NM Consolidates Personnel Functions, Bill Aimed At Regulating Drones Advances

Feb 25, 2017

New Mexico Consolidates Personnel FunctionsAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed an executive order Friday designed to save money by shifting human resources functions to a single executive agency.

The order will consolidate personnel services for executive agencies under the existing State Personnel Office, describing current human resources operations as fragmented and inefficient.

The changes aim to streamline and improve oversight of personnel decisions affecting about 18,000 employees who are not political appointees.

New Mexico state government is wrestling with stunted state revenues linked to a downturn in the oil sector and a sluggish local economy.

State Personnel Office spokesman says early estimates show the initiative will save taxpayers several million dollars a year and that the agency is in the process of assessing how many employees will be affected.

New Mexico Panel Advances Bill Aimed At Regulating DronesAssociated Press

A proposal to ban drones from flying within 500 feet of power plants and refineries in New Mexico has cleared its first hurdle.

With making any recommendation, the Senate Public Affairs Committee advanced the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Greg Baca of Belen to its next committee.

Under the proposal, drones would be prohibited from flying close to critical-infrastructure facilities and from interfering with firefighters battling wildfires.

In addition to federal regulations, Baca says it's important for the state to have rules protecting certain facilities. Other critical facilities include airports, government buildings and law enforcement and military facilities.

Opponents questioned whether such rules were outside the bounds of New Mexico's jurisdiction.

New Mexico School Leaders Plead For More State FundingAssociated Press

Public school superintendents from across New Mexico are urging lawmakers to restore school funding cuts even if it means raising more money from taxes.

Superintendents from more than a dozen rural and urban school districts of Friday urged members of the Democrat-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to reach a budget compromise that increase school revenues at a news conference.

The state Senate is considering a House-approved budget plan that would hold overall school funding steady in the coming fiscal year by collecting $250 million in new taxes and fees. The plan was opposed by Republican lawmakers and criticized by Martinez as out-of-touch with New Mexico values.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia says classrooms are sure to feel the effects of recent cuts to revenues and reserves.

Prosecutor Won't Retry Albuquerque Police Shooting CaseAssociated Press

A newly installed district attorney in New Mexico says he will not retry two former Albuquerque police officers charged in the fatal shooting of a homeless camper.

Second Judicial District Attorney Raul Torrez said Friday the case involving former Albuquerque Officer Dominique Perez and Detective Keith Sandy would have likely suffered the same fate as a previous trail.

Both stood trial in October for the 2014 police shooting of James Boyd, but the trial ended in a hung jury. The shooting sparked angry protests around Albuquerque amid about 20 fatal shootings by police in a four-year period.

The city of Albuquerque later entered into an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over mandated police reforms.

Torrez ordered a review of the case by seven senior trial prosecutors from judicial districts around the state.

The Latest: House Panel Approves Compromise On Payday LoansAssociated Press

A panel of House lawmakers has reached what supporters are touting as a compromise as consumer advocates push to rein in the payday and title loan industry in New Mexico.

The measure approved Friday by the House Business and Industry Committee calls for banning small loans with payback periods under 120 days. It would also cap interest rates at 175 percent on certain installment loans issued by lenders that are not federally insured.

Consumer advocates had been pushing for a 36 percent interest rate cap.

Some lawmakers acknowledged that the bill didn't go that far but that it was a step in the right direction to address consumer advocates' complaints of unscrupulous lending practices that target low-income New Mexicans.

2 Killed In Freeway Crash In New Mexico During Dust StormAssociated Press

Authorities say a California woman and a Florida woman have been killed in a New Mexico freeway crash during a dust storm.

New Mexico State Police on Friday identified the two victims as 64-year-old Gail Boulanger of Redondo Beach, California and 83-year-old Helen Mitchner of Spring Hill, Florida.

They say a passenger car got sandwiched between two semi-trucks on Interstate 10 west of Lordsburg on Thursday afternoon.

Police say visibility was low at the time of the accident due to a dust storm.

They say Boulanger and Mitchner both were declared dead at the scene.

The fatal crash remains under investigation.

Agency Publishes Timetable For Mexico Border WallAssociated Press

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it plans to start awarding contracts by mid-April for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

The agency said Friday on a website for federal contactors that a request for bids would be published on or around March 6. Companies would have to submit "concept papers" to design and build prototypes by March 10.

CBP will narrow the field by March 20 and require that finalists renew their offers by March 24, with a price attached.

The timetable shows that Trump is aggressively pursuing plans to build what he calls "a great wall" on the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that construction will start "very soon" and is ahead of schedule.