Miners To Make More Room At WIPP, Grisham Unveils Economic Agenda

Oct 17, 2017

Miners To Make More Room For Nuclear Waste At US RepositoryThe Associated Press

Federal contract workers are expected to begin mining operations at the nation's nuclear waste dump in New Mexico for the first time in three years following a radiation release that contaminated part of the underground repository.

The U.S. Energy Department announced Tuesday that the work to carve out more disposal space from the ancient salt formation where the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is located will begin later this fall.

The contractor that runs the repository says the work is expected to be done in 2020.

In all, workers will remove more than 112,000 tons (101,605 metric tons) of salt, making way for a total of seven disposal rooms. At 300 feet long and more than 30 feet wide, a room can generally hold the equivalent of nearly 10,400 55-gallon (208-liter) drums.

Candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham Unveils Economic AgendaThe Associated Press

A prominent Democratic candidate for New Mexico governor says she would push if elected to increase the statewide minimum wage, lift a cap on film-industry subsidies and ramp up renewable energy requirements for electric utilities.

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday unveiled a 10-point plan to increase job opportunities and stimulate the state economy, as she seeks the Democratic nomination for governor.

The plan calls for a constitutional amendment to increase funding to per-kindergarten education with money from a state sovereign wealth fund.

Two-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for re-election in 2018.

Congressman Steve Pearce is the only candidate seeking the GOP nomination for governor. Pearce spokesman Greg Blair emphasized the need to attack poverty in New Mexico with better paying jobs and educational improvements.

City Councilor Issues Apology After Sending Text To JudgeThe Associated Press

A Rio Rancho city councilor has apologized after she says she accidently sent a text message that contained profanity to a municipal judge.

KRQE-TV reports that Judge G. Robert Cook filed an ethics complaint against City Councilor Cheryl Everett after he says she sent him a text with profanity directed at him by name last month.

Everett says the judge was critical of the council, but she did not intend to send him the text. She says she immediately tried to apologized, and in the future she "will focus on being more professional and productive."

City officials say the ethics complaint was dismissed and Everett will not face any punishments.

University Of New Mexico Reports Required Training ProgressThe Associated Press

Nearly 16,000 University of New Mexico students have participated in training intended to curb sexual misconduct as the university works toward compliance with a U.S. Department of Justice agreement.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the numbers were released on Monday as part of a progress report sent to the department after the university signed the agreement last year.

The agreement came in the wake of a 16-month investigation in which the department determined the university was not complying with laws that prohibit sex discrimination.

The agreement requires the university to conduct trainings for all undergraduate students by the end of the 2017. More than 26,000 students are currently enrolled at the university, and some students are exempt from the training.

University officials say dozens of training sessions are still scheduled.

Technology Guides Small Donations To Democratic CandidatesThe Associated Press

An online fundraising platform in the vein of PayPal is helping Democratic congressional candidates in New Mexico round up small contributions.

Campaign finance disclosures filed with federal regulators this week show individual candidates using ActBlue to raise as much as $59,000 from July through September.

State Democratic Party Chairman Richard Ellenberg said Tuesday that the fundraising platform makes it easy for people to make political contributions in small amounts at any time. He says that fits into the party's strategy for widening its base of financial support.

Democratic candidates appeared to be reporting source of small individual donations under $200 collected through ActBlue, though it is not required under federal campaign rules.

US Judge Weighs New Mexico Campaign RulesAssociated Press

It will be up to a U.S. district judge whether Republican Steve Pearce will be allowed to tap nearly $1 million in political contributions he collected while in Congress to use in his gubernatorial run.

Judge Judith Herrera heard hours of testimony Monday. She indicated she will make a decision soon on whether to grant Pearce's request for a preliminary injunction to block the secretary of state's office from enforcing limitations on campaign transfers from money raised in non-state races.

Under a campaign reporting law adopted in 2009, candidates running for state offices can transfer funds from one campaign account to another if they're running for a new state office.

Despite questions about the constitutionality of the provision, state election officials contend there's no mechanism that allows any candidate to transfer unlimited federal funds into a state campaign account under New Mexico's Campaign Reporting Act.

Southern New Mexico Now State's No.1 Export ZoneAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Southern New Mexico has dethroned the central region of the state as New Mexico's No.1 export zone thanks to a booming border port and declining activity at Intel Corp.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the U.S. Commerce Department's latest report on exports showed exports from the Albuquerque metropolitan area plummeted 43 percent last year, from $1.76 billion in 2015 to $1 billion in 2016.

