Assessment Slams LANL On Safety, Martinez Says Immigration Issues Can't Be Lumped Together

Feb 13, 2017

Board Gives Nuclear-Weapon Lab Failing Grade On Safety StepsAssociated Press

An annual safety assessment gave Los Alamos National Laboratory a failing grade for steps it takes to prevent accidents in developing nuclear weapons.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that an independent federal advisory board's annual assessment found the lab had numerous safety infractions during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board's assessment gave the lab 23 low-level infractions, one mid-level infraction and no high-level infractions. Most of the infractions were self-reported by lab staff.

Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said Los Alamos has taken steps to address shortcomings, including improvements in operating procedures and both training and adding staff.

Martinez Says Immigration Issues Can't Be Lumped Together – The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said the nation's immigration enforcement policies should distinguish between the "various situations" of people living in the country illegally.

In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal published Sunday, Martinez warned against allowing harsh rhetoric to get ahead of policymaking that should treat "multiple problems" in immigration policy with "multiple answers." She did reiterate that she has long opposed efforts to make New Mexico a so-called "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.

Martinez said her message to the Trump administration would be to include people who live on the border in conversations about border-related policies.

The governor has often taken a more moderate tone on immigration at the national versus state level; she faced criticism from immigrants' rights groups for her push to repeal the 2003 state driver's licenses law.

County Ethics Board Never Asked To Investigate ComplaintsThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A 7-year-old ethics board set up in Santa Fe County in response to a bribery scandal has never been asked to investigate a complaint against a public official or volunteer.

An outgoing board member tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that the panel stopped holding regular meetings in the spring.

The board has reviewed no complaints because attorneys have found all the complaints to be personnel matters that aren't under its jurisdiction.

The board's authority doesn't extend to the more than 900 county employees.

The panel was a response to a scandal in which two road-paving firm owners were convicted of offering cash and trips to former Public Works director James Lujan in exchange for steering contracts to their company.

Lujan pleaded guilty to demanding or receiving bribes.

New Mexico Looks To Promote Breastfeeding From Prison Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are considering new requirements at correctional facilities to help promote the breastfeeding of infants by incarcerated mothers.

The bill from Republican Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes and Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla is scheduled for its first committee hearing Monday.

It would require a new breastfeeding policy for all correctional facilities in the state, with provisions for women to pump and store breast milk for same-day delivery to infants or toddlers on the outside.

The state Department of Health says the bill has the potential to improve the health of especially vulnerable infants and reduce health care costs.

The New Mexico Department of Corrections says the bill could limit its discretion to interrupt the collection of breast milk during prison disturbances or out of other safety or security concerns.

Coal-Fired Plant's Owners Expected To Vote On Its FutureAssociated Press

Owners of a coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona are expected to vote on its future, considering options that include a possible closure within a few years.

The Navajo Generating Station's plant's operator, the Salt River Project, has said closing the plant in Page near the Arizona-Utah line is a possibility because less expensive power generated by burning natural gas is available.

The SRP is one of the plant's owners, along with Tucson Electric Power Co., Arizona Public Service Co., Nevada-based NV Energy and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The owners plan a Monday telephone meeting.

Options under consideration include asking the Navajo Nation for an extension of the current lease now set to expire in December 2019 and keeping the plant in operation until that date before decommissioning it.

Lawsuit Filed Over Email Addresses Of Licensed HuntersSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Officials are locked in a fight over getting access to the email addresses of licensed hunters.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Game and Fish Department filed a lawsuit against the state Land Commissioner to get a determination that redacting the addresses was appropriate.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn had requested the names and email addresses of licensed hunters in November.

The department provided the names but said that on April 1 it started redacting hunters' email addresses and other personal identifiers.

Dunn spokeswoman Kristin Haase says the addresses would allow for better communication with this constituency in order to encourage hunters to be good stewards of State Trust Land.

One of the previous clashes between Dunn and the department was over a fee increase.

Legislators Eye Chopping Food Assistance Program – Santa Fe New Mexican

A program that supplements federal food assistance for 12,800 low-income New Mexicans is being targeted for elimination by lawmakers.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports those who get minimum assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often called food stamps, have received additional help from the state bringing total benefits to between $25 and $30 a month.

The state’s budget crisis prompted the bi-partisan Legislative Finance Committee to recommend cutting the program, which takes $1.2 million annually from the general fund.

Gov. Susana Martinez opposes that idea.

New Mexico Ed Sec 'Absolutely' Would Welcome A DeVos VisitAssociated Press

State Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera "absolutely" would welcome a visit to any New Mexico school by newly confirmed U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

A Skandera spokesman says the secretary would gladly would host DeVos. Meanwhile, the state's largest school district says they'd have to check with parents and the school board first.

Protesters gathered outside a Washington DC public school Friday where DeVos paid her first visit as education secretary. It was a bid to mend fences with educators after a bruising confirmation battle.

Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta told The Associated Press that if DeVos wanted to visit an Albuquerque school, Superintendent Raquel Reedy "would engage" board members, schools, and families before responding.

Plague Found In East MountainsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health says it's discovered plague in three dogs in the East Mountains.

The department says in a news release that the dogs were several miles from Edgewood and were confirmed to have plague this year.

Plague is a bacterial disease that can be fatal but in most cases causes fever, chills, headache and weakness.

It can be passed from animals to people by direct contact.

New Mexico saw four human plague cases in 2016, although nobody died. There were also four cases in 2015, but one resulted in death.

FBI: 1 Man Dead, No Officers Hurt In Tribal Police ShootingAssociated Press

The FBI says one man is dead and that no officers were injured in a shooting involving tribal police on the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher says the shooting occurred Thursday night in a sparsely populated area about 20 miles south of Farmington.

Fischer says New Mexico State Police and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office are assisting the FBI and tribal police in investigating the incident.

No additional information was released.

New Mexico Considers Budget Bailout For Museum System Associated Press

New Mexico budget officials are seeking to ward off further layoffs and reduced services at a world-renowned network of state museums and historical sites through a one-time accounting maneuver.

The Department of Cultural Affairs said Friday that lawmakers are studying a proposal to provide $1.5 million to the agency for the current fiscal year and the budget year starting July 1 through a complex swap of unused capital outlay funds for artwork at public buildings.

The agency oversees eight state museums and eight cultural sites that represent an engine of the state tourism economy, displaying cultural treasures from the story of Billy the Kid to international folk art. The agency reduced visitor hours and laid off 12 staff as its operating budget shrank by 12 percent this fiscal year.