US Energy Boss Lauds Opening of Nuclear Dump, NM Rekindles Efforts To Reinstate Death Penalty

Jan 9, 2017

US Energy Boss Lauds Opening of Nuke Repository – The Associated Press

The head of the U.S. Energy Department says it was the determination of workers and pure ingenuity that allowed the nation's only underground repository for nuclear waste to recover from a radiation release.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz tells The Associated Press that resuming work at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico means the nation's multibillion-dollar cleanup of waste from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research can get back on track.

The repository was shuttered in February 2014 after a chemical reaction inside a drum of inappropriately packed waste caused the lid to burst, contaminating parts of the underground disposal area.

Moniz said the closure caused a backlog of radioactive waste to build up at national labs and other sites around the country. While some work has resumed at the repository, he's hopeful shipments can start later this year.

New Mexico Rekindles Efforts To Reinstate Death PenaltyThe Associated Press

A Republican state lawmaker in New Mexico is reviving efforts to reinstate the death penalty as an option for convicted killers of police, children and corrections officers.

Rep. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque has pre-filed a bill that would bring back punishment by lethal injection to New Mexico. A spokesman for GOP Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday she supports the measure.

A similar bill was approved by the state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives in October during a special legislative session, but never taken up by the Senate. Democrats retook majority control of the Legislature in November elections.

Last year's proposal became fodder for election-season mailers accusing Democratic candidates of being weak on crime. Leading Democratic lawmakers including Senate majority leader Peter Wirth say they are disinclined to take up the legislation.

Bill To Increase Amount Of Medical Pot Allowed In New Mexico – The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A lawmaker wants to increase the amount of marijuana that licensed medical-cannabis producers in New Mexico can grow.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the proposal by Democratic Sen. Cisco McSorley of Albuquerque also would increase the amount of marijuana that the program's participants can possess.

The bill would let producers grow up to 1,000 cannabis plants during any three-month period.

Currently, a producer can have 450 plants.

The proposal also would allow program participants possess up to 5 ounces of marijuana during a 30-day period.

They are now allowed to possess 8 ounces during a 90-day period.

Officials said in November that the number of participants had grown from 18,600 to nearly 33,000 in a year's time.

The large patient volume also has strained supplies.

Martinez Administration Eyes Centralization of HR Functions - The Associated Press, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Governor Susana Martinez administration is looking to eliminate human resource departments in state agencies and consolidate them into a single state office. 

The centralization plan is under development as state officials struggle to find savings amid a continuing budget crisis, but it's not yet known how much jobs could be cut.

The State Personnel Office already handles human resources for smaller state agencies, but larger departments have their own human resources staffs.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Martinez could likely implement the plan without the approval of the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats. Martinez is a Republican.

Most previous proposals to streamline New Mexico's state government have fizzled in recent years.

Two New Candidates Enter ABQ Mayoral Race - The ABQ Journal

Two new candidates have entered the race to succeed Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.

Michelle Garcia Holmes is an independent and a retired police detective. City Councilor Dan Lewis is the first Republican in the race. The Albuquerque Journal reports both announced their candidacy yesterday.

They join Democrats Deanna Archuleta, a former Bernalillo County commissioner, and Stella Padilla, a retired Old Town resident.

More candidates are expected to announce throughout the year before the election on October 3rd. 

Education Secretary Says Reading Problems Go UndisclosedThe Associated Press

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera says new statistics show most parents are not being informed properly of early reading difficulties.

The Public Education Department found that fewer than 5 percent of parents received necessary written notices when third graders failed to meet reading proficiency standards at public school throughout the state.

The agency says that parents of those students should be required by schools to sign a waiver before their children advance to the next grade.

The department found that 6,815 New Mexico students in third grade during last school year did not attain proficiency in reading, and that 6,477 of those students advanced to fourth grade in the fall anyway. In all, 338 letters were sent to parents concerning whether their child should remain in third grade.

Albuquerque Police: Officers Fatally Shoot A Robbery Suspect – The Associated Press

Police say officers have fatally shot a man suspected of armed robbery in northeast Albuquerque.

They say officers were called to an armed robbery at a business before midnight Saturday. Undercover officers who were in the area caught up to the two suspects, a man and a woman. Police say the two suspects were in a vehicle and appeared to be armed.

They say the male suspect was shot and taken to a hospital, where he later died. He's been identified as 38-year-old Gilbert Zambronio Lovato.

Police say 35-year-old Audrey Kathleen Hapke Guzman was the alleged driver of the car. She was arrested on scene and was uninjured.

Police say Guzman has been booked into jail on suspicion of 34 felony counts of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Listeria Alert Issued For Dion’s Meat The ABQ Journal

Health officials are warning of possible listeria contamination of Dion’s deli meat. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an alert for ham, turkey, roast beef and pastrami served at the Albuquerque-based restaurant chain.

The meat was sliced by Peter DeFries Corp from December 14th to the 29th, but the USDA warns the meat may have been served at Dion’s through January 4th.

The company said in a news release Friday that the potential problem was found while testing equipment, but that no food products have tested positive for listeria. There have been no confirmed reports of illness.  

Four Hikers Rescued From East Mountains in AlbuquerqueThe Associated Press, KOB-TV

Authorities say four hikers have been rescued from the East Mountains in Albuquerque.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office says two groups of hikers were reported lost Saturday.

KOB-TV reports that three of the four people were located by air and had supplies dropped to them. Search and rescue crews had to go in by foot to bring them down from the mountains.

Authorities say the fourth hiker managed to make it to the tram and ride it down to get help.

The names of the hikers weren't immediately released by sheriff's officials on Sunday.

GOP Governor Who Clashed With Trump Will Attend Inauguration The Associated Press

A spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says the second-term Republican will attend the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Michael Lonergan confirmed Friday that Martinez will attend the inaugural in Washington on Jan. 20.

Martinez was critical of Trump throughout the presidential campaign and never endorsed him, but offered congratulations after his victory. She publicly denounced Trump's remarks about Mexican immigrants, his criticism of a bereaved military family and his lewd talk about women from a leaked 2005 videotape.

Trump in turn harshly criticized Martinez for her handling of the state's economy at an Albuquerque rally that turned violent.

Sharp divisions over Trump's election have politicians, celebrities and others debating whether participating in the inauguration is a tribute to democratic traditions or an endorsement of his agenda.