Corruption Trial Details Private Talk, Session To Focus On Public Safety

Nov 8, 2017

New Mexico Political Corruption Trial Details Private TalkThe Associated Press

The former top-ranked lawmaker in the New Mexico House of Representatives says he was confronted in his state Capitol office in 2014 by a senator for interfering with the sale of a state-owned building.

Court testimony on Wednesday by former House Speaker Ken Martinez provided a glimpse of backroom dealings in the Legislature as then-Sen. Phil Griego helped usher the sale of a state-owned building through approvals. Griego is accused of using his position as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of the building in downtown Santa Fe.

Former House Speaker Ken Martinez testified that Griego asked him, "Why did you screw up my deal?" Martinez says he did not initially understand the question about delays at a state buildings commission.

Griego says he broke no laws.

House Speaker: Session To Focus On Public Safety, BudgetThe Associated Press

New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf says his Democratic colleagues hope to consider legislation during the upcoming session that will help cities hire more police officers.

Another consideration for the 30-day session will be legislation that will make it easier for the state's courts to keep certain defendants locked up while they await trial.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Egolf made the comments while addressing a group of business leaders Wednesday in Albuquerque.

Egolf expects the session to focus on public safety, the budget and tax policy.

He said Democrats also will push for a scaled-back plan to put an extra $50 million into early-childhood education programs. Unlike previous plans that called for tapping New Mexico's land grant permanent fund, the new plan will involve severance tax funds.

New Mexico Governor Proclaims "Day" For 2 New Mexico AstrosThe Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has proclaimed Nov. 9th as a day to honor two Houston Astros from New Mexico who helped the Astros win its first World Series.

Martinez said Wednesday that Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and pitcher Ken Giles made significant contributions to the Houston Astros' 2017 World Series Championship-winning season and deserved to be recognized.

Bregman attended Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He later played baseball at LSU before the Astros drafted him in 2015.

Giles attended Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque, played baseball at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona.

Bregman hit two home runs and drove in five runs — including a walk-off single to clinch game five of the 2017 World Series.

Federal Judge Sides With New Mexico Ranchers In Water CaseAssociated Press

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has sided with a New Mexico ranching family in a decades-long battle over access to water on national forest land.

The case of the Goss family has been closely watched by thousands of ranchers who hold grazing permits across the West.

The family claimed the federal government violated its constitutional rights by not providing just compensation after condemning property — in this case water rights that had been established before the Lincoln National Forest was created.

Chief Judge Susan Braden agreed and on Friday ordered the family and the U.S. Forest Service to determine whether alternative water sources are available that can allow for a viable cattle business.

Braden has yet to determine how much compensation the family is owed.

Forest officials did not immediately comment on the ruling.

Gunman Once Fled Mental Health Center, Threatened SuperiorsAssociated Press

Police reports indicate the gunman who killed more than two dozen at a small-town Texas church briefly escaped from a mental health center in New Mexico in 2012.

The reports also noted that Devin Patrick Kelley was once caught trying to bring guns onto Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo and threatened superior officers there.

The Air Force confirmed that Kelley had been treated in a facility in Santa Teresa after he was placed under pretrial confinement stemming from a court-martial on charges that he assaulted his then-wife and hit her child.

Involuntary commitment to a mental institution would have been grounds to deny him a weapon provided that records of his confinement were submitted to the federal database used to conduct background checks on people who try to purchase guns.

The service acknowledged Monday that it didn't enter Kelley's criminal history into the federal database as required by military rules.

Authorities say the death toll of 26 from Sunday's shooting includes the unborn baby of one of the women killed. 

US Nuclear Waste Dump Receives 100th ShipmentAssociated Press

The federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository has received more than 100 shipments since reopening following a nearly three-year shutdown caused by a radiation release.

Officials with the U.S. Energy Department announced the milestone Tuesday, marking another step as the agency gets its multibillion-dollar cleanup program back on track.

The disposal of contaminated tools, clothing and other debris from decades of nuclear research and bomb-making at government labs and defense sites around the nation was sidelined in 2014 when the radiation release contaminated part of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and forced its closure.

