Wednesday News Roundup: State Sued Over Developmentally Disabled Services

Jan 15, 2014

State Sued Over Developmentally Disabled ServicesThe Associated Press

Family members and legal guardians of developmentally disabled New Mexicans have sued Gov. Susana Martinez's administration over cuts in services.

A lawsuit was filed in federal court Wednesday to restore the services lost by individuals and stop the administration from continuing with changes implemented this year to control costs in a Medicaid-funded program serving about 4,000 people.

One of the main disputes is over a new method for evaluating recipients to determine their level of services, which can include residential care as well as occupational and speech therapy.

Health Department spokesman Kenny Vigil said the state has been able to expand coverage to more individuals with the program changes. More than 6,000 New Mexicans are on a waiting list for services.

Geothermal Plant Now Operating In Hidalgo CountyThe Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

 A new geothermal plant located in southwestern New Mexico is providing electricity to PNM Resources, the state's largest utility.

The Lightning Dock plant constructed in Hidalgo County by Cyrq (serk) Energy Inc. pumps naturally hot water from deep under the ground to heat a fluid that spins turbines to produce electricity.

The slightly cooled water is then re-injected back into the aquifer.

The Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1aoorxi ) reports the plant began production in late December and is generating about 4 megawatts of electricity.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department says the geothermal plant is the only one in New Mexico capable of utility-scale production.

New Mexico Starts Limited Online Voter Registration - The Associated Press

 The state's top elections official says New Mexicans can register to vote online when doing business at a Motor Vehicle Division office.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran said the electronic voter registration started this week for people who are renewing a driver's license, registering a vehicle or conducting other transactions at MVD offices across New Mexico.

By mid-2015, voters will be able to go online from a personal computer to update their registration information, such as making a change of address or party affiliation. Paper applications will continue to be used for new voter registration other than in MVD offices.

Laws enacted last year provided for the online registration provisions.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that two dozen states have authorized some form of online voter registration.

Fire Danger Levels High Across Parts Of New Mexico - The Associated Press

Land managers are warning that fire danger levels are high across parts of New Mexico thanks to dry conditions and gusty winds.

State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware says the potential for fire is especially high in eastern and southeastern New Mexico, where the lack of moisture is drying out fine, grassy fuels.

State Forestry officials are warning residents and visitors to use caution.

Ware says that since the beginning of the year, the agency has already seen a couple of potentially destructive fires along the Middle Rio Grande Valley and near Silver City.

Abundant seasonal rainfall during last year's monsoon season caused the rapid growth of grass and brush. The problem is that vegetation is drying out and more susceptible to fire due to the lack of winter moisture.

New Mexico Man Convicted Of Tipping Smugglers Gets PrisonThe Associated Press

A federal judge in Albuquerque has sentenced the husband of a former federal prosecutor to prison on convictions that he leaked word of a smuggling investigation and lied to investigators.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Western Texas, 64-year-old Danny Burnett was sentenced yesterday to just over a year in prison.

Burnett was convicted in September on charges of leaking information about the probe into gun and drug smuggling by top officials in Columbus, N.M. and of giving false information to federal investigators.

Burnett was charged with tipping off then-Police Chief Angelo Vega, whom he had known for decades.

Burnett is the husband of Paula Burnett. She formerly headed the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico.