NM To Consider Approval For A $2B Transmission Project, Pearce Favors Medicaid Work Requirement

Apr 5, 2018

New Mexico To Consider Approval For $2B Transmission Project- Associated Press

Developers of a $2 billion project that will serve as a path to get renewable energy from New Mexico and Arizona to large markets in the American Southwest are looking to clear another regulatory hurdle as they move toward starting construction on two massive transmission lines and other infrastructure.

SunZia quietly submitted its application in March to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission for approval of transmission line locations and right of way widths. A hearing examiner with the agency in an order this week set the stage for the approval process, which will include testimony from experts and a public hearing in June.

The project has been years in the making and not without controversy as disputes initially rose over its proximity to a U.S. military installation and environmentalists raised concerns about effects on wildlife.

The proposed transmission lines would cross about 520 miles of state, federal and private land in the two states.

GOP Candidate Wants Medicaid Work Requirement- Associated Press

The sole Republican candidate for governor of New Mexico says he favors work requirements for many people enrolled in Medicaid.

U.S. Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce said Thursday at a candidate forum that he would require "able-bodied" people go back to work if they are on Medicaid.

The Trump administration in January said it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It has already approved proposals from Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas.

Pearce was responding to a question about how to address workforce shortages at health care provider organizations.

More than one-third of New Mexico residents are enrolled in Medicaid health care for people with low incomes and disabilities.

State Police: Sheriff's Secretary Allegedly Stole Bond Money- Associated Press

Authorities say a secretary for the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Office has been arrested and accused of embezzling $2,715 of bond money submitted to the office.

The State Police says 35-year-old Sarah Moncayo of Santa Rosa was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of embezzlement, tampering with evidence and fraud.

According to the State Police, the investigation began when the Guadalupe Magistrate Court reported missing bond money never submitted to the court by the Sheriff's Office.

The State Police says Moncayo is accused of receiving bond money from two separate victims, voiding the receipts and stealing the money.

Online court records don't indicate whether Moncayo has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.

Group Plans To Appeal Navajo Water Rights Settlement Ruling- Associated Press & Albuquerque Journal

An attorney for non-Native American irrigation districts in northwestern New Mexico says the group will appeal a state appeals court decision upholding a water rights settlement between the state and the Navajo Nation.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the panel's opinion issued Tuesday rejected the challenge by more than 20 community water and irrigation districts in the San Juan River basin to the settlement that allocates water rights to the tribe.

Attorney Victor Marshall says he and his clients will appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court, noting the ruling this week "destroys New Mexico's remaining water supply."

The water districts argued that the resources from the San Juan River aren't needed for the Navajo Nation's irrigation systems.

The appeals court said tribes are not required to prove immediate beneficial use.

Commission Nominates 2 For New Mexico Supreme Court Seat- Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is expected to choose between two longtime judges to fill a seat on the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Only two candidates — New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Michael E. Vigil and Chief Fifth Judicial District Judge Gary Clingman — applied for the post. The nominating commission has recommended both to the governor for consideration.

They are vying to replace Justice Edward Chavez, who retired last month.

Vigil is a graduate of the College of Santa Fe and Georgetown University Law Center, who was appointed in 2013 to the appeals court.

He lost an election bid for the Supreme Court in 2016 to Justice Judith Nakamura. Martinez appointed her to the high court that year.

Clingman has been a district judge since 1997. He's a graduate of University of Texas and Texas Tech Law School.

Former Head Of Defense Contracting Firm Sentenced For KickbacksAlbuquerque Journal

The former president of a defense contracting firm who pleaded guilty to a $5 million kickback scheme was sentenced to more than three years in prison Tuesday.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Neal Kaspar headed Laguna Construction Co., which received multiple contracts for wartime rebuilding projects in Iraq and Jordan. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy for a scheme to solicit and accept kickbacks from subcontractors.

Kaspar was sentenced to 41 months in prison and two years of supervised release. He must forfeit $431,911 in profits from the scheme.

Kaspar’s wife, Tiffany White was the company’s compliance manager. She was sentenced to one day of prison, or time served, and two years of supervised release. She must pay nearly $34,000 in restitution to the IRS. Another former company officer, Bradley Christiansen, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Laguna Pueblo owns Laguna Construction, but no members of the tribe were charged in the case.

Albuquerque César Chávez March To Feature Dolores HuertaAssociated Press

Social activist Dolores Huerta is slated to visit Albuquerque and lead a march in honor of her United Farm Worker union co-founder César Chávez.

The 87-year-old Huerta is scheduled Saturday to speak at the 25th annual César Chávez Day Fiesta just days after PBS aired a documentary from Independent Lens based on her life.

The Dawson, New Mexico-born civil rights advocate became a national figure in the 1960s as a tireless United Farm Workers leader and campaign volunteer for Sen. Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential run. She later dedicated her life to rid pesticides from farms.

In 2012, Obama finally acknowledged Huerta for her role in the creation of his "Yes, We Can" slogan during his first presidential campaign. Her "Si, Se Puede" rallying cry was part of the farmworkers' movement.

National Institute Of Flamenco Breaks Ground On New HomeAssociated Press

The National Institute of Flamenco has broken ground on a new site five years after a fire destroyed its former home in downtown Albuquerque.

