Official Threatens Fence In Dispute With US On Border Access, Pearce In Campaign Cash Dispute

Mar 6, 2018

Official Threatens Fence In Dispute With US On Border Access- Associated Press

A U.S. Senate candidate who serves as New Mexico's top land manager posted signs today along the U.S.-Mexico border aimed at blocking border patrol operations on a one-mile stretch of state trust land over concerns that the federal government is not compensating the state for using the land.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn told The Associated Press that if his office can't reach an agreement over an easement with the federal government, he will install a fence to block access to the property.

Dunn, elected in 2014 as a Republican, announced earlier this year he was running for the U.S. Senate after becoming a Libertarian.

Dunn first outlined his concerns in a letter sent last month to federal officials. He said it's an issue of state sovereignty and that revenue earned from development or use of trust land helps fund public education in the state.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it is evaluating Dunn's concerns.

New Mexico Governor To Sign School Security Measure- Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is throwing her support behind a measure that would set aside up to $10 million over four years for bolstering security at schools around New Mexico.

The governor's office announced Tuesday that Martinez would sign the legislation. She's facing a deadline Wednesday to act on bills passed during the recent 30-day session.

The money would go to projects such as perimeter fencing, intercom systems and restricting campus access.

The two-term Republican governor said in a statement that officials need to continue doing all they can to ensure students and school staff are safe in the wake of recent tragedies and threats. She also acknowledged that funding is just one piece of the puzzle.

School districts and charter schools will be able to apply for the funds starting this year.

State, Congressman To Settle Campaign Cash Access Dispute- Associated Press

& Santa Fe New Mexican

Republican Rep. Steve Pearce and New Mexico's top election official are moving to settle a dispute about access to a stockpile of campaign cash that Pearce raised while in Congress and sought to use in his run for governor.

Under the proposed agreement filed last week, the state would allow candidates to use donations collected while in federal office for state office runs, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. The contributions cannot be larger than what it is allowable under New Mexico law, and they must have been reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Pearce's lawyers claimed New Mexico Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver misinterpreted state law, effectively violating Pearce's right to free speech. They argued the funds should be treated the same as state candidates' contributions that roll from one election cycle to the next.

A federal judge sided with Pearce last year, placing a preliminary injunction on the state from enforcing limitations on campaign transfers.

Pearce was given access to the campaign funds while litigation continued.

Mexican Man Sentenced For Heroin Trafficking In New Mexico- Associated Press

A Mexican man has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for heroin trafficking in New Mexico.

Prosecutors say 27-year-old Gonzalo Montenegro-Coronel was sentenced Tuesday in an Albuquerque court and will be deported after completing his prison term.

Montenegro-Coronel and four co-defendants were charged in a 13-count indictment with heroin trafficking conspiracy between November 2014 and September 2015 and with using telephones to facilitate drug trafficking crimes.

He pleaded guilty to distributing heroin and three counts of using a communication device in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Montenegro-Coronel admitted to participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy by ordering bulk quantities of heroin from Mexico, which authorities say was then prepared and distributed to buyers in the Albuquerque area by his co-defendants.

Zinke Says Interior Should Be A Partner With Oil Companies- Associated Press

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says his agency should be a partner with oil and gas companies that seek to drill on public land and that long regulatory reviews with an uncertain outcome are "un-American."

Speaking Tuesday to a major energy-industry conference, Zinke described the Trump administration's efforts to increase offshore drilling, reduce regulations, and streamline inspections of oil and gas operators.

"Interior should not be in the business of being an adversary. We should be in the business of being a partner," Zinke said to a receptive audience that included leaders of energy companies and oil-producing countries.

Zinke said the government should shorten the permitting process for energy infrastructure — it shouldn't take longer than two years.

The Interior Department manages 500,000 million acres — one-fifth of the U.S. landmass — as well as the lease of offshore areas for oil drilling. One-fifth of U.S. oil production takes place on land or water that the Interior Department leases to private energy companies.

Environmentalists accuse Zinke and the administration of undercutting environmental rules to help oil, gas and coal companies.

New Mexico Governor Says She'll Sign Teacher Pay Raise Bill- Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she will sign a bill increasing the minimum salaries for teachers statewide.

Martinez's proclamation comes the same year lawmakers approved an average raise of 2.5 percent for teachers.

Though school districts have their own union contracts and pay scales, state law sets three different minimum salaries for teachers based on experience and education.

Legislative aides analyzed Public Education Department data on salaries for more than 19,000 teachers and found the new minimum salaries will be higher than the average for each level.

