Tuesday News Roundup: GAO Studies Challenges In Indian Housing Programs

Aug 6, 2013

Raton Declares Disaster Due To Rain, Flooding- Associated Press

Raton city commissioners have declared a disaster because of recent heavy rains and flooding.

Mayor Bobby Ledoux describes pot holes around the northeastern New Mexico community as immense and says some streets have been destroyed.

Ledoux estimates it would take close to $5 million to repair the city's streets. He says that's money Raton doesn't have.

City commissioners voted in favor of the disaster declaration during a special meeting Monday. Ledoux says it's unclear whether the move will improve the city's chances of tapping into state emergency funding.

Gov. Susana Martinez declared a statewide emergency in July due to severe storms and flooding. That provided $500,000 to the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for a wide range of aid, including for emergency shelter, food and health care.

 Ex-Legislator Becomes Republican For NM House BidAssociated Press Former state Rep. Andy Nunez of Hatch plans to run for his former legislative seat in southern New Mexico but this time as a Republican.

Nunez said Tuesday he's changed his party affiliation to the GOP after being an independent since 2011. He switched from being a Democrat after losing the chairmanship of the House agriculture committee.

Nunez sponsored legislation backed by GOP Gov. Susana Martinez to stop the state from issuing driver's licenses to immigrants living illegally in the country.

The 77-year-old Nunez served 12 years in the House but lost in 2012. Democrat Phillip Archuleta of Las Cruces won a three-way general election race.

Nunez said he became a Republican because he's always been conservative. His wife is a Republican.

Democrats hold a 38-32 advantage in the House.


NM Shuttle Firm: Sorry For Treatment Of Gay Couple- Associated Press

The company that runs the shuttle service to the Albuquerque airport's rental-car center is apologizing after a driver allegedly ordered a gay couple to sit in the back of the shuttle bus.

Standard Parking Inc. says it respects the equal rights of all customers and doesn't tolerate discrimination of any kind.

It also says the employee was suspended after the company learned in July of the late June incident.

According to a police report, one of the men involved said they'd been holding hands and that the driver ordered them to the back when one of them started to sing.


GAO Studies Challenges In Indian Housing Programs - Associated Press

Investigators are looking into challenges that American Indian tribes face in administering federal housing funds.

Representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office are visiting the Navajo Nation this week as part of the study mandated by Congress.

American Indian tribes or their designated housing entities receive some $650 million a year in Indian Housing Block Grant funding under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Officials from the Navajo Nation say challenges in developing homes include a lack of infrastructure, absence of large-scale land use planning and the tribal government's own review process.

The GAO's report won't be limited to the Navajo Nation. It's tentatively set for release before the end of the year and will include recommendations for addressing the challenges.

Court Dismisses Appeal In Behavioral Health Case  - Associated Press

Behavioral health providers under investigation for possible overbillings, mismanagement and fraud have lost an appeal of a court ruling that allows New Mexico to continue to withhold Medicaid payments.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday dismissed the appeal by eight nonprofit providers.

A federal judge in Albuquerque last month denied the providers' request for an order stopping the state from freezing payments for mental health and substance abuse services.

A lawyer for the providers said the lawsuit against the state remains pending in district court.

A legislative committee last week sent a letter to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department seeking assurances that New Mexico won't lose Medicaid funding if payments to the providers are restored pending the outcome of the state's investigation.

Federal Judge Postpones Bond Hearing In Horse Case - Associated Press

A federal judge in Albuquerque has postponed until Thursday a bond hearing for the animal rights groups who won a temporary ban on domestic horse slaughter.

The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue and others on Friday won a temporary restraining order that blocked plans by companies in Roswell, N.M., and Sigourney, Iowa, to start slaughtering horses this week.

But before their lawsuit challenging the Department of Agriculture's June decision to open the plants can proceed, a bond must be posted to cover the companies' losses should the animal groups lose.

Blair Dunn, who represents Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, says he will seek at least $10 million.

The hearing was scheduled Monday. But federal Magistrate Robert Scott says he needs more time to hear arguments.