Thursday News Roundup: 2 New Mexico Counties Stop Officiating Weddings

Feb 20, 2014

 2 New Mexico Counties Stop Officiating Weddings Carlsbad Current-Argus and The Associated Press

Judges in two southeastern New Mexico counties say they will no longer officiate weddings after the state's high court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that judges in Eddy and Chaves Counties recently announced they won't officiate civil marriage ceremonies for straight or same-sex couples.

In December, the New Mexico Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Officials in both counties say the decision was made a few months ago.

State law does not require judges to officiate weddings but county clerks are required to issue licenses that must be signed by a judge, minister or tribal representative.

Eddy County Magistrate Judge Henry Castaneda says he doesn't have a problem with same-sex marriage but judges don't have to compromise their beliefs.

New Mexico Legislature nearing adjournment - The Associated Press

The Legislature is approaching the finish line of a 30-day session filled with election year politics and disputes between Democrats and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

The House and Senate are to adjourn at noon Thursday.

Lawmakers have completed work on what many consider their most important assignment — a budget to finance public education and government services. That's heading to the governor, who can cut spending in the $6 billion package using her line-item veto powers.

A spokesman for the governor calls the Democratic-controlled Legislature's budget proposal a good compromise.

Lawmakers passed a flurry of bills in the closing hours of the session, including proposals to finance capital improvements.

Still unresolved is how is to shore up a college scholarship program that relies on revenue from the state lottery.

Measure calls for study of marijuana legalization – The Associated Press

The House has approved a measure that calls for studying the effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.

The nonbinding memorial passed the House 31-28 late Wednesday.

Under the measure, the Legislative Finance Committee would conduct the study and report its findings later this year. The committee will be looking specifically at state revenue and agricultural production levels as well as addiction rates and the availability of law enforcement resources.

In Colorado, taxed, legal pot sales began Jan. 1. A budget proposal released Wednesday shows Colorado's legal marijuana market is exceeding tax expectations.

Retail sales won't begin for a few months in Washington, but budget forecasters there predict that state's new legal recreational marijuana market will bring nearly $190 million to state coffers over four years starting in mid-2015.

NM minimum wage question fails in House  - The Associated Press

A proposal that would let New Mexico voters decide whether to boost the state's minimum wage next year has failed to pass the House.

The proposed constitutional amendment needed the support of 36 House members to make it onto the ballot next November. The vote came up short Wednesday night at 33-29.

The measure had been a top priority for Democrats. They said a wage hike would help tens of thousands of workers.

Opponents said the higher wage could force businesses to trim their workforce and it could lead to higher prices for goods and services.

New Mexico's minimum wage has been $7.50 an hour since 2009. The proposed constitutional amendment would have adjusted the minimum wage for inflation since 2009 — setting it at an estimated $8.40 starting in July 2015.

Senate rejects Navajo gambling compact The Associated Press

The Senate has rejected a gambling compact that would have allowed the Navajo Nation to open three additional casinos.

The compact required approval of the Legislature and the Interior Department to take effect.

The Senate voted 31-10 against the agreement on Wednesday, which the House approved the day before.

Navajo President Ben Shelly said he was disappointed in the Senate and with other tribes that objected to the compact. He said the Navajos will consider their options, including possible legal action against the state.

The Navajos operate two Las Vegas-style casinos in New Mexico under a compact expiring in 2015. They have a third casino with low-stakes gambling not subject to state regulation.

Other tribes and pueblos worry their casinos will lose gamblers if the Navajos expand gambling.

Radiation detected near New Mexico nuke site – The Associated Press

Scientists who monitor the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository say they have detected radiation in the air a half-mile from the site.

Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, said Wednesday a monitor near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico has detected trace amounts of the radioactive isotopes americium and plutonium.

He says the levels are the highest ever detected at or around the site but are far below those deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The readings came after a radiation alert over the weekend from an underground sensor at the site.

Hardy says readings will be completed next week on filters collected from that underground sensor and an air monitor closer to the plant.

NM Dept. of Corrections seeking donated suits – The Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Corrections is asking for donated dress suits to help inmates prepare for the business world.

Corrections officials recently launched a suit donation drive with the goal of giving suits to outgoing inmates.

The department's "Dress for Success" program seeks to teach inmates how to tie a tie and insert cufflinks.

Officials say the program is designed to help inmates start over and reinvent themselves after serving time.