Thursday News Roundup: New Mexico Sued Over Public School Financing

Mar 20, 2014

New Mexico Sued Over Public School Financing The Associated Press

Parents of public school students have sued the state to increase funding for education and target more assistance to disadvantaged students who are living in poverty or learning English.

The lawsuit was announced Thursday by the Center on Law and Poverty, which filed the case on Wednesday in Gallup on behalf of parents of students in the Albuquerque and Gallup-McKinley school districts.

The lawsuit contends the state is inadequately funding schools in violation of the New Mexico Constitution's requirement to provide an equitable and "sufficient" education for all children.

New Mexico is spending more than $2 billion on schools this year. But the lawsuit said education's share of the state budget has declined over the past 30 years.

A Public Education Department spokesman said the agency hasn't seen the lawsuit.


Gym Faces Lawsuit Over Muslim Head Covering The Albuquerque Journal and The Associated Press

A New Mexico Muslim woman has filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire-based gym chain Planet Fitness after she says an Albuquerque location refused to let her wear a religious head covering while working out.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that an attorney for 37-year-old Tarainia McDaniel recently filed the lawsuit in New Mexico district court.

According to the lawsuit, McDaniel joined Planet Fitness on a two-year contract and later transferred to another gym location. On Oct. 3, 2011, the woman claims she was turned away at her new gym and told the head covering didn't meet its dress code.

McDaniel says she even offered wear a hijab, the formal head covering.

Planet Fitness attorney Erika Anderson says the head covering violates the gym's dress code policy.

Landfill Search For 'E.T.' Video Game HaltedThe Alamagordo News and The Associated Press

New Mexico environmental regulators are blocking two companies from digging up an Alamogordo landfill in search of a rumored cache of what some consider the worst Atari video game of all time.

The Alamogordo News reports "E.T. The Extraterrestrial" game cartridges were rumored to have been dumped in the landfill in the 1980s.

New Mexico Environment Department spokesman Jim Winchester says an approved waste excavation plan is needed before any dig.

Winchester says the original excavation plan was rejected Feb. 27 and the companies haven't yet submitted a new one.

Fuel Entertainment and LightBox Interactive recently announced plans to search the landfill for the game that proved a financial drain for Atari.

The games were part of truckloads of Atari merchandise that were supposedly disposed of there.

Texas, Colorado, NM Water Managers To Meet - The Associated Press

The tension is expected to be thick Thursday as top water officials from New Mexico, Colorado and Texas gather for an annual meeting focused on management of the Rio Grande.

Texas and New Mexico are in the middle of a legal battle before the U.S. Supreme Court over groundwater pumping along the border. The federal government has weighed in, claiming that groundwater falls under its jurisdiction and should be considered part of the Rio Grande Project's irrigation water.

It could be years before the court makes a decision, but some experts say the case could set precedent when it comes to state rights in the drought-stricken West.

New Mexico's top water official, State Engineer Scott Verhines, says officials need to focus on solving the region's problems rather than fighting.

Tribes Get Grant To Improve Transit - The Associated Press

Three New Mexico pueblos are getting money to improve transit services.

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced Wednesday that the Isleta, Jemez and Santa Ana pueblos are getting $307,770 from the Federal Transit Administration to improve public transportation.

The Pueblo of Jemez is getting money to buy a bus and begin the Jemez Flex-Ride Coordinated Transportation System. The Pueblo of Santa Ana is getting funding to replace an old bus, while the Pueblo of Isleta's grant will fund a study to identify needs surrounding a potential transit service.

Udall says the services are needed to help people get to work, school, and doctors' appointments.

Democrat Staying In State Treasurer's Race - The Associated Press

The secretary of state's office says former Bernalillo County Treasurer Patrick Padilla has secured a place on the June primary ballot as a Democratic candidate for state treasurer.

Padilla turned in additional nominating petition signatures Tuesday to continue his candidacy after failing to win a place on the ballot at the Democratic pre-primary nominating convention earlier this month.

Candidates with less than 20 percent support of convention delegates are off the ballot unless they submit a certain number of petition signatures.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Robert Blanch has taken the steps to remain a challenger against incumbent Ben Ray Lujan.

Padilla, former Sen. Tim Eichenberg and former state Democratic Party chairman John Wertheim are seeking the party's nomination for treasurer. Republican Rick Lopez is unopposed in the primary.

Los Lunas Lawyers Recommended For Vacant Judgeship - The Associated Press

A lawyer in the attorney general's office and a former prosecutor have been recommended to Gov. Susana Martinez for possible appointment to a vacant judgeship.

An independent judicial nominating commission recommended Los Lunas lawyers Walter Hart and Allen Smith earlier this week for a vacancy on the 13th Judicial District Court in Valencia County.

The governor will select who succeeds state District Court Judge William Sanchez, who retired last month.

Hart has worked in the litigation division of the attorney general's office in Albuquerque since 2012, and operated his own law practice from 2008 to 2012.

Smith has been at a private law firm in Los Lunas since 2005, and for a decade before that was a prosecutor in the 6th Judicial District of southwestern New Mexico.

New Trial For New Mexico Family Overturned - The Associated Press

A U.S. Appeals Court has reversed a lower court's decision granting a new trial for New Mexico family accused in a gun smuggling case.

The 10th Court of Appeals announced Wednesday it has reversed a U.S. District Court's ruling granting a new trial from Deming couple Rick Reese and Terri Reese and their son Ryin Reese.

A federal judge in the case previously granted the defendants a new trial because the government didn't tell the defense that a prosecution witness had been the subject of an investigation.

But the federal appeals court said the trial's outcome likely would have not been different.

A jury convicted the three in August 2012 of making false statements. They were acquitted of most of the charges that they sold weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

Officers In Albuquerque Police Shooting Identified - The Associated Press

The officers in a fatal Albuquerque police shooting of a man in the city's foothill have been identified.

Albuquerque police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez says officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez are linked to the fatal shooting Sunday.

Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden told reporters the man was shot Sunday night and was rushed to the University of New Mexico Hospital. The man, who has not been identified, later died.

According to Eden, officers arrived at the foothills after receiving a suspicious person call. He says when officers arrived, the man threatened the officers' lives.

Eden says "less-than-lethal force" was used to calm the man but an officer eventually fired one shot.

Officials did not say which officer fired.

The shooting comes as Albuquerque police is under a U.S. Justice Department investigation over allegations of excessive force.