NM Governor Willing to Consider Food Tax, Senate Upholds Obama-Era Methane Rule

May 10, 2017

Environmentalists Triumph As Senate Upholds Drilling Rule – The Associated Press

Environmentalists notched a rare win in the Republican-led Senate on Wednesday as a GOP effort to reverse an Obama-era rule restricting harmful methane emissions unexpectedly failed.

The 51-49 vote against the repeal measure was a blow to the fossil-fuel industry and groups linked to the conservative Koch Brothers, which had waged a public campaign to overturn the Interior Department rule.

Republican leaders were seeking to overturn the Interior Department rule under the Congressional Review Act.

President Barack Obama finalized a rule in November that would force energy companies to capture methane that's burned off or "flared" at drilling sites because it earns less money than oil.

Democrats and environmental groups say the rule protects the public health and generates millions in revenue for state, local and tribal governments. Many Republicans and industry groups call it an example of federal overreach under Obama and say it duplicates state rules in place throughout the West.

Three Republican senators — Maine's Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona — joined forces with Democrats to block the efforts to overturn the rule.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said New Mexico and other Western states where drilling is common will be able to prevent the waste of taxpayer-owned natural gas and shrink a huge methane plume that hangs over the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

DOJ Lauds APD Reform Efforts Despite Deeply Critical Monitor Report - ABQ Free Press

The U.S. Department of Justice praised the Albuquerque Police Department in federal court Wednesday, despite a recent monitor’s report that APD deliberately failed to comply with court-mandated reforms.

The Albuquerque Free Press reports U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack interrupted a DOJ representative to note the discrepancy.

The hearing was the first since U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the DOJ would back off civil rights investigations of more than a dozen police departments.

Independent monitor James Ginger’s report this month on APD’s reform process was deeply critical of the department.

APD entered a settlement agreement with the DOJ after the feds found a pattern of unconstitutional use of force. 

Navajo Nation Looking For Housing Authority Replacements – The Associated Press, The Gallup Independent

The Navajo Nation president has signed an emergency bill that begins the immediate search for new housing authority board commissioners.

The Gallup Independent reports Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye signed the emergency resolution Saturday to immediately replace the board. Navajo Nation Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie says a committee will review legislation to confirm three new members Thursday. The eight current members' terms will expire as soon as new members are confirmed.

The emergency legislation came after member of the U.S. Senate Committee probed into Navajo housing dollars and threatened to hold back funding and turn over the program's leadership.

According to the legislation, the board had failed to expend large amounts of annual federal funding. Begaye also found that board used the part of the money for trips, meetings and other personal expenses.

School District Considers Cutting Jobs, Changing Programs – The Associated Press, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A superintendent is recommending cutting jobs and offices and merging three alternative high school programs at a New Mexico school district in light of budget constraints.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia did not say which jobs would be cut or what changes will be made to special education programs at a Tuesday meeting.

Garcia says eliminating 12 jobs would save the district $600,000. She says officials will consider all positions for possible cuts.

Garcia predicts moving two alternative high school programs into a single rental property would save the district $470,000.

The state Public Education Department expects school districts across New Mexico are expected to tighten their budgets by May 30. The school board is expecting to approve its budget by May 16.

New Mexico Governor Says Food Tax Under Consideration – The Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she is willing consider reinstating New Mexico's food tax in an effort to resolve the state's budget crisis.

The Republican governor said Wednesday that she would consider a food tax if it were combined with broader reforms that lower overall tax rates on gross receipts. New Mexico eliminated the gross receipts tax on food in 2004.

Martinez and the state's Democratic-led are locked in a standoff over how to resolve a state budget crisis linked to faltering tax revenues and a stagnant economy.

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe says his caucus opposes taxes on food.

Martinez last month vetoed a variety of tax and fee hikes approved by the Legislatures to shore up funding for schools, courts and essential state services.

GOP New Mexico Congressman Mulls Race For Governor – The Associated Press

Republican Congressman Steve Pearce is meeting with community leaders outside his district as he considers whether to run for governor of New Mexico in 2018.

Pearce spokeswoman Keeley Christensen said the congressman was touring counties in northern New Mexico on Tuesday to listen to concerns about the state's direction.

She says Pearce is aware of his status as a potential candidate for governor next year and "will ultimately make a decision based on how he feels he can best serve New Mexico."

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's cannot run for a third term in 2018 and no Republican has entered the race.

The Democratic nomination is being sought by businessman Jeff Apodaca and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Pearce currently is serving his seventh term in New Mexico's southernmost congressional district.

