NM Statehouse Embarks On Anti-Harassment Overhaul, ART Busmaker Ensures Solutions

Jan 11, 2018

New Mexico Statehouse Embarks On Anti-Harassment Overhaul- The Associated Press

New Mexico-based lobbyists attended voluntary, state-sponsored training Thursday on how to prevent and report sexual misconduct, and lawmakers will be required to undergo similar training next week.

It's part of a push by the Legislature to make the Capitol work environment safer amid a nationwide debate over sexual misconduct.

The Legislature is revising its anti-harassment policies after women began breaking their silence about sexual misconduct and harassment in the Capitol. Legislators last attended sexual harassment training in 2004.

New anti-harassment policies and procedures could be adopted as soon as Monday, the day before the Legislature convenes for a 30-day session.

Company That Provided ART Buses Ensures Problems Will Be Resolved- The Albuquerque Journal

Build Your Dreams America, the company that delivered the buses for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project has released a response to a long list of issues provided by Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Lawrence Rael, Chief Operating Officer.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the issues are numerous and include oil leaking from axles, inability to charge some buses, lack of standard locations for wheelchair restraints, as well as myriad other problems.  The company also failed to deliver an additional 11 buses by the October 4th deadline that was set in the contract.

On Wednesday, Macy Neshati, senior vice president of BYD America, ensured the company is working diligently to remedy the problems and set things right.

New Mexico Supreme Court Looks At Pre-Trial Detention Rules- The Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings Thursday seeking to resolve questions over pre-trial detention rules that have become a sticking point in the debate among judges, prosecutors and others over a voter-approved bail reform amendment.

In November 2016, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment seeking to ensure that dangerous or high-risk defendants awaiting trial remain incarcerated, and nonviolent ones unable to afford bail are let go.

Pre-trial release rules that the Supreme Court justices crafted following the voters' approval of bail reform have been especially contentious, with prosecutors saying the rules haven't worked as intended. Some have said the rules create too high of a burden of proof for prosecutors seeking to keep hardened and violent criminals behind bars as they await trial.

Gov. Martinez Wants Broader Legal Immunity For Police- The Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez's proposal to grant broader immunity to police in use-of-force lawsuits is being met with criticism from attorneys and others on both sides of the debate.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Martinez plans to push for a measure during the upcoming legislative session that would provide somewhat of a legal shield for law enforcement officers sued for actions in the line of duty when they had followed their training.

Albuquerque has reached settlements in a string of wrongful death and excessive force lawsuits filed in recent years. The city also is under a federal court order to reform its police department after a U.S. Justice Department investigation four years ago found a "culture of aggression" among officers.

New Mexico Hosts AMC's 'Better Call Saul' For Another Season- The Associated Press

New Mexico is hosting another season of AMC's "Better Call Saul."

Production work on the television series is underway in Albuquerque. The network had initially announced last year that the "Breaking Bad" spinoff would return in 2018 for a 10-episode fourth season.

Starring Bob Odenkirk, the series follows Jimmy McGill, who eventually becomes Walter White's lawyer Saul Goodman on "Breaking Bad."

Officials with the state film office say about 150 crewmembers and several dozen principal actors from New Mexico are a part of the production.

"Better Call Saul" season three was among the more than 60 film and television productions shot in New Mexico during the past fiscal year. Others included "The Night Shift," ''Longmire," and Netflix's "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs."

New Mexico Rejoices As Parts Of State Finally See RainAssociated Press

The streak is over and New Mexico residents are rejoicing.

Rain fell over the state's largest metropolitan area Wednesday, ending one of the longest dry spells in recorded history. Albuquerque had logged 96 straight days without any measureable precipitation and had threatened to break records set decades ago.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service say other areas of New Mexico did receive some snow with the latest storm, but dry conditions still persist over much of the state.

While the recent moisture is welcomed, water managers and environmentalists are most concerned about the snowpack along the New Mexico-Colorado border that feeds the Rio Grande basin.

A forecast issued by the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows Rio Grande flows in northern New Mexico could be as low as 15 to 24 percent of average this year.

Highlands University Eyes Cuts, Hikes Amid Stagnant FundingLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

Highlands University officials say the school may see cuts or tuition hikes amid stagnant funding from the New Mexico state legislature.

The Las Vegas Optic reports the proposals came as school officials expect state funding ranging from a zero-percent increase to a cut of 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Highlands University is seeing a decrease in enrollment.

Vice President for Finance and Administration and Government Relations Max Baca says undergraduate enrollment went down about 8.5 percent over the past year, dropping to 1,882 students.

The last time Highlands had an enrollment below 1,900 undergrads was in the late 1980s.

