NM Bill Would Ban Drones Near Power Plants, Lawmakers Unveil New Mexico Budget Plan

Feb 20, 2017

New Mexico Bill Would Ban Drones Near Power Plants, AirportsThe Associated Press

A New Mexico lawmaker has proposed banning drones from flying within 500 feet of power plants, refineries and other such critical-infrastructure facilities.

Violations under the bill by Republican Sen. Greg Baca of Belen would be misdemeanors.

While noting there are federal regulations governing drone usage, Baca says it's important for the state to have regulations protecting critical facilities.

Other such critical facilities include airports, government buildings and law enforcement and military facilities.

Baca introduced the bill earlier this month.

Lawmakers Unveil New Mexico Budget PlanThe Associated Press

Democratic New Mexico lawmakers are advancing a $6.1 budget plan that would increase classroom spending, shore up judicial funding and replenish incentives for job training and business expansions.

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Monday approved the spending bill for the fiscal year starting July 1 in a vote that divided Democrats and Republicans.

The spending bill relies on a proposed $218 million increase in revenues that was endorsed by another House panel on Monday over objections by Republican lawmakers who favor greater government austerity other options that avoid tax increases.

The Democrat-sponsored revenue increases include sales taxes on nonprofit organizations, reduced deductions for health care practitioners, trucking fees, automobile sales taxes, and online retail sales taxes. Democratic Rep. Patricia Lundstrom says the package gives money back to classrooms.

New Mexico Senators Seek Meeting On ImmigrationAssociated Press

New Mexico's two U.S. senators are seeking a meeting with federal immigration officials in hopes of clarifying whether any changes have been made in response to President Donald Trump's immigration executive orders.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich say they're getting reports that innocent people are being targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the wake of a push by the administration to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The two Democrats also said Friday they would not support any plan to mobilize the National Guard to remove unauthorized immigrants.

The White House said the draft proposal was rejected and would not be part of plans to carry out Trump's immigration policy.

The senators say they want to determine a path forward toward what they called sensible immigration policy.

New Mexico's Catholic Bishops called the National Guard proposal a "declaration of some form of war."

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, says using the National Guard on a peaceful population would be like declaring a war within the U.S. borders.

DA Clears Las Cruces Police Officer In January Shooting Associated Press

The Doña Ana County District Attorney's office has cleared a Las Cruces police officer in the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding fugitive.

Authorities on Friday announced the outcome of the review into the Jan. 24 shooting, saying the officer's actions were justified.

Police say officers and a U.S. Marshals Service agent were trying to apprehend 29-year-old Jeremy Lopez-Robledo of Las Cruces when he was shot.

The Marshals Service was seeking Robledo for violating his probation. A warrant was issued for his arrest and authorities said at the time that he had a history of aggression toward police and was known to carry a deadly weapon.

Investigators say it was revealed through video and witness accounts that Robledo had the knife in his hand and was being aggressive toward the officers.

Actor Shia Labeouf Brings Anti-Trump Piece To New MexicoAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Actor Shia LaBeouf has brought a performance-art piece against President Donald Trump to New Mexico's largest city.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that LaBeouf, along with two other artists, brought on Saturday a 24-hour live-streaming camera mounted to a wall with the message in block letters: "He will not divide us," referring to Trump. The artists want people to go up to the camera and repeat the phrase

LaBeouf told the Journal: "We are anti the normalization of division. That's it. The rest of the info is right there, chief, I got nothing else to say to you."

LaBeouf was arrested in New York City last month after he got into an altercation with another man during the performance art project.  He faces a misdemeanor assault charge and is due in court April 4.

Startup To Market Foldable Sheets Of Solar CellsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An Albuquerque startup plans to market foldable sheets of solar cells that could be used to power devices for consumers as well as satellites.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Sandia National Laboratories created cells known as solar glitter that were then used by mPower Technology Inc. to make sheets of Dragon SCALEs.