US Energy Secretary Touts Nuclear Power During LANL Visit The Associated Press

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry says he will advocate for nuclear power as often and as strongly as he can as the nation looks for ways to fuel its economy and limit the effects of electricity generation on the environment.

Perry made the comments during a visit to Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico, where nuclear research has been among the main focuses since the lab's founding years.

Los Alamos played a key role in the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II to develop the first atomic bomb. Current work centers on nuclear deterrence, nonproliferation and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Perry says nuclear power is a clean, resilient and reliable source of energy and that continued research in the field could end up leading to fresh discoveries that could have environmental benefits.

Roswell Police: Body Found Buried In Property Of Vacant Home The Associated Press

Roswell police say a possible homicide victim's body has been found buried on the property of a vacant home.

Police say the person hasn't been identified but that the death wasn't recent and the body had been buried on the property for an extended time.

According to police, investigators found the body Tuesday while executing a search warrant.

Police say their investigation is just beginning and that no additional information is available.

GOP Lawmakers Back New Mexico Governor On VetoesAssociated Press

Many Republican state legislators are siding with GOP Gov. Susana Martinez in a constitutional challenge of her veto authority.

A legal brief backed by 31 Republican lawmakers on Tuesday urges the state Supreme Court to uphold Martinez's vetoes of all funding to the Legislature and state universities for the coming fiscal year.

The Democrat-led Legislature has petitioned the Supreme Court to rescind line-item budget vetoes that it says violate the state constitution by effectively abolishing the legislative branch of government. Not all lawmakers back that petition.

Eight out of 16 Republicans in the Senate and 23 out of 32 Republicans in the House signed the brief in support of Martinez's veto authority.

New Mexico Governor Adds Option To Budget PlanAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she has a proposal to restore vetoed funding to the Legislature for the coming fiscal year.

The governor's office issued a statement Tuesday offering to provide $120,000 for an analyst position sought by the Legislature without increasing overall funding to the legislative branch of government.

Leading lawmakers in the Democrat-led Legislature say the plan includes scant information about the administration's plan to shore up state finances and that budget negotiations remain at a standstill.

The Supreme Court is weighing accusations that Martinez overstepped her authority by defunding the Democratic-led Legislature and all state universities and colleges for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Martinez objects to proposed tax and fee increases approved by the Legislature and has called a special legislative session May 24.

Storm In New Mexico Spawns Small Tornado That Uproots TreesAssociated Press

A severe storm packing heavy rain and golf ball-sized hail has swept through parts of central and eastern New Mexico with a small tornado briefly down in Torrance County and causing minor damage.

National Weather Service officials in Albuquerque say a funnel cloud touched down at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday near Clines Corners for about one minute and uprooted some trees.

They say small funnel clouds also were reported near the unincorporated Lincoln County towns of Nogal and Ancho but didn't touch down.

Another small funnel cloud was later spotted in Portales near the Eastern New Mexico University campus but also didn't touch down.

Weather Service officials say hail damaged some car windshields in Curry County and also broke a few home windows.

There have been no reports of any injuries.

Taos To Honor Late Actor Dennis Hopper With Motorcycle RallyKRQE-TV, Associated Press

The town of Taos is celebrating the life of the late actor and former resident Dennis Hopper.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reports that the northern New Mexico enclave will honor the life of the Hollywood star on May 17 with a motorcycle rally and ride, live music and screenings of Hopper's most famous films.

Hopper moved to New Mexico in the late 1960s and directed the 1969 film Easy Rider, which parts were filmed in Taos Pueblo.

He later lived at the Taos Mabel Dodge Luhan house.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson proclaimed "Dennis Hopper Day" in 2010.

Latina Activist To Address Santa Fe Community College GradsAssociated Press

Santa Fe Community College has announced Latina Democratic activist Cindy Nava will address the 2017 graduating class at the school's commencement ceremony.

Nava will speak to graduates on Saturday and share her story as an immigrant from Mexico who later became active in politics.

In October 2015, Nava became the first student living in the country illegally to ever be awarded the "Rising Star Award" by the New Mexico Democratic Party. Nava now has temporary protective status under a President Barack Obama administration program.

Nava says she is working to establish an institute that encourages women of color to run for office.

A number of immigrant students with the same protective status attend Santa Fe Community College.

States Sue Over Trump Decision To Restart Coal Lease Program - By Matt Volz, Associated Press

Four states are suing over the Trump administration's decision to restart the sale of coal leases on federal lands.

