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State Dems Rally Around Tax Plan, Teachers Union Calls On ABQ Schools To Avoid Cuts

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New Mexico Democrats Rally Around Tax Plan To Fix Budget GapThe Associated Press 

Democrats in the New Mexico House of Representatives are rallying around a package of tax and revenue measures designed to shore up state finances and stave off spending cuts to education and Medicaid health care.

State lawmakers including the speaker of the House of Representatives announced Thursday a push to collect more money from internet sales, nonprofit hospitals, interstate truck permits and motor vehicle registrations.

Republican Gov. Martinez has steadfastly opposed tax increases and called for further belt tightening by state government, but also indicates she may agree to close some tax loopholes.

House Speaker Brian Egolf says Democrats sought out tax measures the governor might sign and that without action spending cuts are likely to public schools, health care and job-creation incentives. The proposals would raise $214 million annually.

Teachers Union Calls On Albuquerque Schools To Avoid CutsThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal 

The teachers union is calling on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education to avoid pay cuts, furloughs or increased class size and to instead rely on cash reserves to cover budget reductions.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that members of a caucus within the Albuquerque Teachers Federation protested outside district headquarters Wednesday, calling on the district to find a way to cover a $12.5 million budget cut that won't negatively affect teachers.

District administrators have said the financial situation is so dire they must consider all options. A message from the APS Budget Steering Committee to employees a few weeks ago said the district is dipping into cash reserves as much as possible before considering options such as laying off 750 people or shutting down for four days to save $10 million.

Driver Sentenced In Shooting That Killed Albuquerque TeenThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal 

A suspect who pleaded guilty in a drive-by shooting that killed an Albuquerque teenager in 2015 has been sentenced to a year in custody.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 17-year-old Nicholas Gonzales was sentenced Thursday.

Prosecutors say a plea agreement with the 2nd Judicial District Attorney's Office specified that Gonzales would be sentenced as a juvenile to one year in the custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Last July, Gonzales pleaded guilty to shooting at an occupied dwelling resulting in great bodily harm and conspiracy.

Albuquerque police say Gonzales was driving the car from which the shots were fired.

A New Mexico district attorney dropped charges against two other suspects in the June 2015 shooting of 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver, who was killed while at an Albuquerque house party.

Panel OKs Measure To Ban Coyote-Killing ContestsThe Associated Press 

Legislation aimed at banning coyote-hunting competitions in New Mexico has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The majority of the Senate Conservation Committee gave the bill a do-pass recommendation during a packed hearing Thursday. The measure must win approval from two more committees before reaching the Senate floor for a vote.

The bill sponsored by Democrat Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would outlaw coyote-killing contests after a number of recent competitions drew anger from animal rights advocates. The bill would not prevent landowners from hunting the predators on their property.

Ranchers and outfitters from around the state argued that the contests can be a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten cattle and sheep.

Supporters of the legislation called the practice barbaric and questioned whether there were any scientific benefits.

10 Cars Stolen From Albuquerque LotThe Associated Press & KOAT 

The owners of an Albuquerque car dealership say 10 cars have been stolen off their lot.

KOAT-TV reports that the owners of Duke Motors noticed Wednesday that the office door frame was busted, drawers were open and supplies were scattered on the floor.

Dealership co-owner Aly Munoz says a lot of dealers stock up around tax season to give customers a variety of vehicles to choose from. Munoz says her family will miss out on that opportunity because several keys were also stolen.

Would You Let Someone Who's Not A Dentist Pull Your Teeth? -
By Bob Salsberg, Associated Press

Need a tooth pulled or a cavity filled? Forget the dentist. An increasing number of states are allowing or considering letting "dental therapists," professionals with a lower level of training, do the job.

Several states, including New Mexico, are considering bills that would create a new midlevel position in dentistry called dental therapists or advanced dental hygiene practitioners.

They can perform common procedures such as filling cavities or pulling teeth, though more complex procedures would still be left with dentists. Public health advocates say dental therapists can greatly improve access to dental care for low-income people and those who live in rural areas.

In Massachusetts, a group that lobbies on behalf of dentists has for the first time signaled a willingness to embrace the concept.

Dentists have long opposed the midlevel position.

Developers Moving Forward With New Mexico Power Grid ProjectAssociated Press

Developers of what was once a $1.5 billion effort to link the nation's three major electricity grids through a transmission hub in eastern New Mexico say the project is still moving forward despite the relinquishment of a lease covering thousands of acres of state trust land.

The State Land Office suggested late Tuesday that the Tres Amigas project had folded.

Tres Amigas chief financial officer Russell Stidolph says the company isn't abandoning the project.