Wednesday is the last day for Martinez to sign legislation passed during the 30-day session that ended last month.

Any bill Martinez does not sign by this week's deadline automatically will be vetoed.

High Court Rules Feds Can Intervene In Water Fight – Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can intervene in a water case pitting Texas against New Mexico and Colorado.

Justice Neil Gorsuch writing for the court on Monday said the federal government must be allowed to meet its federal water commitments involving one of North America's longest rivers. Those obligations include an international agreement with Mexico and the decades-old Rio Grande Compact.

Farmers, water policy experts, city officials and others have been working behind the scenes to build a framework for a possible settlement.

Texas took its case to the Supreme Court in 2013, asking that New Mexico stop pumping groundwater along the border so that more of the Rio Grande could flow south to farmers and residents in El Paso.

New Mexico Supreme Court Backs Up Power Plant DecisionAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court is backing up a decision by state regulators to allow a utility to close part of a coal-fired power plant and replace the lost capacity with a mix of other energy sources.

The decision came Monday in the case of the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico already has shuttered two of the four units at the plant as part of a federal mandate to reduce haze-causing pollution.

After a two-year battle, the utility, the state, federal regulators and others reached an agreement to fill the void with a mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas and solar-generated power. One environmental group appealed the plan.

The court found there was enough evidence to support the December 2015 decision by the Public Regulation Commission.

New Trial Date Set For Man Charged In Officer's Death – Associated Press

A new trial date has been set for a man charged with fatally shooting an Albuquerque police officer, following a judge's ruling to remove his public defenders from the case.

Court records show 37-year-old Davon Lymon's trial on murder and other charges is set for May 11 — almost two months later than previously scheduled.

He is accused of fatally shooting Officer Daniel Webster outside a drug store during an October 2015 traffic stop.

A New Mexico judge last week sided with prosecutors, who argued to have the public defenders disqualified from the case due to a conflict of interest. Prosecutors cited the office's previous representation of a witness who testified against Lymon at a 2016 federal trial.

Albuquerque City Council Passes Tax IncreaseKRQE-TV, Albuquerque Journal

Facing a possible $40 million deficit, the Albuquerque City Council voted Monday night to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by three-eighths of a percentage point.

KRQE-TV reports the move would boost the city’s sales tax rate to 7.9 percent and add 38 cents to every $100 purchase. Councilors estimate it will generate about $52 million in additional revenue.

Councilor Brad Winter was the lone vote against the increase. The Albuquerque Journal reports councilors voted 5-4 to pledge at least 60 percent of the new revenue to public safety issues.

If Mayor Tim Keller signs the bill the tax increase goes into effect on July 1. The Journal reported Keller had pledged during his campaign that he would only support a new tax in “dire circumstances” but he said last week this was the “least worst” option to get rid of the city’s deficit.

KRQE reports the hike brings Albuquerque in line with other cities around the state.

Santa Fe Looks For Mayor Worthy Of $80,000 Salary IncreaseAssociated Press

Residents of New Mexico's state capital city are choosing a mayor who will wield new powers and earn a six-figure salary from a field of five candidates with no incumbent.

Tuesday's local elections in Santa Fe are being decided by a new ranked-choice voting system.

Voters list candidate preferences in descending order. If none receives a majority, votes for the last-place candidate are redistributed until a winner emerges.

The next mayor will command greater authority over the city manager, city attorney and clerk's office. The salary is increasing from $29,000 to $110,000.

Candidates include three City Council members: attorney Peter Ives, state transportation worker Ron Trujillo and former Española Mayor Joseph Maestas. Fast Company Magazine founder Alan Webber and Santa Fe school board member Kate Noble are running too.

Immigration Audits At New Mexico Businesses Sow FearAssociated Press

Immigrant rights advocates and local officials in New Mexico's state capital city say that recent businesses inspections by federal immigration enforcement officials and additional detentions are sowing fear in the community.

Marcela Diaz of the immigrant-advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido on Monday said that at least six businesses in Santa Fe were hit with employment audits over the past week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agency officials for the region had no immediate comment.

Diaz is not naming the businesses because audits are ongoing but described them as locally owned and not franchises. She also said four people were detained by immigration officials.

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said the enforcement actions amount to bullying. Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia says students are anxious.

Councilors Announce Push To Decriminalize PotAssociated Press

An Albuquerque city councilor says his proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession would save police potentially thousands of dollars each year, while freeing up time and resources for officers to focus on more serious crimes.