The attorneys general of California, New Mexico, New York and Washington filed their lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Montana.

They say that the U.S. Interior Department's reversal of the Obama administration's moratorium on the federal coal-leasing program was done without a review on whether it would be good for the environment or for taxpayers.

The Obama administration blocked the program in 2016 to study whether coal companies that lease federal lands should pay higher royalties and whether the program was contributing to climate change by subsidizing coal development.

President Donald Trump lifted the moratorium by executive order in March as part of his promise to revitalize the slumping coal industry.

Defendants To Get Separate Trials In New Mexico Girl's DeathAssociated Press

A judge has ruled that three defendants charged in last year's death of a young New Mexico girl will be tried separately.

Authorities say Victoria Martens was strangled to death on her 10th birthday last August before being dismembered and her remains set on fire.

The girl's mother, the mother's boyfriend and the boyfriend's cousin each are charged jointly in the rape and murder case.

Albuquerque police say the three suspects drugged, raped, killed and dismembered the child in an apartment.

Police found the girl's body in a bathtub, wrapped in a smoldering blanket.

A District Court judge ruled Tuesday that each trial will be held in Bernalillo County.

Defense attorneys had requested that the trials be moved to another county because of intense media coverage of the high-profile case.

New Backers Lure Steve Jobs Opera To Seattle, San Francisco - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A techno-infused opera about the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has earned the financial backing of opera companies in San Francisco and Seattle, ensuring the musical meditation on the iconic entrepreneur will travel to America's high-tech enclave.

The Santa Fe Opera is preparing for the July world premiere of "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" at its open-air stage in the foothills of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

On Tuesday, the Seattle Opera and the San Francisco Opera announced they would help underwrite the artistic creation of the opera as well as its stage production, guaranteeing the right to performances beyond Santa Fe in California and Washington.

The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University also has signed on as co-producer.

New Mexico's Case Against Nursing Home Chain Advances - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Suzette Lucero had to make the heartbreaking decision to take her father off life support following what she describes as an avoidable nightmare spurred by nursing home neglect.

The Santa Fe woman is among dozens of witnesses prepared to testify in New Mexico's lawsuit against one of the nation's largest nursing home chains.

A state district judge denied a request last week by one of the defendants for a stay. The case is scheduled for trial next year.

Attorney General Hector Balderas accuses the defendants of using their motions to divert attention from allegations that thin staffing at nursing homes across the state made it impossible to provide good care.

He says many patients suffered as a result and some died.

Lawyers for Texas-based Preferred Care Partners Management Group have denied the claims, saying the case is one of opportunism.

Ex-Española Coach Settles With State, Leaves DistrictSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A former high school basketball coach has agreed to resign from a job at his northern New Mexico school district and surrender his coaching license.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports former Española Valley High School coach Richard Martinez agreed to step down under a settlement with the state Public Education Department.

Martinez was a long-time boys' basketball coach who led the school to two state titles but was accused of abusing the power that success brought him. He is facing a lawsuit by parents who accuse him of bullying and intimidating players, other students, staff members and parents.

Martinez says he agreed to the settlement to bring closure.

A previous Española superintendent fired Martinez in April and then resigned when the school board didn't support the termination.

Physicist Joins Race For Open Congress Seat In New MexicoSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Another Democrat is jumping into the race for an open congressional seat in central New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports physicist Dennis Dinge announced he is running for the state's First Congressional District. The district covers the Albuquerque and east mountains area.

Former Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland, Albuquerque City Council member Pat Davis and law professor Antoinette Sedillo also have announced their intentions to seek the seat.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, an Albuquerque Democrat is stepping down to run for New Mexico governor. The open congressional race is expected to draw a number of candidates.

Dinge, who has worked at Sandia National Laboratories, became a New Mexico resident in 2006.

The South Carolina-raised scientist earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of North Carolina.

Authorities: Albuquerque Man Arrested In His Mother's DeathAssociated Press

Authorities say an Albuquerque man has been arrested in connection with the death of his mother.

KRQE-TV reports that 37-year-old John McArthur was taken into custody Monday.

Albuquerque police didn't immediately release any details about the case Tuesday.

McArthur's mother reportedly was found dead at her home after employees at Kaseman Hospital asked police to perform a welfare check.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, police found the woman's dead body inside a cardboard box.

The woman wasn't identified in the complaint.

KRQE says McArthur is accused of trying to poison his mother and then beating and strangling her.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that McArthur told detectives he had been living with his mother since February and the woman had called police before about her son's behavior.