KUNM

State Forestry: Worst Fire Season In Decade Possible, Civil Rights Group Pushing New Direction

Feb 8, 2018

State Forestry: State Could See Worst Fire Season In Decade – The Associated Press & KRQE

New Mexico State Forestry officials say they already are anticipating an aggressive fire season, as 70 percent of the state is facing severe drought.

KRQE-TV reports Forestry Division Official Greg Hesch says conditions are very dry and the agency already is training extra firefighters throughout the state to be ready when the calls to extinguish fires start coming in.

Hesch also says the state could be facing the worst fire season in a decade.

Hesch is urging people to be extra vigilant any time they are outdoors and especially around campfires. He expects there will be plenty of fire restrictions in the coming months.

Latino Civil Rights Group's Members Pushing New DirectionThe Associated Press

The oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. is facing turmoil over its leader's initial support for President Donald Trump's immigration plan and it comes amid evolving membership.

League of United Latin American Citizens members are pressuring President Roger Rocha to resign after he wrote a letter in support of Trump's proposal on increased border security.

Dave Rodriguez, director of the group's California councils, says the civil rights organization opposes Trump's immigration proposals and wants protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

That's a change from the organization's stances in the 1940s and 1950s when the group supported immigration restrictions.

Jeronimo Cortina, a University of Houston political science professor, says the group has evolved and adopted pro-immigrant positions due to the changing demographics among U.S. Latinos.

New Mexico Suspends Football Coach Amid Misconduct ProbeThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico has announced it is suspending head football coach Bob Davie for 30 days in connection with alleged physical abuse of football players.

The school said Thursday that Davie was suspended after a Chicago law firm could not conclude that football coaches or staff obstructed criminal investigations or misconduct cases involving players.

The firm, however, recommended that leadership "take strong action" to ensure the school didn't tolerate sexual harassment or physical abuse. It calls for more oversight into the school's athletic program.

A report conducted by Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose says Davie told players to "get some dirt" on a woman who had reported that a football player had raped her.

New Mexico's Interim President Abdallah says Davie was immediately placed on unpaid suspension after the report.

State Appeals Court Revives Hopi Lawsuit Against SnowmakingThe Associated Press

The state appeals court has revived the Hopi Tribe's legal challenge over artificial snowmaking at a ski resort in Flagstaff.

Thursday's ruling extends what has been a lengthy battle by tribes to keep the Arizona Snowbowl from using treated wastewater for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks. At least 13 tribes consider the mountain on public land sacred.

The Hopi Tribe alleged in 2011 that Flagstaff's decision to sell wastewater to the Snowbowl causes a public nuisance.

A Coconino County judge ruled in 2016 that the tribe didn't show it suffered an injury unlike that suffered by the general public.

The appeals court disagreed, saying the tribe sufficiently alleged harm to cultural and religious sites.

The case now goes back to Coconino County Superior Court.

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek Privacy Rules For Police VideoAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers may convoke a community task force to consider restrictions on public access to video recordings from police lapel cameras of people with mental illnesses.

A Republican Senator and House Democrat on Wednesday proposed that the state attorney general convene a group to recommend legislation that would "protect the mental and physical health information of individuals" from disclosure in police recordings.

Video and audio from devices worn by officers have played a pivotal role in investigations of the use of force in the Albuquerque Police Department's interactions with the mentally ill.

Republican Sen. Sander Rue of Albuquerque said the legislative initiative responds to concerns about the intrusion of police cameras during household mental-health related emergencies. He acknowledged that body cameras are an important tool for monitoring police conduct.

Airport Agents To Get Training After Native Church's Lawsuit - By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

Security agents at more than a dozen airports nationwide will be trained on how to screen Native American religious items.

That's the result of a lawsuit filed by the Native American Church of North America. The church alleged the Transportation Security Administration roughly handled ceremonial items and rejected requests to allow only a church member to touch them.

The two sides recently settled the case, with no one acknowledging fault.

Former church president Sandor Iron Rope says the TSA has policies to protect Native American religious items but agents weren't trained properly.

The TSA will collaborate with the church on a webinar and other guidelines for screening things such as gourd rattles, eagle feathers and fans.

The TSA didn't respond to requests for comment.

New Mexico Studies Creation Of Medicaid Buy-In CoverageAssociated Press

New Mexico will study opportunities to provide Medicaid coverage through a fee to people who earn too much money to qualify for the health care program for the poor.

The state Senate voted 33-8 on Wednesday to commission a year-long study of possibilities for expanding health care coverage by allowing more people to buy into Medicaid. The House already has approved the measure.

Decisions about whether to proceed with a buy-in program would be left until next year, after GOP New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office.

The buy-in concept involves redirecting federal subsidies for coverage in the marketplaces created under former President Barack Obama's health care law to a new category of Medicaid. It has the backing of a coalition of local public health advocacy groups.

New Mexico Lawmakers Embrace Effort To Regulate Dark MoneyAssociated Press

A state-by-state initiative aimed at regulating and possibly limiting the role of money in politics through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution has won its first endorsement from a state legislative chamber.

