State Wants New Payments From Medicaid Patients, University Leaders Seek Lottery Scholarship Changes

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New Mexico Seeks New Payments From Medicaid PatientsAssociated Press

Low-income Medicaid patients in New Mexico may soon have to pay more for certain brand-name drugs or if they visit the emergency room to receive routine medical care.

The state Human Services Department on Wednesday sought permission from federal regulators to authorize the collection of new copayments and monthly premiums in an effort to conserve state spending on Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled.

Human Services Secretary Brent Earnest said New Mexico's long-awaited Medicaid reform application also would expand services for substance abuse disorders and phase out retroactive health care coverage by 2020 for newly enrolled patients.

Taken together, the changes would save the state general fund an estimated $90 million over a five-year period. Approval is up to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

ACLU Says New Mexico Deputies Kept Pulling Over Black Ice Agent - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A black female federal immigration officer in New Mexico says she was repeatedly pulled over by sheriff's deputies — twice by the same deputy — with no probable cause.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico announced Wednesday it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 38-year-old Sherese Crawford against the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office stemming from three alleged racially profiling stops.

According to the lawsuit, Crawford was first stopped in April 2017 on suspicion of driving a stolen car. The ACLU says Crawford was driving a rental car provided by ICE.

The lawsuit says Deputy Patrick Rael then pulled her over later that month for tailgating and again the next month for driving "too slow."

Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Felicia Maggard did not immediately return an email.

Las Cruces Bishop Visits Hobbs Parish Amid Pastor's ChargesHobbs News Sun, Associated Press

Las Cruces Bishop Oscar Cantu has visited a southeastern New Mexico parish after its pastor was charged with criminal sexual contact.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Cantu celebrated the Saturday and Sunday's Masses days following news that St. Helena Catholic Church pastor Rev. Ricardo Bauza was facing charges.

According to a 15-page criminal complaint filed last month, Bauza got into a shower with an adult male, and washed the victim's body with a loofah in the church rectory.

The complaint says two male church members also told police Bauza showed them cell phone photos of his genitals.

Cantu told parishioners he only became aware of the case last week when a News-Sun reporter called the diocese asking for a comment.

He says Bauza is in a treatment center undergoing therapy.

New Mexico Legislature Under Scrutiny For Self-EnrichmentAssociated Press

Limited safeguards against self-enrichment in the nation's only unsalaried legislature are under scrutiny in the wake of a corruption trial and felony convictions against a former New Mexico state senator.

Former Sen. Phil Griego is awaiting sentencing after a jury found him guilty of fraud, felony ethical violations and other charges.

The case is a central exhibit in the campaign for a 2018 ballot initiative. New Mexico voters will consider whether to create an independent ethics commission that could shift the review of complaints against lawmakers from closed-door committees to a more public forum.

Some lawmakers say the unsalaried status of lawmakers has turned into a liability that is exploited by high-paid lobbyists. Others say citizen legislators bring needed expertise to policy debates.

University Leaders Seek Change In Lottery ScholarshipsAssociated Press

Leaders of colleges and universities in New Mexico are requesting the state Legislature to separate lottery scholarships from tuition costs.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers presented the request to a Legislative Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday on behalf of the Council of University Presidents.

Carruthers says the request aims "break the tradition of tuition going up in comparison to the lottery scholarship."

The state lottery has funded scholarships for qualifying students to attend public universities and colleges in the state. The scholarship amount has been based on individual tuition.

Carruthers says the current idea is to give the scholarships at a set amount across the board or to distribute the funding to universities for each to decide how to dispense.

Patagonia Sues Over Trump's Monuments OrderAssociated Press

Outdoor company Patagonia has sued to block President Donald Trump's cuts to Utah's Bears Ears National Monument.

Patagonia's lawsuit was filed Wednesday night, becoming the fourth legal challenge after Trump announced Monday he would shrink Bear Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

The California-based company argues shrinking the monument by 85 percent is an "extreme overreach in authority" and strips much-needed protections from sacred tribal lands. It filed the suit on behalf of several organizations.

The lawsuit came after Patagonia replaced its usual home page with a stark message, "The President Stole Your Land."

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke shot back by saying the claim is "nefarious, false and a lie."

A coalition of five tribes has also sued to preserve Bears Ears. Two lawsuits have been filed to protect Grand Staircase.

The boundaries of New Mexico's two national monuments that were under review will remain intact, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says modifications will be made to protect the long-standing culture of grazing and to ensure hunters and anglers don't lose access.

Cause Of Pipeline Rupture UnknownAssociated Press

A Houston-based energy company says it's investigating what caused one of its natural gas pipelines to rupture, explode and catch fire in southeastern New Mexico's oil patch.

Spokesman Rick Rainey of Enterprise Products Partners L.P. says the incident early Wednesday morning in a sparsely populated rural area south of Carlsbad involved a line that transfers gas from wells to a treatment facility.

Eddy County Emergency Manager Jennifer Armendariz says there are no reported injuries but that one storage building burned before authorities shut down the pipeline to extinguish the fire.

Armendariz says authorities first had to identify what company's pipeline was involved.

The incident caused the closure of two nearby highways. U.S. 285 was reopened to traffic late Wednesday morning while State Route 31 remained closed.

Garcia Holmes, Morales Enter Races For Lieutenant GovernorAssociated Press

Two more candidates have jumped into the race for New Mexico lieutenant governor.

State Sen. Howie Morales is running for the Democratic nomination in a crowded primary race. Michele Garcia Holmes will seek the Republican nomination, with no other current contenders.

A former teacher, Morales of Silver City has served in the state Senate since 2008 and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014. Garcia Holmes is a former police officer and former chief of staff to the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that other Democrats in the race are Eagles Nest resident Jeff Carr, Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, former House Majority Leader Rick Miera, and David McTeigue, a juvenile probation officer from Rio Rancho.

Graduation Rate Improves But Still Among LowestAlbuquerque Journal

New Mexico saw a record high graduation rate last year, but the state still lags most of the nation.

The Albuquerque Journal reports new data from the U.S. Department of Education found the state has the second-worst graduation rate in the country at 71 percent. Only Washington, D.C. was lower.

The national graduation rate was 84 percent in 2016, another record.

The New Mexico Public Education Department said the state’s largest district, Albuquerque Public Schools, saw a four percent increase in its graduation rate last year to 66 percent. The state’s rate has risen by 8 percentage points since 2011.

A PED spokeswoman said policies by the Martinez Administration are behind the rise in graduation rates, but noted there is still more work to do.