Lawmakers File Bills But Most Will See No Action, NM Among Least Prepared For Health Disasters

Dec 26, 2017

Lawmakers File Dozens Of Bills; Most Will See No ActionThe Associated Press

Lawmakers have filed more than 100 bills for their session that starts in mid-January.  Most of those will see no action.

That's because the state constitution limits action in monthlong sessions to bills on the budget and taxes. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez also can place items on the agenda, and legislators can revisit bills that she vetoed in the past.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Martinez has indicated public safety will be a priority.

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf says legislators expect a flat budget, which means extra spending will be limited, and proposals for new programs or initiatives might go nowhere.

Bills that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and create a $15-an-hour minimum wage are among the items filed.

Report: New Mexico Among Least Prepared For Health Disasters - The Associated Press

A study places New Mexico among the least prepared states for epidemics or other types of public health emergencies due to low public health funding and gaps in staffing.The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the study made public last week by the health policy organization Trust for America's Health shows the state as ranking among the bottom 11.The study says state's public health funding has dropped for the past two years.New Mexico did score well in three of the 11 indicators the study examined. The state received high marks for biosafety training at state labs, high vaccinations rates against the flu and passing a national public health accreditation.State Health Department officials told the newspaper that the agency could not immediately respond to questions on the report. 

Old Copper Mine Catches Attention Of New Mexico Land BossThe Associated Press

For decades, yellow- and white-tinged piles of waste from a defunct copper mine have covered the mountainside at the edge of this quintessential New Mexico village — out of sight, out of mind and not nasty enough to warrant the attention of the federal government's Superfund program.

State Land Commission Aubrey Dunn says something needs to be done as heavy metals continue to leach from the tainted soil. He's awaiting word from consultants about what can be done to clean up the area and how much it might cost.

He's estimating over $5 million — a total he says his office should not be saddled with.

The Nacimiento Mine is among many sites in the West where polluters are long gone and state and local governments have been left holding the bag.

New Mexico Hospitals Face Fines For Injury, Infection RatesAssociated Press, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Six New Mexico hospitals will be fined a portion of their Medicare payments in the coming year for having higher rates of patient injury and infections.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports hospitals on the list include Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe; University of New Mexico Hospital and Presbyterian Medical Center in Albuquerque; Gallup Indian Medical Center; Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo and Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock.

The rates of injury and infection have dropped from 2016, when some 30 hospitals in New Mexico were penalized. Under the Affordable Care Act, there are financial incentives for hospitals to reduce infections and injuries.

According to federal officials, facilities in larger metropolitan areas and those that serve higher poverty populations were cited more often than hospitals elsewhere.

Investors To Overhaul Student Housing Properties Near ENMU Associated Press, Roswell Daily Record

New York investors have plans to renovate student housing properties near Eastern New Mexico University's campuses in Roswell and Portales as part of an effort to increase occupancy rates and boost residential real estate markets in the two communities.

The Roswell Daily Record reports that Up Realty LLC, which includes Brooklyn real estate investor Gershon Eichorn, recently closed on a $3.75 million loan with Massachusetts-based lender UC Funds to finance the renovations.

The units were between 50 and 60 percent occupied for the fall semester, and the process of converting unoccupied units has begun.

Officials say the units are expected to be fully ready for leasing in the 2018 and 2019 school year.

According to the lender, plans call for four-bedroom units to be renovated into one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Navajo Lawmakers Support Funding For Student Housing Project Associated Press

Lawmakers on the nation's largest American Indian reservation are throwing their support behind an effort to provide dormitory space for Navajo students at the University of New Mexico.

The Navajo Nation Council late last week approved legislation to use nearly $1.5 million in supplemental funding for the effort.

Under the plan, the tribe would execute a contract with the university to acquire an existing dormitory facility to house 118 Navajo students. The aim would be for the residence hall to reflect the tribe's cultural and historical values.

Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty sponsored the measure. She said the acquisition would help ease the financial burden of securing residency and increase retention rates for Navajo students.

Tribal officials say they're also looking to invest in dorm space at other schools in the region.

Us Senate Approves New Mexico Wilderness Proposal Associated Press

A measure that would further protect thousands of acres within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico has won approval from the U.S. Senate.

The Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Act passed the Republican-controlled chamber late last week with unanimous support. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

The measure would establish two new wilderness areas within the monument that would cover more than 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares).

Sen. Martin Heinrich says setting aside the areas as wilderness would further complete the vision of stakeholders who fought to protect the monument during a recent federal review. He said the legislation calls for preserving traditional practices.

Heinrich and fellow New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall first introduced the wilderness proposal years ago. They revived it earlier this year.

Deadly New Mexico Shootings, Politics Make Headlines In 2017 Associated Press

Two deadly shootings in opposite corners of the state and a crime rampage that left five people dead across northern New Mexico are among the stories that made headlines in 2017.

It marked another year in which violence spurred as many questions as calls for prayer and change as New Mexicans searched for answers.

In Clovis, parents, children and others hid as gunfire erupted inside the public library on Aug. 28. The shooting left two dead and four others, including a 10-year-old boy, seriously wounded.

The suspect, 16-year-old Nathaniel Jouett, pleaded not guilty to numerous charges. According to court records, he told investigators he was angry and initially intended to target his school.

About three months later in northwestern New Mexico, shots rang out inside Aztec High School. Two 17-year-old students were killed before the 21-year-old gunman killed himself.

Authorities say evidence left behind by William Atchison, a former student, indicated he carefully planned the attack and complained about work and life.

In June, police say Damian Herrera killed his mother, stepfather and brother before killing a man who stopped to help him when he ran out of gas and another man he encountered hours later at a gas station.

Herrera, who has yet to enter a plea, traveled roughly 200 miles in northern New Mexico before authorities captured him during a chase.

State Land Office Issues Lease For New Mexico Wind Farm Associated Press

The State Land Office has issued a lease to a subsidiary of a California-based energy company to build a wind farm on trust land in New Mexico.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced the 50-year lease late last week, saying Cowboy Mesa LLC has plans to construct and operate a plant capable of producing 20 megawatts, or enough to power several thousand homes.

The project will cover more than 1,600 acres (648 hectares) of state trust land near Corona in Torrance County.

As part of the lease, Cowboy Mesa will pay $3,295 per year in rent until commercial operations commence. Once operations begin, the base rent will increase to $107,222 per year.

The Land Office says Cowboy Mesa's parent company, San Francisco-based Pattern Energy, has a portfolio that includes 20 renewable energy facilities.

Man Convicted Of Drive-By Shooting To Pay Victim $25K Associated Press, Carlsbad Current-Argus

A New Mexico man convicted of a 2015 drive-by shooting has been ordered to pay the victim $25,000.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the restitution was agreed to by prosecutors and Emanuel Olivas' attorney prior to a hearing last week.

The 24-year-old Olivas pleaded no contest and was found guilty earlier this year for shooting at or from a motor vehicle, resulting in the great bodily harm of Robert England. Olivas was sentenced to four years in prison and five years of probation.

Authorities had said the shooting was retaliation for an earlier fight between two residents, one of whom was a friend of the defendant.

Police said England, who was not involved in the conflict, was sitting in a car near the residence and was shot in the face.

Police: Child Run Over, Killed While Hunting With Family Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say a child is dead after being run over while on a hunting trip with her family.

Authorities say 10-year-old Rhianna Wormly apparently attempted to climb onto the hood of the pickup truck that her adoptive father was driving while quail hunting in far southeastern New Mexico on Sunday.

The girl was subsequently run over and sustained head trauma. Police say the truck was traveling between 10 and 15 mph.

The girl was transported to Lea County Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Police identified the driver as 56-year-old Enrique Lozoya of Hobbs. They say the case is still under investigation and provided no other details.

Chaves County Supports Plans For Regional Air Authority Associated Press

Elected leaders in one eastern New Mexico county are backing plans to develop a regional air authority to govern the city-owned Roswell International Air Center.

The Roswell Daily Record reports the affirmation of support from Chaves County commissioners comes as business and government leaders strive to boost jobs and revenues generated at the former military air base.

Even with the support of the county and the Roswell City Council, the creation of such a regional authority would still need legislative approval.

Supporters say an independent authority would reassure potential investors that decisions wouldn't be based on changing, local political priorities and that the authority would be able to hire experienced marketing and leasing experts.

They also say a regional body would be in a better position to obtain federal grants.