Lawmakers Say Some Of Governor's Vetoes Invalid, Minimum Wage Bill Heads To Governor

Mar 17, 2017

New Mexico Legislature Says Several Vetoes Don't CountAssociated Press

Democratic leaders of the New Mexico House of Representatives say two recent veto attempts by the governor are invalid.

House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton announced Friday shortly after midnight that two bills would go into effect without the governor's signature because vetoes did not include explanatory message as required.

One House-sponsored bill creates a research program for the industrial production of hemp. The other gives preferences for loans to students at New Mexico medical schools who commit to practice in local communities that need more physicians.

The Senate says three other recent vetoes by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez will not count because of missed deadlines.

Tensions are rising between the Democrat-led Legislature and second-term governor over a budget shortfall, teacher evaluations and confirmation hearings for political appointees.

New Mexico's GOP Congressman To Hold Las Cruces Town Hall Associated Press

New Mexico's only Republican in its congressional delegation has scheduled an in-person town hall meeting in the Democratic stronghold of Las Cruces.

Congressman Steve Pearce announced this week that he would hold a town hall on Saturday in the largest city in his district amid angry scenes nationally.

The Hobbs Republican recently held town hall meetings in Hobbs and Ruidoso.

Republicans who want to repeal Obamacare are facing angry pushback at constituent gatherings from Utah to Michigan to Tennessee and elsewhere, even in solidly Republican districts.

Pearce's Las Cruces town hall comes after the Trump Administration introduced a budget that increases military spending but eliminates funding for the Public Broadcasting Corporation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Spokesman: Gov. Martinez Has Torn ACL From Ski Accident Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has a torn ACL resulting from a skiing injury in Utah.

Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez told The Associated Press an MRI confirmed the Republican governor torn her ACL during her skiing accident. Martinez was in Utah for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

While in Utah, Martinez has criticized the Democrat-led state Legislature for wasting time on matters such as selecting a state dance instead of addressing a crisis in state finances.

Sanchez says Martinez is not expected to miss any time and is walking around the New Mexico Statehouse.

New Mexico Legislature OKs Solar Contracts On State Offices Associated Press

A bill designed to spur the installation of solar panels on New Mexico state buildings has been approved by the state Legislature and sent to the governor.

The House voted 44-19 on Thursday to direct the state General Services Department to pursue contracts with solar providers that save the state money on electricity costs over time with no up-front public investment.

The General Services Department oversees 750 state buildings. It is unclear whether the Gov. Susana Martinez supports the initiative.

Separately, the House has voted against legislation to allow shared solar energy systems that provide the benefits of rooftop solar to people who rent housing or cannot otherwise install their own solar panels.

Negotiations Extended On Ethics CommissionAssociated Press

A proposal to create an independent political ethics commission in New Mexico is being sent to a conference committee to resolve disagreements between the state House and Senate.

The House on Thursday refused to endorse Senate revisions to a constitutional amendment that would establish an ethics commission in the wake of a recent string of corruption scandals.

The commission would enforce standards of conduct for state officers, employees, lobbyists and contractors, along with campaign finance restrictions and reporting requirements for political candidates. Approval by the Legislature would send the measure to a statewide vote in 2018.

Republican Rep. Jim Dines of Albuquerque urged his House colleagues to hold off on endorsing the amendment as approved by the Senate because it left out details on how the commission would be appointed and transparency provisions for making ethics complaints public.

Pilot, Wife OK After Small Plane Crash Lands Near WillcoxAssociated Press

Authorities say a man and his wife have escaped injury after their small plane crash-landed on a dirt road next to a pecan orchard in southern Arizona.

Cochise County Sheriff's officials say the single-propeller plane experienced engine failure shortly after noon Thursday near Willcox.

It was headed to the Willcox airport after a flight from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The pilot told authorities that he and his wife were not injured and the plane went down between San Simon and Bowie.

The man called Albuquerque's air traffic control center and told them of the engine failure.

They kept talking to him until he was close to the ground and then lost radio contact.

The pilot's name wasn't immediately released.

PNM Weighs Options For Future Of Coal-Fired Power Plant Associated Press

The state's largest electric utility says a preliminary analysis of options for supplying power in the future shows that closing a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico in five years could be beneficial for customers.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico made the announcement Thursday, saying no decision has been made and that much work needs to be done before the utility approaches state regulators with any kind of plan.

Public meetings on the utility's resource plan will be held later this year.

The utility already is working to close two units at the San Juan Generating Station under an agreement to curb haze-causing pollution in the region. Those units are scheduled to close by the end of the year.

Environmentalists have been pushing for years to close the plant, citing pollution concerns.

New Mexico Minimum Wage Bill Heads To GovernorAssociated Press

A proposal to increase New Mexico's minimum wage for the first time since 2009 is on its way to the governor's desk.

The Senate on Thursday approved of increasing minimum wage by $1.50 to $9 an hour. An $8 hourly training wage would apply to the first two months of employment.

The bill includes no future adjustments for inflation.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has expressed support for a minimum wage hike as long as it is in line with neighboring states, where base wages range from $10 to $7.25.

The state's three largest urban areas — Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Albuquerque — already have local minimums. The highest is $11.09 in Santa Fe.

New Mexico Students Rally At Capitol For Education Funding - Associated Press

A rally in support of greater state funding for public education in New Mexico encircled the state Capitol to chants of "save our schools" on Thursday as time ran short for lawmakers to resolve a general fund budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

Sign-waving protesters paced around the circular state Capitol building and clogged the stairways indoors as they climbed to the offices of state Gov. Susana Martinez to deliver letters urging a budget compromise that might stave off further funding cuts to public schools.

Lawmakers have until Saturday at noon to send a budget proposal to Martinez, who has opposed outright tax increases.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent and former state education secretary Veronica Garcia canceled classes at midday so that staff, students and parents could attend the rally and urge lawmakers and the governor to bolster spending on K-12 schools.

A spokesman for the governor said she agrees with the teachers that classroom spending needs to be protected, and lashed out at the Democrat-led Senate.

"They need to pass a budget that doesn't raise taxes and protects classroom spending," spokesman Michael Lonergan said in an email.

Community Honors Fallen Navajo Nation OfficerAssociated Press

A Navajo Nation police officer shot while responding to a domestic violence call in remote New Mexico was remembered at his funeral as someone who wanted to help others and dreamed of becoming an officer.

Family, friends, fellow law enforcement officers and community members packed a school gymnasium in the town of Rehoboth Thursday to honor Houston James Largo, the 27-year-old decorated officer who died Sunday.

His flag-draped casket was flanked by photographs and flowers as his family sat nearby.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez consoled Largo's mother during the service as Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye asked the community to thank officers and to teach their children to respect law enforcement.

Begaye said that beyond the uniform and badge is a person who's loved, has a big heart and wants to protect the community.