Budget Cuts May Hurt Schools' Credit Ratings, Bill To Spare Wild Bears Stalls In Legislature

Feb 7, 2017

Moody's Says New Mexico Budget Woes Weakens School Finances Associated Press

A credit rating agency says New Mexico's decision to draw down cash balances at public schools to plug a state budget deficit has weakened the financial footings of many school districts.

An analysis by Moody's Investors Services on Monday said further declines in state aid may result in downgrades to districts' credit ratings. Currently, the ability of New Mexico school districts to pay their debts remains largely unaffected.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed off on a plan to fix the state's budget deficit in part by cutting $46 million in school district funding with exceptions for districts with reserves of 3 percent or less.

Moody's says those cuts combined with previous reductions in October leave 10 districts with less than 2 percent of annual revenues in reserves.

New Mexico Bill To Spare Wild Bears Stalls In LegislatureThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Legislature is showing little interest in rewriting regulations that can require the euthanizing of wild bears and other wild animals that attack humans to test for rabies.

The proposal responds to public outrage over the decision to kill a mother black bear last year following an attack on a marathon runner in the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico.

A committee in the state House of Representatives declined Monday to act on legislation that would allow a case-by-case review of whether wild animals involved in attacks should be euthanized and tested for rabies based on animal behavior and likelihood of rabies.

The bill drew opposition from the New Mexico departments of Health and Game and Fish. State officials say the current rules ensure public safety.

Eddy County Officials: Plot Targeted Officers, FamiliesThe Associated Press & The Artesia Daily Press

Authorities in Eddy County say a drug investigation unveiled a plot to harm law enforcement officers and their families.

The Artesia Daily Press reports that 17 arrests were made Feb. 1-2 as authorities went to dozens of homes and interviewed approximately 100 people during the drug investigation.

Officials said information turned up by the multi-agency investigation indicates the alleged plot to harm officers and their families targeted specific Artesia and Carlsbad police officers and county sheriff's deputies and their families.

District Attorney Diana Luce says the alleged plot is of "grave concern and the highest priority for investigation and prosecution."

Sen. Tom Udall To Vote Against Session For Attorney GeneralAssociated Press

Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico says he won't support fellow Sen. Jeff Session, President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general.

The New Mexico Democrat told The Associated Press on Monday that Session wouldn't be an "independent" attorney general and he wouldn't support basic rights for the nation's immigrants.

Udall suggested that the Republican Alabama senator will support Trump efforts to stop certain refugees and visa-holders from entering the U.S.

Udall made his remarks about Sessions after speaking to immigrant rights advocates in Santa Fe.

Sessions has been facing strong opposition from Senate Democrats over his civil rights record.

New Mexico Senate To Consider Emergency Court FundingAssociated Press

A new effort to provide emergency funding to the New Mexico judiciary is in the hands of the state Senate.

The Senate may consider final legislative approval as early as Tuesday of a bill to provide nearly $600,000 to ensure jury trials continue through early April, and an additional $83,000 to avoid unpaid staff furloughs at the New Mexico Supreme court.

Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed similar provisions last week while saying the Democrat-controlled Legislature failed to address how the courts might operate more efficiently. Compromise legislation won House approval Monday without opposition.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels warned lawmakers last week that funding to compensate jurors and interpreters will run out March 1 without action, and that might lead to criminal cases being dismissed.

Voters Head To Polls In School Elections in Albuquerque, Santa FeAlbuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican

Voters head to the polls Tuesday in Albuquerque to select board members for Central New Mexico Community College and Albuquerque Public Schools.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 19 people are running for four open seats on the APS board and 9 people are running for five seats at CNM. Voters will also select board members at Rio Rancho Schools Tuesday.

In Santa Fe two candidates are running unopposed for the school board and voters will also choose between two candidates for a seat on the Santa Fe Community College board. At stake as well is a $100 million bond issue. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports an anonymous mailer that went out this week urged people to vote against the bond.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García told the New Mexican the mailer was full of errors. She wants legislation cracking down on such mailers in future.

New Mexico Senator Sees Risk In Obamacare RepealAssociated Press

U.S. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico is highlighting the risks and uncertainties of efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system by President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress.

Udall told a joint session of the New Mexico state Legislature on Monday that a substantive repeal of the Affordable Care Act would confront a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

He wants to preserve coverage of pre-existing conditions without lifetime benefit limits, as well as free preventative health care services.

Udall told state lawmakers that New Mexico is confronting enormous financial uncertainties with no clear plan from Republicans on what might replace President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

He called on Democrats and Republicans to work together on any changes and not to "throw it in the garbage."

Udall: Trump's Travel Ban 'Illegal And Unconstitutional'Associated Press

Sen. Tom Udall says President Donald Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries is "illegal and unconstitutional" and vowed to fight it with other Democratic senators.

The New Mexico Democrat told hundreds of immigrant advocates on Monday in Santa Fe that senators also will do all they can to challenge Trump's call to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Advocates gathered in the capital of the state with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents to denounce Trump's travel ban and to demand protection for immigrants who live in the country illegally.

Trump's order includes a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program.

Albuquerque City Council Urged To Affirm City As Immigrant-FriendlyAlbuquerque Journal

A memorial introduced in the Albuquerque City Council Monday night affirms the city’s openness to immigrants and drew support from numerous speakers.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the council will not discuss the proposal until Feb. 22, but dozens of speakers turned out to speak, including Catholic priests and members of the Muslim community.

Councilors Isaac Benton, Klarissa Peña, Pat Davis and Diane Gibson introduced the measure. It comes in the wake of an order by President Donald Trump to accelerate construction of a border wall with Mexico.

The order would also cut federal grants for so-called “sanctuary cities” that prohibit law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Most speakers at the council meeting supported the memorial, including two Catholic priests who read a statement of support for immigrants and refugees from Archbishop John C. Wester.

Councilor Trudy Jones opposes the memorial and said police have the right to ask criminals about their immigration status.

NM Supreme Court Dismisses Attempt To Open Primary ElectionsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has dismissed an attempt to open primary elections for major party candidates to independent voters.

In an opinion released Monday, the court disagreed with arguments by Albuquerque attorney and unaffiliated voter David Crum that he is entitled to vote during primary elections without registering with a major political party.

Only Republicans and Democrats can vote in their primary elections in New Mexico. The Supreme Court says the system has reasonably modest burdens that ensure the purity and efficiency of primaries.

Critics of the system say it effectively disenfranchises independent and small party voters and leads to low turnout, while supporters say it ensures distinct ideological choices in general elections and helps voters make informed choices.

The state Legislatures is considering reforms to the primary system.

Nation's Only Latina Governor Denounces 'Racist' Charge Associated Press

The nation's only Latina governor is denouncing a charge by a white former mayor of Santa Fe that she is a racist.

A spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says comments made by former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss at an immigrant rights rally Monday were "are sad and ignorant."

Coss told a crowd of immigrant advocates outside the New Mexico Statehouse that New Mexico voters in November showed it was a state "that rejected the racism of Donald Trump, that rejected the racism of Susana Martinez." The white liberal then said the Republican Latina's effort to revamp New Mexico's law that allowed immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver's licenses was "racist and that was wrong."

Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez says the overwhelming majority of Hispanics in New Mexico supported her effort to revamp the law.