Democrats Tap Egolf And Wirth For Leadership, NM Oil Plant Draws Criticism

Nov 21, 2016

New Mexico Democrats Nominate New House SpeakerAssociated Press

Democratic state lawmakers in New Mexico have picked Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe as their choice for speaker of the House.

House Democrats met Sunday in the state capital to decide on key leadership roles after reclaiming the majority of seats in the House of Representatives in elections earlier this month.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Rep. Sheryl Stapleton of Albuquerque was elected majority leader, while Rep. Doreen Gallegos of Las Cruces will serve as majority whip and Rep. D. Wonda Johnson of Church Rock will be caucus chair.

Democrats also hold a majority in the Senate, and must contend with the veto authority of second-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

The speaker position is not final until a full vote of the House in January. An attorney, Egolf served this year as House minority leader.

Republicans Select Gentry As Minority LeaderSanta Fe New Mexican

The man who led the Republicans in the New Mexico House of Representatives will continue to lead the party, which lost its majority in the November elections.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the House Republicans have elected Nate Gentry of Albuquerque as minority leader. Gentry was elected in 2010 and rose to prominence when the Republicans took control of the House in the 2014 elections for the first time in more than 60 years.

He led Gov. Susana Martinez’s legislative agenda, but also worked with Democrats on issues around bail reform and penalties for public corruption.

Rep. Rod Montoya of Farmington will be party whip, beating out Rep. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque and Rep. Alonzo Baldonado of Los Lunas, who has been whip since 2014. Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell will be caucus leader for the Republicans.

Proposed New Mexico Waste Oil Disposal Plant Draws CriticismThe Associated Press & The Hobbs News-Sun

A proposed waste oil disposal plant in southeastern New Mexico is drawing criticism from local officials and uranium enrichment giant URENCO USA.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the criticism came after news had spread that the Lubbock-based CK Disposal wanted to build a 317-acre surface waste oil management plant in eastern Lea County.

The proposed site is across from the URENCO USA facility.

Six state legislators representing Lea County had signed a recent letter expressing concerns about that location and the potential for contaminating the URENCO site with "significant atmospheric discharge, primarily in the form of hydrogen sulfide."

CK Disposal engineers say the maximum possible release would be below require levels.

Director Of New Mexico Spaceport Ready For Next PhaseThe Associated Press

The new chief executive of Spaceport America says New Mexico couldn't be in a better position as the commercial space tourism and transport industry matures.

Daniel Hicks has had a week now to settle into his new job. He replaced Christine Anderson, who retired after guiding construction and the installation of key infrastructure at the taxpayer-financed spaceport.

Hicks said in an interview Monday that it's good timing to have Spaceport America ready for service as the industry makes progress on developing reusable rockets and transport systems, including Virgin Galactic's efforts toward commercial flights.

Virgin Galactic is the spaceport's anchor tenant. Hicks will be visiting the company's testing facility in California next month.

Virgin announced earlier this month that it's planning for the first glide tests of its latest spaceship.

New Mexico Senate Democrats Pick Wirth As Majority LeaderAssociated Press

Democratic lawmakers have named Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe as the new majority floor leader for the New Mexico state Senate to replace departing Sen. Michael Sanchez.

Wirth was named majority leader by Democratic senators during a meeting Saturday in Belen.

Senate Democrats re-nominated Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces as Senate president, pending confirmation by the chamber in January.

Sen. Michael Padilla of Bernalillo was chosen as majority whip and Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Bernalillo will be majority caucus chair.

Democrats will control both legislative chambers next year. Republicans lost control of the House in the Nov. 8 election.

Sanchez lost his seat to Republican Greg Baca amid a wave of attack ads from a political committee run by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's top political adviser.

Legislative Proposal: Search Warrants For Digital EvidenceAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

A state legislative committee has approved a proposal to require law enforcement officers to get search warrants before delving into private electronic communications.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the committee's bipartisan sponsors plan to introduce the bill in the 60-day session that begins in January.

It would be the first time the New Mexico Legislature would tackle the issue.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act would be an extension of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2014.

The high court unanimously held that the warrantless search and seizure of the digital contents of a cellphone during an arrest was unconstitutional.

Search warrants or a suspect's permission are typically required to search cars, houses, or other physical property where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Man Allegedly Threatens 2 With Hypodermic NeedleAssociated Press

Authorities in Bernalillo County say a man has been arrested for allegedly threatening two people outside a restaurant with a hypodermic needle.

County sheriff's deputies say the brother and sister were headed to their car Saturday when they were approached by a man that reportedly called the brother a derogatory term.

That started an argument and authorities say the suspect — identified as Mark Camden— then made a stabbing motion at the other man with a hypodermic needle.

The woman told deputies that Camden claimed the needle was full of Hepatitis C.

Camden is being held on suspicion of two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Albuquerque TV station KOB reports that Camden remains jailed for violating probation from another case.

Navajo Nation, Urban Outfitters Settle Infringement LawsuitAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters Inc. have reached a settlement in the tribe's 2012 trademark infringement lawsuit against the clothing retailer.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that terms of the settlement signed Monday by a federal judge are confidential. However, the tribe said it and Urban Outfitters plan to collaborate on American Indian jewelry.

Urban Outfitters claimed during the litigation that the tribe knew or should have known the "Navajo" name had been used in clothing, jewelry and other merchandise for years and delayed legal action.

Court documents didn't quantify the amount the tribe could recover if it won the lawsuit, but a ruling in the case said a federal law allowed a minimum $1,000 a day for each type of good sold or on display for sale.

Santa Fe Archbishop Addresses Immigrant Fears Since ElectionAssociated Press

Santa Fe Roman Catholic Archbishop John Wester is addressing the fears that have emerged among immigrants since Election Day.

Wester says he knows there are people within the archdiocese who are fearful of what may happen to them if the incoming Trump administration repeals, as promised on the campaign trail, an Obama administration program that allows immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to avoid deportation and get work permits.

He announced in a statement that the diocese will support and advocate for immigrants in the church, saying many fled persecution, poverty and violence in their countries to come to the United States.

New Mexico Professors Seeking Immigrant Student Protections - By Russell Contreras,  Associated Press

A group of professors at the largest university in the nation's most Hispanic state are asking for more protection of immigrant students.

Professors and instructors at the University of New Mexico delivered a letter Friday to the school's president, Bob Frank, amid uncertainty from immigrant students who are living in the country illegally but have temporary protective status.

Advocates say the students are scared of being deported after the election of Republican Donald Trump as president. Trump has previously said he wanted a "deportation force" to remove immigrants living in the country illegally.

The University of New Mexico has long allowed immigrant students who are living in the country illegally to attend at in-state tuition rates.

Frank says university lawyers are looking into a "sanctuary" designation.

New Mexico Wrestles With Cleanup Costs At Oil WellsAssociated Press

The New Mexico State Land Office says a Texas-based oil company will be denied access to well sites until it agrees to the agency's directions for cleaning up spills of oily salt water.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced Friday that it would deny site access to Siana Operating of Midland, Texas, until the company agrees to a preliminary cleanup plan that will determine the extent of ground pollution at well sites in southeastern New Mexico.

The State Land Office is locked in litigation with Siana on accusations the company trespassed and spilled waste on state trust lands where it stopped making lease payments years ago.

Dunn says Siana reached a cleanup agreement with the state Oil Conservation Division that does not address the possibility of groundwater contamination.