Recreational Cannabis Bill Tabled In Committee, Ohio Suspect In Officer's Slaying Faces Life Without

Feb 28, 2017

Recreational Pot Bill Stalls in House Committee – The ABQ Journal, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A bill to legalize and tax recreational marijuana was blocked in committee in Santa Fe yesterday.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the 9-1 vote by the House Business and Industry Committee all but guarantees the bill will not reach the desk of Governor Susana Martinez this session, which ends March 18.

Democratic Rep. Bill McCamley, the bill’s sponsor, cited a recent poll that showed strong support for legalizing recreational marijuana in New Mexico, and characterized the move as inevitable.

But lawmakers expressed concern about whether President Donald Trump’s administration could crack down on states with legal recreational marijuana. Eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted such laws.

Democratic Rep. Carl Trujillo of Santa Fe was the sole committee member who voted to keep the bill alive.

Ohio Suspect In Officer's Slaying Faces Life Without ParoleThe Associated Press & The Sun-News

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence without the possibility of parole for an Ohio man charged with killing a New Mexico police officer, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that 39-year-old Jesse Hanes is charged with murder in connection with the August death of Dona Ana County Officer Jose Chavez.

His trial is set for April.

Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D'Antonio filed a notice Monday saying prosecutors want a sentence of life without parole for Hanes if he is convicted in Chavez' death.

Prisoners serving life sentences in New Mexico are eligible for parole after 30 years unless there are aggravating circumstances.

D'Antonio says such circumstances would include the killing of a police officer while in the line of duty. 

Roswell-Phoenix Flights Reach First-Year MilestoneThe Associated Press & The Roswell Daily Record

Roswell officials are calling the direct American Airlines flights from the city to Phoenix a "big success" since the service launched a year ago.

The Roswell Daily Record reported Monday that figures from the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. show the flights have averaged a 70 percent occupancy rate over the last five months. That's less than the target goal of 80 percent, but city spokesman Juanita Jennings says the numbers weren't a surprise because November and December were expected to be slow.

She says a recent increase in marketing and promotional efforts will help boost ridership.

Jennings says Roswell officials will speak Thursday at a one-year anniversary celebration for the route about how the flights have and will continue to improve economic growth and business partnerships.

Report: Albuquerque's $5 Million Deal With Taser 'Unbiased' – The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

An Albuquerque Office of Inspector General has found that city officials used a fair and unbiased process to reach a tentative deal with Taser International to provide body cameras for police.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that the city would get 2,000 cameras and video storage through 2020 under the deal. The $5 million purchase, announced in December, would be funded with city and federal money.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry had asked for the Inspector General to review the deal because of the city's controversial history with Taser.

In 2013, a no-bid contract with the company led to a criminal investigation because a former police chief began consulting work for Taser while still on the city's payroll.

The new report says the city's process of vetting proposals from various.

New Mexico Watches Its Wallet On New Criminal PenaltiesThe Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers want to take a closer look at the cost to taxpayers when changes are made to criminal penalties.

The Senate voted 35-4 on Tuesday to require a fiscal impact report on changes to criminal sentences and how they affect incarceration costs. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

When increased costs are anticipated, lawmakers would have to set aside money for the first year from New Mexico's general fund. The New Mexico Sentencing Commission would review fiscal impacts.

The Democratically controlled Legislature is wrestling with a $125 million budget gap for the coming fiscal year. A downturn in the oil sector and a sluggish state economy have sapped state tax revenues.

The Legislature already added a finance committee review of bills with new felony penalties.

Ex-New Mexico Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty In Drug CaseThe Associated Press 

A former corrections officer at a New Mexico jail has pleaded guilty to a heroin trafficking charge.

Prosecutors say 20-year-old Christopher Gonzales of Rio Rancho entered a guilty plea Tuesday in federal court in Albuquerque.

At the time he committed the offense, Gonzales was a corrections officer at the Sandoval County Detention Center in Bernalillo.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, prosecutors say Gonzales faces up to 18 months in federal prison to be followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.

A sentencing hearing hasn't been scheduled yet.

Gonzales was accused of bringing heroin to the jail with the intention of delivering it to an inmate in August 2015.

He was arrested in January 2016 and indicted in the case.

Countermeasures to Trump Inundate New Mexico LegislatureThe Associated Press

Several countermeasures against directives from President Donald Trump are making their way through New Mexico's Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Lawmakers in the House are preparing for a vote as soon as Tuesday on a bill to prohibit state cooperation with federal efforts to extend a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Other pending bills seek to ensure the New Mexico National Guard and state and local law enforcement steer clear of enforcing federal immigration law.

As Republicans in Washington move to overhaul former President Barack Obama's health care law, New Mexico legislators want to enshrine into state law low-cost access to contraceptives and to study effects on a state health care system that depends heavily on federal Medicaid funding.