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports the institute broke ground on Wednesday at a new home in Albuquerque's Sawmill District.

Their new location will include two buildings — one for the National Institute of Flamenco and another for a charter school that will be heavily focused on visual arts.

Executive Director Eva Encinias says they could be in their new home by fall 2018.

Originating from the Andalusia region in southern Spain, flamenco is a form of Spanish dance and folk music that developed from Romani music and dance more than two centuries ago.

New Mexico Candidate Forum Focuses On Vulnerable PopulationsAssociated Press

Four candidates for governor of New Mexico are offering solutions to the state's struggle to provide adequate care for the severely disabled, the elderly and residents coping with addiction and mental health issues.

Specialty health care providers are sponsoring the forum Thursday for gubernatorial candidates on questions about shortages in the health care workforce, burdens of an aging population and responses to Medicaid reforms sought by the Trump administration.

The forum also is likely to delve into mental health issues linked to violence and the opioid addiction crisis in a state with the highest overdose death rate in the western U.S.

Candidates for governor include Republican Congressman Steve Pearce and three contenders for the Democratic nomination: U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes and former media executive Jeff Apodaca.

Former Bernalillo Schools Bookkeeper Pleads Guilty To FraudAssociated Press

A former Bernalillo Public Schools bookkeeper has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.

Prosecutors say 45-year-old Antoinette Garcia entered her plea Wednesday in federal court in Albuquerque.

They say Garcia admitted that in 2014 and 2015, she stole between $40,000 and $95,000 intended for the schools system.

Garcia admitted stealing funds that were intended to pay for children's education and supplies and by writing checks to herself with school money instead of paying school-related expenses.

She was indicted in the case in June 2017.

Prosecutors say Garcia faces up to 10 years in prison when she's sentenced and must pay restitution as ordered by the court.

A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Mexico Says US Troops On Border Won't Be ArmedAssociated Press

The Mexican foreign ministry says U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has told Mexico's top diplomat that U.S. National Guard troops being deployed to the border "will not carry arms or carry out migration or customs control activities."

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray is in Washington on a visit. A foreign ministry statement issued Wednesday night says Nielsen told Videgaray that the troops will only be providing support for Department of Homeland Security work.

It says the deployment will be similar to ones in 2006 under President George Bush and in 2010 with President Barack Obama.

Trump signed a proclamation earlier Wednesday ordering the secretary of defense to support the Department of Homeland Security in securing the southern border to stop the flow of drugs and migrants.

Utah's Suit Over Mine Spill Transferred To New Mexico CourtAssociated Press

A panel of federal judges says Utah's lawsuit over a mine waste spill will be transferred from a Salt Lake City court to one in New Mexico, where three similar suits were filed.

The ruling Wednesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation means the suits filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others will be heard in federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages from the EPA, government contractors and a mining company over a 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine in Colorado. An EPA-supervised contractor crew inadvertently triggered the spill, which polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The other lawsuits were filed by the state of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and seven residents of Aztec, New Mexico.

Dems, GOP Using Immigration In House Races, But Differently - By Alan Fram, Associated Press

Both Democrats and Republicans think the stalemate between President Donald Trump and Congress over immigration can help them in November's congressional elections, and each could be right.

The debate is likely to roil races in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, and possibly New Mexico

In House races nationwide, both parties are using the fight over immigration to fire up base voters in midterm elections. Democrats think it can help them reach minorities, young people and suburban moderates repelled by Trump's strident anti-immigrant stances, while Republicans have noted his success in using promises to crack down on immigration to energize disaffected conservatives.

As a result, Democrats are using the issue to emphasize inclusivity and are targeting border regions, suburbs and areas with immigrant populations. Republicans plan to make immigration a law-and-order issue that appeals to conservatives all around the U.S.

Court Upholds Dismissal Of Charges In Livestock Fraud CaseAssociated Press

An appellate court decision upholds the dismissal of a 2016 fraud indictment against two people who worked at a livestock auction business in Roosevelt County in eastern New Mexico.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals decision issued Monday says District Judge Drew Tatum ruled correctly that Darcie Pareo and Calvin Pareo were denied their right under state law to testify before the grand jury that charged them with fraud, conspiracy and other crimes.

The decision says a prosecutor told grand jurors that the defendants wanted to testify and were available but failed to disclose that they had a right to testify.

The decision says prosecutors may seek a new indictment but most inform the grand jury that the defendants have a right to testify if they still wish to testify.

Santa Fe Schools To No Longer Accept Funding From The NRAAssociated Press

Santa Fe school officials have decided to cut ties with the National Rifle Association, agreeing to no longer accept money or equipment from the organization.

The five-member school board voted unanimously Tuesday to reject NRA grant money that has supported the district's junior ROTC program.

Lt. Commander Craig Stapleton oversees the leadership program that teaches military skills to students. Stapleton says the NRA support has allowed the program to "get quality equipment that has turned these kids into national champions in a very short time."

The district has received about $4,000 worth of equipment from the NRA over the past several years.

Board members say anonymous donors have agreed to cover the grant money for at least two years.