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NM Lawmakers Consider Litigation In Budget Standoff, Lawyers Want Case Against Former Deputy Dropped

Steve Carr
Creative Commons
NM Roundhouse

New Mexico Lawmakers Consider Litigation In Budget StandoffThe Associated Press

Negotiations over a possible solution to New Mexico's state budget crisis have been set in motion as lawmakers receive legal advice on how to respond to major taxation and spending vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said Thursday he had received a text message from the governor's office asking to meet. Leading state lawmakers consulted with attorneys and staff behind closed doors Thursday afternoon about vetoes that would defund the Legislature and all state institutions of higher education in the coming fiscal year.

Martinez wants to convene a special session to resolve the budget standoff after also vetoing a variety of tax and fee increases from the Democrat-led Legislature.

New Mexico is struggling to stabilize funding for public schools, courts and other critical services.

Lawyers Ask Case Against Former Santa Fe Deputy Be DroppedThe Associated Press

The lawyers for a former New Mexico deputy accused of killing his partner in 2014 are asking the court to dismiss their client's case.

The defense attorneys for former Santa Fe deputy Tai Chan filed motions Wednesday that claim their client is a victim of outrageous government conduct in what they call a botched investigation by Las Cruces Police Department.

The attorneys are also asking District Attorney Mark D'Antonio be dismissed from the case. The motions argue that D'Antonio has a conflict of interest in the case because of a related lawsuit filed by another detective.

The District Attorney's Office has declined to comment.

Chan accused of killing Deputy Jeremy Martin. Officials say the two had an alcohol-fueled argument on October 2014 before Chan fatally shot Martin.

UNM Dropping Men's And Women's Ski Programs Over Budget CutsThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is dropping its men's and women's ski programs due to rising costs and impending budget cuts.

UNM Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs made the announcement Thursday.

The decision will save the school's athletic department about $600,000 per year in operating budget, scholarships and salaries.

The cuts will reduce UNM's sports programs from 22 to 20.

School officials say skiing scholarships will be honored through undergraduate degree or exhausted eligibility for any student-athletes that wish to continue their education at UNM provided they remain eligible in accordance with UNM and NCAA rules.

They say Lobo athletics will also assist any student-athlete wishing to transfer to another institution.

US Indictment Charges Man With Murder In Killing Of OfficerThe Associated Press

A Navajo Nation man has been charged with murder and other crimes in the March 11 killing of a tribal police officer.

A federal indictment announced Thursday charges 32-year-old Kirby Cleveland with three types of murder plus escape and firearms counts.

The murder and weapons charges stem from the killing of Officer Houston James Largo. He was gunned down after he stopped a vehicle on a dark road while responding to a domestic violence call in rural New Mexico.

An escape charge alleges Cleveland escaped Feb. 26 from a halfway house.

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.

A defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations.

Task Force To Review Juvenile Justice System In New MexicoThe Associated Press

Facets of New Mexico's juvenile justice system will go under the microscope as part of a comprehensive review to be carried out by a special task force.

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil and officials with the state's child welfare agency plan to launch the task force during a news conference in Albuquerque Thursday.

Nationwide, various states are looking for alternatives that both respond to youth crime while improving the outcome for those offenders.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislative trends range from addressing mental health needs to shifting resources from incarceration to community-based alternatives.

New Mexico's Smooths Way For No-Bail DetentionsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has affirmed that witness testimony is not always necessary in applying new constitutional provisions that can keep criminal suspects jailed without bail until they go to trial.

Chief Justice Charles Daniels summarized the court's position Wednesday in response to concerns from prosecutors that detention hearings for extremely dangerous defendants may be derailed or bogged down by trial-like requirements.

The Supreme Court said it will provide more detailed written guidance in the near future about evidentiary procedures at detention hearings to justify holding defendants without bail.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez appealed to the high court for guidance after his motions to deny bail were rejected in two cases related to a suspect in multiple armed robberies and man accused of shooting his pregnant wife.

The Supreme Court is deferring to the rulings of a district court judge in those cases, while also allowing prosecutors to seek further consideration of evidence presented without witnesses.

The high court said another district court judge fulfilled evidentiary requirements in denying pretrial release to a woman charged with murder in the connection with the theft of a vehicle and a subsequent crash that killed two people.

New Mexico Nonprofit Gets Homeownership GrantAssociated Press

A nonprofit that works to boost homeownership in the state has been awarded a multimillion-dollar grant that will benefit residents in several counties in central and northern New Mexico.

Homewise Inc. says the grant will help provide $10,500 in mortgage down payment assistance to 300 low- and moderate-income prospective homebuyers through deferred loans.

The nonprofit says that in 2015, 13 percent of home purchase loan applicants in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties were denied, compared to less than 10 percent nationally.

Officials say the most common reason for denial was debt-to-income ratio. The program aims to lower the monthly payment through deferred financing.

The loan amount is based solely on the borrower meeting the income requirements, and the loan would come due upon the sale or transfer of the property.

