Former Officers Won't Be Retried In James Boyd Case, Panel Approves Compromise On Payday Loans

Feb 24, 2017

Prosecutor Won't Retry Albuquerque Police Shooting CaseThe Associated Press

A newly installed district attorney in New Mexico says he will not retry two former Albuquerque police officers charged in the fatal shooting of a homeless camper.

Second Judicial District Attorney Raul Torrez said Friday the case involving former Albuquerque Officer Dominique Perez and Detective Keith Sandy would have likely suffered the same fate as a previous trail.

Both stood trial in October for the 2014 police shooting of James Boyd, but the trial ended in a hung jury. The shooting sparked angry protests around Albuquerque amid about 20 fatal shootings by police in a four-year period.

The city of Albuquerque later entered into an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over mandated police reforms.

Torrez ordered a review of the case by seven senior trial prosecutors from judicial districts around the state.

House Panel Approves Compromise On Payday LoansThe Associated Press

A panel of House lawmakers has reached what supporters are touting as a compromise as consumer advocates push to rein in the payday and title loan industry in New Mexico.

The measure approved Friday by the House Business and Industry Committee calls for banning small loans with payback periods under 120 days. It would also cap interest rates at 175 percent on certain installment loans issued by lenders that are not federally insured.

Consumer advocates had been pushing for a 36 percent interest rate cap.

Senator Calls For Governor To Approve Taxes, Fees - The Santa Fe New Mexican

Some lawmakers acknowledged that the bill didn't go that far but that it was a step in the right direction to address consumer advocates' complaints of unscrupulous lending practices that target low-income New Mexicans.

A powerful state senator is calling for Governor Susana Martinez to reconsider her refusal to raise taxes to fill a budget gap.

Senator John Arthur Smith is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Democrat told his colleagues on Thursday… that if the Governor didn’t approve tax and fee increases proposed by his party colleagues, lawmakers would have to cut an additional 5 percent of the budget, including for health care and public education.

The governor has insisted that she will not approve tax increases, but Republican lawmakers have recently started backing some of the proposals.

The Democrat-controlled House passed a budget package this week that includes an increase of about $250 million dollars over last year’s budget. It must be approved by the Senate before going to the Governor, who can veto individual line items.

New Mexico Governor Plans Meeting With U.S. Health Secretary- Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez plans to meet with Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price during her visit to Washington, D.C.

A spokesman for the second-term GOP governor says she traveled Thursday to the nation's capital to participate in meetings with other governors, including a group meeting at the White House with Donald Trump.

Spokesman Michael Lonergan offered few details about the engagement with Price. New Mexico residents and state government have a lot at stake in the pending health care overhaul by Republicans in Washington.

Nearly 15 percent of New Mexico's 2.1 million residents have enrolled in Medicaid since coverage was expanded in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

About 45,000 New Mexico residents participate in the state's health insurance exchange.

New Mexico Confirms David Jablonski As Corrections Secretary The Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has confirmed David Jablonski as secretary of the Department of Corrections.

Senators voted unanimously Friday to confirm Jablonski to lead an agency that oversees about 7,500 prisoners in state and privately contracted facilities.

Jablonski previously worked as a member of the executive staff for Gov. Susana Martinez, where he oversaw multiple agencies involved in public safety.

He has served as deputy superintendent of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, and spent 14 years with the Corrections Department, including a stint as director of the Probation and Parole Division.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said Jablonski's experience in probation and parole will be important amid a state budget crisis that could mean prisoners get released earlier.

Gregg Marcantel previously led the agency. He retired in October.

Agency Publishes Timetable For Mexico Border WallThe Associated Press

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it plans to start awarding contracts by mid-April for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

The agency said Friday on a website for federal contactors that a request for bids would be published on or around March 6. Companies would have to submit "concept papers" to design and build prototypes by March 10.

CBP will narrow the field by March 20 and require that finalists renew their offers by March 24, with a price attached.

