Bloomfield Takes Ten Commandments Case To Supreme Court, ACLU Suing APD Over Phone Data

Jul 7, 2017

New Mexico City Takes Ten Commandments Case To Supreme CourtAssociated Press

A New Mexico city is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a lower court ruling requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument outside City Hall.

Bloomfield city councilors had voted earlier this year to appeal the case to the nation's highest court. Their lawyers followed through Thursday.

A federal appeals court in February let stand a lower court ruling that concluded that the monument violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on the government endorsing a religion.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued in 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who objected to the monument.

Attorneys with the group Alliance Defending Freedom are representing the city. They argue guidance from the Supreme Court is needed because various circuit courts are using different standards to evaluate whether such monuments are permissible.

New Mexico City To Replenish Aquifer With Treated WaterAssociated Press

One of New Mexico's fastest growing cities is celebrating the completion of a $25 million project that will allow for recycled water to be used to help recharge the aquifer.

The city of Rio Rancho depends on the aquifer for drinking water.

Starting this summer, the city will put up to 1 million gallons of treated water per day into the aquifer via an injection well. That's about 10 percent of the daily average the city pumps out.

Officials say recharging the aquifer, along with conservation, is crucial to the city's long-term sustainability and success.

The Office of the State Engineer says others are working on similar recharge demonstration projects but have not yet been permitted for full-scale operations. That includes Albuquerque's wastewater treatment plant and the city of Hobbs.

Senators Search For Solutions To Counterfeit Indian ArtAssociated Press

Efforts to prevent the sale of counterfeit tribal art and jewelry will be the focus of testimony as two U.S. senators hold a field hearing in New Mexico about protecting legitimate American Indian artists and markets from fraudulent goods.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich plan to gather suggestions Friday from top federal officials responsible for enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

The act makes it a crime to falsely market and sell art as Native American-made when it is not. Calls to modernize enforcement provisions have been spurred by revelations about the spread of fake Indian art.

Federal prosecutors in New Mexico are preparing for trial in an ambitious investigation that traced falsified Native American art from the Philippines to galleries across the United States.

Hobbs Police Trained To Use Overdose AntidoteAssociated Press

A police department in southeastern New Mexico is the latest to join the ranks of law enforcement agencies armed with a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses.

The Hobbs Police Department announced Thursday that it has trained all of its commissioned personnel in the use of naloxone and has supplied each with two doses to have on hand while on duty.

New Mexico became the first U.S. state this year to require all local and state law enforcement agencies to provide officers with antidote kits as the state works to curb deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses.

Hobbs officials say the increased response time that officers may have prior to the arrival of paramedics could be the difference between life and death for someone experiencing an overdose.

New Mexico Oil Producers Hopeful Permitting Backlog Is EasedAssociated Press

New Mexico's oil and gas industry is praising a move by the U.S. Interior Department to streamline permitting for drilling on federal lands.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order Thursday calling for faster and more efficient permitting to clear a backlog in Bureau of Land Management offices across the West.

The head of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Ryan Flynn, testified before Congress last week on the delays and other challenges related to the industry.

He says administrative problems within the Bureau of Land Management cost the state and federal government millions of dollars a day in lost royalties and taxes that could be used for education and other public services.

Flynn says that money is critical as New Mexico grapples with a dwindling budget.

Economist Testifies That New Mexico Skimps On Poor StudentsAssociated Press

An economist is testifying that the state of New Mexico provides only a tiny financial boost to school districts with high percentages of children who live in poverty or are learning English as a second language.

Public-finance economist Stephen Barro testified in state district court Thursday that the New Mexico's per-student funding formula provides districts in impoverished areas with funding that is 2 percent or 3 percent above average.

New Mexico is defending itself from allegations that the public education system is not meeting its responsibilities to Native American students, low-income students and those who speak English as a second language. The lawsuit was filed by parents, school districts and advocacy groups.

Education officials under Gov. Susana Martinez say state educational spending is more than adequate.

19 AGs Sue Devos For Delaying For-Profit College Rules - By Collin Binkley, Associated Press

Democratic attorneys general in 18 states and the District of Columbia, including New Mexico, are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her decision to suspend rules meant to protect students from abuses by for-profit colleges.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Washington and demands implementation of borrower defense to repayment rules.

The rules aim to make schools financially responsible for fraud and forbid them from forcing students to resolve complaints outside court.

They were created under President Barack Obama's administration and were to take effect July 1.

On June 14, DeVos announced the rules would be delayed and rewritten, saying they created "a muddled process that's unfair to students and schools."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading the lawsuit and says DeVos' decision is "a betrayal of her office's responsibility and a violation of federal law."

Crews Making Progress On New Mexico WildfireAssociated Press

Crews are reporting good progress in constructing a fire line and using natural barriers to begin containing a wildfire at the top of a mountain range bordering Albuquerque.

The fire is burning in heavy mixed conifer fuels approximately three-quarters of a mile north of the communication towers on the Sandia Crest. But fire officials say no structures are immediately threatened.

The fire is estimated to be about 20 acres since being reported Thursday morning.

No residential evacuations have been initiated.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but authorities say lightning is suspected.

Helicopters are making water drops while crews are monitoring the flames from the ground.

ACLU Sues Albuquerque Police Department Over Cell DataAlbuquerque Journal

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Albuquerque Police Department to get information about how APD is using technology that can track mobile phones.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the suit focuses on StingRay devices that can track cell phones in a certain area and even capture texts and conversations.

The ACLU argues the technology is invasive and the public has a right to know if and how it’s being used. The group sued after APD refused to disclose information about whether it is using StingRay.

APD contends the refusal is covered by an exemption in the state’s open records law, but the ACLU is challenging that argument. The Journal reports the group is gathering information on how StingRay is used throughout the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case this fall on the collection of data from mobile phones related to locations and whether those activities require warrants.