Communities Seek To Ensure Taxes From LANL, Lawmaker Wants Stronger Harassment Policy

Nov 27, 2017

Gross Receipts Tax On Purchases By Labs Not GuaranteedSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

As New Mexico lawmakers debate possible changes to the state's tax structure, one concern is whether purchases made by national laboratories located in the state will continue to result in gross receipts tax revenue.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports data presented to lawmakers shows the for-profit consortium that currently manages Los Alamos National Laboratory has paid between $48 million and $100 million a year in gross receipts taxes.

Some of that money went to the state to pay for education and other government services. Another portion was distributed to local governments in and around the lab.

In 2015, the most recent year for data, $76 million was collected and $22 million of that stayed with state government.

But the parties interested in managing LANL include the University of Texas System and Texas A&M. Since they are nonprofit educational institutions they would be exempt from paying gross receipts taxes.

The Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities, a consortium of nine governments in Northern New Mexico that rely on Los Alamos National Laboratory services, is asking the Legislature to protect the revenue stream from those taxes.

Panel: Safety Concerns Remain At Nuclear Waste Storage Site - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A federal nuclear review panel still has some safety concerns about Los Alamos National Laboratory's new multimillion-dollar storage facility for radioactive waste.

However, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says in a recent report that limits placed on the amount of material and the types of containers allowed at the facility will provide adequate protection of public health and safety at least for the near term.

The board said more reviews will be needed as operations ramp up.

The Transuranic Waste Facility was completed in early 2017 after several years of construction.

The facility was designed to store and prepare for shipping newly generated waste from nuclear weapons research. That includes tools, clothing, gloves and other items that have come in contact with radioactive elements such as plutonium.

New Mexico Man Pleads Guilty In Guardianship Fraud Case- The Associated Press

A New Mexico man accused of embezzling more than $4.8 million from trust accounts he managed for elderly and disabled clients has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges.

Authorities say 62-year-old Paul Donisthorpe entered his plea Monday. As part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, he faces eight to 12 years in prison and will have to pay restitution.

Sentencing has yet to be scheduled.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade called it a heartbreaking case, saying the victims depended on Donisthorpe's company to manage their finances so they could pay their rent, medical bills and other living expenses.

Authorities say Donisthorpe transferred money from client trust accounts into accounts he controlled. He used the money to pay for vehicles, credit card expenses and mortgages.

Veterans Are Key As Surge Of States OK Medical Pot For PTSDAssociated Press

When New York decided to let post-traumatic stress disorder patients use medical marijuana, it joined a fast-rising tide of states.

Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia now cover PTSD as part of their medical marijuana programs. The tally has more than doubled in the last two years.

Medical marijuana first became legal in 1996 in California for a wide range of conditions; New Mexico in 2009 became the first state specifically to include PTSD patients. States have signed on in growing numbers particularly since 2014.

It's happened amid increasingly visible advocacy from veterans' groups, including the 2.2-million-member American Legion. It's pressing the federal government to let Department of Veterans Affairs doctors recommend medical marijuana where it's legal.

But others, including the 82,000-member Vietnam Veterans of America, have qualms about advocating for medical marijuana as a treatment for PTSD. Pot is illegal under federal law and doesn't boast extensive, conclusive medical research.

More Immigrants In New Mexico Seek Help To Become Citizens- The Las Cruces Sun-News & The Associated Press

A New Mexico nonprofit has seen a spike this year in the number of immigrants looking to become U.S. citizens.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports applications for U.S. citizenship this year are expected to outpace last year, which was the busiest in a decade.

Imelda Maynard, attorney for Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico, says the organization has been hosting more informational fairs about citizenship than it previously did.

Maynard says immigrants with authorization to be in the United States are worried about losing their legal status and being deported.

Mine Spill Advisory Committee To Meet On AquiferFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

An advisory panel will get an update on an aquifer affected by a 2015 mine waste spill that fouled rivers in three Western states.

The Farmington Daily Times reports members of the New Mexico Geology Department will speak Monday about the Animas River Alluvial Aquifer.

The Gold King Mine Spill Citizens' Advisory Committee includes residents and stakeholders in San Juan County who share information about long-term monitoring plans regarding the spill.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at San Juan College.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency triggered the spill at the Gold King Mine in southern Colorado.

The spill released 3 million gallons of wastewater tainted with heavy metals into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

Santa Fe Loses More Than $2 Million From Utility DebtsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe has lost more than $2 million in uncollected utility bills going back more than a decade.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Saturday the city's Public Utilities Department was forced to write off 11 years' worth of customer debt, amounting to roughly $2.7 million.

The bills were for water, sewage and garbage and were for already closed accounts.

According to the city, the unpaid bills were considered uncollectable under the statute of limitations.

City officials say the main factor in the debt was a 2003 City Council decision to make tenants, not landlords, responsible for water bills.

Documents obtained by the newspaper show more than 11,000 unpaid utility accounts, ranging from a penny to more than $34,000.

The department's billing division says it's beefing up collection efforts.

