Headlines: State Seeks Federal Intervention On Ballot Disputes, Poverty Rate Rising In NM...

Sep 18, 2014

Credit Michael Grimes via Flickr and Creative Commons

Marijuana Ballot Dispute Before Federal CourtThe Associated Press

A federal court is to consider whether it will referee a legal fight over New Mexico's largest county trying to place nonbinding questions over marijuana and taxes on the November general election ballot.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen has scheduled a hearing Thursday afternoon in a dispute between Bernalillo County and Secretary of State Dianna Duran.

The county has approved advisory ballot questions to ask voters whether they support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and favor a tax for mental health services.

But Duran contends state law doesn't allow advisory ballot questions that poll voters and don't have the force of law.

The county has asked the state Supreme Court to resolve the dispute, but Duran wants the federal court to handle the case.

Court Sets Friday Hearing In Marijuana Ballot Case - The Associated Press

New Mexico's highest court is giving speedy consideration to a lawsuit by Santa Fe County seeking to place a nonbinding question over marijuana on the November general election ballot.

The state Supreme Court scheduled a hearing Friday on the elections dispute.

The county asked the high court Tuesday to force Secretary of State Dianna Duran to place an advisory question on the ballot that will poll county's voters on whether they support lowering penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Duran contends state law doesn't allow nonbinding ballot questions.

Bernalillo County has filed a similar lawsuit with the Supreme Court over ballot questions, and a federal court has set a Thursday hearing on the secretary of state's effort to have a federal judge handle the case.

Census Data Shows Poverty Rate Rises In New Mexico - The Associated Press

New U.S. Census Bureau numbers show New Mexico has the nation's second-highest percentage of people living in poverty.

Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that 21.9 percent of New Mexico residents lived in poverty last year, roughly 22,000 more people than in 2012.

The national rate was 15.8 percent in 2013 compared to 15.9 percent the year before.

Only Mississippi had a poverty rate higher than New Mexico in 2013 with 24 percent of that state's residents living in poverty.

Census figures also show the median income in New Mexico rose slightly from year to year: From $43,423 in 2013 to $43,872 from last year.

The median income in the U.S. rose from $51,915 in 2012 to $52,250 in 2013.

Lack Of Funding May Close Farmington Detox Center - The Associated Press and Daily Times

A Farmington alcohol detox center may soon close.

The Daily Times reports that Four Winds Recovery Center faces closing in mid-November without additional funding.

The center is the only one in San Juan County. It's funded by Farmington, Aztec, Bloomfield and the county.

Farmington officials discussed the situation on Tuesday but didn't come up with a solution.

The county cut its funding for the center nearly in half because of a deficit in a program that helps pay for uninsured health care.

Other health care providers also were affected.

NM Governor Declares Emergency Ahead Of Storms - The Associated Press

With forecasts calling for significant rain across New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez has declared a statewide emergency in advance of expected flooding.

Martinez's order cites the hundreds of square miles of mountainsides burned by wildfires in recent years, saying heavy rainfall in these areas could result in serious damage.

The governor also asked the New Mexico National Guard to deploy personnel and equipment to strategic locations around the state to be ready for rescues and flood mitigation operations.

With the declaration, $750,000 in state funds will be available to help communities respond and recover from any storm damage.

The National Weather Service said the remnants of Hurricane Odile could bring as much as 8 inches of rain to the southern part of the state before the storm system weakens Friday.

State No Longer Insures UNM Child Cancer Claims - The Associated Press

A top official in Gov. Susana Martinez's administration says taxpayers have subsidized insurance costs for the University of New Mexico while the state has paid $48 million for medical malpractice claims over the treatment of children with leukemia.

State Risk Management Director A. J. Forte describes the insurance rates as a "sweetheart deal."

He said medical malpractice premiums for UNM hospital have been too low because the state didn't properly factor in settlement payments and potential liability of child cancer claims since the late 1990s.

UNM Health Sciences Center spokesman Billy Sparks said there was no sweetheart deal on insurance.

As of July, the state no longer provides insurance for claims stemming from the alleged substandard treatment of children with leukemia.

Sparks said UNM is self-insuring those claims.

Taxi Group Seeks To Stop Uber, Lyft In New Mexico - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

A group of taxi and limousine operators has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop ride-sharing services from operating in New Mexico.

The Public Regulation Commission which regulates taxis and limos previously ruled that Lyft and Uber were in violation of state law. However, the two companies have continued to operate.

Unlike traditional taxi businesses, Lyft and Uber use smart-phone programs to connect people seeking rides with people who have cars.

The president of Yellow Checker Cabs in Albuquerque says the ride-sharing services don't have proper insurance and are putting their own drivers at risk along with New Mexico residents.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a PRC hearing officer is considering whether the services violate the state Motor Carrier Act and could draft new rules that might include the services.

Navajo High Court To Hear Case On Language Fluency - The Associated Press

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in a case challenging a presidential candidate's ability to speak Navajo.

The candidates are required under tribal law to speak Navajo fluently and understand it.

Dale Tsosie (SOH'-see) contends that Chris Deschene (des-CHEE'-nee) lied about being fluent when he entered the race to preside over the country's largest American Indian reservation.

Deschene says fluency is a matter of opinion and that his language skills are progressing.

The tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals dismissed Tsosie's grievance, saying it was untimely filed. Tsosie appealed to the high court.

Arguments are set for Sept. 26 in Tuba City.

Deschene and former Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. are set to face off in the tribe's general election in November. Tsosie placed tenth in the primary.

Funding To Boost Training For Alzheimer's Care - The Associated Press

Training for family caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias will be getting a boost thanks to $100,000 in state funding.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the funding Wednesday. She says the investment will triple the number of Alzheimer's caregivers in New Mexico.

About 50 new teachers are expected to complete a seven-week course offered through the Alzheimer's Association. The course focuses on practical strategies for caregiving and helps decrease caregiver stress.

With more teachers able to host classes, the number of caregivers receiving training is projected to expand to 1,000 by 2016.

The funding for the effort comes from the state Aging and Long-Term Services Department. It's targeted at increasing the knowledge and skills for caregivers in New Mexico's rural and underserved communities.

Albuquerque Isotopes Announce New Affiliation - The Associated Press

The Albuquerque Isotopes are now affiliated with the Colorado Rockies.

Officials from both teams signed a four-year player development agreement during a news conference in Albuquerque on Wednesday. The officials say the new relationship makes sense for geographic reasons and because Albuquerque feels like an extension of home for the major league team.

The Rockies senior director of player development, Jeff Bridich, says he hopes Albuquerque fans will soon be able to bleed "Rocky purple." The team's Triple-A affiliate was previously located in Colorado Springs.

Bridich says the Rockies were looking to do certain things and the move from Colorado Springs stems from business considerations.

The Triple-A Isotopes had been affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2008.

Albuquerque finished the 2014 Pacific Coast League season on Sept. 1 with a 62-80 record.