The repository began accepting shipments again in April following an expensive recovery effort and a major policy overhaul.

The release was blamed on a chemical reaction inside a container of waste that was inappropriately packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

No-Premium Insurance Could Stoke New Mexico EnrollmentAssociated Press

New Mexico health insurance experts and regulators say that low- and zero-premium insurance plans for people of limited means could help lower the number of uninsured patients in the state next year.

Health Action New Mexico Policy Director Colin Baillio said Tuesday that premiums are falling for "bronze" plans, encouraging new enrollment through the state's federally subsidized exchange.

At the same time, premiums for mid-level insurance coverage are increasing by an average of more than 35 percent for 2018.

As a spokeswoman for New Mexico insurance regulators Heather Widler cautions that lower-premium plans can result in higher out-of-pocket costs with frequent use of medical services.

New Mexico has launched a website to help compare costs and benefits among plans. Roughly 46,000 people receive insurance through the state's health exchange portal.

Loans Aimed At Power Grid Improvements In Rural New MexicoAssociated Press

Members of the state's congressional delegation say more than $32 million in rural development loans will help increase access to affordable electricity in parts of eastern and northern New Mexico.

The loans are being offered through the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative will receive $18.3 million to build 58 new miles of power lines and improve another 28 miles of line. The coop will also make other improvements and invest in smart grid projects.

The Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative Inc. will receive $13.9 million to build 66 new miles of power line and improve another 40 miles of line. Smart grid investments and other improvements also are planned.

Officials say the modernization efforts will save money while making the rural systems more efficient and reliable.

Las Cruces Hires Patrick Gallagher As Its New Police ChiefAssociated Press

Las Cruces has hired Patrick Gallagher as its new police chief.

City Manager Stuart Ed announced the hiring Tuesday.

Gallagher has been the police chief in Santa Fe.

He will succeed Las Cruces police chief Jaime Montoya, who is retiring at the end of this year.

Gallagher has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience.

He previously was police chief in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and also worked with the New York City Police Department as deputy inspector and captain/internal affairs bureau division commander.

Gallagher will take charge of the Las Cruces Police Department on Jan. 15.

Hopi Tribe's Chairman Disappointed Over Canyon Mining PlanAssociated Press

The chairman of the Hopi tribe says he's profoundly disappointed about a federal recommendation to lift the 20-year ban on uranium mining on public land outside Grand Canyon National Park.

Herman Honanie says the thought of opening the area up to uranium mining is indefensible.

He says the government should clean up and reclaim existing contaminated sites before it promotes renewed uranium mining.

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed the change in response to President Donald Trump's executive order for federal agencies to eliminate restrictions on energy production.

The Trump administration has moved to unravel former President Barack Obama's environmental regulations aimed at curbing climate change.

Conservationists are decrying the Forest Service's move, saying past uranium mining in the region has polluted soils, washes, aquifers and drinking water.

State Rep. Dennis Roch Says He Will Step DownEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

State Rep. Dennis Roch says he will step down from the New Mexico Legislature after 10 years.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports the Logan Republican announced Tuesday he will not run for re-election when his term expires on Dec. 31, 2018.

He said his chief reason for leaving state politics is the imminent birth of his fourth child.

Roch says he's also facing difficulty in balancing his political career with his duties as superintendent of Logan Municipal Schools.

Roch worked to pass an array of legislation, including one that rescinds worker's compensation for those injured while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

New Mexico Judge Restricts Testimony In Corruption TrialAssociated Press

A judge is limiting testimony about a 2014 meeting between New Mexico's attorney general and a former state senator being prosecuted on corruption charges to the defendant's own words if he chooses to testify.

District Court Judge Brett Loveless on Tuesday ruled against allowing testimony from an attorney who previously represented ex-Sen. Phil Griego about his knowledge of the conversation in June 2014 between Griego and Hector Balderas.

Griego is currently standing trial on allegations that he used his position as a state senator to profit from the 2014 sale of a state-owned building.

State prosecutors and defense attorneys have clashed repeatedly about the relevance of the meeting between Griego and Balderas, who was campaigning for attorney general at the time and received a campaign contribution from Griego.