Meanwhile, Doña Ana County's exports declined by only 1.5 percent, to $1.57 billion, making it the state's largest export zone for the first time.

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Trade Alliance manager Randy Trask says Albuquerque's fall from grace is not a reflection of export stagnation in the metro area, but rather it shows the  apparently shrinking role of Intel's Rio Rancho plant in the local economy.

New Mexico To Accept Tribal Documents For REAL IDFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

New Mexico will now accept certain Native American tribal documents to obtain a state's driver's license with federal REAL ID requirements.

The Daily Times of Farmington reports the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division said last week it will accept a Certificate of Indian Blood and an affidavit of birth issued by the Navajo Nation Office of Vital Records instead of a birth certificate.

Tribal and state officials announced the changes at a town hall meeting in Crownpoint, New Mexico.

The REAL ID Act requires proof of legal U.S. residency for those who want to use state identification to access certain areas of federal facilities or board flights.

State lawmakers revised New Mexico's driver licenses bill last year after pressure from the Obama Administration.

Hobbs Schools See Record Student Enrollment – AgainHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Enrollment in a southeastern New Mexico oil city has hit another record high.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports student enrollment at Hobbs Municipal Schools in Hobbs, New Mexico, has once again surpassed the 10,000 mark.

The district reported that as of the 40th day of school, it is serving 10,070 students, an increase of more than 1 percent over the enrollment when school was out last spring.

Two years ago the district surpassed the 10,000 students mark for a brief time, but enrollment fell as the oilfield turned sour.

School officials say the growth means the district will see extra funding this year.

Ex-Eunice Public Schools Bookkeeper Accused Of EmbezzlementAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police say a former bookkeeper for the Eunice Public Schools has been arrested on suspicion of embezzlement and fraudulent use of a credit card.

They say Kristen McLean has been booked into the Lea County Detention Center.

It was unclear Monday if she has a lawyer yet.

State Police didn't immediately release details about the charges against McLean or when the alleged offenses occurred.

After an initial inquiry was completed by the Eunice Public Schools, they requested the State Police for assistance.

Police say McLean failed to appear for two interviews about the allegations and didn't return calls or messages.

They got an arrest warrant for McLean based on the information provided from the school district.

Justices Reject New Mexico City's Ten Commandments AppealAssociated Press

The Supreme Court has turned away an appeal from a New Mexico city that is fighting a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lawn outside City Hall.

The justices on Monday let stand lower court rulings against Bloomfield, New Mexico.

The monument was first erected in 2011 and challenged a year later.

Lower courts concluded it violated the Constitution's ban on the government endorsing a religion.

Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the court's action because he was on the federal appeals court in Denver when it considered the matter.

UNM Sees Growth Among Online-Only Students In Last 3 YearsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico has seen a 65 percent increase in its number of online-only students in the last three years.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the school's leaders view the increase as a positive step toward broadening the student base but don't view it as a cure-all for the institution's larger budget woes.

This fall, the university has 1,857 online-only students, up from 1,536 last year and 1,122 in 2014.

The university currently has 7,877 students, out of a total 26,278, who take at least one online course.

Based on fall 2017 figures, 7 percent of all students at the state's largest university now attend exclusively through the internet, and nearly one out of every three UNM students take at least one online course.

New Mexico Congressional Candidates Report Campaign FinancesAssociated Press

Former Hobbs mayor Monty Newman says his campaign has raised $317,000 to run for New Mexico's southern congressional district.

Candidates for the U.S. House and Senate in 2018 elections have a Monday deadline to file campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.

Candidates are crowding into open races for New Mexico's sprawling southern district currently held by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce and an Albuquerque-based district held by Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Pearce and Lujan Grisham are running for governor and will leave Congress after fall elections.

Newman faces competition for the GOP nomination from state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, former state National Guard leader Andrew Salas and Carlsbad pharmacist Jack Volpato.

Proposed New Mexico Science Standards Omit Global WarmingBy Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A proposed overhaul of New Mexico's state science standards for public schools came under intense criticism Monday at a packed public hearing in the state capital for omitting or deleting references to global warming, evolution and the age of the Earth.

Comments at the hearing overwhelmingly sided against state revisions to a set of standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences. Of the 55 initial speakers, none backed the standards.

Public school teachers, state university faculty, Democratic Party officials and the science chairman for a school catering to local Native American students urged the Public Education Department, led by a recent appointee of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, to throw out its proposed changes and adopt unedited standards.

Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski did not attend the hearing. He wrote Sunday in a public letter that the customized standards will give teachers and families "flexibility and local control around science materials, curriculum and content."