NM Goes After 'Dirt Bandits', Judge Thinks Bills Vetoed By Martinez Should Be Law

Aug 10, 2017

New Mexico Land Office Goes After Texas 'Dirt Bandits'The Associated Press

The New Mexico State Land Office is going after a West Texas county after it was learned that loads of dirt, sand and gravel were disappearing from a parcel of state trust land along the border.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says an investigation found that Hudspeth County crews have been using material from the site for road improvements. Mining at the site appears to have started a few years ago.

He says the dirt bandits have been using a dusty byway from Hudspeth County to access the site in southern New Mexico.

The State Land Office has owned the mineral and surface rights on the property since 1958, so Dunn is asking Hudspeth County that all mining stop until New Mexico is compensated for the resources that have been taken and a mining lease is issued.

Judge: Bills Vetoed By New Mexico Governor Should Be LawThe Associated Press

A state district judge is siding with Democratic lawmakers who asked that certain vetoes by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez during the last regular legislative session be invalidated.

Judge Sarah Singleton on Friday ruled that the governor did not follow proper procedures when she nixed 10 bills. The judge ordered the Secretary of State's Office to chapter the bills in question, a process that could take a few weeks.

The governor's office can still appeal but offered no immediate comment on the ruling.

Lawmakers argued that issuing the vetoes without any explanation made it impossible to understand the governor's objections so they could revise the bills for possible approval.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth called the ruling a victory for the state Constitution and for New Mexicans.

Two of the bills would legalize state research on industrial hemp.

Coalition Of States Files Brief In Ten Commandments CaseThe Associated Press

A coalition of nearly two dozen states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is stepping into a dispute in northwestern New Mexico over a Ten Commandments monument.

Paxton and attorneys general from 22 states are supporting city leaders in Bloomfield, New Mexico, who are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a lower court ruling requiring the removal of the display from the lawn outside City Hall.

The coalition filed its brief Thursday.

Paxton argues that governments shouldn't be forced to censor religion's role in history because some people are offended.

Attorneys representing Bloomfield filed a petition with the court in July to have the case heard. They say guidance from the Supreme Court is needed because various lower courts are using different standards to evaluate whether such monuments are permissible.

5 Plead Guilty In Dog Fighting Ring That Operated Fights In New Mexico – The Associated Press

Five men have pleaded guilty in a dog fighting ring that stretched between New Jersey and New Mexico.

Prosecutors said that the men participated in dog fights and trafficked in dogs for fights in New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois and New Mexico.

Frank Nichols, of Millville, New Jersey, and Pedro Cuellar, of Willow Springs, Illinois, pleaded guilty in federal court in Trenton on Friday.

Anthony Gaines and Lydell Harris, both of Vineland, pleaded guilty Thursday, and Mario Atkinson, of Asbury Park, pleaded guilty in June.

Prosecutors say the case is part of Operation Grand Champion, which has rescued 98 dogs so far. The phrase Grand Champion is used by dog fighters for animals with more than five victories.

Navajos Ask EPA To Be Flexible On Claims From Mine SpillThe Associated Press

The head of the Navajo Nation is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be flexible on the type of documentation it requires from tribal members asking for compensation for damages from a mine spill.

Navajo President Russell Begaye (BE'-gay) said Wednesday not all members of the tribe kept receipts for the losses they suffered from the 2015 spill from the Gold King Mine in Colorado.

EPA officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The agency inadvertently triggered the spill, which tainted a river on Navajo land in New Mexico. Colorado and Utah rivers were also affected.

The EPA initially said federal law prevented it from paying damages claims. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said last week that some claims would be reconsidered but documentation would be required.

Santa Fe Show Features 2 Of Picasso's Rare Silver PlattersThe Associated Press

Two of Pablo Picasso's silver platters are among the hundreds of rare items curated from collections around the world that will be on display and sold during a special exhibition in New Mexico's art capital of Santa Fe.

The Objects of Art show opens Thursday evening. It will include furniture from the home of the late comedian Garry Shandling, a collection of early Navajo weavings and more modern work from Korean painters.

