Headlines: Still No Back Pay For State Workers, Judge Refuses To Block Casino Pact...

Sep 12, 2014

State Workers Face Delay In Court-Ordered Back Pay The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

Gov. Susana Martinez says thousands of state workers owed back pay to resolve a union contract dispute are finally about to get their money.

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that 10,000 current or former employees are entitled to retroactive pay increases because former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration didn't follow union contracts in distributing 2008 salary money.

An expected June payout of the back pay came and went without checks being issued, but Martinez now says most of the checks will go out this month and the rest in the first half of October.

Martinez told the Santa Fe New Mexican that it's been hard to calculate how much back pay is owed to each employee.

US Judge Refuses To Block Casino Pact For Pueblo - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

A federal judge is refusing to block the federal government from negotiating and possibly approving a new gambling compact for a Native American pueblo over the objections of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez's administration.

Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker on Thursday denied the state's request for an injunction to block the proposed federal compact for the Pojoaque Pueblo.

However, Parker says he'll expedite consideration of the state's lawsuit challenging the federal government's authority to award a compact.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the state objects to the pueblo's proposed compact, which could stop tribal revenue-sharing payments to the state, allow serving of alcohol in gambling areas and lower the gambling age in the tribe's casinos to 18 from 21.

The pueblo operates a casino near Santa Fe.

New Mexico Ballot To List GOP Candidates First - The Associated Press

Republican candidates will appear first on the ballot in New Mexico's general election.

A drawing last week determined ballot position.

The secretary of state's office said a GOP candidate's name will be listed first in a contested race, and then the Democrat. A minor party candidate, if there's one, appears next and then an independent.

There's no minor party candidate for statewide office in the Nov. 4 election, but a Constitution Party candidate is running for McKinley County sheriff.

About a dozen independents — those unaffiliated with a political party — are seeking legislative and county offices.

Some political scientists contend that candidates listed first on the ballot have an advantage, particularly among voters making choices with little information about who is running.

Virgin Galactic Pushes First Flight Again  - The Associated Press

Virgin Galactic has again pushed back its timeline for launching space tourism flights from southern New Mexico's Spaceport America.

Virgin owner and British billionaire Richard Branson told David Letterman this week that he hopes to board the first flight early next year. The company previously said it wanted to get the first flight launched by the end of the year.

The company for years has been pushing back its launch date as it works to overcome challenges developing its rocket.

When New Mexico first agreed to build the quarter-billion dollar spaceport with Virgin Galactic as an anchor tenant, officials predicted flights would start in 2011.

Virgin Galactic's plan is to take tourists into space for $250,000 a head.

New Mexico Sheriff Accused In 4th Traffic Stop - The Associated Press

Federal prosecutors say a northern New Mexico sheriff indicted for roughing up a motorist made a fourth questionable traffic stop.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said in court papers late Wednesday that Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella harassed a Los Alamos woman and her husband in August 2013.

Prosecutors say Rodella in plain clothes and in an unmarked truck pulled Lisa Gonzales and her husband on a mountainous road for speeding. Court papers say Rodella pull alongside and yelled obscenities when the couple waited to find space to stop.

Robert Gorence, Rodella's attorney, says he will respond to the new filing in court.

Authorities say it was the fourth questionable stop Rodella has made.

Prosecutors filed Wednesday a new indictment against Rodella for deprivation of rights and brandishing a firearm in connection with a March encounter with another motorist. Gorence says his client is innocent.

US Senate Rivals Do Reality Survival TV Show - The Associated Press

Two U.S. senators from opposite sides of the political aisle spent a week marooned together on a remote island for a new reality show, "Rival Survival."

New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake say they hope their adventure, which is scheduled to air Oct. 29 on Discovery, inspires their colleagues in Washington to work together.

Discovery says the show was filmed during the August break in the Marshall Islands. In a statement, Discovery describes the location "as an utterly unforgiving deserted destination where the reefs alone are fraught with dangers that include venomous stonefish, lionfish and scorpion fish."

Discovery says the senators came up with the idea to show their colleagues that if you want to survive, you have to work together.

Group Sues Over Protections For Rare NM Salamander - The Associated Press

An environmental group is accusing the Santa Fe National Forest of not doing enough to protect an endangered salamander found only in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico.

WildEarth Guardians filed suit in federal court this week. The group contends the forest failed to consult with federal wildlife managers over the effects of motorized activities on the salamander.

The group says motorized travel can damage salamander habitat and lead to direct mortality.

The lawsuit is seeking an injunction that would suspend portions of the forest's travel management plan, and it calls for forest officials to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Forest Service has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

The salamander was listed as endangered last October. The travel management plan was finalized in June 2012.