KUNM

NM State Spending Plan Heads To House Floor, $5 Million Settlement Reached In Jail Death

Jan 30, 2018

New Mexico State Spending Plan Heads To House FloorThe Associated Press

Pay raises of at least 2 percent for New Mexico state workers and new funding for roads are part of a spending plan approved by a House budget writing committee.

A panel of lawmakers voted 17-1 on Tuesday to send a $6.3 billion general fund spending plan to the House floor for a vote. Senate revisions are pending.

House Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup is highlighting new spending on road construction and maintenance that can stimulate the economy in rural areas.

The bill would increase pay starting July 1 for all state employees by 2 percent, with larger increases slated for district attorneys, public defenders, state police, corrections officer, social workers and nurses.

Attorney: $5M Settlement Reached In New Mexico Jail DeathThe Associated Press

Attorneys say a New Mexico county and several former staffers at a now-shuttered jail have agreed to a $5 million settlement in the death of an inmate who video and records show was repeatedly denied medical care after becoming violently ill.

Court documents obtained by The Associated Press detail the terms of the payout in the death of 50-year-old Douglas Edmisten, who died in July 2016 at the Cibola County jail. His mother's lawsuit says jail officers had seen him fall down and knew he had been vomiting blood.

Edmisten had been at the jail several weeks awaiting trial on a DWI charge.

A county manager did not immediately provide comment Tuesday, and two attorneys for jail personnel named in the lawsuit declined comment. Others did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Report: Violent Crimes Cases Filed In New Mexico IncreaseThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A state report shows the number of criminal cases filed in New Mexico courts increased by more than 7 percent during the last fiscal year with homicide and domestic violence cases increasing significantly.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports more than 16,800 new criminal cases were filed in district courts from July 2016 to June 2017. More than 15,600 cases were filed during the previous year.

The annual report by the state Administrative Offices of the Courts shows homicide case filings increased by about 32 percent from 125 cases to 165. Felony domestic violence cases increased by more than 100 percent from 112 cases to 236.

New cases against juvenile offenders dropped by nearly 3 percent between years, and felony driving while intoxicated cases decreased by more than 9 percent.

Power Agency Interested In SunZia Transmission ProjectThe Associated Press

A federal entity that markets and transmits electricity across the West is expressing interest in a proposed transmission line that would link Arizona and New Mexico and serve as a path to get renewable energy to large markets in the region.

Developers of the SunZia transmission project say they and the Western Area Power Administration have reached an agreement that includes terms and options for the agency's potential participation in the project.

SunZia declined to provide details, saying the agreement was confidential. Still, the developers say it's a milestone that could open up more financing opportunities for the $1.5 billion project.

The 515-mile SunZia line would carry wind-generated electricity from the plains of New Mexico to Arizona. Construction on the first phase is expected to begin later this year.

Lawsuits Say Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Is FlawedThe Associated Press

U.S. wildlife managers failed to adopt a recovery plan for the endangered Mexican gray wolf that would protect against illegal killings and the consequences of inbreeding, according to lawsuits filed Tuesday by environmentalists.

Two coalitions of environmental groups filed separate complaints in federal court in Arizona, marking the latest challenges in a decades-long battle over efforts to re-establish the predator in its historic range in the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

The lawsuits alleges the plan adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set inadequate population goals for the wolves, cut off access to vital habitat in other parts of the West and failed to respond to mounting genetic threats.

Matthew Bishop, a lawyer with the Western Environmental Law Center, called the plan an insult to the federal Endangered Species Act and its requirements for decisions to be based on the "best science" available. 

Budget Bill Provides Raises For PoliticiansThe Associated Press

A revised spending bill for New Mexico state government includes a 10 percent pay raise for utility regulators and statewide elected officials including the state's next governor.

The budget bill is headed to the state House of Representatives for a vote after approval Tuesday by a panel of lawmakers. Senate revisions are pending.

The plan would provide a 10 percent pay increase starting Jan. 1, 2019, to the governor, attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor and secretary of state, as well as members of the Public Regulation Commission.

