Zinke: Claim That Trump 'Stole' Public Land A 'Lie', Judge Orders Loan Company To Give Back Money

Dec 5, 2017

Zinke: Claim That Trump 'Stole' Public Land A 'Lie' The Associated Press

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is strongly disputing a claim by outdoor retailer Patagonia that President Donald Trump "stole" public land by shrinking two national monuments in Utah.

Zinke calls the claim — made in large type on the company's home page — "nefarious, false and a lie."

Zinke says in a conference call Tuesday that "it's shameful and appalling" that Patagonia and other retailers "would blatantly lie in order to get money in their coffers."

Patagonia replaced its usual home page Monday night with a stark message declaring, "The President Stole Your Land." The message called Trump's actions to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments "illegal" and the largest elimination of protected land in American history.

Outdoor retailer REI also criticized Trump but in less harsh language.

Judge Orders Payday Loan Company To Give Back More Than $7MThe Associated Press

A federal judge has ordered a payday loan company to pay more than $7 million to a group of nearly 10,000 New Mexico residents after ruling on a class action lawsuit.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Friday ruling found that Community Financial Loan Service Centers LLC had charged its customers millions of dollars in illegal loans from 2010 to 2014. The company operates as Speedy Loan with multiple locations in New Mexico.

Speedy Loan attorney Donald Kochersberger says the lawsuit came as a result of an error in the company's computer systems. He says they respect the court's ruling, but they are "greatly disheartened by it."

The court also found the company had collected illegal fees on 31,074 loans.

Changes In Store For New Mexico's Busiest Judicial DistrictThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has amended an order that governs the handling of criminal cases in the state's busiest judicial district amid rising crime and concerns among prosecutors and public defenders.

The court made the announcement Tuesday, saying the changes were approved after it considered proposals from the Bernalillo County district attorney's office, the district court in Albuquerque, public defenders and law enforcement.

The changes include adjustments to deadlines for disclosing evidence and scheduling pretrial witness interviews.

The head of the Administrative Office of the Courts, Artie Pepin, says the changes allow for timely resolution of criminal cases in a fair and just manner.

The changes take effect Jan. 15.

The case management order was initially implemented in 2015 to address a backlog. The rules set deadlines for procedural steps leading to a trial.

2018 Plan For Mexican Wolves Calls For Fostering Of PupsThe Associated Press

Federal wildlife officials have a plan for fostering as many as a dozen captive Mexican gray wolf pups with packs in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico in 2018.

The goal of the proposal unveiled this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to boost genetic diversity among the endangered species over the next year.

Aside from fostering, managers want to remove a female wolf from a pack in Arizona to prevent it from mating with a sibling.

During a temporary stint in captivity, the wolf either would be artificially inseminated or allowed to mate with another captive wolf before being released back into the wild.

Environmentalists are calling for the release of more captive wolves.

The public has until Dec. 26 to comment on the proposal.

New Mexico Politician Withdraws After Sex Harassment Claims - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A rising figure in the Democratic Party has dropped out of the race for lieutenant governor, amid renewed concerns about decade-old complaints of sexual harassment at a previous job.

Democratic New Mexico state Sen. Michael Padilla announced the end of his campaign on Monday amid concerns about decade-old accusations of sexual harassment at a previous job with the city of Albuquerque. Padilla has repeatedly denied accusations that he created a sexually hostile work environment.

Two federal lawsuits say Padilla harassed women while managing Albuquerque's emergency call center in 2006. Padilla was accused of making inappropriate comments and of asking women on dates despite repeated rejections — claims he denies. The city ended up settling "sexually hostile work environment" claims stemming from Padilla's six-week tenure overhauling a problem-plagued 911 center.

Padilla had come under increasing pressure from Democrats to exit the lieutenant governor race. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democratic candidate for governor, last month urged Padilla to withdraw and said there was no room for excuses for his past actions.

Padilla announced his decision as a group of female Democrats prepared to hold a news conference against his candidacy.

Women: New Mexico Statehouse Long Been Place For Harassment Associated Press

Female lobbyists and elected officials say the New Mexico Statehouse has long been a place where women experience sexual harassment.

Democratic consultant Heather Brewer told The Associated Press on Monday that the harassment ranges from groping to propositions for sex.

State Rep. Kelly Fajardo, a Belen Republican, said she has witnessed colleagues or lobbyists being subjected to "repeated profane comments and innuendo."

And Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told the Santa Fe New Mexican she's also been subjected to sexual harassment and referred it to "an unfortunate reality."

Rep. Monica Youngblood, an Albuquerque Republican, called the current process investigating allegations of sexual harassment at the New Mexico Statehouse "a joke" and said women still are reluctant to report cases.

New Mexico Sees Rebound In Tax RevenuesAssociated Press

State economists say New Mexico government income in the coming fiscal year is expected to surpass annual spending obligations by $199 million.

Economists released a fiscal forecast on Monday that shows rapid turnaround in state government finances, just months after a budget crisis that threatened funding for classrooms, courts and museums.

The new tax revenue estimate was agreed upon by state economists at the Legislature and three executive agencies. The forecast shows that tax revenue and other government income will exceed current spending by 3.3 percent for the coming fiscal year starting July 1, 2018.

The increase in general fund revenues is fueled mainly by personal income taxes, corporate income taxes and other revenues linked to the oil and natural gas sectors.

Questions Swirl About Plutonium Pit Production At Los AlamosAssociated Press

The agency that oversees the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile has yet to release a report on the risks and capabilities of Los Alamos National Laboratory and other U.S. Energy Department sites when it comes to producing plutonium cores for the weapons.

The report by the National Nuclear Security Administration was due over the summer but nothing has been made public other than a redacted summary sheet obtained by a watchdog group in the wake of recent congressional briefings.

The summary suggests it would be most costly to continue producing plutonium pits at Los Alamos.

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation suggest the evaluation process was flawed. Others are voicing concerns about Los Alamos' safety record.

No new pits have been made since 2011. The Energy Department wants to ramp up production to 80 pits annually by 2030.

Senators Want To Prioritize Preventive Care Cost SavingsAssociated Press

U.S. Sen. Angus King is among a group of lawmakers who wants the Congressional Budget Office to prioritize the role of prevention in health care.

King, a Maine independent, is joining Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin and New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall in proposing the Preventive Health Savings Act. The senators say the proposal would direct the CBO to more accurately reflect the cost savings associated with preventive health care.

King says ensuring future CBO studies take a longer view will help maximize the impact of preventive care.

Cardin says prioritizing prevention and early detection through tools such as cancer screenings and immunizations lowers health care costs by reducing severity of disease. He says neglect of prevention has been "overwhelming our health care budgets."

Bandelier Helicopter Work Prompts Temporary Trail ClosureAssociated Press

Work is underway at Bandelier National Monument to reconstruct the historic Frey Trail.

Monument officials say a helicopter using a sling will carry about 225 loads of construction materials into the canyon for the project over the next few days. Each load weighs about 1,000 pounds.

Another 150,000 pounds of dirt and rock were delivered during a three-day operation in October. This week's operation is expected to wrap up on or before Saturday, weather permitting.

For safety reasons, officials say part of the main loop trail will be closed.

Alcove House will be open along with the visitor center, Juniper Campground and trails in other parts of the park.

More New Mexicans Sign Up For Health Care On ExchangeSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

More New Mexicans have recently signed up early for government-subsidized individual health insurance plans than in previous years.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that since the Nov. 1 opening of the enrollment portal, some 15,440 people have chosen a health plan in New Mexico, up from 12,000 enrollees in the same four weeks in 2016 and 10,284 in 2015.

The deadline for enrolling in individual plans on the healthcare.gov platform is Dec. 15.

Self-employed workers and others who aren't covered by group insurance at their workplace can find coverage at healthcare.gov if they qualify for subsidies or tax credits to offset premium costs.

Four insurers sell New Mexico plans on the healthcare.gov exchange.

The state's largest health insurance provider, Presbyterian, is offering individual plans outside the exchange without subsidies.

San Felipe Pueblo Changes Name Of Casino To 'Black Mesa'Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico Native American pueblo between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is changing the name of its casino.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports San Felipe Pueblo on Monday officially change the name of its casino from San Felipe Casino to Black Mesa Casino.

General Manager Steve Penhall says as part of a $12 million remodeling and rebranding effort by the pueblo, the nearby San Felipe Travel Center also has been renamed Black Mesa Travel Center.

Penhall says many tribal members wanted to give the casino a name more relevant to the pueblo. He says there's a Black Mesa on pueblo land that's "very culturally significant" to the tribe.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are 13 summits in New Mexico called "Black Mesa." The most famous is Black Mesa on San Ildefonso Pueblo.