NM Lawmakers To Confront Budget Gap, NM Files Lawsuit Over Faulty Air Bags

Jan 21, 2017

New Mexico Lawmakers To Confront Budget GapAssociated Press

The New Mexico House is poised to vote on a solvency plan intended to vault the state out of an $80 million budget hole and restore a modest financial cushion.

The House will meet Saturday to consider the package of four bills that would pump as much as $262 million into the general fund by slashing spending at school districts, postponing infrastructure projects and tapping tax payments by insurance companies ahead of time.

Supporters say the one-time fixes would ensure that New Mexico can pay its bills on time through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

The moves also would allow the Legislature to begin drafting a budget for the new fiscal year — when new agency spending cuts are likely.

The solvency plan would reduce spending at most public school districts throughout the state by 2 percent.

The Latest: New Mexico Files Lawsuit Over Faulty Air BagsAssociated Press

New Mexico is suing Japanese manufacturer Takata and a long list of automakers in connection with the sale of cars with dangerous air bag inflators.

Attorney Hector Balderas' office filed the lawsuit Friday afternoon in state district court, saying the manufacturers had a duty to ensure their products were safe and that concealment of air bag defects amounted to unfair and deceptive trade practices under New Mexico law.

The state is seeking a jury trial as well as civil penalties.

A Takata spokesman declined to comment on the litigation.

Takata already has agreed to pay $1 billion in fines and restitution as part of plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over the yearslong scheme to conceal the deadly defect in its inflators. It also faces class-action lawsuits as well as litigation filed last year by the state of Hawaii.

New Mexico Child Welfare Agency Reviews Case Of Slain GirlAssociated Press

A review by state officials shows there were no indications of previous abuse involving a New Mexico girl who was strangled to death on her 10th birthday, her dismembered remains found in her home.

Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson released a summary of her department's investigation Friday.

It shows social workers interviewed Victoria Martens and her sibling more than once and the children never disclosed any physical or sexual abuse. Allegations of poor hygiene were also unsubstantiated.

While the review shows the department's investigations regarding Victoria and her sibling were done in accordance with state law and agency policies, Jacobson said the case speaks to the frustrations that social workers cannot predict or control human behavior.

Jacobson called the case heartbreaking and said new efforts to raise awareness about abuse and prevention will be rolled out soon.

New Mexico Unemployment Rate Declines To 6.6 PercentAssociated Press

New Mexico's unemployment is down.

The state Department of Workforce Solutions reports that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.6% in December, down from 6.7% in November and unchanged from a year earlier.

The department says the state's economy added 2,400 jobs in nonfarm employment between December 2015 and December 2016 and 100 jobs between December 2016 and last November.

Leisure and hospitality gained 900 jobs between November and December, making it the economic sector with the largest employment increase.

Local government shed 1,700 jobs for the biggest loss from November to December.

Traffic On The Rise At Albuquerque International AirportAssociated Press

Traffic is up at New Mexico's largest airport.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that 126,000 more passengers visited Albuquerque International Sunport in 2016 than did the year before. It's the first time the airport has seen a year-to-year gain since 2007.

Traffic increased by less than one percent and stayed below the 2007 peak. But Sunport spokesman Daniel Jiron says any growth is "significant for sure" after eight years of decline. He attributed the growth to an improving economy.

Figures released this week show that the Sunport saw 4.87 million passengers in 2016, up from 4.75 million in 2015. The facility's high is 6.7 million passengers in 2007.

Police Arrest Suspect In Crash That Killed 14-Year-Old GirlAssociated Press

Albuquerque police on Friday arrested a 21-year-old woman on homicide and multiple other charges in a fatal crash that left a teenage girl dead.

Police say Elexus Groves was driving a stolen car on Wednesday when she crashed into a car carrying a mother and her two children. Fourteen-year-old Shaylee Boling was killed and her mother is in critical condition. Her 3-year-old brother was not seriously hurt.

Police say events began when officers spotted a stolen vehicle and tried to stop it, but discontinued their attempt because of "reckless actions" by the driver.

Officers later found the stolen vehicle after it was involved in a crash with the vehicle carrying Boling, her mother, and her brother.

Police are still searching for the man who was with Groves.