The show's co-producer, Kim Martindale, says Picasso's plates have gained value in recent years and are expected to fetch $80,000 and $90,000 each.

Known for his paintings, Picasso also was a prolific ceramicist.

A series of 24 plates was cast a half-century ago from some of the artist's favorite ceramic pieces and only 20 editions were ever produced.

Lawmaker Says Hospital Fired His Wife Over PoliticsThe Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

A New Mexico state representative is accusing a hospital of firing his wife in response to his request for an audit to look into the recent transfer of the cancer center at the hospital.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Rep. Rudy Martinez released a statement on Wednesday saying the firing is "the worst kind of petty politics."

Gila Regional Medical Center CEO Taffy Arias says it was a business decision to streamline management at the hospital that resulted in Martinez's wife and several other employees losing their jobs.

Arias says the firing was "absolutely not personal and it absolutely has nothing to do with" Martinez.

Martinez says he filed the audit request to look into the cancer center transfer and ensure it was legal and transparent.

Raytheon's Manufacturing Operations Add Jobs In New MexicoThe Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says Raytheon's manufacturing operations in Albuquerque is adding 60 new high-tech manufacturing jobs.

Martinez's office says Raytheon's expanded operations will support the development and production of directed energy systems, range monitoring systems, and telemetry systems for U.S. and coalition partners.

The newly created jobs will include program management positions, engineering and other technical jobs.

Acquired by Raytheon in 2011, the Albuquerque site currently supports the production of high-powered microwave directed energy technology and aircraft range monitoring systems.

Nearly 200 employees currently work on site.

Massachusetts-based Raytheon specializes in defense, civil government and cybersecurity solutions.

Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration, sensing, effects and mission support for customers in more than 80 countries.

Governor: Film Industry Infuses $505M In New Mexico EconomyAssociated Press

The film and television industry contributed more than a half-billion dollars to New Mexico's economy last year, representing one of the state's bright spots.

Gov. Susana Martinez says the economic contribution shattered the previous record by more than $115 million and marks the third straight record-setting year for the industry.

The two-term Republican governor pointed to New Mexico's unmatched scenery, its incentives and the work pool that has been cultivated over the years to support the industry.

Data from the New Mexico Film Office shows film and television productions contributed $505 million to the state's economy last year. That included 61 major productions.

TV series and pilots produced in New Mexico over the last year include "Better Call Saul," ''The Night Shift," ''Longmire," and Netflix's "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs."

New Mexico Highlands Gets Federal Math GrantAssociated Press

A federal grant is helping New Mexico Highlands University students with new science and math programs.

The northern New Mexico school announced this week a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Education grant is bringing a number of new mathematics services to campus.

Officials say a 25-computer math lab is funded through the five-year-grant. It also will provide support for students preparing to become secondary education math teachers.

Edward Martínez, vice president of strategic enrollment management, says around 83 percent of New Mexico Highlands students in the last 10 years needed to take developmental algebra classes. He says math tends to be a big barrier for the university's students and the grant will address that challenge.

Zinke Supports Opening Access To New Mexico Wilderness SiteAssociated Press

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says federal land managers will be working to finalize a process for considering whether to accept a donation of land that will allow public access to the Sabinoso Wilderness in northern New Mexico.

Zinke's announcement came Wednesday, nearly two weeks after he toured the area with members of New Mexico's congressional delegation and local officials.

Established in 2009, the 16,000-acre Sabinoso Wilderness is surrounded by private property.

If approved, the donation of ranch land will allow for the landlocked wilderness parcel to be accessed without trespassing.

Zinke says expanding access to hunting, fishing and recreation on federal lands is a top priority.

Initially concerned about adding more wilderness-designated lands, he said he realized accepting the donation and maintaining existing roadways would improve public access.

Las Cruces, Doña Ana County Sue Over Contaminated GroundwaterAssociated Press

Doña Ana County and the city of Las Cruces have filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages over contaminated groundwater.

In the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, the city and county say the Department of Defense released hazardous substances during operations at the former National Guard Armory in Las Cruces.