New Mexico Tribe Puts Up Land For $160M Medicinal GreenhouseThe Associated Press

On a patch of tribal land in western New Mexico, a Delaware-based company plans to build a $160 million state-of-the-art greenhouse for researching and growing medicinal plants, including marijuana.

Bright Green Group of Companies is partnering with Acoma Pueblo on a project supporters say will net more jobs for rural New Mexico, a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Company and tribal officials are meeting at the site Tuesday to mark the start of construction, which is expected to take about two years.

The greenhouse and associated research facility will cover nearly 6 million square feet, or about 100 football fields, and the plants will be harvested for their oils.

Some say the effort could stir uncertainty over jurisdictional issues and federal controlled substance laws.

Oil Rep: Fracking Opposition Hurts New Mexico Oil IndustryThe Associated Press, The Roswell Daily Record

An oil and gas industry representative says opposition to fracking is threatening the political viability of the oil industry in New Mexico.

The Roswell Daily Record reports Mack Energy of Artesia government affairs director Claire Chase told lawmakers last week that New Mexico is the most vulnerable state in the nation to increasing opposition to fracking and fossil fuels in general.

Speaking at the Chaves County Legislative Dinner in Santa Fe, Chase said the opposition is coming from environmentalists and "minority voters."

She blamed the anti-fracking sentiment on attack ads on TV and social media.

Chase told lawmakers the oil industry in New Mexico "is going to start fighting back" and will begin thinking like the opposition.

It's unclear which bills might survive the veto pen of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who was in Washington on Monday with other state governors to meet with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

In a statement, Martinez described the Affordable Care Act as "catastrophic," saying it needs to be repealed and replaced with something that lowers premiums for families and small businesses.

New Mexico Senate Backs Solar Contracts For State BuildingsThe Associated Press

A legislative initiative that could spur the installation of solar panels on New Mexico state buildings has been approved by the state Senate.

The Senate on Monday voted 36-4 to direct the state General Services Department to pursue contracts with solar providers that save the state money on electricity costs over time with no up-front public investment.

The bill also opens the way for contracts that generate electricity with wind turbines or use the sun to heat water.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces is sponsoring the legislation in an effort to create jobs and increase investment in the solar industry.

The General Services Department has voiced concerns that developing renewable-energy contract guidelines will put a strain on its administrative staff and construction project managers. It oversees 750 buildings.

Feds Give OK On Key Road To Spaceport America The Associated Press, The Las Cruces Sun-News

Federal authorities have given the green light on a key step to upgrade a southern New Mexico road to an aerospace economic hub.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management this month issued decisions on an environmental review of the proposed road improvements. That would lead to a graveled or chip-sealed road being built from Interstate 25 to the remote spaceport in southeastern Sierra County.

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority is paying for the roughly $14 million road improvement project.

The spaceport was initially publicized years ago as the world's first purpose-built facility for launching paying customers, satellites and other cargo into space. The project has been plagued by delays and other setbacks as Virgin Galactic worked to develop and test its spacecraft.

Volunteers Sought for Manhattan Project National Park – The Associated Press, The Los Alamos Monitor

Officials say volunteers are needed to get the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Los Alamos started.

Park Ranger Kirk Singer told the Los Alamos Monitor last week around 10 volunteers are being sought to work the visitor's center and help plan guided ranger walks.

During the World War II-era Manhattan Project, scientists in the then-secret town of Los Alamos worked to develop an atomic bomb later dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is managed through a partnership between the National Park Service and U.S. Department of Energy. The new park contains three sites: Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington.

In Los Alamos, the park includes areas associated with the design of the "Little Boy" bomb.

Senate Passes Bill To Address Carlsbad Brine Well – The Associated Press

The state Senate has passed legislation prompted by a potential catastrophe waiting to happen at a busy intersection in the southern New Mexico community of Carlsbad.

Experts have warned lawmakers that something needs to be done about the giant cavern that has formed at the edge of the city where two major transportation routes intersect.

Nearby is a canal that delivers water to farmers throughout the lower Pecos Valley and a neighborhood of mobile homes.

Sen. Carroll Leavell said the cavern left behind by a defunct brine well operation is in the worst possible location.

The legislation sponsored by the Jal Republican was approved Monday. It would create a special authority to help guide remediation and look for revenues to fund the work. The House has passed a similar bill.

Blowing Dust Closes Freeway At Arizona-New Mexico Border The Associated Press

A section of Interstate 10 on both sides of the Arizona-New Mexico border was closed for several hours in both directions for the second consecutive day because of blowing dust.

Arizona Department of Transportation officials say eastbound lanes of I-10 in southeastern Arizona near San Simon were closed about noon Monday along with westbound lanes of the freeway at Lordsburg, New Mexico about 15 miles west of the state line.

A multiple-car crash Sunday near San Simon closed I-10 for several hours after severe wind and dust caused zero visibility.

The area caused major trouble last year as a local farm kept sending massive clouds of dust during windy days.

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality officials say that same farm is causing the blowing dust now and they're taking action.