New Mexico Ranks 49th In Child Well-Being, New Rules Proposed For Campaign Reports

Jun 13, 2017

Southwestern States Rank Among Lowest In Child Well-Being - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Three Southwestern states are ranked near the bottom when it comes to child well-being, with New Mexico leading the way among its neighbors.

The annual Kids Count report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks New Mexico 49th, ahead of only Mississippi. Louisiana, Nevada and Arizona fill in the rest of the bottom five.

The report considers numerous measures like poverty rates, reading proficiency and teen birth rates.

In New Mexico, advocates say there's one bright spot. The state jumped from 44th to 37th in the health category since more children have access to care through the expansion of Medicaid and are likely getting checkups and vaccinations.

Arizona also has fewer children without insurance but more children living in poverty.

New Mexico finished last in education with a high percentage of fourth graders not proficient in reading, and Nevada followed for the number of children not participating in early learning programs.

New Campaign Disclosure Rules Proposed For New Mexico – The Associated Press

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is proposing changes to the state's campaign finance reporting rules for candidates and committees designed to provide more detailed and accurate disclosures of political contributions.

Toulouse Oliver published Tuesday proposed rules that address contributions to political committees that both coordinate with candidates and operate independently. Three public hearings on the rules will be held during July at Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.

The draft rules follow in the footsteps of legislation vetoed in April by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez that would have made more information available about unlimited independent political donations from corporations, unions and other groups.

Martinez said the bill would have hampered advocacy work by charities.

Toulouse Oliver wants reforms in place before the next statewide elections in 2018.

New Mexico City Considers Plan For $35M Airport TerminalThe Associated Press

Officials in one of the Southwest's most notable tourist destinations are developing plans for a $35 million passenger terminal at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport.

Mayor Javier Gonzales' administration is crafting the proposal but financing for the five-year project — which includes roads, parking lots and aircraft parking ramps — hasn't been sorted out.

The proposal is part of a larger effort by Santa Fe to boost air traffic, making the city-owned airport an economic development hub.

Aviation officials say the current terminal is more than 60 years old and cramped. About 154,000 passengers pass through the airport annually on flights connecting to Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.

The city is part of a public-private alliance that has been promoting the airport to travelers as an alternative to Albuquerque's international airport.

New Mexico Utility Blames Vandals For Recent Power Outage – The Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric utility is blaming vandals for a recent power outage that affected customers in several areas.

Officials with Public Service Co. of New Mexico said Tuesday they're working with law enforcement to identify the person or people responsible for damaging electrical equipment the night of June 10.

The damage resulted in an interruption that lasted about a half-second. No serious effects were reported.

Just before midnight, security systems showed a suspect approaching a substation. The surveillance footage is being reviewed by authorities.

Tampering with electrical equipment or facilities is a crime, and the utility has partnered with Crime Stoppers to offer a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the vandals.

The utility serves about 500,000 customers in communities around the state.

Tuition Increase Approved For New Mexico State UniversityThe Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

New Mexico State University's Board of Regents has approved a 6 percent tuition-and-fee increase for the university's main campus and community college system.

Las Cruces Sun-News reports the regents approved the tuition hike at a special meeting on Monday.

An in-state, main-campus student taking 12 credit hours will pay $184 more per semester under the approval, taking the total tuition-and-fee cost to $3,230. A student taking 15 credit hours or more will pay $197 more per-semester.

NMSU administrators asked for the increase, saying the institution has faced steep cuts from the state Legislature in recent years, as well as declines in enrollment.

Investigations Blame Officers For New Mexico Jail Escape – The Associated Press

Investigations into a New Mexico jail found officers improperly placed an inmate accused of a murder in a minimum security unit and failed to notice "compromised" fencing through which two inmates managed to escape.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Sandoval County posted redacted versions of internal and external investigations Monday into the May 5 escape of Paul Garcia and Blake McPherson from the Sandoval County Jail.

According to a Sandoval County spokesman, two jail officers assigned to the minimum restrictive housing unit are facing disciplinary action and all detention center officers will undergo refresher training.

Investigators determined the two officers in the unit failed to properly monitor inmates as they moved in and out of the recreation yard.

Investigators: EPA Had No Rules For Working At Risky Mines – Associated Press

Government investigators say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had no rules for working around old mines when the agency inadvertently triggered a massive spill from a Colorado mine that polluted rivers in three states.

The EPA's Office of Inspector General said Monday the agency started work on safety standards after the spill and expects to release them this week.

