KUNM

No Furloughs For State Workers, Changes Proposed For Medicaid Program

Jun 2, 2017

New Mexico Considering Changes To Medicaid ProgramSusan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

State officials say keeping costs down while improving the delivery of health care for New Mexico's poorest residents is the focus as they propose changes to the Medicaid program to ensure sustainability as enrollment grows.

More than a quarter-million state residents have enrolled since the program's expansion in 2014. Now, more than 40 percent of the state's children, disabled and other low-income adults are covered.

State Human Services Secretary Brent Ernest says despite the steady increase in enrollment, New Mexico has maintained benefits by cutting costs and coordinating care.

He said those efforts will continue under a waiver being sought from the federal government.

The agency also is considering imposing some premiums for higher-income individuals and families living above the federal poverty level.

A series of public meetings on the proposed changes will begin June 14 in Albuquerque.

Unpaid Furlough Days Not Coming For New Mexico EmployeesAssociated Press

State employees in New Mexico will not be ordered to take a temporary leave of absence after about $80 million in one-time money has been approved for the state's cash reserves.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez confirmed Thursday that unpaid furlough days will not be coming this month.

Due to ongoing cash flow concerns, furloughs had been floated by the Martinez administration as a possible money-saver if no additional funding was provided before the start of the state's new budget year on Thursday.

Administration officials were considering ordering most rank-and-file state workers to take at least five unpaid furlough days before the end of the current budget year, which would have saved an estimated $8 million.

UNM Athletics Director Steps Down, AG Is Pleased - Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says he's pleased that University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs is stepping down but that his office's look at athletic department spending will continue.

Balderas says in a statement reacting to Krebs' announcement Friday of his intention to retire June 30 that public officials who leave office "can still face legal consequences for actions they took while in office."

Balderas' office is conducting a formal inquiry into department spending. 

State Auditor Expands Inquiry Into UNM Athletics SpendingAssociated Press

The state Auditor's Office is expanding its review into the spending of public money by the University of New Mexico's athletics department.

Auditor Tim Keller said late Thursday that he has designated the university for a special audit and that it was important to get to the bottom of questions raised about expenses, compensation and perks for donors and senior staff in the athletics department.

Keller sent a letter to the university's leadership this week informing them of the expanded inquiry and requesting access to documents and staff.

The auditor was initially focused on spending related to a 2015 golf trip to Scotland that included athletics department officials and donors. The state attorney general's office also launched a formal inquiry into the matter.

University officials have said they will cooperate with state authorities.

Las Alamos Eyes Capping Abandoned Testing Wells Amid ThreatLos Alamos Monitor, Associated Press

One of the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratories is trying to hold off a potential threat to a nearby aquifer.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports Los Alamos National Laboratory has begun plans to fill and cap 26 abandoned testing wells close to the lab.

Some of the wells sit near known sources of contamination. Officials say Los Alamos National Laboratory is seeking to prevent any further contamination to the area by filling and capping the wells.

The wells were drilled from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.

The lab has submitted five plans to the New Mexico Environment Department on how its contractors will proceed.

Mortandad Canyon, where some of the wells are located, is the site of a chromium plume discovered in 2005.

New Mexico Opens 700-Year-Old Archaeological Site To ToursAssociated Press

The New Mexico State Land office is providing summer tours of archaeological ruins from a 700-year-old Native American settlement that is rarely seen by the public.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced Thursday the summer tours of Pueblo Sapawe, located on state trust land at the northern New Mexico town of El Rito.

The settlement was inhabited from roughly 1350 until as late as 1550 and contained 24 multi-room buildings that were arranged around several plazas. The layout of the buildings and a variety of artifacts are still visible.

Limited reservations starting June 24 are available through the State Land Office website.

Fake Cheesecake Factory Sign Sparks Buzz In New Mexico CityLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A construction site in southern New Mexico, which sparked buzz with a fake sign announcing it as a future home of a Cheesecake Factory, is really a future emergency center.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports officials say pranksters put up the bogus sign in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on a gate as joke.

Still, the fake sign announcing "The Cheesecake Factory Fall 2017" and another one saying "Dave and Busters Coming Soon" generated excitement on social media in the city of 100,000 people near U.S.-Mexico border.

City officials dashed those hopes on Thursday by confirming the site is still destined to be an emergency department for Mountain View Regional Medical Center.

The Las Cruces Police Department says the pranksters could face charges.

Records: Albuquerque Man Targeted Ex-Girlfriend With BombAssociated Press

UPDATE: Court records show an 18-year-old Albuquerque man arrested for making a pressure cooker bomb was targeting his former high school girlfriend.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court Friday shows the young woman found the device under her bed after it failed to explode and called police.

Ethan Guillen faces charges of possessing an unregistered destructive device. He was ordered held Friday by a federal judge.

The complaint says Guillen told a federal agent he made black powder and put it inside the pressure-cooker along with nuts and bolts and a fuse. He then placed it under the bed and attached it to an appliance timer to kill his former girlfriend.

Defense attorney Dan Tallon says there's no proof his client made the statement or that the bomb was real.

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The U.S. attorney's office in Albuquerque says an 18-year-old Albuquerque man has been arrested for making a bomb out of a pressure cooker and placing it under the bed of an intended victim.

Federal prosecutors said in a Thursday news release that Ethan Guillen faces charges of possessing an unregistered destructive device.

Guillen is accused of making the bomb using a pressure cooker filled with explosive powder, nuts and bolts and a fuse. He then placed it under the bed and attached it to an appliance timer.