The bill provides enough money for school districts to increase teacher salaries by an average of 2.5 percent. Compensation for state workers would rise by 2 percent, with greater increases slated for law enforcement, corrections officers and the judiciary.

Lawsuit Targets New Mexico's Two-Tier Identification System – Associated Press

New Mexico is being accused of illegally denying driver's authorization cards to some residents after the state adopted a new system in 2016 to meet federal REAL ID Act requirements.

Civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Monday in state district court in Santa Fe.

Under the state's two-tiered system, the Motor Vehicle Division issues two kinds of identification. One is a driver's license that meets tougher federal security rules and the other is the authorization card geared toward people who don't have the identity documents needed for a new license, including immigrants in the country illegally.

The groups claim the state has failed to fully and correctly implement the driver's license law and that requiring unnecessary documentation for the driver's authorization card is causing confusion.

Libertarians Earn Major Party Status In New MexicoAssociated Press

New Mexico election regulators say the Libertarian Party has qualified as a major political party.

Major-party status makes it easier for Libertarian candidates to get their name on the ballot. Secretary of State's Office spokesman Joey Keefe said Monday that Libertarian candidates need just 230 petition signatures to run statewide. A Democrat will need 2,507 based on prior election turnout.

Attorney A. Blair Dunn is running as a Libertarian for the Senate seat held by Democrat Martin Heinrich, and business consultant Lloyd Princeton is seeking the Albuquerque-based congressional seat under the Libertarian banner.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn recently switched his party affiliation to Libertarian from Republican. Aubrey Dunn is Blair Dunn's father.

Libertarians got major party status with a strong showing in 2016 presidential elections and adequate registration numbers.

Power Agency Interested In Sunzia Transmission ProjectAssociated Press

A federal entity that markets and transmits electricity across the West is expressing interest in a proposed transmission line that would link Arizona and New Mexico and serve as a path to get renewable energy to large markets in the region.

Developers of the SunZia transmission project say they and the Western Area Power Administration have reached an agreement that includes terms and options for the agency's potential participation in the project.

SunZia declined to provide details, saying the agreement was confidential. Still, the developers say it's a milestone that could open up more financing opportunities for the $1.5 billion project.

The 515-mile SunZia line would carry wind-generated electricity from the plains of New Mexico to Arizona. Construction on the first phase is expected to begin later this year.

Publicly-Funded New Mexico Spaceport Seeks ConfidentialityAssociated Press

Operators of a taxpayer-funded spacecraft launch facility in southern New Mexico are seeking greater confidentiality for tenants that include aspiring commercial spaceflight company Virgin Galactic.

Top officials with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority that runs Spaceport America are scheduled to visit the state Capitol on Monday as they seek an increase in state funding. Spaceport America operators also want the Legislature to restrict public access to information about technology, security and customers at the facility.

A bill backed by GOP Gov. Susana Martinez and Democratic Senate President Mary Kay Papen would exempt a variety of spaceport records from the state's Inspection of Public Records Act.

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Peter St. Cyr says the bill could interfere with appropriate public scrutiny of spaceport management and operations.

Exxon Says It'll Invest Over $50 Billion, Citing Tax CutAssociated Press

Exxon's CEO says the oil company will invest more than $50 billion over the next five years to expand its business in the U.S.

Chairman and CEO Darren Woods said Monday that the investments are possible because of the company's strength and helped by the recent law that cut taxes on corporations.

Exxon plans to increase oil production in Texas and New Mexico and build new manufacturing plants.

Woods says they are quality investments for shareholders that are made better by tax reform.

A chorus of business leaders have praised the tax law, which cut the corporate income-tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Republicans say the law will spur growth and create jobs. Democrats say it favors the wealthy and adds to the federal budget deficit.

3 Arrested In Homicide Case Involving New Mexico Teenage BoyAssociated Press

Authorities say three people have been arrested in the death of a teenager in New Mexico including the boy's mother.

Santa Fe County Sheriff's officials say investigators received confidential information last Thursday regarding a possible homicide.

