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Monday News Roundup: New Mexico Lawmaker Aims To Confront Truancy Problem

  New Mexico Lawmaker Aims To Confront Truancy Problem - The Associated Press

A state lawmaker has proposed taking away the driver's licenses of New Mexico students who habitually play hookey from school.

The Albuquerque Journal reports  that Senator Craig Brandt wants to give school authorities the ability to work with the Motor Vehicle Division to deny or suspend licenses of students who have a pattern of truancy, poor grades and are at risk of dropping out.

Current state law puts the burden on parents to ensure kids don't skip school, giving probation officials, district attorneys and courts the authority to take action and levy fines of up to $500 for repeat offenses.

Brandt believes the current law puts pressure on an overloaded court system and that the possibility of losing a license to drive would send a strong message to teens.

New Mexico Law Officers Planning DWI Crackdown - The Associated Press
Law enforcement agencies around New Mexico are planning to be out in full force, looking for suspected drunken drivers during the New Year's holiday and beyond.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation's Holiday Superblitz continues through Jan. 5. Some local agencies have also planned enforcement actions through the end of January.

As part of the Superblitz, state, local and tribal officers will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols as well as looking for other traffic violations.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office and the Clovis Police Department are among those participating in the statewide DWI crackdown.

Sgt. Devon Dollar says the San Juan County Sheriff's Office is encouraging citizens in northwestern New Mexico to take an active role by reporting suspected drunken drivers by calling 911.

New Mexico Launches 'Designated Caregiver' CampaignThe Associated Press

New Mexico health officials say the risks of sudden unexpected infant deaths can be higher during the New Year's holiday.

So the Department of Health is urging parents to pick a "designated caregiver" for their babies during the holiday season.

The department is pointing to a national study that found designating a caregiver may be just as important as picking a designated driver.

Researchers at the University of California found that alcohol was a risk factor for sudden unexpected infant deaths, and that parental decision-making capacity is significantly impaired by the excessive use of alcohol.

State health officials say there were 86 cases of unexpected infant deaths in New Mexico between 2009 and 2012. That's an average of one every 13 days.

Overtime Costs Increase For New Mexico Employees - The Associated Press

The number of overtime hours New Mexico state government employees are working is on the rise and for the 2013 budget year and it's costing taxpayers millions.

Personnel figures released this month show the state paid out nearly $36.7 million in overtime, representing nearly 1.6 million hours. Three years earlier, the cost of roughly 1 million in overtime hours was $24.4 million.

Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela tells the Albuquerque Journal he's concerned about the trend.

He questions why some state agencies have not been using the full amount of money appropriated to them by the Legislature for filling vacant jobs.

State Personnel Director Gene Moser says the rise in overtime cost and usage is attributable to an aging workforce and a spike in retirements.


New Mexico's Land Commissioner Wants To Buy Federal Land The Associated Press

New Mexico's land commissioner wants to buy some federal land on behalf of the state in hopes that the property could generate revenue for state trust lands that help fund public schools and other institutions.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the federal Bureau of Land Management is looking to sell thousands of acres that no longer meet the agency's mission or are landlocked.

State Land Commissioner Ray Powell hopes to acquire some of the land, especially parcels along the interstates around Las Cruces and in the oil- and gas-rich Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico.

The State Land Office manages 13 million acres of mineral resources and 9 million acres of surface land to benefit 21 public schools, hospitals and universities in the state.