The timetable shows that Trump is aggressively pursuing plans to build what he calls "a great wall" on the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that construction will start "very soon" and is ahead of schedule.

New Mexico Village To Benefit From Job Creation Grant- Associated Press 

An economic development organization in northern New Mexico has been awarded a federal grant aimed at diversifying the area's economy following the closure of Chevron Mining's molybdenum operation near Questa.

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation announced the $70,000 grant on Thursday, saying it will be used to develop a strategy to support private capital investment and job creation.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall says Questa and the surrounding area were devastated when the mine closed in 2014 and the grant will provide much-needed resources to help the community recover.

The three-year grant comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.

Latest Wilderness Plans Draw Fire From New Mexico Ranchers – The Associated Press 

New Mexico's two senators have introduced legislation they say has been years in the making to set aside tens of thousands of acres of wilderness on opposite ends of the state in areas recently designated as national monuments.

But ranchers from some rural communities fear the designations will amount to another layer of bureaucracy aimed at pushing them from the land.

The Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association has passed a resolution against future wilderness and monument designations, and its members along with groups representing ranchers from elsewhere in the state are fighting the latest proposal.

The legislation calls for establishing several tracts of wilderness within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico and the Rio Grande del Norte Monument on the northern end of the state.

Albuquerque Schools To Avoid Layoffs Amid Budget Crisis – The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Staff at Albuquerque Public Schools will not face layoffs or furloughs this year as the district has found other ways to cover a $12.5 million budget cut.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that instead of making the money through staff changes, the district is taking $6.65 million out of cash reserves and making up the rest from a number of areas, including substitute teacher funds and staff reductions by attrition.

The $12.5 million budget cut came Jan. 31 when Gov. Susana Martinez signed several bills that pull from school district cash reserves in an effort to address the state's massive deficit.

District Executive Director of Budget and Strategic Planning Debora Warren says cuts in the middle of the school year can be challenging because many schools have already spent their budgets.

Experts Say Warm Weather Could Threaten New Mexico Snowpack – The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Meteorologists expect abnormally dry, warm weather to follow New Mexico's unseasonably warm February, creating concern about the snowpack in the northern part of the state.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that mountain snowpacks are at or above normal levels. The question troubling experts is how much snow will endure the windy, warm weather until the spring runoff season.

February temperatures hit record or near-record highs in Santa Fe and other parts of the state, and the National Weather Service predicts above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation will continue over the next three months.

If the snowpacks dry up, northern New Mexicans will be counting on rain to keep crops alive, maintain stream flows and reduce the threat of wildfires this summer.

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek New Powers For Oil Regulators – The Associated Press

Efforts to increase the enforcement powers of New Mexico oil and natural gas regulators over drilling and environmental violations have earned an initial nod of approval from a panel of state lawmakers.

A state Senate panel endorsed legislation Thursday that would restore the state's authority to impose administrative penalties of up to $10,000 when aquifers are polluted or threatened by drilling operations, and lesser fines for other violations of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act. Texas allows daily penalties of $10,000.

Major oil companies are showing renewed interest in Permian Basin deposits in southeastern New Mexico amid a string of multi-billion dollar lease acquisitions.

A 2009 state Supreme Court decision held that the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division was not authorized to assess administrative penalties and must pursue lawsuits instead.

New Mexico Shores Up Funding For Jury Trials- Associated Press

New Mexico is providing emergency funding to the judiciary to avoid the suspension of jury trials.

With the governor away on travel, Lieutenant Gov. John Sanchez signed a bill Thursday that provides $1.6 million to ensure payment to jurors through the end of the fiscal year in June.

Under state law, jurors must receive compensation for their service. They get about $50 a day.

The jury funding shortfall underscores the depths of a state budget crisis linked to an oil industry downturn and corresponding loss of state tax revenues. Without the funds, Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels said jury trials might be canceled and cases dismissed based on the right to a speedy trial.

The bill pays back an $80,000 loan to avoid furloughs at the state Supreme Court.