, along with campaign finance restrictions and reporting requirements for political candidates.
New Mexico has been shaken over the years by numerous corruption scandals, with the most recent cases prompting resignations by the secretary of state, a longstanding state senator and a former Cabinet secretary.
Albuquerque Police Didn't Investigate Before Girl Killed – The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal
Though Albuquerque police officials say they investigated a previous call about possible misconduct between a man and a girl who was later killed and raped on her 10th birthday, officials now say that isn't true.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that five months before 10-year-old Victoria Martens was raped and killed, Youth and Families Department alerted police after they received a call that her mother's then-boyfriend has tried to kiss the girl. Victoria was killed Aug. 24.
Police officials said in January that their detectives followed up and spoke with Victoria and her mother.
But on Monday, Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said that is not correct. The department didn't look into the complaint because it didn't meet certain criteria.
Espinoza says the incorrect information was due to a miscommunication on her part.
7,000 Expected To Participate In Bataan March Memorial – The Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun News
A record 7,000 marchers are expected to participate in an annual walk honoring those who died in the Bataan Death March.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the 28th annual Bataan Memorial Death March will be held Sunday at White Sands Missile Range. The mark caps participation at 7,000 marchers.
The Bataan Memorial Death March honors the World War II soldiers who suffered during the April 1942 march after thousands of American and Filipino service members surrendered to Japanese forces. Many died during the 80-mile march or became prisoners of war.
White Sands Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation Director Lisa Frankson says the 7,000 entrants in Sunday's march surpasses the 6,800 who participated in 2012. She says high interest can likely be attributed to the march's 75th anniversary.
New Mexico Legislature OKs Clean-Up Fund For State Lands – Associated Press
New Mexico would gradually set aside up to $5 million to help repair damaged or polluted state trust lands under a bill awaiting the governor's signature or veto.
The Senate voted Wednesday to create the State Trust Lands Restoration and Remediation Fund.
The fund could be tapped to clean up illegal dumping, restore watersheds from wildfire damage or deal with invasive plant species.
Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn first proposed the restoration fund as his agency grappled with wastewater spills by a financially troubled oil-well company.
The bill diverts 1 percent of revenues from the state's land maintenance fund, or roughly $580,000 a year.
The maintenance fund is the source of the State Land Office's operating budget and receives money from activities ranging from cattle grazing to oil extraction.
Santa Fe Archbishop Urging Early Cchildhood Ed Compromise – The Associated Press
The Roman Catholic Church in New Mexico is denouncing state lawmakers for failing to move a proposal that would have boosted spending on early childhood education.
Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester says state senators should negotiate a compromise over a constitutional amendment to fund early childhood education with money from a state sovereign wealth fund. The Senate Rules Committee tabled the initiative Wednesday on a 6-5 vote, ending chances for approval this year.
Democratic Sens. Mary Kay Papen and Clemente Sanchez joined Republicans in opposition.
Wester says the initiative is needed to fight child poverty in New Mexico.
The vote came as the Democratic-controlled New Mexico Legislature faces criticism for not doing enough to combat poverty in one of the poorest states in the nation.
Community Honors Fallen Navajo Nation Officer – The Associated Press
A Navajo Nation police officer shot while responding to a domestic violence call in remote New Mexico is being remembered at his funeral as someone who wanted to help others and dreamed of becoming an officer.
Family, friends, fellow law enforcement officers and community members packed a school gymnasium in the town of Rehoboth to honor Houston James Largo, the 27-year-old decorated officer who died Sunday.
His flag-draped casket was flanked by photographs and flowers as his family sat nearby.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez consoled Largo's mother during the service as Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye asked the community to thank officers and to teach their children to respect law enforcement.
Begaye said that beyond the uniform and badge is a person who's loved, has a big heart and wants to protect the community.
'Game of Thrones' Author Announces Santa Fe Film Project – The Associated Press
The author of books that inspired "Game of Thrones" is starting a new film project in Santa Fe.
George R.R. Martin announced this week that a 10,000-square-foot building he owns in north Santa Fe will serve as an office and production space for film and television groups.
Martin says his new nonprofit the Stagecoach Foundation will focus on making filmmaking accessible for local filmmakers and newcomers.
The first project expected to use the Stagecoach Foundation space is expected to be Joel and Ethan Coen, who made Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men" in New Mexico.
Navajo Officer's Death Reflects Dangers For Tribal Officers - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press/CJ Project
The fatal shooting of a Navajo Nation officer has renewed focus on the dangers that Indian Country's remote landscapes can pose for police.
Funeral services for Officer Houston Largo will take place Thursday morning and are expected to draw a crowd of family and fellow law enforcement officers from around the region.
The FBI has released few details stemming from its investigation into the shooting that killed Officer Houston Largo on Sunday, except to say he was gunned down while en route to a domestic violence call.
Navajo Police Chief Phillip Francisco, who declined to discuss the specifics of the case, says tribal officers patrol the empty, rural roads of the nation's largest American Indian reservation alone, sometimes with the nearest fellow officer at least an hour away.
The realities that the chronically understaffed police department faces reflect the challenges that experts say officers often face on reservations nationwide.
