Senate Votes To Join Presidential Popular Vote System, Bill To Ban Wildlife Traps Withdrawn

Feb 21, 2017

New Mexico Senate Endorses Popular-Vote System For PresidentAssociated Press

New Mexico would join a movement to elect U.S. presidents by popular vote under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The Senate voted Monday in favor joining an inter-state compact that requires Electoral College voters to cast ballots for the national popular vote winner. Democrats backed the bill in a 26-16 vote along party lines. The bill now moves to the House.

States representing at least 270 electoral votes must join for the compact to function. Bill sponsor and Democratic Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque says 10 states have joined, with 165 electoral votes committed so far.

She worries that swing states are dominating presidential campaigns and decisions by sitting presidents. Opponents of the compact say small, rural states like New Mexico would be ignored under a popular-vote system.

New Mexico Lawmaker Withdraws Bill To Ban Wildlife TrapsThe Associated Press

A bill that would outlaw the trapping of wildlife on public land in New Mexico is being rewritten in response to criticism at a legislative hearing.

Democratic Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas withdrew the initiative Tuesday and said it was unlikely to move through the Legislature this year as he seeks out compromises between supporters and critics.

The proposal is generating intense public interest. Crowds carried props including stuffed animals and a steel trap, as lawmakers discussed whether to adopt misdemeanor and felony penalties for using traps and snares. Exceptions included scientific research and traps used to protect crops and livestock.

Campos says revisions are likely to include more specific identification of recreational areas where trapping would be prohibited. He wants to consult with state game and fish regulators.

Bill Aims To Require Background Checks For Certain Gun SalesAssociated Press

A bill being considered by New Mexico lawmakers would require background checks for firearm sales at gun shows and in private transactions.

Supporters say the bill by Democratic Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos would make it harder for criminals to get guns.

Opponents say the regulations wouldn't actually deter criminals, who would just ignore them, and would instead inconvenience law-abiding citizens.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the proposal has cleared two committees and was ready for action on the House floor last week.

But it appears to be on pause for now.

Garcia Richard pulled the bill back to House Judiciary.

A similar bill is pending approval in the state Senate

It has cleared one committee and must go through another before reaching the floor.

New Mexico Contemplates New Powers For Oil RegulatorsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature may restore the state's authority to impose administrative penalties of up to $10,000 per day against oil and natural gas companies for violations of operating and environmental rules.

A Senate panel is scheduled Tuesday to consider a bill that broadens civil enforcement of the state Oil and Gas Act and increases the current $1,000 maximum penalty for administrative violations.

A 2009 state Supreme Court decision held that the Oil Conservation Division was not authorized to assess civil penalties and had to file a lawsuit in court to enforce regulations for oil, gas and waste-water injection wells. Weaknesses in current enforcement provisions were highlighted last year by an out-of-state driller ignoring orders and lease provisions.

Texas allows daily penalties of $10,000, and Colorado can charge $15,000.

Lawmakers Unveil New Mexico Budget PlanAssociated Press

Democratic New Mexico lawmakers are advancing a $6.1 billion budget plan that would increase classroom spending, shore up judicial funding and replenish incentives for job training and business expansions.

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Monday approved the spending bill for the fiscal year starting July 1 in a vote that divided Democrats and Republicans.

The spending bill relies on a proposed $218 million increase in revenues that was endorsed by another House panel on Monday over objections by Republican lawmakers who favor greater government austerity and other options that avoid tax increases.

The Democrat-sponsored revenue increases include sales taxes on nonprofit organizations, reduced deductions for health care practitioners, trucking fees, automobile sales taxes, and online retail sales taxes. Democratic Rep. Patricia Lundstrom says the package gives money back to classrooms.

New Mexico Bill Would Ban Drones Near Power Plants, AirportsAssociated Press

A New Mexico lawmaker has proposed banning drones from flying within 500 feet of power plants, refineries and other such critical-infrastructure facilities.

Violations under the bill by Republican Sen. Greg Baca of Belen would be misdemeanors.

While noting there are federal regulations governing drone usage, Baca says it's important for the state to have regulations protecting critical facilities.

Other such critical facilities include airports, government buildings and law enforcement and military facilities.

Baca introduced the bill earlier this month.

US Bishops Join Mexico Colleagues, Denounce 'Santa Muerte'Associated Press

Bishops in the United States are denouncing La Santa Muerte — the skeleton folk saint in Mexico linked to the illicit drug trade.

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester, El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz, and San Angelo Bishop Michael Sis in Texas joined their counterparts in Mexico last week in urging Catholics to avoid honoring the folk saint. Wester called her "antithetical" to the teachings of Jesus.

The denouncement comes after Ciudad Juarez Bishop Jose Guadalupe Torres Campos attacked La Santa Muerte, which means Holy Death, in a recent newspaper interview.

Popular in Mexico, Santa Muerte is folk saint also worshipped by some immigrant small business owners, gay activists and the poor.

Las Cruces Officials To Vote On Measure Opposing Border WallLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The Las Cruces City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution expressing opposition to President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that a resolution by Mayor Pro Tem Greg Smith contends a border wall would harm the area's economy by hurting its relationship with Mexico.

It also would ask federal authorities to find a more effective way to address concerns over illegal immigration.

Trump's plan to build a border wall is a key feature in a larger effort by the president to toughen up immigration enforcement.

There are currently about 700 miles of pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers along the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the United States.

Minimum Wage Bill Passes Committee Despite OppositionSanta Fe New Mexican

A bill that would raise the statewide minimum wage to $9.25 an hour drew criticism from Republicans and Democrats Monday.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the bill was co-sponsored by House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the amount was criticized for being too low by some Democrats and too high by some Republicans.

Other minimum wage bills have proposed hourly rates ranging from $9 to $15. Workers rights groups don’t like a provision in the bill that forbids local governments from passing regulations on how employers schedule employees.

The bill narrowly passed the House Labor and Economic Development Committee and now moves to the House Judiciary Committee.

Doña Ana Ordered To Pay $90,000 In Public Records Lawsuit Las Cruces Sun News, Associated Press

Doña Ana County has been ordered to pay $90,000 to a pet advocacy group that alleged in a lawsuit that officials failed to provide records from alleged animal mistreatment cases.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that 3rd Judicial District Judge Mary Rosner ruled in late January that the county "had not acted in a manner consistent with the well-articulated public policy of the state of New Mexico" regarding open records sought by Animal Village NM.

Court documents say instead of providing the records all at once, Animal Village received them in batches over the course of months.

The county claimed it couldn't release certain records because of a law enforcement-related exemption.

But Rosner found the exemption wasn't applicable.

The county could appeal or seek a settlement for a lesser amount.