Startup founder and CEO Murat Okandan said these sheets are almost like bandanas and could be fitted to buildings.

The startup invested about $1 million to develop Dragon SCALEs and signed onto a commercial license with Sandia last month to bring solar glitter to market.

Okandan said early interest has been for possible aerospace uses.

Mary Monson of Sandia said the lab sees this as a big win for technology commercialization.

Lawmakers Question Police Chief About Violence Scenes In AdSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico legislators questioned Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall during a confirmation hearing about his department's recruiting ad that showed a police SWAT team burst into a home as officers fired guns.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Senate Rules Committee members questioned the ad's focus on violence while holding on hearing Friday on McCall's reappointment to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board.

McCall responded that he used the ad first shown in 2015 to draw attention to his department, not to promote violence. He also said the state board is increasingly focusing on community policing.

The committee eventually endorsed McCall's reappointment and the full Senate later confirmed him.

Tribes Hope Trump's 'America First' Helps First Americans Associated Press

Native Americans are hoping President Donald Trump doesn't forget them as he promises to put "America first."

Tribes across the country have been reaching out to the Republican administration since it took office last month, saying they're ready to help it achieve its campaign promises.

Among them are five large tribes in Oklahoma as well as a tribe in Massachusetts seeking reservation lands for a $1 billion resort casino.

The National Congress of American Indians says the administration needs to include tribes in its broader plans for tax reform and energy development.

But tribes elsewhere have already steeled for battle. A rally is planned for March 10 in Washington D.C. following Trump's order expediting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

The Trump administration didn't respond to requests for comment.

Feds: More Wolves Surviving In The SouthwestAssociated Press

There are now more Mexican gray wolves roaming the American Southwest than at any time since the federal government began trying to reintroduce the predators nearly two decades ago.

The annual survey released Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows at least 113 wolves are spread between southwestern New Mexico and southeast Arizona. This is an improvement over the 97 wolves that were documented the previous year.

Federal officials say the numbers are encouraging but that more work needs to be done to ensure the population grows by about 10 percent each year.

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

In all, officials reported a total of 21 packs with at least 50 wolves in New Mexico and 63 wolves in Arizona.

Authorities: Santa Fe Police Officer Hits, Kills PedestrianAssociated Press

Authorities say a Santa Fe police officer fatally struck a pedestrian while taking a suspect to jail.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office says officer Lucas Sena hit and killed 41-year-old Francisco Navarette at an intersection along Cerrillos Road on Thursday night.

Sheriff's spokesman Juan Rios said he didn't know if Navarette was in a crosswalk.

The case is still under investigation.

Police spokesman Greg Gurule said Sena was not injured and the suspect he was transporting complained of neck pain but was OK. Gurule could not immediately say if Sena was placed on leave.

New Mexico Bill Halting Immigration Law Enforcement MovesAssociated Press

A proposal that would prevent New Mexico law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal immigration laws has cleared a Senate hurdle.

The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 4-2 on Friday to move the bill that would prohibit New Mexico police departments or sheriff's offices from cooperating with federal agents in deporting immigrants suspected of living in the country illegally.

The bill also would prohibit state agencies from reporting a person's immigration status or religion.

Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat, introduced the measure and said it was needed to prevent discrimination.

A similar measure is moving in the New Mexico House.

President Donald Trump campaigned on building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and promised to deploy a "deportation force."

New Mexico City To Appeal Commandments Case To Supreme Court Daily Times, Associated Press

A New Mexico city will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a lower court ruling requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument outside City Hall.

The Daily Times reports that Bloomfield city councilors voted to appeal the case to the nation's highest court after a closed session Monday night.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th circuit left in place a lower court ruling that concluded that the Christian monument violates the Constitution's prohibition on the government endorsing a religion.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the 2012 lawsuit on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who objected to the monument.

ACLU attorney Andrew Schultz said he doesn't expect the Supreme Court to consider the case and, if it does, he thinks it will rule against the city.