NM Cities Could See Rising Costs For Obamacare, Audit Questions Las Vegas Community College Pay

Oct 31, 2016

New Mexico Cities Could See Rising Costs For ObamacareAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico cities could have to pay significantly more money to comply with the Affordable Care Act when the law's "Cadillac Tax" for expensive health plans takes effect.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that starting in 2020, the law will impose a tax on high-cost insurance plans.

Estimates for Albuquerque show the city won't face the tax until 2024. The city's $1 million payment to comply with the law is expected to drop slightly next year before steadily increasing until 2024, when Albuquerque could be paying as much as $4 million.

Those concerned about the tax say it could result in employers offering workers less expensive plans with higher deductibles or reducing what services are covered.

Supporters say it'll encourage more efficient health care spending and could put more money into workers' pockets.

Audit Questions Las Vegas Community College Hiring, Pay – The Associated Press & The Las Vegas Optic

A recently completed special audit of a Las Vegas community college is questioning the school's hiring practices.

The Las Vegas Optic reports that according to the report there were multiple instances of family members of the Luna Community College president and board members receiving jobs, promotions and substantial pay hikes.

Copies of the report are being forwarded to the Attorney General's Office and to the Office of the State Auditor.

The Higher Education Department, which conducted the audit, said Friday that the audit was completed in response to complaints voiced by college officials and staff.

A response submitted to the department by Luna College officials defends the hiring decisions, promotions and pay raises, calling them all reasonable and based on circumstances.

Verified Sighting Of Rare Bird Marks First In New MexicoThe Associated Press & The Carlsbad Current-Argus

Experts say a small bird found near Lake Carlsbad is the first verified sighting of the black rail species in New Mexico.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the bird was found last week by a woman who noticed it was unable to fly.

It was taken to the Desert Willow Veterinary Clinic, where it was nursed back to health with a steady diet of meal worms and seeds. Veterinarian Sammie Uhrig says the bird wasn't injured but appeared weak and underweight.

How the black rail came to be in Carlsbad remains a mystery, as their natural habitats include coasts along the Gulf of Mexico.

New Mexico Ornithological Society member Steve West says he has heard of black rails being seen in the state, but this is the first verified sighting.

UNM To Cut Costs At Publishing HouseThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The University of New Mexico is taking measures to cut costs at the school's UNM Press publishing house, which has racked up a cumulative deficit of about $6.3 million.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that President Bob Frank is moving the UNM Press from the school's academic branch to its administrative side. According to a memo from Frank obtained by the Journal, the publishing house came up short by nearly a half-million dollars in the most recent fiscal year.

Publishing house director John Byram said it would be irresponsible to speak with the journal before talking to his staff about the changes.

According to an economic impact report of fiscal year 2015 to 2016, UNM Press staff say it was never meant to be a self-supporting operation.

Protesters Greet Trump, Supporters At Albuquerque RallyAssociated Press

Protesters in Albuquerque greeted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a last minute stop in the nation's most Hispanic state, causing minor scuffles and disrupting his speech.

Seven demonstrators were escorted out Sunday during a rally at an airport hangar next to the Albuquerque International Sunport. Meanwhile, some protesters and Trump supporters clashed outside after heated arguments turned violent. One protester spat at an Albuquerque officer in tactical gear.

No injuries were reported, and no arrests were made.

Trump's visit came five months after a pre-primary campaign stop in May turned violent after some protesters outside sparked a riot.

New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez, a fellow Republican and the nation's only Latina governor, has refused to support Trump.

2 Inmates Set To Appear In Court In Prison Van Escape CaseAssociated Press

Two New Mexico inmates are scheduled to appear in state court Monday on charges stemming from their escape from the back of a prison van earlier this year.

An arraignment in Carlsbad is set for Lionel Clah and Joseph Cruz, who have been charged in the March 19 escape.