He says advances in technology and changes in the business model have reduced the amount of land required and that Tres Amigas has identified a significantly smaller parcel of land in Curry County as a backup site.

The project was first announced in 2009 as a way to get more renewable energy to market.

Albuquerque Students Urged To Skip 'Day Without Immigrants'Associated Press

The state's largest school district is urging immigrant families to send children to school despite the national "Day Without Immigrants" protest.

Principals for Albuquerque Public School sent parents a letter this week acknowledging the planned national immigration protest on Thursday. But officials said students needed to be in class every day.

School officials say students who participate in the protest will receive an unexcused absence and will have to make up missed assignments.

The letter also says Albuquerque Public Schools welcomes and supports immigrant and refugee students.

Organizers in cities across the U.S. are telling immigrants to miss class, miss work and not patronize businesses Thursday. "A Day Without Immigrants" protest is meant to show how critical immigrants are to the U.S. economy.

New Mexico's Only GOP Congressman Backs Flynn InvestigationAssociated Press

New Mexico's only GOP congressman says he would back a probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's pre-inauguration conversations with a Russian ambassador.

Congressman Steve Pearce spokeswoman Keeley Christensen said Wednesday the Hobbs Republican supports "an investigation to ensure no laws were violated."

The comment comes after The Associated Press asked Pearce's office if he supported calls by Democrats for the House Oversight Committee to look into Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador and into a possible violation of the Logan Act.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer disclosed that President Donald Trump was told in late January that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations.

Flynn resigned late Monday.

Some Congressional Republicans are brushing off calls for an investigation.

Police: Suspect Dead After Shooting Himself Associated Press

Roswell police have released the name of a suspect who killed himself after firing at an officer investigating a stolen car.

Police say the deceased man is 30-year-old Shayne Romero of Peralta.

They say an officer encountered Romero outside a motel early Wednesday while checking a car reported stolen in Albuquerque.

After Romero and the officer exchanged gunfire and the suspect collapsed on a nearby sidewalk, a second officer arrived and ordered Romero to drop his gun.

Police say Romero instead shot himself in the head.

Neither officer was injured.

Police say a person described only as female was seen in the car but got away during the shooting incident.

Several law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident.

Doña Ana Sheriff To Hold Town Hall Meeting Amid Criticism – Associated Press

A southern New Mexico sheriff facing criticism from some immigrant rights activists has scheduled a town hall meeting.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Enrique "Kiki" Vigil will host a public gathering Tuesday in the village of Doña Ana.

The Albuquerque Journal reports an immigration raid in Las Cruces at a trailer park Wednesday night prompted panic of more widespread action by immigration officials.

The paper reported Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested one man, Concepción Gómez

Officials say the meeting at the Doña Ana Community Resource Center will be a chance for residents to share concerns regarding public safety.

Earlier this month, immigrant rights activists in Las Cruces called on Vigil to meet with them to discuss department policies on enforcing federal immigration laws.

Doña Ana County Sheriff spokeswoman Kelly Jameson says the office doesn't have a policy on enforcing federal immigration law because its deputies aren't federal agents.

Lowe's To Hire 500 People At Albuquerque LocationAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

North Carolina-based home improvement retailer Lowe's says it will add 500 jobs in Albuquerque by October for its call center.

It’s also adding 600 people to its locations in North Carolina and Indiana. The Albuquerque Journal reports the positions are full-time, permanent jobs and involve helping customers with questions and repairs.

Lowe’s has four locations in Albuquerque and employs more than 1,000 people, including 600 at its customer support center.

The retailer's latest hiring initiative comes a month after it said it was cutting 2,400 full-time jobs nationwide as part of a major staffing overhaul.

New Mexico Woman Pleads Guilty In VA Fraud Case Associated Press

A Las Cruces woman will have to pay more than $147,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to theft of government property and forgery charges stemming from a scheme to defraud the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Federal prosecutors said 54-year-old Donah Davison entered her plea Wednesday. She will face four months in prison as part of a plea agreement.

Davison was charged in November in a multi-count indictment. Most of the counts stemmed from allegations that she deposited surviving-spouse benefit checks to which she wasn't entitled.

Prosecutors say Davison admitted that when her mother died in 1997, she failed to inform the VA of her mother's death and continued to collect and deposit the checks into her own bank account after signing her mother's signature on the back of the checks.

Megan has been a journalist for 25 years and worked at business weeklies in San Antonio, New Orleans and Albuquerque. She first came to KUNM as a phone volunteer on the pledge drive in 2005. That led to volunteering on Women’s Focus, Weekend Edition and the Global Music Show. She was then hired as Morning Edition host in 2015, then the All Things Considered host in 2018. Megan was hired as News Director in 2021.