University Presidents Want Funding Restored, New Mexico Wildlife Officials Warn Of Bear Activity

Apr 17, 2017

University Presidents Want Funding Restored In New MexicoThe Associated Press

A council of university presidents from around New Mexico is asking that Gov. Susana Martinez restore some $745 million in funding to the state's public colleges and universities.

The council made its plea in a column published Sunday in the Albuquerque Journal.

New Mexico State University President Garrey Carruthers, a member of the council, said deep concern has spread across the state's higher education system since vetoes by Martinez defunded all state universities.

The Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled Legislature are in a standoff over the state budget. The governor disagrees with $350 million in tax increases approved by lawmakers to make up for dwindling revenues.

The university presidents say without funding, the tuition each student pays would increase dramatically.

Regents at New Mexico Highlands University have scheduled a special meeting Friday. The agenda includes tuition and fees.

New Mexico Wildlife Officials Warn Of Bear ActivityThe Associated Press

New Mexico wildlife officials say bears are expected to be busy this spring after three years of good precipitation following what has been a long-running drought.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish on Monday issued a reminder for people to be aware of the greater chance of encountering bears and other native wildlife.

Department biologist Rick Winslow says males and young, independent bears are emerging from hibernation now and will be out foraging and seeking their own territory.

He says sows with cubs will follow in May, while cubs born last winter will be setting out on their own as their mothers seek to breed again.

Officials say residents in areas such as the foothills of Santa Fe and Albuquerque or rural portions of the state may have a greater chance of encountering bears.

Suit Targets PED Over Sick Leave Policy – Albuquerque Journal

A teacher from Logan Municipal Schools has filed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department and Education Secretary Hanna Skandera.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Angela Medrow is targeting a policy that dings teachers’ performance evaluations if they take more than six days of sick leave. It was filed March 30 in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe.

The suit claims leave is personal property created under a contract between a teacher and school district and therefore cannot be taken or used for public use, under provisions of the state constitution.

Attorney Warren F. Frost, representing Medrow and other plaintiffs, seeks class-action status and an injunction against PED to stop the department from using sick leave in teacher evaluations.

Last year Skandera issued a memorandum declaring teachers who missed more than three days would see an impact on their evaluations. Skandera and Gov. Susana Martinez announced that would be modified to allow for six days sick leave. But that’s less than what is provided in policies in the Logan Municipal Schools.

Sheriff's Office Denies Accusations Leveled In LawsuitThe Associated Press

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is denying allegations in a lawsuit that officers slammed a motorist's face into the ground, knocked him unconscious and denied him timely medical care during a September 2016 traffic stop.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that the sheriff's office made the denials in its response to a lawsuit filed in December by Preston Wilson.

Wilson was pulled over after authorities received reports of erratic driving involving a vehicle that matched the description of his vehicle.

Wilson was arrested at the traffic stop. Court records show he later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of driving while under the influence and of driving on a revoked license.

Wilson's attorney claims his client has incurred more than $30,000 in medical expenses from the alleged incident.

The defendants are seeking dismissal of the complaint.

Federal Tax Bill Hits Hardest In District Of Columbia By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press

Americans are preparing to meet the Tuesday deadline for filing their federal income tax returns.

Data from the IRS and the Census Bureau show that three states — Delaware, Minnesota and Massachusetts — on average paid the most per person in federal income, payroll and estate taxes in 2016.

The three states that paid the least per person are New Mexico, Mississippi and, at No. 50, West Virginia.

But the residents of the District of Columbia paid more per person than those in any of the states — more than double, in fact.

Why do Washington, D.C., residents pay so much more? A fellow at the Tax Policy Center, Roberton Williams, says that's where the money is, noting a lot of high-income people live in the nation's capital.

Law Firms Representing New Mexico Among AG's Key DonorsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A number of law firms the state Attorney General's Office has relied on to represent New Mexico in lawsuits by private companies are some of the attorney general's key financial backers as he weighs a run for governor.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Attorney General Hector Balderas filed his latest campaign finance report last week.

The records shows the Democrat has raised more than $211,000 in the past six months, with about $40,000 coming from attorneys at one San Diego-based law firm.

Other contributions to Balderas included $20,000 from Dallas-based firm Baron & Budd P.C. on April 3.

A spokesman for Balderas' office said Friday that law firms involved in fighting fraud cases on behalf of the state are selected through a committee that does not include Balderas.

Santa Fe's Only Cab Company No Longer Offering RidesSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A Santa Fe cab company is shutting down after 30 years as the city's only taxi service.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Capital City Cab President Matthew Knowles said Friday the company has struggled to recover from the 2008 recession. He also announced the company's sale of its Sandia Shuttle Express.

The company's closure comes a month after Albuquerque's largest and oldest taxi service announced it would cease its operations after 40 years of service and lay off 70 employees.

About 50 employees of the Santa Fe cab company will have to look for new jobs.

Capital City Cab was part of Santa Fe County's anti-DWI program, which subsidized fares for rides home from liquor establishments on weekends and holidays.

It's not clear whether the program will continue.