Men Cleared Of Terrorism Ties In High-Profile Border CaseAssociated Press

The arrests of six Middle Eastern men caught entering the U.S. illegally from Mexico two years ago set off alarms in border states and in some right-wing blogs and other media outlets.

Now, documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request reveal the men were fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands and were cleared of any terrorism ties. The records also show they were physically and verbally abused by two Mexican smugglers with a history of crossing the border illegally and went days without food and water.

The case highlights the highly politicized nature of the U.S.-Mexico border as hysteria sometimes overtakes facts. Some blogs incorrectly reported the men were released. Others tied them to the Islamic State.

In fact, the men cooperated with the government, and four have been deported. The remaining two men are in removal proceedings.

Authorities Identify Man Shot By State Police In PeñascoAssociated Press

Authorities have released more details about the fatal shooting of a domestic violence suspect shot in northern New Mexico.

New Mexico State Police say 39-year-old Nelson Rodarte of Peñasco had a loaded rifle in his hands and a loaded revolver in his pocket when he was killed by law enforcement.

Police and Taos County Sheriff's deputies responded around 8 a.m. Saturday when Rodarte was harassing his girlfriend and her relatives at their home.

According to authorities, Rodarte had assaulted his girlfriend the previous night.

Police say Rodarte, who had several arrest warrants, initially barricaded himself inside but then moved to the roof.

A state police officer and a deputy fired their weapons when he refused to put down a rifle, which was pointed at them.

The shooting remains under investigation.

Condor Group Wants To Get More Hunters To Avoid Lead Bullets - By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

The effort to bring one of the world's largest birds back from the brink of extinction is expanding after northern Arizona and southern Utah found success in getting deer hunters to use ammunition not made of lead.

A group working to protect the endangered California condor is setting its sights on small-game and varmint hunters as lead continues to threaten the birds that feed on animal carcasses.

The group says it wants to build on its voluntary programs on avoiding lead bullets. Arizona and Utah have offered vouchers for non-lead ammunition and hosted shooting clinics for testing the feel of copper bullets.

The condors nearly went extinct in the 20th century before the last of them were rounded up and bred in captivity. The Southwest population started with six birds released in 1996. It now stands at 82.

The rest of the roughly 450 condors are held in captivity or flying free in California and Baja, Mexico. The birds with wingspans of up to 10 feet also take short trips into southern Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and near the Utah-Wyoming line.

Lawmaker Wants Stronger, Broader Policy Against Harassment Associated Press

A New Mexico lawmaker says the Legislature should overhaul and expand its harassment policy.

Republican Rep. Kelly Fajardo of Belen says mandating training is pointless without a strong and enforceable policy that protects lobbyists, vendors and visitors in addition to lawmakers and staff.

Fajardo wrote legislative leaders to call for a broader and stronger harassment policy as statehouses nationwide grapple with allegations of sexual misconduct.

New Mexico legislative leaders have already begun a review of workplace harassment guidelines and preventative training, and lawmakers are likely to undergo prevention training for the first time in more than a decade.

The current policy outlines steps for confronting and investigating sexual misconduct among lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists, vendors and others.

Fraction Of Revenues Go To Fight Gambling AddictionSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico pulls in millions of dollars in revenue from the state lottery, racetracks, tribal casinos and other operations each year, but little goes to preventing and treating problem gambling.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that in the last budget year, the state earmarked $70,250 to specifically address problem gambling.

By comparison, gaming tribes and racetracks were required to spend $2.3 million to combat problem gambling.

The newspaper also reported that the state Compulsive Gambling Council, created by law in 2006, hasn't met for several years despite a legal requirement to do so.

Guy Clark is chairman of Stop Predatory Gambling New Mexico. He says the state government's efforts to combat problem gambling are a failure.

The Health Department argues the state has numerous initiatives aimed at problem gambling.

George R.R. Martin Expresses Concern On Santa Fe Film FutureAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The collapse of a Santa Fe art college has at least two film industry heavyweights worried about the future of filmmaking in New Mexico's capital.

The Albuquerque Journal reports writer George R.R. Martin and producer Tony Mark recently said the fall of Santa Fe University of Art and Design, resulting in the closing of two of Santa Fe's soundstages, could hurt the city's industry.

Martin says if the city loses those two soundstages, Santa Fe will lose millions of dollars in potential TV or film production.

Mark says it would be a lost opportunity if the soundstages aren't put to use.

Santa Fe's City Council is debating on the future of the 64-acre campus after the private university now using the space closes in 2018.

UNM Study: Medical Marijuana An Alternative For OpioidsAssociated Press

University of New Mexico researchers say the legal availability of medical marijuana has the potential to reduce opioid use among chronic pain patients.

The work of associate psychology professor Jacob Miguel Vigil and assistant economics professor Sarah See Stith was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The results indicate a strong correlation between enrollment in New Mexico's medical marijuana program and cessation or reduction of opioid use.

Vigil says informal surveys showed a significant proportion of patients substituted their opioid prescriptions with cannabis.

The study tracked 37 habitual opioid using, chronic pain patients who enrolled in the state medical marijuana program between 2010 and 2015, compared to 29 patients with similar health conditions who didn't enroll.

As of October, more than 44,000 people were enrolled in the state program.