Legislature Sues Martinez In Escalating Conflict, NM Company Plans To End Coal-Fired Electric Power

Apr 21, 2017

New Mexico Legislature Sues Governor In Escalating ConflictThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has sued Republican Gov. Susana Martinez over her budget vetoes that would effectively eliminate the legislative branch by cutting off its funding amid an escalating clash over how to resolve the state's financial crisis.

The Democrat-led Legislature on Friday petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court to block vetoes that would defund the legislative branch and all state institutions of higher education in the coming fiscal year.

Attorneys for the Legislature say the vetoes would upset the constitutional balance between opposing branches of government.

The court challenge stems from a standoff over how to resolve a state budget shortfall linked to faltering tax income from low oil prices and an anemic local economy. Martinez has rejected tax increases offered by lawmakers and is urging further belt-tightening.

New Mexico Company Plans To End Coal-Fired Electric PowerThe Associated Press & The Albuquerque Journal

Public Service Company of New Mexico has proposed to stop using all its coal-fired electricity within the next 14 years.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Friday that the company plans to replace coal entirely with solar, wind, natural gas and nuclear power.

The company has found through its 20-year resource plan that consumers will save money in the long run if it shuts down its coal generating station in San Juan by 2022 and relinquishes the utility's 13 percent share in the nearby Four Corners Generating Station by 2031.

The company will close two of four generating units at the San Juan plant next year to meet environmental regulations.

The plan is in its first draft and a final version will be filed in July.

Secretary Of State Announces Native American Voting GroupThe Associated Press

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Friday that she's creating a taskforce focused on increasing voter registration and turnout in tribal communities.

Toulouse Oliver says the Native American Voting Taskforce will include members from the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Mescalero Apache tribe and Fort Sill Apache tribe, among others.

It will be tasked with analyzing tribal community needs and ways that Native Americans can be better informed about elections. The goal is to increase voter education and turnout in Native communities.

Toulouse Oliver says Native precincts have the lowest voter turnout. In the 2016 general election, only 56 percent of voters cast a ballot. That figure was 62 percent for overall turnout in New Mexico.

Santa Fe Police Step Up Efforts To Curb Drunken DrivingThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

The Santa Fe Police Chief has announced the department will step up efforts to curb drunken driving.

The Santa Fe Mexican reported Thursday that the number of alcohol-related crashes in Santa Fe continues to climb, while the number of arrests for drunken driving continues to decrease.

In response, officers will be keeping a closer eye on the number of arrests.

Police say the department had 99 alcohol-related crashes in the city in 2016, which was more than double the number of crashes in 2013. Meanwhile, officers made 363 alcohol-related arrests in 2016, which was the least since 2013.

Attorneys General To Trump: Don't Cut Drug Treatment FundsThe Associated Press

The top government lawyers from 19 states are telling President Donald Trump and the Republican leaders of Congress not to cut federal money for drug treatment programs.

A group of Democratic state attorneys general sent a letter Friday to federal officials saying the government "cannot abandon this commitment to our communities."

It's the latest of several actions from Democratic attorneys general objecting to Trump policies.

In this case, it's a pre-emptive argument that comes as Trump says Republican lawmakers are closing in on an agreement on how to replace former President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul.

It's not clear what any new plan would mean for drug treatment, which has become a major issue amid an epidemic of addiction to opioid drugs.

Unemployment Rates Fall To Record Lows In 4 US StatesThe Associated Press

Unemployment rates fell to record lows in four U.S. states last month after months of steady job creation nationwide.

The Labor Department says unemployment rates fell in 17 states in March and were mostly unchanged in 33. Employers added a significant number of jobs in just three states last month and cut them in four. Employment was mostly unchanged in the other 43 states. Hiring nationwide was weak in March but strong in the previous two months.

Arkansas, Colorado, Maine and Oregon reported the lowest unemployment rates since 1976. Colorado's rate, at 2.6 percent, was the nation's lowest.

The unemployment rate in those states fell because more residents found work. In some cases, the rate falls when those out of work stop looking and are no longer counted as unemployed.

VA Makes Curbing Veteran Suicides A Top PriorityThe Associated Press

U.S. Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Scott Blackburn says a top priority of the agency is to find ways to curb suicides among veterans and boost access to mental health care.

Blackburn visited with patients, doctors and administrators at the VA hospital in Albuquerque on Friday. Staffing shortages were among the concerns raised.

Blackburn, an Army veteran, said it's unacceptable that about 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Of those, data shows about six receive care through the VA system and only half of them see a mental health provider.

Administrators acknowledged that recruiting psychiatrists has been a challenge in New Mexico but that the shortage extends beyond the VA system.

Hospital officials said New Mexico currently has a shortage of about 130 psychiatrists and is in need of dozens of primary care physicians.

Officials Confirm Deaths Of 2 Endangered Wolf PupsAssociated Press

Wildlife officials have confirmed that two endangered Mexican gray wolf pups died last month.

The Arizona Department of Game and Fish detailed the cases in a monthly report released Thursday.

The agency says a female pup with the Hoodoo Pack was found dead in Arizona in March. The cause remains under investigation.

A male pup with Arizona's Bluestem Pack died after being captured for a medical evaluation. Officials say testing confirmed the animal had canine distemper.

The most recent survey conducted by federal and state officials involved in the reintroduction program showed at least 113 wolves spread between Arizona and New Mexico. That marked an improvement over the previous year.

The survey also showed that 50 wild-born pups survived in 2016 compared with half that the previous year.

Criticism Of Albuquerque Middle School Sports Cuts GrowsAssociated Press

New Mexico education officials on Thursday joined the chorus of people who are criticizing Albuquerque Public Schools for proposing to cut to middle school sports next year.

Deputy Public Education Secretary Paul Aguilar issued a statement saying parents deserve to know that pay for the district's top administrators has increased dramatically in just five years and now tops $4 million.

He also said there are now 35 administrators at the district who earn six figures, nearly double the number in 2011 despite a drop in enrollment.

"APS would rather pay more money for over-bloated bureaucracy than fund athletics for our children. That is unacceptable," he said. "They need to get their priorities straight, and they can start by cutting fat from the top."

District spokeswoman Monica Armenta did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment.

The cuts are part of the district's plan for its projected $25 million budget reduction.

Mexico Says Deportation Of 'Dreamer,' Mother Violated RulesAssociated Press

The Mexican government says the deportation of a mother of four U.S.-born children as well as that of a young man brought to the United States as a child violated U.S. rules.

Mexico's Foreign Relations department said Thursday it was assisting Maribel Trujillo, who lived in southwest Ohio after she entered the country illegally in 2002.

The department says a Mexican consulate in the U.S. had also contacted the family of Juan Manuel Montes, who was deported to Mexico despite having permission to be in the U.S. under the so-called "dreamer" program that shields young immigrants.

The department says the two deportations "represent a violation of the stated norms for deportation, given that neither of the Mexican citizens had a criminal record or represented a security risk."

Navajo Nation President Calls For Housing Board To ResignGallup Independent, Associated Press

The Navajo Nation President has called for the resignation of the current Navajo Housing Authority commissioners.

The Gallup Independent reported Wednesday that President Russell Begaye signed a letter addressed to the commissioners complaining about "extravagant uses of discretionary funds."

Begaye says commissioners are using their influence to build houses for their relatives. He says their meeting and trips have become excessive in nature.

The housing authority's public relations coordinator says the commissioners are aware of the letter, but had not yet received a copy of it as of Tuesday.

Albuquerque City Councilor Seeks US House Seat As DemocratAssociated Press

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis is running as a Democrat for U.S. Congress in New Mexico's central district.

Davis formally announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination on Thursday at a brief news conference. He is a former police officer who directs the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow New Mexico.

Democrats are hoping to maintain control of the Albuquerque-based congressional seat currently held by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lujan Grisham will not run for re-election to Congress as she seeks the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 elections.

Democrats have represented New Mexico's first congressional district since Heather Wilson left the office in 2009. Wilson has been nominated to serve as Air Force secretary by President Donald Trump.

New 'Delicioso' Postage Stamps Dedicated To Latino CuisineAssociated Press

From the kitchen table to the mail, the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday recognized the influence of Latino foods and flavors on American cuisine with the release of a new series of stamps.

The dedication ceremony for the Delicioso Forever Stamps was being held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

The stamps feature bright illustrations of tamales, flan, empanadas, chile rellenos, ceviche and the traditional soup sancocho.

Award-winning illustrator John Parra, known for his Latino-themed children's books, said in an interview that it was an honor to work on the project. For him, each stamp brings back memories of the meals shared with family while growing up in California.

Navajo Name Change Fails To Garner Enough SupportAssociated Press

A proposal that called for changing the name of the Navajo Nation to Dine Nation has failed to win enough support from the tribal council.

Legislation proposing the official name change went before the council Tuesday, with only nine delegates voting in favor. The measure was previously tabled in January in an effort to gather more perspective from elders and study the costs of making such a change.

Had it been approved, Council Delegate Jonathan Hale said the change would have only applied to tribal departments, divisions, agencies and other Navajo government enterprises.

Opponents argued that it would create confusion among Navajos and others.

Dine is the Navajo word meaning "the people" and is commonly how tribal members refer to themselves.