Ranchers 1st To Get To Helicopter Crash, State Considers Redistricting Commission

Jan 20, 2018

Ranchers 1st To Get To Helicopter Crash – Associated Press

A New Mexico sheriff says residents from nearby ranches were among the first to arrive at a fiery helicopter crash that killed five people, including Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather.

Colfax County Sheriff Rick Sinclair said Friday that he had joined a game warden and paramedics in searching the rugged terrain for the wreckage after a survivor called 911. New Mexico State Police also responded.

Sinclair says that when the crews found the crash site, residents were already working to extinguish the flames.

The Bennetts' friends and family say they had traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with friend and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III, who also died Wednesday.

New Mexico Considers Switch To Redistricting Commission Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are considering a proposal to cede their direct authority over redrawing legislative districts and create an independent redistricting commission.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have proposed a constitutional amendment to create a redistricting commission in time to redraw congressional and state legislative districts following the 2020 U.S. Census. Approval by the Legislature would send the proposal to voters in November general elections.

Republican co-sponsor Sen. Mark Moores says the current redistricting system discourages competitive elections and fosters political apathy as incumbents lawmakers cling to territorial advantages.

Redistricting in New Mexico begins with lawmakers touring the state to gather public comments and hiring consultants to devise district boundaries. In the last two efforts, final boundaries were decided by judges amid standoffs between Democrat-led Legislatures and Republican governors.

Parties Reach Agreement In New Mexico Rate Case – Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric utility and other parties are throwing their support behind a rate increase proposal adopted by state regulators.

A divided Public Regulation Commission approved the revamped proposal earlier this week. It calls for spreading out a roughly 1 percent increase over two years.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico estimates the average increase would be closer to 1.4 percent when other adjustments are factored in.

The commission had set a deadline of noon Friday for the parties to sign off. With their acceptance, the contentious case is expected to be closed soon.

Part of the negotiations among the utility, state attorney general's office, consumer groups and others focused on coal-related investments. The federal tax overhaul also ended up playing a role as the utility plans to pass along savings from lower corporate tax rates.

Weather Service: Hazardous Conditions Expected From Storm – Associated Press

Forecasters say a storm this weekend may cause difficult to severe driving conditions in northern and western New Mexico and severe to damaging winds in other parts of the state.

The National Weather Service says hazardous travel conditions will develop Saturday evening and continue into Sunday, particularly in higher terrain of mountains in northern and western New Mexico.

Strong winds are expected Sunday for areas between the Texas border on the east and the Sandia, Manzano and Sacramento/Capitan mountains on the west.

The weather service says the crosswinds may cause dangerous travel conditions along Interstate 40 and U.S. 285 and that icy road conditions are possible in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas.

Santa Fe Mayor Tells Trump Administration Where To Find Him – Associated Press

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales says the Trump administration knows where to find him in response to a U.S. Justice Department threat that politicians who run so-called sanctuary cities could be criminally charged.

In social media posts on Wednesday, Gonzales listed his office hours, saying he will "stand up for all New Mexicans keeping their families together."

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the posts on Facebook and Twitter by Gonzales elicited hundreds of reactions including a comment by Santa Fe City Councilor Signe Lindell, saying she would be "just down the hall."

Gonzales is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, and he has been an advocate for Santa Fe's status as a safe place for immigrants.

NALEO: New Mexico Senate Team Needs Hispanics – Associated Press

A national group representing Hispanic elected officials called a newly installed all-white New Mexico Senate leadership team "flabbergasting" and applauded the state's Hispanic lawmakers for creating a bipartisan Hispanic Caucus.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, told The Associated Press he was shocked to learn that the New Mexico Senate Democrats elected a leadership team without any Hispanics.

Vargas says he could see that happening "in 1818, not 2018" given New Mexico's long history of elected Hispanic officials.

New Mexico senators are moving to create a bipartisan Legislative Hispanic Caucus amid declining Latino leadership numbers in the state House and Senate.

Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen said although the Democratic leadership is all white, a number of Hispanic senators chair key committees.

US Rig Count Down By 3 To 936; Wyoming Adds 3 – Associated Press

The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. decreased by three this week to 936.

That exceeds the 694 rigs that were active this time a year ago.

Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported on Friday that 747 rigs were drilling for oil and 189 for natural gas this week.

Among oil- and gas-producing states, Wyoming gained three rigs, West Virginia increased by two and Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Texas each gained one.

Colorado and Ohio each lost four rigs and Alaska, North Dakota and Utah each decreased by one.

Arkansas, California and Oklahoma were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May of 2016 at 404.

Albuquerque District Settles Suit With Former Employee – Associated Press

Albuquerque Public Schools will pay $800,000 to its former chief financial officer to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that claimed the former superintendent placed him on paid leave for questioning district audits.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Don Moya filed the suit in 2015 after former Superintendent Luis Valentino placed him on leave in August over the disagreements on the proposed departmental audits.

Valentino resigned later that month.

In the settlement filed last month, the school district will pay out $350,000 and the district's insurance will cover the rest. Moya also received a letter of reference from current Superintendent Raquel Reedy.

Moya's attorney Kate Ferlic and the district issued a joint statement, saying they are ready to "put the events of 2015 behind them and are moving forward in a positive direction.