The release doesn't say how the intended victim discovered the device. Court records weren't immediately available that would list a lawyer.

Guillen is set for an initial court hearing Friday. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Hawaii, Parts Of Southeast, Southwest Face Summer Fire RiskAssociated Press

Forecasters say Hawaii and pockets of the Southeastern and Southwestern United States could face above-normal danger of significant wildfires this summer.

The National Interagency Fire Center's summer outlook released Thursday shows the risk on the Big Island of Hawaii is expected to be above normal through September.

Forecasters say western Nevada faces above-normal fire danger from July through September. The risk will be high in inland Southern California in July and in parts of Northern California during August and September.

Southeastern Arizona and western New Mexico could have above-normal risk in June.

Forecasters say fire danger will be below normal through July in the Rocky Mountains and in a large swath of the Eastern U.S. from Texas to the Atlantic. The risk will return to normal in late summer.

Nuclear Waste Transport Contract Awarded To Colorado CompanyAssociated Press

The U.S. Energy Department has awarded a contract worth up to $112 million to a Colorado company for transportation services at the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository.

The agency announced the contract with CAST Specialty Transportation, Inc. on Thursday. CAST already maintains a terminal in southern New Mexico to support transport operations for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Under the new contract, CAST also will be responsible the shipment of waste to the repository from federal facilities across the nation as part of the Energy Department's multibillion-dollar cleanup program.

The waste includes gloves, tools, clothing and other materials from decades of bomb-making and research.

The repository recently began accepting shipments following a nearly three-year closure that resulted from a radiation release in one of the underground disposal rooms.

New Mexico Police Make Arrests In String Of Deadly RobberiesAssociated Press

Authorities have arrested two people suspected in a string of deadly robberies in New Mexico's largest city.

State police officers arrested 34-year-old Yoan Peña Santiesteban and 26-year-old Gloria Chavez in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, after spotting them Tuesday in a car that belonged to a man who had been killed May 14 at an Albuquerque motel.

A criminal complaint states the two allegedly used that car for two more robberies that ended with shootings.

Police say Santiesteban and Chavez are facing charges of murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence. It's not immediately clear if they had attorneys.

Investigators say they linked the two suspects to three separate killings in May through interviews and bullet casings found the scenes.

Police also are investigating whether the two might be connected to other crimes.

Medical Pot Producer Sues Over New Mexico State Fair DisplayAssociated Press

One of New Mexico's licensed medical marijuana producers is suing Expo New Mexico officials over refusal to let the company display its products at the state fair later this year.

Attorneys for Ultra Health Inc. filed the lawsuit in federal court Wednesday, alleging that the company's constitutional rights to free speech and due process are being violated.

Ultra Health says it sought permission from fair officials to put up an informational booth featuring diagrams and photos of cannabis plants as well as lists and other information about medical cannabis products.

Fair officials informed the company via email that any plants, products or images of the restricted items would be prohibited.

Expo New Mexico officials did not immediately respond Thursday to a message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Medical marijuana has been legal in New Mexico for a decade.

US Senator Suggests Reforms For Navajo Housing AuthorityAssociated Press

The findings of an investigation initiated by a U.S. senator into the spending of federal housing grants on the nation's largest American Indian reservation suggest mismanagement resulted in cost overruns and delays.

Top Navajo Nation officials on Thursday detailed the findings along with numerous recommendations made by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The recommendations include reducing the federal government's allocation to the tribe for new homes, streamlining land acquisition and permitting processes and increasing site visits by federal inspectors.

According to the findings, the Navajo Housing Authority over 10 years received more than $803 million in funding and built only 1,110 homes. There were also concerns about board members misusing income generated by rental properties.

Regional officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also recently completed a review but documented no compliance or performance concerns.

Judge Rejects Challenge To Albuquerque's Minimum Wage LawAssociated Press

A judge has rejected a challenge to Albuquerque’s voter-approved 2012 law setting a minimum wage for New Mexico’s most populous city.

State District Judge Alan Malott's ruling Tuesday rejects a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by employees of the business.

Malott's ruling say the business' former owners should have filed their challenge right after the election, not years later.

Malott's ruling also says alleged procedural flaws with the 2012 ballot measure either weren't valid or significant enough to warrant overriding the decision by voters.

The employees' lawsuit centers on the minimum wage law's increase in the hourly wage for tipped workers. The law currently requires $8.80 an hour for employees without benefits.

Another lawsuit challenging the minimum wage law remains pending.

Albuquerque Mayor Vetoes Budget – Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has vetoed the city’s budget for the first time since he was elected in 2009. He says it’s not in the best interest of the city.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Berry is concerned that the bill leaves the general fund imbalanced while reducing the city’s police force budget by $2.4 million. 

He said in the veto message that he and Councilors Pat Davis and Brad Winter will present a compromise budget for consideration to the full council on Monday.

Berry says the new budget provides funding for public safety and for modest raises for “valuable employees.”

Dem Gets Calls To Resign On Trump Facebook PostAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is calling on a Democratic public education commissioner to resign over his social media post supporting a bloody, beheaded image of President Trump.

Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan said Thursday that Tim Crone crossed the line when he applauded and encouraged "a sick stunt." Lonergan says the governor is demanding that he apologize and step down from the commission.

Crone wrote on Facebook late Wednesday that he endorsed comedian Kathy Griffin's posting of the Trump image and called the Native American-owned Route 66 Casino a "loser, redneck" venue for canceling an upcoming Griffin show over the video.

The 70-year-old Crone told The Associated Press his remarks "were intended as a joke" and were directed at friends.

He later edited the Facebook post.

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