NM Lawmakers Approve Emergency Court Funding, Navajo Lawmakers Table Measure To Change Name To Dine

Jan 27, 2017

New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Emergency Court FundingThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has approved emergency funding to cover the cost of juries, court interpreters and clerk's offices for several months in response to a funding crisis in the Judiciary.

The House or Representatives on Friday approved $1.1 million in emergency funding to stave off staff furloughs at the state Supreme Court, pay for jury trials and restore full-time public access to services provided by court clerks.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has three days to consider the legislation once it reaches her desk.

The bill also provides funding for the current legislative session and committees that draft legislation and track state agency performance throughout the year. House Republicans voted in unison against the legislation, saying it did not sufficiently reduce funding to the Legislature amid a budget crisis.

Navajo Lawmakers Table Measure To Change Name To Dine NationThe Associated Press 

Navajo Nation lawmakers have postponed consideration of a proposal that called for changing the name of the tribal government from Navajo to Dine.

Following nearly two hours of discussion on the final day of the tribal council's winter session, sponsor and Council Delegate Jonathan Hale agreed to table the measure to allow more time for the Navajo people to discuss and consider the change.

The measure will likely be brought up again during the spring council session.

Under the legislation, the name of the Navajo Nation would change to Dine Nation and the tribal president and all departments, divisions and agencies would use the phrase "Dine Nation" in describing the lands and people.

Dine is the Navajo word meaning "the people" and is commonly how tribal members refer to themselves.

New Mexico Lawmakers Stick With Concealed Gun RegulationsThe Associated Press 

A proposal that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun in New Mexico without a special license has stalled in its first legislative hearing.

The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted Friday to indefinitely table the bill that would allow anyone 18 and over to carry a concealed, loaded gun if they already meet essential requirements under current regulations.

States including Missouri, West Virginia, Mississippi and Idaho enacted similar "constitutional carry" measures last year that allow concealed guns without a permit. The proposal in New Mexico from Republican Sen. Steven Neville also has been filed as a constitutional amendment that would require approval by a majority of all lawmakers and a statewide vote.

New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange To Get New CEOThe Associated Press

The executive director of Arkansas' health insurance exchange has been tapped to run New Mexico's program.

The board of directors that oversees New Mexico's exchange announced the appointment of Cheryl Smith Gardner as the chief executive officer of BeWellnm on Friday. Officials say she has worked over the last 10 years on health insurance policy and health care reform efforts.

Aside from her work in Arkansas, Smith Gardner was the director of policy and strategy for Utah's insurance exchange during its initial launch in 2009.

Smith Gardner will start her new job March 1. Until then, Linda Wedeen will continue her role as interim CEO of New Mexico's program.

Officials say more than 52,000 people have chosen plans through New Mexico's exchange as of Jan. 22.

Bill Would Let New Mexico AG's Office Probe Police ShootingsAssociated Press

A proposed bill would give the New Mexico Attorney General's Office more authority to investigate police shootings.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero also would force prosecutors to present evidence in open court instead of to a grand jury behind closed doors.

The Albuquerque Democrat's proposal comes as the city of Albuquerque is going through court-ordered reforms into its police department over excessive force cases.

Policies vary across the state on how police and prosecutors investigate shootings by police officers. Often officers are tasked with investigating shootings by co-workers.

Nation's Only Latina Gov Not Criticizing Trump's Border WallThe Associated Press

The nation's only Latina governor is avoiding criticizing President Donald Trump on his executive action pushing a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said Friday the Republican governor "supports strengthening our border and giving the federal government a variety of tools" to protect residents.

Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan says the governor endorses putting more agents along the border as called for by the executive action. But the governor's office refused to comment on Trump's push for the border wall.

Martinez told the Associated Press last year that building fences could impact the U.S. economy and relationship with trading partners in Mexico and farther south.

The Republican governor criticized Trump during the campaign for his comments on Mexican immigrants and women.

Outside Firm To Investigate Albuquerque Video Editing ClaimsThe Associated Press 

An outside firm will investigate allegations that Albuquerque police officials secretly deleted or edited several videos in high-profile cases.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that public accounting and advisory firm Eide Bailly will receive up to $50,000 to complete the investigation. The Fargo, North Dakota-based firm will have to issue a report by Feb. 28.

Eide Bailly will investigate a sworn affidavit by former Albuquerque police records custodian Reynaldo Chavez. Chavez accuses the police of editing lapel camera videos in the shooting of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes and security camera video in the Jeremy Robertson case.

Hawkes was shot and killed after an altercation with police in April 2014. Robertson was shot by police in July 2014.

Police have denied the allegations.

New Mexico Budget Woes Stifle Tourism Ad CampaignThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico officials say they will not be able to expand the state's tourism advertisement campaign because of government budgeting woes.

The New Mexican reports that the New Mexico True ads have been praised for spotlighting the state's culture, people and natural resources. Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham says the ads wont' be shown in new markets for financial reasons.

Latham also says her agency is still spending more than ever to promote the state, but it was made possible by reducing employees and consolidating services.

New Mexico True advertises on airport billboards and in print and social media in Dallas, Houston, Denver, San Diego, Chicago and Austin, Texas.

Latham says she hopes add the San Francisco market but doesn't have the money to do so in the coming year.

Oil Leases In Chaco Region Sell For $3M Despite Protests  - Associated Press

The Bureau of land Management has auctioned oil and gas drilling rights in northwest New Mexico despite protests from Native Americans and environmentalists.

The rights for drilling on 843 acres sold for $3 million on Wednesday. The sale of the parcels had been postponed on three occasions since 2012.

Critics contend the parcels are too close to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and that development in an expansive stretch they refer to as "the greater Chaco area" could damage cultural resources.