An EPA-led crew was excavating at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado in 2015 when a debris pile collapsed, releasing 3 million gallons of wastewater tainted with heavy metals into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Native American tribes in those states were also affected.

State, tribal and federal officials have criticized the EPA for not taking more precautions, such as drilling into the mine to determine how much water was pent up inside.

New Mexico School Leader Cites Funding Shortfall – Associated Press

Attorneys for public school districts and parents of students are giving opening statements in a trial about the adequacy of funding in New Mexico.

A trial opened Monday in district court that could change the way public school districts are funded by a state with the second highest level of poverty in the nation.

Marisa Bono of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund says the state of New Mexico is illegally neglecting to provide educational opportunities for many impoverished students, along with Native American students and those studying English as a second language.

Defense attorney Jeff Wechsler says the state public education system is vigorous and spending more won't necessarily improve student performance.

The trial could affect how much money the state devotes to public schools and which students are afforded more resources.

New Mexico's US 550 Continues To Be Deadly Major Highway – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Government traffic data shows that highway U.S. 550 in northwestern New Mexico could be the state's deadliest major highway.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports U.S. 550 continued to have a high fatality rate after the state finished widening the highway to four lanes in 2001. The New Mexico portion of U.S. 550 starts at Bernalillo, located north of Albuquerque, and runs through Cedar Hill before reaching Colorado. The highway does not have cable barriers or median barriers.

According to the report, several fatalities on U.S. 550 were caused by vehicles veering into oncoming traffic.

The state Department of Transportation says there was a slight decrease in the number of fatal crashes in 2015 and 2016. They did not say where the decrease was due to safety improvements.

Drowning Fears Up In US West As Rivers Surge With Snowmelt – Associated Press, Albuquerque Journal

Officials fear a surge in drownings following record snowfall this winter as the weather heats up in California and other U.S. western states.

Several drownings have already been reported in frigid, swift rivers that are popular for swimming, whitewater rafting and fishing.

Some California rivers have been closed for recreation by officials in the name of safety.

And rivers in Utah and Nevada are expected to continue surging for the next several weeks.

The Albuquerque Journal reported a Santa Fe man drowned in the Rio Grande Sunday while kayaking near Pilar. Another man drowned in May while rafting in the area.

Moose Mutlow of the Yosemite National Park Swift Water Rescue Team says people need to be extremely cautious at rivers this year.

He says the powerful water tempts people in for selfies or swims that can turn tragic.

U.S. Forest Service ranger Eric LaPrice says six people have died in California's rugged Tule River this year.

Police Video Shows Rescue Of Kidnap Victim Bound By Chains – Associated Press

Newly released video shows New Mexico police officers stopping a van that was wanted in connection to a Nevada kidnapping and then finding a woman bound by chains in the back of the vehicle.

Video from one of the officer's cameras shows the woman thanking police before being unchained.

Authorities say the woman had been stalked by an ex-boyfriend and his companion and that more than a year of planning went into the January kidnapping.

The suspects — Jack William Morgan and Samuel Brown — have pleaded not guilty to federal kidnapping charges and are awaiting trial in Nevada.

Dash and lapel camera video shows the Jan. 30 traffic stop on Española's main street. The woman tells officers that she was dragged from her home.

Study: $15 An Hour Needed For 2-Bedroom Rental In New Mexico - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A new study says residents in 10 New Mexico counties must earn $15 an hour or more to rent a two-bedroom apartment without having to spend more than 30 percent of their income.

Data released by an affordable housing advocacy group found that residents in Santa Fe County had to earn at least $20.15 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental.

The report says those in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties needed $16.88 an hour for a two-bedroom place in their area.

The report was issued last week by the Washington, D.C.-based National Low Income Housing Coalition.

With a minimum wage of $7.50 in New Mexico, the study says residents in the state would have to work 84 hours a week at that rate to afford a two-bedroom rental.

Former Legislator Running For Lt. Governor – Santa Fe New Mexican

Longtime former lawmaker Rick Miera is running for lieutenant governor, joining two other Democratic candidates.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Miera of Albuquerque announced his candidacy Monday. He served in the state House of Representatives from 1991 to 2014 and was House Majority Leader for the last two years of his tenure. He also chaired the House Education Committee.

Other candidates include David McTeigue of Rio Rancho, a state employee and newcomer to politics. Also running is retired teacher Jeff Carr of Eagle Nest, who is active with the Democratic Party.

No Republicans have announced their candidacy for the position. Incumbent John Sanchez cannot run again due to term limits.