NM Democrats Condemn Veto Of Court Funds, Former Lawmaker Loses Seat - Gets Hired By Administration

Feb 2, 2017

New Mexico Democrats Condemn Veto Of Court FundsThe Associated Press

Senate Democrats are criticizing as irresponsible and disheartening a veto of emergency court funding by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe said Thursday in a statement that the governor is ignoring urgent warnings from the judiciary that courts soon will run out of money to pay juries. Jurors currently receive about $50 day.

Sen. Nancy Rodriguez of Santa Fe calls the veto disheartening and says state court budgets cannot be stretched further.

Martinez says more discussion of court efficiencies is needed and that the New Mexico Board of Finance will reconsider an emergency funding request it turned down in December. House Republicans have introduced a bill to fill the budget shortfall in the judiciary.

The Administrative Office of the Courts says it needs an additional $1.6 million to pay for juries during the fiscal year ending in June. The state Supreme Court says it will start furloughing staff and close for nine days if it does not receive an additional $80,000 soon to pay salaries.

Former Lawmaker Loses Seat, Gets Hired By Administration The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A former lawmaker who carried several of Gov. Susana Martinez's anti-crime bills before losing his seat has been hired by the administration to help run the Corrections Department.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Corrections Department Secretary-Designate David Jablonski announced Wednesday the former state rep. Paul Pacheco will join the department as deputy secretary.

In his announcement, Jablonski cited Pacheco's legislative career, his 27 years with the Albuquerque Police Department and his term as president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association as reasons why he will bring strong experiences to the department.

Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, served four years in the house before losing his re-election bid to democrat Daymon Ely in November.

New Mexico Increases Scrutiny For Conflicts Of InterestThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Secretary of State's Office plans to post online financial disclosure statements detailing income, investments and other business ties for hundreds of state officials including lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries and the governor.

Agency spokesman John Blair said disclose forms will be posted online as soon as next week. In recent years, the information has been available upon request only.

Filed by most officials on a Jan. 31 deadline, the disclosures are designed as one precaution against conflicts of interest in government under the Financial Disclosure Act and are signed under penalty of perjury.

A recent analysis by the nonprofit group New Mexico Ethics Watch found that disclosure forms are plagued by omissions and evasive information. The state Legislature is considering reforms to the Financial Disclosure Act.

Albuquerque Schools Face Cuts Due To Dwindling Cash ReservesThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools are facing continued pressure as its cash reserves dwindle in the wake of budget reductions by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman said on Wednesday that a reduction in cash reserves approved by Martinez could force the district to have to choose what checks can be paid.

APS uses its cash reserves, which currently stand at $53 million, for critical areas including summer payroll. The fund also helps APS maintain a strong credit rating and covers state and federal programs until government reimbursements totaling tens of millions of dollars come in.

Coleman says if the district spends more than it is owed in reimbursements, it could lose its ability to pay its bills.

Legislation Seeks To Block Border WallAlbuquerque Journal

A group of Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill this week to block a planned border wall by President Donald Trump.

The Albuquerque Journal reports it would not allow state land to be used for a wall. Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said the wall is ill-conceived.

However Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has proposed a land swap where 32,000 acres of state trust lands and mineral rights within three miles of the Mexican border would be swapped for federal lands in southern New Mexico.

Absent this swap, the Trump Administration would have to pay the state $3 million in easement fees to be able to use state land for a wall.

Meanwhile the Santa Fe New Mexican reports a group of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, hunters and hikers protested Wednesday in Santa Fe against possible plans to transfer federal lands to state control.

Jesse Deubel with United Bowhunters of New Mexico said if land is turned over to the state it could be used to seek political favors.

New Mexico AG Joins With Water Users In Rio Grande Fight - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Texas and New Mexico are locked in a battle before the U.S. Supreme Court over management of one of the longest rivers in North America and there's no indication the case will be dismissed.

So New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is joining forces with downstream users on the Rio Grande to develop a new strategy that he says will incorporate the best available science.

He's aiming for a solution that protects New Mexico's water and the regional economy.

New Mexico and Texas have spent millions of dollars on the case, and Balderas said he's hopeful the states can find agreement instead of letting it play out before the high court.

Balderas met Wednesday in Santa Fe with some stakeholders, including the city of Las Cruces and the New Mexico Pecan Growers Association.