The suit says that created a plume of contaminated groundwater about 1.8 miles long and a half-mile wide.

The Environmental Protection Agency has designated the area as a federal Superfund site.

Las Cruces and the county allege in the lawsuit that the federal government is liable for the contamination.

They seek an order compelling the government to assist with ongoing costs of cleanup as well as to recover costs already incurred to build and operate a water treatment plant.

New Mexico Lottery Earns $37.8M For Scholarships In 2017Associated Press

New Mexico Lottery officials say less money will be transferred to the state's lottery scholarship program this year and they're blaming legislative changes aimed at shoring up the struggling program.

The lottery announced Wednesday that $37.8 million in proceeds earned during the 2017 fiscal year will be going to the scholarship fund. That presents an $8.5 million decline from the previous year.

Lottery CEO David Barden says opportunities for generating more revenue have been hampered by an increase in contract fees as well as a requirement to funnel 30 percent of proceeds to the scholarship fund.

The scholarships help pay tuition for about 26,000 students at public universities and colleges around the state. The amount of financial aid available through the program has been declining since lottery revenues have not kept pace with increases in tuition and student enrollment.

US Air Force Test Flights Focus On Off-The-Shelf OptionsAssociated Press

Over a U.S. Air Force base in the southern New Mexico desert, pilots are testing some off-the-shelf options as the military looks for its next light-attack aircraft, a plane that could partly replace the A-10.

Test flights for the light-attack experiment known as the OA-X initiative were being conducted Wednesday at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico. Air Force Secretary and former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson was on hand along with other top officials.

Pilots are putting commercially available planes through various scenarios that would emulate combat missions and other tasks such as search and rescue and reconnaissance.

The testing includes the A-29 Super Tucano made by Sierra Nevada Corp. and Textron Aviation's Scorpion jet plane and its AT-6 Wolverine turboprop.

New Mexico Sen. George Muñoz To Run For Land CommissionerAssociated Press

State Sen. George Muñoz has announced that he'll run next year for New Mexico land commissioner.

Muñoz, a Gallup Democrat, said his top priority if he's elected would be to generate a more stable revenue stream for state public schools and universities.

He says he would support an "all of the above" approach to using state trust land, while touting an increase in wind and solar energy exports as one way to generate more state revenue.

Muñoz's announcement on Tuesday adds another high-profile name running for the open statewide office. Two other Democrats — Garrett VeneKlasen and former Land Commissioner Ray Powell — have also launched campaigns. Former land commissioner Pat Lyons is the only Republican candidate so far.

Utah's $1.9 Billion Claim From Mine Spill Reveals No Details - Associated Press

Utah's $1.9 billion claim against the Environmental Protection Agency for a multi-state mine waste spill says Utah's water, soil and wildlife were damaged, but it offers no specifics.

State officials provided a copy of the claim to The Associated Press Wednesday.

The claim stems from the August 2015 release of 3 million gallons of wastewater from an inactive gold mine in southwestern Colorado. An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently triggered the spill.

Rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah were polluted and Indian lands were affected.

Farmers, ranchers and utilities temporarily stopped drawing river water. Rafting companies suspended operations.

Utah's claim from the spill is believed to be the largest of 144 filed under a U.S. law that allows people to seek government compensation without a lawsuit.

Woman Hospitalized After Shooting By Albuquerque PoliceAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Albuquerque police say a woman was hospitalized and an officer placed on standard administrative leave following an encounter that involved gunfire.

The Albuquerque Journal reported 21-year-old Danielle Sudlow told police Tuesday she was in a car on the West Side and wanted to shoot someone. APD sent a team that included officers with non-lethal weapons as well as a rifle, and an officer trained to deal with those in mental health crisis.

Sudlow emerged from her car holding a gun pointed at police and officers fired in response. She was hit with foam-tipped bullets, but one rifle round struck her knee.

Officer Simon Drobik said the woman had previously called police and said she wanted to "commit suicide by cop."

Her injuries were not life-threatening and she faces charges of aggravated assault on an officer with a weapon.