Gov. Martinez Looking To Appeal Ruling On Vetoes, State Files Suit Against Opioid Makers

Sep 7, 2017

New Mexico Governor Looking To Appeal Ruling On Vetoed BillsThe Associated Press & The Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is asking for time to appeal a ruling overturning vetoes on bills before they become law.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a district court judge had overturned the governor's 10 vetoes last month and ruled that Martinez did not follow the proper constitutional procedures when she vetoed the bills. Martinez says she plans to appeal the ruling before Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver can chapter the bills into law. Martinez's lawyers say if the bills are enacted before the appeal, some would release "chain of events" that would be difficult to undo.

The Secretary of State's Office has said it will wait for legal direction before it enacts the 10 bills. Legislators have until Friday to file a response to Martinez's latest motion.

New Mexico Files Suit Against Opioid Makers, WholesalersThe Associated Press

The New Mexico attorney general's office has filed a lawsuit accusing major manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid medication of exacerbating the state's drug addiction crisis.

Attorney General Hector Balderas on Thursday announced the filing of the lawsuit in state district court against five of the nation's largest opioid manufacturers and three major wholesale distributors.

The suit accuses opioid manufacturers of aggressively pushing highly addictive and dangerous drugs and falsely representing to doctors that patients would rarely succumb to addiction. It accuses distributors of failing to monitor, investigate and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates.

Balderas said the lawsuit is modeled after on past litigation against tobacco companies designed to pay for ongoing drug enforcement and treatment efforts.

New Mexico's drug overdose death rate is far above the national average.

Watchdog Agency: US Nuclear Dump Running Out Of RoomThe Associated Press

A government watchdog agency says the only underground nuclear waste repository in the United States doesn't have enough space for radioactive debris left over from decades of bomb-making and research, much less tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium.

A Senate committee requested the review from the U.S. Government Accountability Office amid concerns about ballooning costs and significant delays related to a 20-year-old pledge the U.S. made with Russia to dispose of extra plutonium from its stockpiles.

The agency found that officials with the U.S. Energy Department haven't analyzed or planned for expanding the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico and that regulatory approval for doing so would take years.

The findings and recommendations from the Government Accountability Office were released this week following a lengthy review of documents and interviews.

Santa Fe Mayor Says He Will Not Seek Re-Election In 2018The Associated Press

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales has announced he will not be seeking re-election in the 2018 municipal elections, citing his daughters as a reason for leaving the public office.

Gonzales said in a statement sent out Wednesday that the decision is "bittersweet," but he is proud of what he was able to accomplish during his tenure with the help of the community. The single father says he wants to spend more time with his two daughters, one who is starting college and one who recently entered middle school.

Gonzales did not say whether he would run for any other office in 2018. He had previously said he was considering running for governor.

City Councilor Ron Trujillo and former public school teacher Abigail Fox have announced they are running for mayor.

Dona Ana County Jail Director Resigns Under FireThe Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

The longtime director of the Dona Ana County Detention center has resigned as he faced marijuana possession charges and a move to fire him.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Wednesday that Chris Barela resigned after an administrative hearing where he was contesting a move to fire him.

Barela has pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor marijuana possession charges and has a court date later this month. Local narcotics detectives launched an investigation in April after receiving a tip that Barela had regularly been buying marijuana. Detectives then set up a sting and Barela allegedly purchased pot from undercover operatives.

Barela told the Sun-News he resigned under "eminent threat of termination" after being told the hearing officer would order him fired.

Barela has overseen the county jail since 2005.

Trails Reopen At White Sands After Cleanup From 2014 CrashThe Associated Press

Two trails and other facilities at White Sands National Monument have reopened after being closed for three years for the cleanup of soil contaminated from the 2014 crash of an unmanned Air Force target jet.

White Sands officials say the Dune Life Nature and Playa trails and visitor facilities along Dunes Drive reopened Thursday.

A remotely controlled QF-4E Phantom Jet crashed Feb. 7, 2014 while on final approach to land at nearby Holloman Air Force Base.

An Air Force report said the plane flew erratically after a gyro failed.

The Air Force did initial cleanup of the site and then the Army's White Sands Missile Range removed soil contaminated by fuel and oil.

The New Mexico Environment Department in August approved the cleanup and determined that remediation was complete.

New Mexico State Fair Opens Thursday - The Associated Press

Say welcome to green chile apple pie and deep fried chile relleno chile cheese dogs as the New Mexico State Fair kicks off its 10-day run in Albuquerque. Thursday's noon-hour competition to judge the fair's most unique foods is likely to be the big opening day draw. Competitors are also offering up unusual, New Mexico-centric items like deep fried taco green chile cheese curds and bacon wrapped deep fried green chile pigs in a blanket. Other surefire crowd-pleasers include barrel-racing dogs and pig and duck races. The day features free admission for all current law enforcement personnel, $2 general admission for everyone and $12 wristbands allowing unlimited carnival rides starting at 2 p.m. The fair opens at 10 a.m. and runs through Sept. 17. 

New Mexico Among 15 States Suing Over DACA – By Larry Neumeister and Gene Johnson, Associated Press

New Mexico is among 15 states and the District of Columbia that sued on Wednesday to block President Donald Trump's plan to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation — an act Washington state's attorney general called "a dark time for our country."

The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of New York. The plaintiffs were New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said a program, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, will end in six months to give Congress time to find a legislative solution for the immigrants.

The participants were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas.

Those already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. If their permits expire before March, 5, 2018, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5. But the program isn't accepting new applications.