Help Wanted: Commercial Drone Boom Opens Door For Mechanics - By Dave Kolpack, Associated Press

With the number of commercial drones expected to soar into the millions in the next few years, it spells opportunity for avionics shops and budding drone mechanics who could secure lucrative careers repairing aircraft. And it won't take a four-year college degree.

A community college in northwestern Minnesota that has been teaching unmanned aircraft maintenance for larger military-type drones is expanding its program to include smaller drone repair. Officials at Northland Community and Technical College are promising a high-paying job after just one or two years.

Brad Hayden, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the president and CEO of Robotic Skies, which is building a network of affiliated repair stations around the world. He currently has more than 120 service stations under his umbrella, most of which work on higher-end drones that cost $10,000 and up, and he plans to recruit more shops, as needed.

County Commissioners Weigh Nuclear Waste Storage Project Alamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

County commissioners in southern New Mexico are in debate over a federal project that aims to determine whether nuclear waste can be stored far underground.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports the Otero County Commission discussed a proposed resolution in opposition of the project Thursday but decided to hold off on taking any action.

Commissioners say they have received comments from residents both for and against the project, which involves the drilling of narrow, vertical holes deep into the ground to test whether they can hold disposed nuclear material.

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding the testing by New Mexico-based TerranearPMC and has said no nuclear waste will be involved.

The company says it shares residents' concerns and that it will conduct an environmental assessment before moving forward with the project.

US Launches Qualification Tests For Upgraded Nuke Bomb - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are claiming success with the first in a new series of test flights that are part of an effort to upgrade one of the nuclear weapons that has been in the U.S. arsenal for decades.

An F-16 from Nellis Air Force Base dropped an inert B61-12 bomb over the Nevada desert last month to test the weapon's non-nuclear functions as well as the plane's ability to carry the weapon.

With a puff of dust, the mock bomb landed in a dry lake bed at the Tonopah Test Range.

Scientists are planning to spend months analyzing the data gathered from the test.

Officials say the first production unit of the B61-12, developed under what is called the Life Extension Program, is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

US Prosecutors Are Geared To Target Border Crossers - By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

Through Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, the top federal prosecutor on California's border with Mexico has resisted going after people caught entering the United States illegally on their first try and instead targeted smugglers and serial offenders.

That approach may face a day of reckoning under President Donald Trump.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions' new directive on border crimes suggests prosecutors in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas will be forced to toe a narrow line.

Sessions says each should consider felony prosecution for anyone convicted twice of entering illegally and develop plans to target first-time offenders and charge them with misdemeanors, which could send them to jail for up to six months.

Items From Patrick Swayze's New Mexico Ranch Up For SaleAssociated Press

Several items from actor Patrick Swayze's estate will be auctioned off later this month, including property from his ranch in northern New Mexico.

The auction will be held on April 28 and April 29 in Los Angeles.

The items up for sale include the leather jacket Swayze wore in "Dirty Dancing," the surfboard he used in the 1991 film "Point Break" and clothing he wore in the 1990 movie "Ghost," which also starred Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.

Part of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Swayze died in 2009 after a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 57.

His widow, Lisa Niemi, still owns their 7,000-acre ranch in San Miguel.

Albuquerque City Buildings Getting $25M In Solar Panels – Associated Press

New Mexico's most populous city has plans to install more than $25 million in solar panels on city buildings over the next two years.

The installations in Albuquerque will mark the first phase in fulfilling a recently set goal of generating more of the city's energy from solar power.

Albuquerque City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton made the announcement Saturday.

They say the project's first phase is expected to save taxpayers about $20 million over 30 years.

City councilors last September passed a resolution calling Albuquerque to generate one quarter of its energy from solar power by 2025.

The first phase of the project will begin later this year.

The project will be financed through the energy savings and federal bond credits.

Report: 65 Texas Foster Children In March Stayed In OfficesAssociated Press

Records show the number of Texas foster children staying in agency offices or alternate sites due to lack of placement more than doubled in March, compared to February.

The Texas Department of Family Protective Services said Friday that 65 children slept at least two consecutive nights in a state office, motel or shelter last month. There were 29 foster children living in state offices or alternate sites during February.

A 15-year-old foster girl living at a state office in Houston died April 2 after fleeing and being hit by a vehicle.

Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins says Gov. Greg Abbott believes it's unacceptable for foster children to live in CPS offices.

Talks have started with residential treatment providers in Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico to possibly build in Texas.

Navajo President Seeks Closure In Case Of Slain OfficerAssociated Press

The president of the Navajo Nation says he hopes the case against a man accused of gunning down a tribal police officer doesn't languish in the federal court system.

Navajo President Russell Begaye urged the court to move forward and bring closure in a statement issued Friday, a day after Kirby Cleveland was indicted on murder and other charges stemming from the March 11 shooting of Officer Houston James Largo.

Cleveland has yet to enter a plea and remains in custody pending trial. His arraignment is scheduled for April 20 at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque.

Officials say U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will decide whether to seek life or death if Cleveland is convicted of the most serious charges.

Begaye says the officer's family and the Navajo Nation are still mourning.