NM Senate Backs Veto Override On Teacher Sick Leave, ABQ Quaker Church Gives Sanctuary To Immigrant

Mar 14, 2017

New Mexico Senate Backs Veto Override On Teacher Sick LeaveThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has voted to override a veto by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez of a bill that would have allowed teachers to take more than three days of annual sick leave without being penalized on performance evaluations.

Republican Sen. Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho led the unusual override attempt Tuesday against the GOP governor. The Senate backed the override in a 34-7 vote that fulfilled a two-thirds supermajority requirement. A vote in the House is pending.

Martinez says the bill threatened to reverse recent reductions in teacher absentee rates and to increase the use of substitutes in classrooms. Brandt says teachers should not be forced to work while sick and that local school boards should set sick-leave policy.

The last successful veto override was in 2002.

Albuquerque Quaker Church Gives Sanctuary To Immigrant WomanThe Associated Press

A Quaker church in Albuquerque says it's joining churches across the country giving sanctuary shelter to immigrants facing possible deportation.

The Friends Meeting House announced Tuesday volunteers will help give Emma Membreno Sorto around-the-clock protection from federal immigration authorities while she stays in church facilities.

Her attorney Roderick DeAguero said the Honduran woman has lived in the U.S. for 25 years and previously had sought political asylum. He says immigration authorities contacted Membreno Sorto while she was going through cancer treatment.

Membreno Sorto told reporters in a statement she is no longer going to any federal immigration appointments for fear of deportation.

Advocates say other Albuquerque churches are discussing offering shelter to immigrants facing deportation.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa says she is checking on the case.

Funding Falters For New Mexico Campaign Finance WebsiteThe Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are withholding funding for a promised overhaul of the state's outdated campaign finance website that helps the public follow the influence of money in politics, even as lawmakers seek new disclosures on political spending.

The state's top campaign finance regulator on Tuesday said House- and Senate-approved budget plans leave out funding for an overhaul of the campaign finance web portal. The Legislature mandated the overhaul last year without allocating money.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she may seek out state construction funds and money from nonprofits.

Independent political groups that spend unlimited amounts of money to influence New Mexico elections would have to report the sources of donations under a bill sent to the governor on Tuesday. Lawmakers are grappling with a budget crisis.

'Longmire' Begins Filming Final Season In New MexicoThe Associated Press & The Las Vegas Optic

The Netflix series "Longmire" has begun shooting its sixth and final season in northern New Mexico.

The Las Vegas Optic reports that "Longmire" producers issued a casting call for extras last week in preparation for filming this month in Las Vegas and other northern New Mexico cities.

The contemporary crime drama is set in Wyoming and based on the "Walt Longmire" mystery novels authored by Craig Johnson. The show was picked up by A&E for a full run starting in June 2012, but was later acquired by Netflix.

The series stars Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips and Katee Sackhoff and is produced by The Shepherd/Robin Co. in association with Warner Horizon Television.

New Mexico Tops Latest Unemployment List – Associated Press

The latest figures from state and federal labor officials show New Mexico has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 6.7 percent.

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions say the jobless rate for January remained unchanged from December, but it's still up from 6.5 percent a year ago.

Nationwide, the rate increased slightly to 4.8 percent despite an uptick in hiring in January as employers added 238,000 jobs.

In New Mexico, the private sector added about 5,500 jobs over the past year, but goods-producing industries have lost about 4,100 jobs mainly due to continued losses related to mining.

State labor officials say education and health services continue to drive growth as they have reported the largest gains every month since July 2014. The industry has added 3,200 jobs.

New Mexico Legislature Curbs Physical Restraint Of StudentsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has approved a bill that sets new limits and guidelines for physically restraining school students or placing them in seclusion.

The state Senate voted 30-4 on Monday to send the measure to Gov. Susana Martinez, who is likely to sign the bill.

The proposed legislation would clarify that restraint and seclusion techniques can only be applied when a student's behavior physically endangers other students and other types of responses are insufficient.

The bill is supported by the New Mexico Department of Education, teachers unions, social workers and civil liberties groups.

New Mexico Court Issues Ruling In Texas Medical Case Associated Press

Texas doctors who treat New Mexico patients can breathe easier now that the New Mexico Supreme Court has overturned a ruling in a medical malpractice case that took aim at more favorable tort laws in the Lone Star State.

The court issued its opinion in the case of Kimberly Montaño on Monday, saying her complaint against a former surgeon at Texas Tech Hospital in Lubbock should be dismissed without prejudice.

Montaño filed her suit in 2011, claiming her 2004 gastric bypass surgery was botched. The question was whether she should be able to pursue her claim against the Texas doctor in New Mexico's more patient-friendly courts.

Unlike New Mexico, Texas provides immunity for individual state employees.

The court found that under the principle of comity, applying Texas law would not undermine public policy in New Mexico.

Martinez Marks Women's History Month With Visit To Texas Associated Press

The nation's only Latina governor made a quick visit to Texas to help lawmakers there celebrate Women's History Month.