Opponents of the program said they are pleased with the Trump administration's decision. They called DACA an unconstitutional abuse of executive power but proponents of the program said the move by Trump was cruel.

Billions Of Dead Trees Force US Fire Crews To Shift TacticsAssociated Press

Vast stands of dead timber in the Western U.S. have forced firefighters to shift tactics, trying to stay out of the shadow of lifeless, unstable trees that could come crashing down with deadly force.

U.S. Forest Service statistics compiled for The Associated Press show that about 6.3 billion dead trees are still standing in 11 Western states, up from 5.8 billion five years earlier.

The Forest Service says about 20 percent were likely killed by a massive beetle outbreak.

Dead trees are an unpredictable threat, prone to blowing over in the wind or getting knocked down by other falling trees.

To avoid them, firefighters sometimes have to cut containment lines farther from the flames, and that allows the fires to gobble up more forest before they're brought under control.

New Mexico Man Sentenced In Arizona Medicaid Billing SchemeAssociated Press

The operator of a New Mexico medical transportation company been sentenced to 30 months in prison for defrauding Arizona's Medicaid agency of nearly $2 million through a billing scheme.

The U.S. attorney for New Mexico says 33-year-old Farmington resident Cory Werito was sentenced Wednesday and ordered to repay $1.2 million. He had pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud involving his company, CW Transport.

Werito and co-defendant Rosita Toledo provided non-emergency medical transportation to Arizona Medicaid recipients.

Toledo has also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

The U.S. attorney's office says Werito and Toledo submitted more than 18,000 claims to Arizona's Medicaid agency between 2011 and 2013 for transporting patients. Most of the claims were bogus.

Bernalillo County Latest To Sue Opioid Makers Over MarketingAssociated Press

New Mexico's most populous county is taking the lead of one of its smallest in planning to sue opioid manufacturers over marketing practices officials say have led to soaring numbers of overdoses.

Bernalillo County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to sue the drugmakers. The move comes just days after Mora County became the state's first local government to sue in hopes of collecting cash from pharmaceutical companies.

Bernalillo Commission Chair Debbie O'Malley says in a statement that her county has been heavily impacted by the opioid crisis, with increasing crime related to opioid addiction and related policing costs. The county will seek changes in marketing and prescribing practices as well as cash to help cover its higher costs.

Mora County sued 20 of the largest drugmakers last week on similar grounds.

Farmington Authorities Remove Bear From Business AreaFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Farmington police and Game and Fish officers say a young bear is back in the wild after it was spotted in backyard of a business.

Yoga studio Owner Melissa Silversmith Firestone tells The Daily Times that the bear entered the yard on Monday by climbing over the fence. Officials say they tranquilized the 160-pound sub-adult black bear and loaded into the back of a state vehicle so it could be transported to the forest.

Police have confirmed that only one bear was in the area on Monday.

New Mexico Judge Declines Injunction Barring Candidate's AdsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico judge declined to grant an injunction barring a state land commissioner candidate from airing radio ads against the incumbent.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn asked for the injunction in a lawsuit he filed against Democratic candidate Garrett VeneKlasen that District Judge Matthew Reynolds refused at a Tuesday hearing.

VaneKlasen began his campaign in May with an ad insinuating Dunn's ranch purchase was a scheme to cash in on the construction of a power line. Dunn argued the ads are false and defamatory.

The judge says he did not see evidence showing Dunn suffered from the ads.

Dunn's lawyer says they intend to take the case to trial.

Dunn is running for a congressional seat instead of seeking re-election as land commissioner.

Most New Mexico Colleges Seeing Falling EnrollmentSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Higher education in New Mexico faces declining enrollment amid budget cuts and searches for new college presidents.

An analysis by The Santa Fe New Mexican found that five of the seven research and comprehensive universities and colleges in New Mexico have experienced shrinking enrollment 2012 to 2016.

Declines over the five-year period range from 3.61 percent at Western New Mexico University in Silver City to nearly 40 percent at Northern New Mexico College in Española.

Educators and others point to several factors behind the enrollment drop, including reduced revenues from New Mexico's lottery scholarship program and a decline in the number of high school graduates. Others cite the state's struggling economy.

Only Eastern New Mexico University and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology saw increases.

New Mexico Woman Suffers More Than 1,000 Bee StingsDeming Headlight

A New Mexico family is recovering from a bee attack where one woman suffered more than a thousand bee stings.

The Deming Headlight reports 85-year-old Angela Ortiz was attacked by a colony of bees last Friday as she was outside a trailer home. A Luna County Sheriff's Office report says the bees also attacked a deputy and family members as they helped Ortiz. Authorities were able to rescue the family by using a fire extinguisher.

The Luna County Sheriff's Office says Ortiz had not noticed the bees that lived in a hive under the home. She was taken to a Las Cruces hospital where she currently is recovering.

Santa Fe Mayor Won’t Seek Second Term – Santa Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said he will not run again for mayor, citing concerns about balancing his responsibilities as a father with political duties when the job becomes fulltime next year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the announcement yesterday came as a surprise to many, with four potential candidates now considering runs in the 2018 election. Gonzales released a long statement that said his commitment to his two daughters was his primary reason for the decision.

Gonzales is known for pushing progressive causes and has sometimes been a controversial mayor according to the New Mexican. A recent poll showed a majority of Santa Fe residents approve of his job performance.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Gonzales also focused on accomplishments during his term, including job growth and overcoming a $15 million deficit. He suffered a political defeat earlier this year when voters rejected his proposal to tax sugary beverages to expand early childhood education programs.