Bill Seeks To Outlaw 'Coyote-Hunting Contests' In New MexicoAssociated Press

A previously introduced proposal seeks to ban coyote-hunting competitions in New Mexico.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn would outlaw coyote-killing contests after a number of recent competitions draw anger from animal rights advocates.

The measure would make the contests illegal in the state but not prevent landowners for hunting the predators on their property.

In recent years, a southeastern New Mexico gun shop drew criticism for hosting a coyote hunting competition. It was one of many gun shops that have hosted similar events where winners receive prizes like firearms.

The bill would not outlaw hunting contest of other unprotected species.

College Campuses Hold 'World Hijab Day' EventsAssociated Press

College campuses across the U.S honored "World Hijab Day" with Muslim female students showing non-Muslims how to wear the head covering used by some women who practice Islam.

Students at the University of New Mexico on Wednesday hosted a booth on campus and helped non-Muslims try on the hijab before they posted selfies on social media.

Sarah Rivali of Albuquerque tried on the hijab along with a few dozen other women for the first time. She says the head covering made her feel beautiful.

The day, founded in 2013 by New Yorker Nazma Khan, started in reaction to Muslim women being harassed for wearing the hijab. Organizers ask non-Muslim women to wear hijabs for a day in solidarity with Muslim women worldwide.

Hobbs Officials Respond To Auditors' FindingsAssociated Press

The city of Hobbs says it has cooperated with the state auditor's office and is working to implement policy changes to ensure the confidence of citizens and the state agency.

The city said in a statement issued Wednesday that it self-reported the majority of the issues outlined by the auditor's office following an investigation into allegations about possible violations of the city's ethics code.

The city also says it has submitted a corrective action plan to the state to improve transparency and accountability for government spending.

Officials say proposed changes to the procurement policy include a requirement that all elected officials and employees disclose financial interests as it directly relates to the city of Hobbs.

The annual disclosures would be reviewed by the city manager as well as finance and legal staff to determine if any conflicts exist.

New Mexico Governor, Utility Unveil Facebook Solar PlansAssociated Press

An Albuquerque-based solar company has been awarded a $37 million contract to install tens of thousands of solar panels in the New Mexico desert to power a data center being built by social media giant Facebook.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, officials with the state's largest electric utility and economic development leaders gathered Wednesday at Affordable Solar to make the announcement.

New Mexico-based Array Technologies will provide the tracking systems for the panels.

The Republican governor told the crowd that efforts to build a predictable business environment over the last few years are what helped attract Facebook and now the ripple effects on the economy are showing.

The bidding process for the solar project spurred international competition.

Affordable Solar plans to start construction on the first of three 10 megawatt sites later this year.

Police: 2-Year-Old Fatally Shot In Carlsbad KOB-TV, Associated Press

A two-year-old boy was fatally shot on Wednesday and police were still piecing together what happened.

KOB-TV reports that the shooting happened around noon and appears to be accidental.

Spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Moyers said several children were playing at an apartment complex when one of them fired a handgun. All of the kids were under the age of 5.

Police were still interviewing witnesses late on Wednesday and no further information was available.

New Mexico Gov.: Nation Needs Thorough Vetting ProcessAssociated Press

The nation's only Latina governor says President Donald Trump's temporary entry ban on seven Muslim-majority countries could have been rolled out more smoothly but that the nation needs to assess its vetting process.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez made the comments Wednesday during a stop in Albuquerque. She said there was confusion because Trump's executive order affected those who already had visas.

Still, the Republican governor said she understands the president is trying to ensure the safety of Americans and others living in the country.

She said the nation needs to make sure its vetting process allows people who are refugees to enter but that the process be thorough enough so that Americans have confidence that people intent on doing harm cannot use the system as a way into the country.

Base Identifies Hurt Service Member's SquadronAssociated Press

The Air Force says that the person injured in a training accident on a southern New Mexico military range was assigned to the 7th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Bliss, Texas.

That person has not been identified.

Officials at Holloman Air Force Base say a person who was killed during the Tuesday night incident was a civilian contractor while the person who was injured was an Air Force service member.

The 7th Air Support Operations Squadron is a geographically-separate unit assigned to the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing located at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

The accident involved members of a ground-control party struck as two F-16 jets used unspecified air-to-ground munitions at a range that's part of the White Sands Missile Range complex near Holloman.