Pat Davis' comments Monday came as he and fellow Councilman Isaac Benton outlined their proposal change to Albuquerque's criminal code and make small amounts of marijuana possession a citable offense — at most.

Davis says officers could either issue a $25 ticket or essentially do nothing when finding someone with the small amount of pot on them.

The change would add Albuquerque to a growing list of municipalities that have decriminalized possessing marijuana in small amounts. It must win approval from full City Council and mayor to become law.

Immigration Agents Arrest 23 In Business RaidsAssociated Press

Federal immigration agents have arrested 23 people across New Mexico and west Texas on suspicion of being in the country illegally as they extend national efforts to prohibit businesses from hiring illegal workers.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Associated Press on Monday that agents had been serving notices of employment audits to 131 businesses across New Mexico and a swath of 18 counties in Texas over the past week when the arrests were made. Businesses are being given three days to provide hiring records that deal with employees' immigration status.

Agency regional spokeswoman Nina Pruneda says three of the individuals face criminal charges related to illegal re-entry to the United States or firearm possession or both.

New Mexico GOP Lawmakers Demand Response For 'Racism' Claims – Associated Press

New Mexico Republican state lawmakers are demanding a response from the Santa Fe archbishop about comments made by the head of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The 33 lawmakers sent Archbishop John Wester a letter Monday asking him if he agreed with remarks about racism made by Allen Sanchez, executive director of the group.

Sanchez told The Associated Press last month that "an element of racism" helped kill a proposal to expand early childhood education in the state.

The constitutional amendment to increase annual distributions from the $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education programs died in a Senate committee.

The GOP lawmakers, who opposed the measure, say Sanchez's comments were "unfair and deliberately inflammatory."

TSA Contacts Holocaust Survivor After SearchAssociated Press

A Holocaust survivor who said she was a victim of a demeaning body search by U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents says the agency has reached out to her.

Eva Mozes Kor tweeted on Monday that the TSA contacted her and are working to resolve future conflicts.

Kor said Sunday she had to undergo the intrusive body search before boarding a plane and that it ruined her experience following a lecture in Albuquerque.

Kor suffered through inhumane scientific experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp as a 10-year-old.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Matt Leas confirmed the agency contacted Kor to learn more about her travel experience. He says the agency is committed to treating travelers with dignity and respect.

Colorado Ski Area Suspends Operations Due To Lack Of Snow Associated Press

Hesperus Ski Area has suspended its winter operations due to a lack of snow.

The Durango Herald reported Sunday that the ski area already had to start its season late on Feb. 14, but now will be closed until further notice.

The small ski operation offers six trails on 60 skiable acres and a summit of 8,888 feet (2,709 meters). Kim Oyler, spokeswoman for Mountain Capital Partners, says the ski area relies entirely on natural snowfall for its operations. It will reopen if the area receives significant snowfall.

But Tom Renwick, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, says Southwest Colorado's winter-less fate shows no signs of turning around in the upcoming week.

Governor Rejects Tribute To Civil War FighterAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez plans to veto funding for a bronze bust recognizing the accomplishments of a Hispanic soldier in the U.S. Civil War who also led armed campaigns against Native Americans.

Martinez spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell said Monday that there will be a veto of the $50,000 proposal for a bronze bust of Manuel Antonio Chaves in the state Capitol. She says that money would be better spent on at a local school or on a law enforcement project.

Chaves is credited with leading a Union Army attack on a supply caravan during the 1862 battle at Glorieta Pass in New Mexico that turned back the western advance of Confederate forces.

But he also led bloody campaigns against the Navajo and other American Indian tribes in the mid-1800s and had close ties to a community known for enslaving Native Americans.

US Oil Expected To Meet Most Of World's Growth In DemandAssociated Press

A global energy watchdog says booming production in the United States will meet 80 percent global growth in demand for oil over the next five years.

The International Energy Agency believes slow growth from OPEC will be offset by oilfields in the U.S.

The group, based in Paris, issued its annual oil market report on Monday. The resurgence in U.S. production is the most prominent change since the group's last forecast.

The strongest growth is expected to come from the Permian Basin, a vast oil and gas pool that lies under parts of Texas and New Mexico. Output there is expected to double by 2023.

The retreat by oil producers during an oil-price plunge between 2014 and 2016, however, continues to raise the specter that not enough money has been spent on exploration, which can result in shortages and price spikes.

The IEA predicts that within five years, the cushion of production capacity over expected demand will fall to its lowest level since 2007.