Monday News Roundup: New Mexico Independent Challenges Ballot Access

Jul 7, 2014

New Mexico Independent Challenges Ballot Access - The Associated Press

A Public Education Commission member has filed a lawsuit challenging New Mexico's requirements for independent candidates to secure a place on the ballot.

Tyson Parker of Corrales brought the lawsuit in federal district court last week, contending the state's election laws discriminate against independent candidates by requiring an unfairly high number of voter signatures on nominating petitions.

The signature requirement is about three times greater than for minor party candidates, according to the lawsuit.

Parker was appointed to the commission last year by Gov. Susana Martinez.

He didn't qualify as a candidate for the general election because he submitted 1,379 petition signatures, which was short of the 2,196 required by law.

The lawsuit contends the filing requirement is unconstitutional. Parker is asking the court to place him on the ballot.

Space Tourism Right Around The Corner - The Associated Press

Virgin Galactic appears to be getting closer to reaching its long-delayed goal of launching tourists into space.

The company said Monday it has selected Hotel Encantado de Las Cruces as the preferred hotel for its elite roster of passengers, who will pay $200,000 a person to make the flights from Spaceport America.

The hotel says it will add some high-end suites and services to accommodate the space travelers. It also is working on upgrades that should boost it from a three to a Four Diamond property under the AAA rating system. New Mexico has no Five Diamond hotels, the top ranking.

Spaceport is 60 miles north of Las Cruces, and the lack of luxury lodging has been an issue. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson at one point said he might build his own hotel at spaceport, but that never came to fruition.

NM Leads Nation In Alcohol-Related DeathsThe Associated Press

New Mexico leads the nation when it comes to deaths related to excessive alcohol use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a recent study that New Mexico experienced more deaths per capita that were attributable to alcohol. The rate of 51 deaths per 100,000 people was more than any other state.

Nationally, the study found excessive drinking led to about 88,000 deaths per year from 2006 to 2010 and shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years.

A state Department of Health spokeswoman says New Mexico has had a long struggle with alcohol and has led the nation for nearly two decades.

AG Seeks To Intervene In Veteran's AppealThe Associated Press

General Gary King is asking the New Mexico Supreme Court for permission to intervene in a lawsuit on behalf of a disabled veteran who was fired by the state after serving two tours in Iraq.

King, a Democrat running against Gov. Susana Martinez, says the state should have already settled the case. Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell says the man was fired twice previously by the Richardson administration for insubordination and not showing up to work.

In 2009, a Gallup jury awarded $100,000 to Phillip Ramirez, a National Guardsman with PTSD who claimed his firing from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Department violated the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act requiring employers to accommodate veterans' disabilities.

CYFD appealed the case, and it was reversed by the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

Las Cruces Council To Consider Climate MeasureThe Associated Press and Las Cruces Sun-News

The Las Cruces City Council will consider a proposed resolution that would urge Congress to pass legislation promoting reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the council is scheduled to take up the proposal today.

The measure states Las Cruces has a track record of acknowledging climate change and taking steps to counter it, such as the city's sustainability action plan.

It also states urgent action is needed since further delay only increases the risks to water supplies and boosts the frequency of severe weather.

The measure also supports reducing the nation's carbon emissions to 10 percent of 1990 levels by 2050 and backs a proposal by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall that calls for a quarter of all electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.

Artifacts Discovered By New Mexico Highway Worker - The Associated Press and Daily Times

Construction workers widening a northwestern New Mexico highway in front of an archaeological site found artifacts that officials may be from the ancient Puebloan culture.

The Daily Times reports that the pottery pieces and fragments of charcoal, burned corn fibers and other material were found last week when a laborer noticed something red and black glinting in the sun.

The Mountain States Constructors Inc. crew was widening U.S. Highway 64 in front of Salmon Ruins in Bloomfield.

Hector Beyale reported the discovered to a supervisor who alerted Salmon Ruins Executive Director Larry Baker, who says the pottery pieces might be from between 1100 and 1300 A.D.

Beyale says he's been to Mesa Verde National Park and Chaco Canyon National Historic Park and recognized the pottery's painted black lines.

Delegate Expects Navajo Council To Revamp Company - The Associated Press and Daily Times

A Navajo Nation official says he expects the Navajo National Council will soon consider revamping the oversight of the tribe's strife-torn energy company.

Delegate Russell Begaye of Shiprock says he and other tribal leaders have been working to resolve conflict within the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Co.

The Daily Times reports that four of the current board's nine members were removed in December by being voted off the board or by term limitations, and that remaining border members then ousted CEO Robert Joe.

However, the Navajo Supreme Court ruled June 20 that the removals of the four board members didn't follow required procedures.

Begaye says he expects the council will approve a new charter that would reduce the board to seven members.

Award Winning Author To Teach At UNM The Associated Press

Award winning author N. Scott Momaday will be teaching at the University of New Mexico starting in the fall.

The university recently announced that Momaday will be a visiting professor in creative writing and American literary studies. He will specialize in poetry and the Native American oral tradition.

A UNM alumni, Momaday received the National Medal of Arts in 2007 for his writing and work that celebrated and preserved Native American art and oral tradition.

He also received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his first novel as well as a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award and numerous other honors.

A member of the Kiowa Nation, Momaday is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds 20 honorary degrees from colleges and universities.

NM Forestry Division Begins Seedling SalesThe Associated Press

Seedlings from the New Mexico State Forestry Division will be going on sale for fall distribution starting Monday.

Nearly five dozen different species of tree and shrub seedlings will be available to New Mexico landowners as part of the division's conservation program.

Land owners must have at least an acre, and they must agree to use the seedlings for purposes such as erosion control, wildlife habitat, reforestation, windbreaks or riparian restoration.

The seedlings will be shipped in September.

Conservation foresters say waiting for the summer heat to pass and planting the native trees and shrubs in the fall will give them a head start on growth as winter turns to spring.

Salmon Ruins Gets Funding For RepairsThe Associated Press and Daily Times

Salmon Ruins employees are working to preserve history at the Chacoan site with help from a $26,400 state grant and a $28,000 match from the National Park Service.

The Daily Times reports that site officials are still working on repairs that date back to major excavation efforts in the 1970s.

The museum and heritage park's executive director, Larry Baker, says the money will go a long way toward getting much more work done.

Work on 26 wall areas at the 22-acre site began in May and is expected to be complete by Aug. 1.

Some of the structures being repaired date back to 1088 A.D.

New Mexico Wildfire At 95 Percent Containment - The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

A wildfire that charred about 5.6 square miles in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains is nearly fully contained, thanks in part to an assist from Mother Nature.

Rain has fallen on the Diego Fire south of Coyote in recent days and humidity levels have been high, giving firefighters the upper hand as they worked to bolster containment lines and mop up along the fire's perimeter.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the lightning-sparked fire is now 95 percent contained.

Approximately 700 personnel were assigned to the fire at the peak of firefighting efforts, but fire team spokeswoman Dorotea Martinez says that number had dropped to 450 by Sunday afternoon.