The Navajo police force is working to bolster its ranks.
New Mexico Weighs Tax Code Overhaul Amid Budget Crisis – Associated Press
New Mexico lawmakers listened to an outcry from dozens of nonprofit organizations and industry groups as a Senate panel reviewed a proposal Wednesday to eliminate a wide array of tax exemptions, deductions and credits.
Representative for hospitals, health clinics, public schools, performing arts organizations, farms and insurance carriers warned of costly and unpredictable consequences.
The House-approved initiative would eliminate a wide array of tax exemptions, deductions and credits in an effort designed to stabilize state revenue streams and lower overall tax rates.
Republican Rep. and bill sponsor Jason Harper of Rio Rancho told a Senate panel that the plan is designed to improve the overall business climate in New Mexico. Legislative Finance Committee economist Jon Clark says the reforms would have a major impact on nonprofit entities.
Lawmakers are racing to craft a balanced budget before they adjourn Saturday amid a sustained downturn in tax revenues linked to a downturn in the oil sector and a sluggish economy
New Mexico Senate Rejects 'Right To Die' Bill – Associated Press
The New Mexico Senate has rejected a proposal that would have allowed terminally ill patients to end their lives with help from a doctor.
The Democrat-led Senate voted 20-22 on Wednesday against a bill opposed by the local Roman Catholic Church and GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.
The measure would prevent New Mexico doctors from facing prosecution for helping terminally ill patients end their lives.
Six other states and the District of Columbia allow residents to end their lives legally with medication prescribed by a physician.
In June, the New Mexico Supreme Court refused to overturn a state law preventing doctors from ending the lives of terminally ill patients.
New Mexico's assisted suicide law makes it a felony for doctors to end the life of a terminally ill patient.
House Panel OKs Bill Restricting Guns In Statehouse – Associated Press
A panel of House lawmakers has endorsed a measure that would prohibit visitors to the New Mexico state capitol from openly carrying firearms inside the building.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 8-5 Wednesday to recommend approval of the initiative limiting firearms in the capitol to law enforcement and concealed-weapon license holders.
The measure still needs to be considered by the full House, and the Senate would have to sign off on any changes before the Legislature adjourns Saturday.
New Mexico currently allows both open carry and concealed weapons in the state capitol, including on the floors of the Senate and House.
Bill Banning Coyote Killing Contests Clears House Committee – Associated Press
A measure that would outlaw coyote killing contests for prizes or entertainment has cleared its latest legislative hurdle.
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 7-4 in favor of the bill, which would make it illegal in New Mexico to organize, sponsor or participate in a coyote-killing contest. No restrictions would be placed on hunting or trapping the animals.
The initiative won Senate approval in early March. It now moves to the full House for consideration.
Ranchers and outfitters from across the state have argued that the contests are a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten livestock. Supporters of the legislation have called the practice barbaric and ineffective.
Animal advocates testified that there are between 20 and 30 such contests held in the state each year.
New Mexico Won't Tap Permanent Fund For Early Education – Associated Press
A Senate panel in New Mexico has voted down a constitutional amendment to boost spending on early childhood education with money from a state sovereign wealth fund.
The Senate Rules Committee tabled the initiative Wednesday on a 6-5 vote, ending chances for approval this year.
The Democrat-sponsored amendment would have increase annual withdrawals from the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund by 1 percentage point to fund education programs for children ages 0-5.
Democratic Sens. Mary Kay Papen and Clemente Sanchez joined Republicans in opposition.
Critics say the plan risked drawing too much money each year from a fund seen as a trust for future generations.
The fund receives royalties from oil and natural gas production on state trust land, while distributions benefit public schools and hospitals.
Ethics Commission Proposal Advances In New Mexico – Associated Press
A proposal to create an independent political ethics commission in New Mexico is headed to the Senate floor for a vote after winning a crucial committee endorsement.
The Senate Rules committee on Wednesday endorsed a constitutional amendment to create a seven-member ethics commission with the authority to issue subpoenas and civil penalties. Full Senate approval would send the initiative to a statewide vote in November 2018.
Last-minute revisions to the amendment removed transparency provisions that would have ensured complaints are made public once a response if filed. Last year, Rules Committee members voted down an ethics commission over concerns it would become a forum for false accusations.
If voters approve the amendment, the Legislature would then decide whether complaints are made public and exactly how the commission is appointed.
Dad: American UN Worker Kidnapped In Congo Strived For Peace – Wichita Eagle, Associated Press
The father of an American United Nations worker who was among six people kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo says his son has been doing humanitarian work and has had some success in persuading militia leaders to give up child soldiers.
John Sharp, who lives with his wife in the central Kansas community of Hesston, told The Wichita Eagle that his 34-year-old son, Michael Sharp, is committed to finding nonviolent ways to end conflict.
A Congo government spokesman said Monday that Michael Sharp and another U.N. worker, Zahida Katalan, of Sweden, were abducted along with three Congolese drivers and a translator while traveling through the Kasai Central province.
John Sharp says his son, who was raised in Indiana and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when not abroad, is resourceful and capable of finding a way out of his predicament.