The New Mexico House of Representative voted 41-28 on Wednesday to urge Congress to restore greater federal and local regulation of political spending that influences elections and governance. State Senate action is pending.

The effort seeks to reverse Supreme Court actions including the 2010 Citizens United decision that cleared the way for unlimited independent elections spending. It sparked a spirited floor debate Wednesday about political spending and free speech.

Similar measures are slated for introduction soon in Alabama and New Hampshire. The non-binding resolution called a "memorial" also pledges support for a constitutional amendment to end partisan gerrymandering.

Authorities Dispute Report Linking Aztec Shooter, Alt-Right - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

A law enforcement official is disputing a report that has been released by an organization that tracks hate crimes and asserts that a New Mexico gunman in a deadly high school shooting had been influenced by the alt-right.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has included William Atchison, of Aztec, on a list of assailants the organization says were influenced by the alt-right — a fringe movement that represents a mix of white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration beliefs.

Authorities say Atchison killed Aztec High School students Francisco I. Fernandez and Casey J. Marquez on Dec. 7 before shooting himself.

Authorities have said the victims were not specific targets.

Bryce Current, the internal affairs captain for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, said he did not believe the shooting was motivated by a "political agenda."

Water Forecast Is Bleak For Major Reservoir In Southwest USAssociated Press

Forecasters say one of the most important reservoirs in the Southwestern U.S. will likely collect less than half its normal amount of spring runoff this year because of a warm, dry winter across much of the region.

Hydrologist Greg Smith of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday Lake Powell is expected to get 47 percent of its average inflow because of scant snow in the mountains that feed the Colorado River.

Smith says there's only a 10 percent chance that enough mountain snow will fall during the rest of the winter to bring inflows back to average.

Lake Powell, in Utah and Arizona, helps ensure the Colorado River has enough water to get through dry years. The river supplies water to about 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland in seven states, including New Mexico.

New Mexico Senate Approves Reforms Of Guardianship SystemAssociated Press

The New Mexico Senate has approved a bill aimed at overhauling New Mexico's guardianship laws.

The Senate voted 40-0 on Wednesday for reforms designed to increase state oversight and public access to information regarding professional guardians and conservators who manage finances and care for vulnerable elderly and disabled people. The bill now moves to the House.

The Senate-approved bill includes more stringent reporting and financial accountability measures. It also requires that conservators be bonded or secure other asset-protection.

Those placed under guardianship or conservatorships are typically elderly, those with dementia or Alzheimer's or others who need help with their decision-making or finances.

Currently, guardians and conservators proceedings are secret and families have complained about being barred from visiting or communicating with their loved ones once a professional guardian is appointed.

Prosecutors Seek More Funding To Cover Child's Death Trials KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Prosecutors are asking the New Mexico Legislature for more funding to cover the costs of the trials of three people charged in the death of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl.

KRQE-TV reports the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office is requesting $600,000 to take to trial the defendants accused of killing Victoria Martens, who was raped and dismembered in her home in August 2016.

District Attorney Raul Torrez says authorities are working around the clock to prepare for the case and have put in additional investigative work.

The girl's mother Michelle Martens, her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales and his cousin Jessica Kelley are awaiting trial. They have pleaded not guilty.

The mother is expected to be tried in July. The other trials are scheduled for October and the following January.

New Mexico Man Gets Prison Term In Sexual Abuse CaseAssociated Press

A northwestern New Mexico man faces 12½ years in prison after being sentenced on convictions for abusive sexual contact and kidnapping Navajo boys.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says 68-year-old William Detwiler of Vanderwagen in southern McKinley County was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Albuquerque.

The office says Detwiler pleaded guilty in 2016 to charges involving two children under age 16.

According to a sentencing document, Detwiler didn't know the boys and offered them rides to school.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the New Mexico State Police.

Land Commissioner Files As Libertarian For US Senate SeatAssociated Press

The New Mexico land commissioner has filed to run for the Libertarian Party's nomination to the U.S. Senate.

Aubrey Dunn has recently changed his voting registration from Republican to Libertarian to run against incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican candidate Mick Rich.

Dunn joins a list of Libertarians who filed declarations of candidacy Tuesday to run for state and federal offices after the Secretary of State's Office last week gave the Libertarian Party major party status in New Mexico.

The status upgrade came as a result of the 2016 presidential race when Libertarian Gary Johnson had relatively strong showing.

Dunn says it's likely he will pick up both Republican and Democratic voters, noting there's an area between the two parties that both are not addressing.

Latino Civil Rights Group's Members Pushing New Direction - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

The oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. is facing turmoil over its leader's initial support for President Donald Trump's immigration plan and it comes amid evolving membership.

League of United Latin American Citizens members are pressuring its president, Roger Rocha, to resign after he wrote a letter in support of Trump's proposal on increased border security.

Dave Rodriguez, director of the group's California councils, says the civil rights organization opposes Trump's immigration proposals and wants protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

That's a change from the organization's stances in the 1940s and 1950s when the group supported immigration restrictions.

Jeronimo Cortina, a University of Houston political science professor, says the group has evolved and adopted pro-immigrant positions due to the changing demographics among U.S. Latinos.

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