They built a case over the weekend and announced on Monday the arrests of 42-year-old Wayne Ferguson, 35-year-old Tracy Ann Peña and 19-year-old Jordan Anthony Nuñez in connection with the death of 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia.

Authorities say Valencia is Peña's son.

Sheriff's officials say Nuñez lives in Hereford, Texas.

Ferguson, Peña and Nuñez all are jailed on suspicion of abuse of a child resulting in death, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence.

Court records show the teen was tortured, cruelly confined and abused that led to his death last November.

Lovelace Research Institute Caught In Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Albuquerque Journal

A New Mexico research facility has been caught up in the scandal surrounding Volkswagen faking lower emissions results through a study the lab conducted using monkeys.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute was commissioned to conduct the study in 2014 by an organization funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW. The goal was to show newer models of the Beetle emitted less pollution.

But the tests actually used a car with technology that lowered nitrogen oxide when testing took place. And now public criticism has escalated against the automaker over concerns about cruelty to animals.

A report by The New York Times found that in the experiments one group of monkeys was exposed to diesel exhaust from a late-model Volkswagen, while another group was exposed to fumes from an older Ford pickup.

Lovelace Research officials did not know the Volkswagen was rigged to show that emissions were lower than they actually were.

President and CEO of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute Robert Rubin said in a statement emailed to the Journal that when the deception came to light, the organization decided not to publish the study because it was not clear how the engine was rigged. 

Albuquerque Officer Who Adopted Addicted Baby To Meet TrumpAssociated Press

An Albuquerque police officer who persuaded a pregnant woman he found using heroin to let him adopt her unborn child is meeting President Donald Trump.

Officer Ryan Holets will attend Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday as one of the president's special guests.

Holets and his wife were praised last month for adopting a baby girl they named Hope after the addicted mom agreed to let the couple raise her baby.

Police say Holets found the homeless woman and a man using heroin near a convenience store in September. But instead of charging the couple with drug possession, he asked to adopt her child.

Holets and his wife have four other children.

New Mexico Art Exhibit Highlights Presidents' Word ChoiceAssociated Press

Past presidents dwelled on words such as "terror," ''emancipation" or simply "gentlemen" in State of the Union addresses.

The SITE Santa Fe art venue is highlighting word choices of past presidents in an exhibit that coincides with Donald Trump's first State of the Union address Tuesday.

Sixty-six prominently repeated words are listed for each past address, dating back to George Washington, in black-and-white type that shrinks away like the bottom of an eye test chart.

Artist and teacher R. Luke DuBois created the word portraits a decade ago. Trump's provocative language has infused the project with new meaning.

DuBois sees political discourse in 2018 as both frightening and an opportunity for artists. Another of his works involves a mechanical 1940s-era voting machine with levers for various human emotions and sentiments.

Lonnie Allsup, Founder Of Allsup's Convenience Stores, DiesAssociated Press

Lonnie Allsup, who started a chain of Allsup's Convenience Stores that expanded throughout New Mexico and Texas, has died.

The Muffley Funeral Home in Clovis, New Mexico, confirmed Allsup died Sunday. He was 84.

A cause of death was not immediately known.

Allsup and his wife, Barbara, grew up in the small town of Morton, Texas, before purchasing a "drive-in" grocery store in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1956. From there, they grew Allsup's into a chain of 300 stores in 160 towns and cities.

The Allsups were among the first in the region to sell cooked food and gasoline in the same location.

The convenience store is known for its chicken chimichanga and beef burrito.

New Mexico Games Aimed At Raising Breast Cancer AwarenessAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico's basketball teams will be using a couple of games in February to raise awareness about breast cancer.

The "Lobos Love Pink" women's game will be Feb. 10 against Air Force. The men will face Utah State on Feb. 14.

Ursa Brown-Glaberman is a breast cancer specialist and co-leads the breast team at the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center. She says awareness is important and the key to fighting the disease is finding it early.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 1,470 New Mexico women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis and 260 will die of the disease in 2018.

University officials say the basketball teams and the Cancer Center will honor breast cancer survivors at each game.

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