Permanent Fund Growth Boosts Education, Feds Seek Valles Caldera Geothermal Protections

Jan 3, 2017

Public Education Gets Boost From New Mexico Permanent Funds Associated Press

Funding for public education will get a boost this year from New Mexico's two major sovereign wealth funds thanks to strong investment results.

A spokesman for the State Investment Council says disbursements will increase by $60 million to about $896 million during the upcoming fiscal year from New Mexico's Land Grant Permanent Fund and Severance Tax Permanent Fund.

Charles Wollmann says the value of the two funds climbed to nearly $20 billion at the end of 2016, with a return on investment of just over 7 percent during 2016.

Supported by oil and mining royalties, the Land Grant Permanent Fund pays out 5 percent of its value each year mostly to public schools as well as schools for the blind and deaf, state universities and hospitals.

Albuquerque Man Accused In An Arson Case Pleads Not Guilty – Associated Press

A man accused of starting a fire inside an Old Navy store in Albuquerque in November has pleaded not guilty in the case.

KOB-TV reports that David Hickman entered his plea in court today.

He remains in federal custody and prosecutors say Hickman could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

A federal grand jury indicted the 28-year-old Hickman last month.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque says the indictment alleges Hickman used fire in an attempt to maliciously damage the store.

Hickman was arrested on Nov. 28, two days after the fire.

The Old Navy blaze was among several fires and acts of vandalism that damaged multiple businesses around Albuquerque in late November.

The FBI still is investigating those cases.

The Latest: New Mexico Father Who Abducted Son Surrenders – Associated Press

Authorities say a 23-year-old father who was wanted after abducting his 2-year-old son has surrendered.

Dona Ana County sheriff's deputies say Sergio Guadalupe Jacquez turned himself in at the main station Tuesday afternoon. His attorney accompanied him, and authorities said he was cooperating with investigators.

Authorities planned to book him on charges of arson, aggravated burglary, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, child abuse and battery.

Jacquez was accused of fleeing with the toddler after allegedly beating the child's grandfather and torching his mobile home.

Monday night's incident triggered an Amber Alert, but the boy was later left unharmed with his paternal grandmother in southern New Mexico.

Authorities initially suspected that Jacquez may have fled to Mexico.

Authorities: Fire Chars Main Sanctuary Of Albuquerque ChurchAssociated Press, KOB-TV

Authorities say the cause of a fire that charred a church in the southwest part of Albuquerque remains unclear.

Albuquerque Fire Department officials say several crews arrived at the Joy Light Church of God in Christ near Broadway and Cesar Chavez about 2:30 p.m. Monday and saw heavy smoke coming from the building.

They say firefighters got control of the fire within minutes and the blaze was contained to the main sanctuary.

KOB-TV reports the church is an important part of the African American community and was also a key site during the civil rights movement. Part of the city’s first anti-discrimination ordinance was drafted in the church.

No one was inside at the time and no injuries have been reported.

Forecasters: New Mexico Was Warm And Dry In 2016 Associated Press

National weather experts say 2016 will go down as one of the warmest years on record in New Mexico.

While final data has yet to be tallied by the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, no less than six months were in the top 10 warmest on record and three months were in the top three warmest.

But forecasters say the warm weather is nothing new.

The last time New Mexico experienced a year in which temperatures were below normal was 1992, meaning the state has experienced 24 consecutive years with above normal temperatures.

As for snow and rainfall, forecasters say New Mexico also saw below normal precipitation in 2016. In the last 20 years, 10 years have been drier than normal and rest wetter than normal.

Feds Seek To Protect Geothermal Features At Valles CalderaAssociated Press

Geothermal features within a national preserve in northern New Mexico that marks the heart of an ancient collapsed volcano could get extra protections under a new effort by the National Park Service.

Officials say Valles Caldera National Preserve would become the 17th park unit with designated thermal features. Yellowstone, Crater Lake and Hawaii Volcanoes are on the list.

Valles Calderas is home to vast grasslands and the remnants of one of North America's few super volcanoes.

The nearly 140-square-mile preserve was purchased by the federal government in 2000 and managed as a working ranch for years. The Park Service took over in 2015.

The federal government moved a decade ago to condemn the last privately owned mineral rights to protect against geothermal development within the preserve. The latest effort would ensure outside development doesn't affect the designated features.

Democrats In State House To Reconfigure Committee Structure Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Incoming Democratic leaders in the New Mexico House plan to reconfigure the chamber's committee structure by creating new committees and eliminating others.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Democratic leaders plan to make committee changes just as Republicans did two years ago.

Democrats reclaimed control of the House in November.

One change would involve creating a House Labor and Economic Development Committee.

Democrats had objected two years ago to a GOP push to abolish a labor committee and replace it with the House Business and Employment Committee.

Another change would involve bringing back the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, which had been recast as the House Ways and Means Committee after Republicans won control of the House in 2014.

Santa Fe School Cuts Free Lunch Program Due To Budget Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A charter school in Santa Fe has abruptly ended its free and reduced-price lunch program due to state education funding cuts.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Monte del Sol students were informed during the holiday break that the school can no longer afford to contribute about $40,000 from its annual budget to offer federally subsidized lunches to about 80 or 90 students enrolled in the program.

Monte del Sol Head Learner Robert Jessen says the school only receives about $3 from the federal government for each free lunch it serves.

Monte del Sol has been offering the federal lunch program since 2010. Before that, Jessen says the school provided peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to low-income students.

Jessen says the school is trying to find a vendor to provide lunches.

Farmington Hospital Aims To Be Model For Recycling Farmington Daily-Times, Associated Press

Officials at one hospital in northwestern New Mexico say they're having success with energy efficiency and recycling programs.

A decade in the making, San Juan Regional Medical Center's efforts have resulted in an annual reduction of 200 tons of waste being taken to the landfill and a total savings of $2 million to the hospital.

The hospital's marketing manager, Roberta Rogers, says the programs have been so effective that San Juan Regional hopes to become a model for other organizations.

The hospital in 2007 established its so-called Green Team, which meets quarterly to discuss waste-reduction ideas.

Aside from recycling and building a solar array, The Daily Times reports that the hospital also delivers composted food waste to the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center south of Farmington.

Rio Rancho Schools Board Member Pushes For Naloxone In SchoolsAlbuquerque Journal

A board member with Rio Rancho Public Schools wants to see a drug used to counteract opioid overdoses made available in Rio Rancho high schools and possibly middle schools.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Catherine Cullen made a presentation on naloxone to the board last month, and will present a more detailed plan this month.

Cullen said she doesn’t know of any increases in opiate abuse in high schools in Rio Rancho, but she argued Rio Rancho Schools should lead the way on this issue.

Under the 21st Century Cures Act states can compete for $1 billion in federal funds to prevent and treat opioid abuse.