Gov. Susana Martinez's office says the trip to Austin stemmed from an invitation from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. He asked the two-term New Mexico governor to speak during an event Monday.

Martinez, a Republican, met with female Texas legislators and other state officials to discuss the importance of women in government.

New Mexico is above average at 30 percent when it comes to the number of women serving in the state Legislature. In neighboring Texas, only about 20 percent of the seats are held by women.

Overall, the National Conference of State Legislatures says the ratio of female legislators in the U.S. has increased only slightly over the past year.

New Mexico Seeks Disclosure On Anonymous Political DonationsAssociated Press

Independent political groups that spend unlimited amounts of money to influence New Mexico elections would have to report the sources of donations under a bill approved by both chambers of the state Legislature.

The state House on Monday voted to approve new disclosure rules for contributions to political committees that do not coordinate directly with candidates.

The bill responds to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United case that opened the door for corporations and unions to make unlimited independent expenditures in elections.

The initiative from Republican Rep. James Smith and Democratic Senate majority leader Peter Wirth also would set a $5,000 donation limit on direct candidate contributions each election cycle. That more than doubles current limits for legislative candidates and slightly lowers limits for statewide candidates.

New Mexico Lawmakers Abandon Gun Background-Check BillAssociated Press

A New Mexico state bill to expand background checks to most private gun transactions has been voted down by a legislative panel, ending chances for approval this year.

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday failed to endorse the Democrat-sponsored initiative designed to extend background checks to gun sales arranged over the internet or on the sidelines of guns shows that don't involve a licensed dealer.

The bill pitted the national group Everytown for Gun Safety and local advocates against the firearms industry and the New Mexico Sheriff's Association.

The committee sent a separate bill designed to avoid shootings in domestic violence disputes to the House floor for a final vote. That proposal would ban the possession or purchase of firearms by people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence incidents.

New Mexico Insurance Regulators Study Health Act RepealAssociated Press

A team of New Mexico insurance regulators is investigating the potential impacts of the U.S. House Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act on health coverage in the state.

New Mexico Insurance Superintendent John Franchini announced Monday his office is analyzing consequences of the proposed overhaul after the Congressional Budget Office found that 14 million Americans would lose coverage next year.

The budget office says the plan would reduce the federal deficit by cutting funding to state Medicaid programs and limiting subsidies to people who buy coverage.

New Mexico residents have flocked to enroll in Medicaid since Republican Gov. Susana Martinez agreed to expand the program in 2014. She now supports repealing the Affordable Care Act. The state's uninsured rate has been cut in half since 2013.

New Mexico Legislature Races Clock To Fix Budget ShortfallAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers have until Saturday to resolve efforts to raise new money to sustain public school budgets and state agency services in response to a sustained slump in the state's oil and natural gas sectors and a lackluster state economy.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives on Monday was combing through a Senate-approved plan to increase taxes revenues and fees by roughly $350 million to fill a budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez opposes outright tax increases while emphasizing belt-tightening by state government and adjustments to retirement funds and capital spending.

Time is running out for a proposed minimum wage hike and a long list of policy reforms that would overhaul campaign finance disclosures, allow medically assisted suicide and block initiatives from the White House.

Powell Announces Candidacy For New Mexico Land CommissionerAssociated Press

Democrat Ray Powell is running again for New Mexico state land commissioner, an office he's held twice before.

A statement released Monday morning by Powell says he planned to announce his candidacy at an environmental justice rally at the State Capitol in Santa Fe.

Powell served as commissioner from 1993-2002 and again from 2011-2014, when he narrowly lost the 2014 general election to Republican Aubrey Dunn.

The land commissioner oversees management of 13 million mineral acres and 9 million surface acres.

Feds Seek Justice In Navajo Officer's KillingAssociated Press

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says his thoughts and prayers and those of the entire U.S. Justice Department are with the family of a Navajo Nation police officer who was killed over the weekend.

Sessions issued a statement Monday as federal authorities worked with state and tribal law enforcement to piece together what prompted the shooting of Officer Houston James Largo early Sunday in western New Mexico.

The FBI says a suspect was arrested Sunday, but few details have been released. Preliminary reports indicate Largo was shot after he encountered two people in a vehicle along the county road while responding to a domestic violence report.

Sessions says the FBI is working closely with state and tribal authorities to ensure Largo's killer faces justice.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is ordering flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Largo. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez also plans to issue a proclamation calling for the lowering of flags.

Extraction Wells Working To Contain Albuquerque Fuel LeakAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

State environmental officials say tests have determined that two extraction wells near a Kirtland Air Force Base fuel leak in Albuquerque are capturing nearly all the contaminated groundwater.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that Diane Agnew with the New Mexico Environment Department discussed the test results at a public meeting last week.

She says the extraction wells are capturing 99.5 percent of the contaminated groundwater and performing as expected.

The fuel leak had originated at a jet fuel facility at Kirtland and was first detected in 1999.

Since 2015, Agnew says 152 million gallons of groundwater have been extracted, piped to a facility on the military base and filtered through granular activated carbon tanks.

Some of the treated water is used to irrigate Kirtland's golf course.