Authorities say they bolted from a prison van along a desert highway near Artesia and hitched a ride 200 miles north to Albuquerque. Officers didn't realize the two had escaped until hours later when the van arrived at a Las Cruces prison.

A massive manhunt led to Cruz and Clah's separate arrests days later in Albuquerque.

Clah already is serving time for armed robbery. Cruz was sentenced to life in prison on a first-degree murder conviction.

Taos Man Accused Of Shooting At Neighbor Driving CarAssociated Press

A Taos man is accused of shooting at his neighbor's vehicle while her family, including a child, was inside.

Taos County sheriff's deputies say a woman reported shots being fired at her car Saturday afternoon.

According to the caller, she along with her husband and child were heading toward their home when neighbor Joseph Ferrara allegedly shot at them.

Deputies say Ferrara, who appeared unarmed, refused to leave his home.

He admitted to firing a weapon but denied shooting at anyone.

Deputies say he surrendered peacefully after an hour. Two handguns were recovered from his property.

He has been booked on one count each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and negligent use of a weapon.

It wasn't immediately clear Sunday if he had an attorney.

Ex-Investigator For Optum Files New Federal LawsuitAssociated Press

A former investigator for Optum Health New Mexico is refiling a lawsuit, alleging she was fired for exposing several behavioral health providers' defrauding of state Medicaid to law enforcement.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Saturday that Karen Clark filed the lawsuit earlier this month after a federal judge dismissed a similar complaint.

The judge said Clark failed to identify which Optum employees were connected to the alleged fraud.

In the suit, Clark names UnitedHealth Group Inc., subsidiary United Healthcare Services as defendants.

Clark, who was employed from October 2011 to April 2012, is asking for double back pay, damages and attorney fees.

Optum Consumer Solutions Group spokeswoman Christine Hauser declined to comment on the new complaint.

The state paid Optum to process reimbursement claims from 2009 to 2014.

Suspect In Carjacking, Abduction Of Girl Appears In CourtAssociated Press, KOB-TV

A woman accused of stealing a vehicle used to abduct a 4-year-old girl who was left abandoned at a New Mexico campground has made her first court appearance.

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports that 26-year-old Brittany Castro made an initial appearance Saturday in connection with a carjacking and kidnapping.

According to the criminal complaint, Castro faces charges including child abandonment, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and false imprisonment.

The girl's father told Albuquerque police that he and his wife were giving Castro a ride early Friday.

She allegedly took the couple's car while they stopped at an acquaintance's workplace. The child was inside.

Castro later left the girl at a KOA campground in Bernalillo.

Castro and the car were found at a home nearby and she was arrested.

Santa Fe To Have Native American Arts DistrictAssociated Press Albuquerque Journal

Santa Fe councilmembers have unanimously approved the establishment of a Native American arts district, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the ordinance calls for businesses selling authentic Native American merchandise to get a special business license and follow guidelines for signage.

Notices at registers would let shoppers know that they can request certificates of authenticity.

The district will encompass the downtown area and Canyon Road, which is lined with several galleries and shops.

Mayor Javier Gonzales says the ordinance will ensure the city's reputation as a source for genuine, high-quality Native American artwork and jewelry.

Some officials expressed concern with enforcement.

Councilor Joseph Maestas said he plans to introduce legislation to build on the ordinance's foundation.

Gallup To Allot $1 Million Budget For Detox CenterAssociated Press, Gallup Independent News

A detox center in Gallup will have an annual operating budget for the first time in nearly four years.

The Gallup Independent reports city officials have approved an annual budget of more than $1 million to Na'nizhoozhi Center Inc. Detox, freeing detox staff from having to spend time fundraising.

Previously, the center received operating funds only for two to four months at a time.

The funding will also cover the Shelter Care Center.

City councilors say most of the money was obtained through the liquor excise tax and state funds geared toward designated behavioral health investment zones.

City Chief Financial Officer Patty Holland says $242,000 is from a state grant.

The Navajo Nation Department of Behavioral Health previously operated Gallup Detox Center but ended its role there last year