BLM spokeswoman Donna Hummel says the parcels are all outside of a 10-mile buffer that has been established around the park.

She also said the agency will not release the parcels to the winning bidders until several protests filed in connection with the sale are resolved. The names of the winning bidders will not be released until the payment process is complete.


This story has been corrected to show that the parcels are not within Chaco Canyon or the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

New Mexico Democrats Seek Out Jobs In Hemp, New Minimum WageAssociated Press

Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature say they want to create new jobs and boost the economy by allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp, raising the state minimum wage and adding local preferences to economic development incentives.

Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants on Thursday announced the Democrats' six-point plan to boost employment that includes investments in broadband internet infrastructure. He says other economic solutions are contained in next year's $63 million capital outlay plan, the smallest allocation in years.

New Mexico's 6.6 percent unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation, and the state's overall economic output shrank during the fiscal year ending in June 2016.

House and Senate Democrats are backing several bills that would increase the statewide minimum wage to as high as $10.10 by 2020.

Federal Judge Considers Ranchers' Discrimination Case - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

It will be up to a federal judge to decide if Hispanic ranchers will get to pursue their 2012 discrimination case against the U.S. Forest Service over claims that the federal government is trying to push them from land that has been worked by their families for generations.

The dispute centers on a decision made more than six years ago to limit grazing in parts of northern New Mexico.

At stake, ranchers say, is a part of Hispanic culture and the economic viability of communities that depend on surrounding lands for everything from grazing to firewood.

The ranchers' lawsuit chronicles a history in which they claim the property rights of Hispanics have been ignored and an institutional bias has been allowed to continue. Efforts in recent years to get the Obama administration to address their civil rights concerns went unanswered.

Muslims, Latinos Unify Over Trump's Immigration, Border PlanAssociated Press

Many U.S. Muslim and Latino advocates are joining forces in opposing changes to immigration rules by President Donald Trump as they mull the prospect of aggressive restrictions.

In press conferences and rallies, they are decrying an action Trump signed Wednesday to jumpstart the construction of a southern border wall. They also oppose a draft order that would suspend the U.S. refugee program, restrict the arrival of refugees from Syria and suspend issuing visas to seven predominantly Muslim countries.

In New Mexico, which has the nation's highest percentage of Hispanic residents, activists worried the executive actions would hurt all Latinos and Mexican-Americans. The Albuquerque-based immigrant rights group El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos and the Islamic Center of New Mexico held a joint press conference to criticize Trump's proposals.

"When they go after Latinos, they go after all Latinos," said Ralph Arellanes, chairman of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico. "It's not like people are walking on the streets and they have identification that says they've been here four centuries, or three centuries, or two centuries or one century."

UNM Suspends $3,400 Fee For Group To Host Far-Right SpeakerKRQE-TV, Associated Press

The University of Mexico has suspended a $3,400 fee it was charging its College Republicans organization to host far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos.

KRQE-TV reports that the school announced Wednesday that it would suspend the fee until a policy review is conducted.

UNM College Republicans were notified of the security charge on Jan. 10, which UNM College Republicans President Marina Herrera says was too late to gather the funds. She called the charge a "free speech fine" and accused the university of attempting to censor the controversial speaker.

University officials say they plan to increase security when Yiannopoulos speaks this weekend because there are planned protests.

Yiannopoulos writes for right-wing Breitbart News and is permanently banned from Twitter after leading a harassment campaign.

5th Navajo Sues Mormon Church For Alleged Sexual AbuseAssociated Press

A fifth person has filed a lawsuit against the Mormon church accusing religious officials of not doing enough to protect Navajo children from sexual abuse. At issues is a now defunct church-run foster program that placed thousands of American Indian children with Mormon families.

The new lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Navajo Nation court by a woman who says was sexually abused as a teenager over a three-year period from 1968-1971 by her foster father at a house in Spanish Fork, Utah. She says was 15-years-old when the abuse began.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined comment on the new case.

Church officials haven't commented on the abuse allegations, though lawyers have pointed out that families volunteered to participate in the program and a large number never reported any problems.

Man Said In 911 Calls He Feared For Children's Well-BeingAssociated Press

A man whose girlfriend who with her sister and the women's three young children were found dead on Albuquerque-area tribal land made 911 calls saying he feared for the childen's well-being.

Murphy Becenti said during the calls before the bodies were found in early January that Vanessa George had been having suicidal thoughts and believed their two children were possessed.

Becenti said during the calls that he went with them to the Santa Ana Pueblo but was dropped off after he got scared.

Responding to Becenti's calls, police went to the sisters' home but found no one.

The FBI has said no foul play by another party is suspected but that preliminary autopsy results didn't indicate clear causes of death. Leticia was the mother of one of the children.

Lawmakers Accepting Applications For Law Enforcement PostsAssociated Press

Three members of New Mexico's congressional delegation say they're accepting applications for two federal law enforcement positions in the state.

Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce say the positions of U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal for New Mexico become vacant as a result of President Trump's election.

A joint statement says the senators with the assistance of Pearce will provide Trump with a short list of qualified candidates for the positions.

Gov. Martinez Exploring Merging Some State Agencies Albuquerque Journal

Gov. Susana Martinez is calling on lawmakers to consider merging some state agencies in the face of an ongoing budget crunch.

The Albuquerque Journal reports no bills have been filed. But one idea is to merge the Tourism Department with Economic Development.

Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham said such a move could create efficiencies since both departments focus on branding and selling New Mexico. Industry officials and some lawmakers are skeptical of the idea.

Martinez spokesman Mike Lonergan said another possibility is to shift the Motor Vehicles Department from the Taxation and Revenue Department to the Department of Transportation.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, is not convinced the proposals would save money. He suggested consolidating higher education institutions and school districts would bring more savings.