Thursday News Roundup: AG Says 2004 Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Remain Legal
King: 2004 Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Remain Legal - Associated Press
Attorney General Gary King says marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in 2004 in Sandoval County remain valid.
King said Wednesday that licenses issued by a county clerk are "presumptively valid" unless voided by a court.
King delivered the non-binding advice in a letter to the current Sandoval County clerk, who found that some of the 2004 licenses recorded in the clerk's office were labeled as void or invalid.
King said a county clerk is responsible for issuing marriage licenses but "New Mexico law plainly does not provide county clerks with the rights to invalidate marriages."
Former Sandoval County Victoria Dunlap issued more than 60 licenses on Feb. 20, 2004, but stopped later the same day after then Attorney General Patricia Madrid objected.
News Groups Sue Over Health Audit - Associated Press
The Las Cruces Sun-News and New Mexico in Depth have filed a lawsuit demanding that the state publicly release an audit that alleges fraud by 15 health providers.
The news groups filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the New Mexico Human Services Department, which has refused to release most of the audit that prompted it to freeze Medicaid payments to the 15 behavioral health organizations that provide services like drug treatment and suicide counseling across New Mexico. The agency says it is exempt from releasing the audit under the Inspection of Open Records Act because the attorney general is investigating the allegations.
"The state continues to think it can operate above the law," said Sun-News Editor Jim Lawitz. "They can't. The public has a right to know what those findings are and how it impacts members of our community."
Supreme Court Won't Consolidate Gay Marriage Cases - Associated Press
New Mexico's highest court has turned down a request to take control of lawsuits that cleared the way for the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The state Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a request by a lawyer for two Santa Fe men to consolidate current and future gay marriage lawsuits and assign a single judge to handle them. The one-page order said the request was moot, but no detailed explanation was given.
District judges in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos have ordered county clerks in those areas to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Wednesday's ruling represents a procedural setback for advocates wanting a speedy Supreme Court ruling on the legality of gay marriage. The request for consolidation of lower court cases came before judges issued rulings
NM Offering $5,000 Stipend For Some Teachers - Associated Press
New Mexico teachers can earn an extra $5,000 under a program by Gov. Susana Martinez's administration if they take jobs with struggling schools or increase the students passing advanced placement classes.
The governor announced details of the program on Wednesday, saying 100 teachers could earn a one-time stipend if they switch from a school with a grade of A or B grade to one with a D or F. The teacher must agree to stay for at least two years in the lower-performing school.
Incentives also will be available for 300 teachers of advanced placement classes who increase the number of high school students successfully completing the courses that allow them to earn college credit.
NM Wildlife Biologists Investigating Elk Deaths - Associated Press
The Department of Game and Fish is investigating the deaths of more than 100 elk in northeastern New Mexico that may be linked to a virus.
Department biologists traveled to the area in Game Management Unit 46 north of Las Vegas after the die-off was reported Tuesday.
Tissue samples and water samples from the area were taken and delivered to the state Veterinary Diagnostic Services laboratory for analysis.
Wildfire officials say they're looking into all possible causes, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease.
EHD is a sometimes fatal virus that affects deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and rarely cattle.
The disease is spread by insect bites and has been known to kill large numbers of animals in short periods of time.
Biologists say EHD doesn't affect humans and isn't contagious.
Chaco National Park Recognized For Night Skies - Associated Press
Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico is being recognized for its dark skies.
Park officials say Chaco's natural nighttime darkness and commitment to reducing light pollution have led to its certification as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Chaco is the 12th park to receive the designation worldwide and only the fourth in the national park system.
The acting park superintendent, Larry Turk, says as light pollution becomes more common, people are seeking out places like Chaco so they can get a glimpse of the stars.
Due to Chaco's remote location, the park's night sky is nearly pristine.
Since 2002, technicians have been monitoring natural and human-introduced light levels at the park. A recent report says Chaco's night sky remains among the darkest in the park system.