Police Say New Mexico Student Wrote Note About School ShootingDaily Times, Associated Press

A northwestern New Mexico high school student is facing charges after writing a threatening message about a school shooting.

The Daily Times reports police say a 16-year-old Piedra Vista High School student was arrested this week after staff found the handwritten message in a boys' bathroom.

The student was detained following a review of security footage outside the bathroom.

Farmington police spokeswoman Georgette Allen says officers found no evidence the suspect was planning a school shooting.

The student is being charged with four counts of criminal damage to property and one count of "disrupting the educational process."

The arrest came a month after a 21-year-old man secretly came on to the campus of Aztec High School in nearby Aztec, New Mexico, and fatally shot two students before shooting himself.

Divided Panel Clears Way For Rate IncreaseAssociated Press

New Mexico regulators have cleared the way for an even smaller rate increase for customers of the state's largest electric utility while backtracking on an earlier finding that questioned investments made in a coal-fired power plant.

The 3-2 vote by the Public Regulation Commission came Wednesday following a hearing in Santa Fe.

Commissioners expressed frustration with the process after already having approved a 9 percent rate increase in December and finding that Public Service Co. of New Mexico's coal-related investments were not prudent.

Following Wednesday's debate, the commission moved to take up the prudency question in a future proceeding while reducing the rate increase to about 2 percent.

The change stems from the recent federal tax overhaul. Utility officials say customers will benefit because the utility won't need to raise as much revenue thanks to lower corporate taxes.

Governor Says Advanced Classes Gain PopularityAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says public school students are increasingly taking advanced placement exams that can provide credit toward college degrees.

In a statement Wednesday, Martinez said families saved millions of dollars in direct tuition costs in 2017, when New Mexico students passed more than 6,000 advanced placement exams. She says the number of students taking advanced placement classes has more than doubled since 2010.

Dual-credit courses that can count toward both high school and advanced degrees were included in a redesign of high school curricula by the New Mexico Legislature in 2013 aimed at challenging students and better preparing them for college and careers.

A report last year from the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee found that the dual-credit coursework helps many students make the transition to college or vocational school without stumbling.

It also found those students tend to have higher academic aptitudes to begin with, as annual state spending on dual-credit work surpasses $54 million.

ACLU Of New Mexico Names New Legal DirectorAssociated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has tapped Albuquerque civil rights attorney Leon Howard to lead the group's litigation and legal efforts in the state.

The group said Wednesday that Howard will become the New Mexico chapter's legal director as the city of Albuquerque finishes up court-ordered reforms into its police department.

Leon began his career working as an Assistant District Attorney in New Mexico's First Judicial District, primarily prosecuting DWI and domestic violence cases. He then joined the ACLU of New Mexico as a staff attorney before moving to a law firm.

Leon is a board member of the New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project, co-chair of the New Mexico State Bar Committee on Diversity, and past vice president of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association.

State Supreme Court Suspends Changes On Juvenile RecordsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico Supreme Court has suspended new amendments to a court rule that banned public access to juvenile records to allow for more time for input.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the decision comes 10 days after the changes took effect.

Under the new amendments, records in juvenile cases will be sealed automatically.

The state Supreme Court said in an order issued Tuesday that it did not receive any input after the amendments were first published for comment in March, but received comments after the amendments took effect on Dec. 31.

Many claimed they were unaware of the proposed changes.

The state Supreme Court is taking comments before it decides whether to withdraw, revise or reinstate the previously approved amendments.

Court Denies Santa Fe's Challenge To Ranked-Choice VotingAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has cleared the way for ranked-choice voting in Santa Fe after rejecting the city's legal challenge.

The court delivered the ruling Tuesday, but provided no explanation on why it denied the city's petition.

The city filed an emergency appeal with the state Supreme Court last month, seeking to overturn a judge's previous order that the city must use the voting system for municipal elections in March.

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference on the ballot. The order of preferences whittles down the candidates until there's a clear winner.

Santa Fe voters approved a city charter amendment for ranked-choice voting in 2008. The city council voted in July to postpone the system due to concerns about implementation.

Groups Document Voting Rights Abuses In Indian Country - By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

Election sites far from reservations. Poll workers who don't speak tribal languages. Unequal access to early voting sites.

Native Americans say they've encountered a wide range of obstacles that make voting difficult.

Advocates have been spending the past few months gathering stories from around Indian Country in hopes that tribal members can wield more influence in elections, and improve health, education and the economy on reservations.

A coalition of voting rights groups is holding a field hearing Thursday in Phoenix to hear testimony.

The Native American Rights Fund says it believes the information compiled will be the most comprehensive look at voting rights abuses in Indian Country.

Tribes successfully have challenged what they see as discriminatory voting practices around the U.S., often arguing violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.