Task Force To Review Juvenile Justice System In New Mexico Associated Press

New Mexico's juvenile justice system will go under the microscope as part of a comprehensive review that will be carried out by a special task force.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Vigil and officials with the state's child welfare agency plan to launch the task force during a stop in Albuquerque on Thursday.

Nationwide, more states are looking for alternatives that both respond to youth crime while improving the outcomes for those offenders in the system.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislative trends range from addressing mental health needs to shifting resources from incarceration to community-based alternatives.

New Mexico Delegation Seeks Medal For Bataan Veterans Associated Press

New Mexico's congressional delegation has revived legislation that would honor veterans who fought against the Japanese for months during World War II and suffered through what would become known as the Bataan Death March.

Survivors and their descendants gathered last weekend to mark the 75th anniversary.

Tens of thousands of U.S. and Filipino troops were forced on the 65-mile (105-kilometre) march to a prison camp. Hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Filipinos died in stifling heat and at the hands of Japanese soldiers who shot, bayoneted or beat those who fell or stopped for water.

The bill would bestow a collective Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest and most distinguished civilian honor, to the troops from the U.S. and the Philippines who defended Bataan in recognition of their service and sacrifice.

Police Release More Details In Shooting Of An Oklahoma ManAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police have released more details in the shooting of an Oklahoma man during a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Gallup.

They say 33-year-old Steven Thompson of Oklahoma City remains hospitalized after Friday's incident.

Police say he's facing several charges including intent to distribute marijuana.

They say the suspect's SUV was searched and about 50 pounds of marijuana was found in the trunk.

Police also say 20-year-old Kierra Johnson of Del City, Oklahoma was a passenger in the vehicle and also is facing charges.

They the vehicle was stopped for a traffic violation and due to inconsistencies in statements by Thompson and Johnson, a police officer asked to search the SUV.

Thompson sped off with the officer and Johnson inside and a struggle resulted in the shooting.

Troubled Santa Fe Art, Design School To Close In Spring 2018Associated Press

The Santa Fe University of Art and Design will be closing in the spring of 2018.

School administrators made the announcement Wednesday, citing ongoing financial challenges and the need to offer their roughly 650 students more clarity about the school's future.

Still, administrators say they are considering other options, such as public-private partnerships that can further the mission of the campus.

The school is owned by Laureate International Universities. The city of Santa Fe leases the campus to the university for $2.2 million a year. Laureate had hoped to sell its assets to Raffles Education Corp. of Singapore, but the deal stalled.

The school has transfer arrangements with several accredited institutions. Administrators say the goal is to see eligible students transfer with as little financial or academic disruption as possible.

Eastern New Mexico Regents Choose New PresidentKENW, Associated Press

The Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents has chosen a new president from among five finalists.

The regents voted unanimously Wednesday to offer J.S. "Jeff" Elwell of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga the post. Portales radio station KENW reports that he accepted a three-year contract with an annual salary of $230,000.

Elwell will take over later this summer once current president Steven G. Gamble retires.

Elwell will be in charge of the main campus in Portales as well as campuses in Roswell and Ruidoso.

At Tennessee, Elwell is currently dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, overseeing 15 departments and affiliated groups and a budget of $42 million in state and private funds.

Wildlife Conservationists Sue Over Proposed Border WallAssociated Press

A conservation group and an Arizona congressman have filed what they say is the first federal lawsuit against the proposed border wall.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Tucson by the Center for Biological Diversity and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a southern Arizona Democrat.

Wildlife conservationists say the wall would be detrimental to rare animals such as jaguars and ocelots that are known to traverse the international line.

The lawsuit seeks to require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to put together a report on the environmental impact of construction of the wall and expanded operations on the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Donald Trump has promised to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it, though Mexico has refused.

New Mexico Nursing Board Puts College On NoticeSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe Community College won't be able to accept any new students into its nursing program until its graduates' test results improve or it wins an appeal.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the state nursing board has placed the college's nursing program on conditional status for two years due to low scores on licensing exams.

The passing rate for the exams is 80 percent. Students at the college averaged between 72 percent and 79 percent in the last three years.

College leaders plan to ask the board to reconsider the program's status based on improved test scores for the first quarter of 2017.

Eighty-six percent of students in the associate degree program and 90 percent in the bachelor's program passed the most recent licensure exam.

NMSU Weighs Downsizing In Wake Of State Budget Cuts El Paso Times, Associated Press

New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers says the university is considering merging colleges and cutting programs amid ongoing state budget cuts.

The El Paso Times reported Tuesday that Carruthers spoke about potential options for the Las Cruces-based school at a public forum this week.

His comments came after New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the state's entire higher education budget Friday. A special session will now be held for lawmakers to determine funding for colleges and universities as part of the state budget for fiscal year 2018.

Carruthers is calling on business leaders to lobby legislators and Martinez to adequately fund higher education.

He says NMSU has been reorganizing its departments to be more cost efficient.

The university cut 89 vacant positions and 37 filled positions last summer.