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Museum Revenue Up Attendence Down, Pearce Challenges Limit Of Use Of Campaign Cash

John Phelan
Creative Commons
Entrance, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

New Mexico Museums' Revenue Increases, Attendance DeclinesThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Revenue is up at New Mexico's state-run museums, despite the fact that fewer people are visiting them.

The Albuquerque Journal reports both results can be attributed in part to an increase in the price of admission implemented more than a year ago. As part of the admission changes, the museum system now offers state residents one free Sunday a month, rather than free admission every Sunday.

Department of Cultural Affairs statistics show 835,135 people visited the state's eight museums in fiscal year 2017, down from 2016's count of 898,381 visitors.

Despite the overall decline in attendance, Cultural Affairs Deputy Secretary Michael S. Delello says visits to the National Hispanic Cultural Center are up nearly 20 percent and visits to the New Mexico Museum of Space History have increased significantly as well.

Pearce Challenges Limit Of Use Of Campaign CashThe Associated Press

Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce has gone to court to challenge a state official's ruling that Pearce can't use all of his federal campaign war chest of approximately $1 million in the New Mexico race for governor.

A suit filed by Pearce in federal court Thursday challenges Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver's decision that Pearce's use of his federal campaign cash is subject to a $5,500 contribution limit.

Toulouse Oliver is a Democrat, and Pearce contends that her decision is politically motivated and that he has a First Amendment right to use his federal campaign cash in the state race.

Deputy Secretary of State John Blair told Pearce in a letter that the decision that the $5,500 limit applies is based on a review of state campaign laws and a 1996 court decision.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Proposed Fee HikeThe Associated Press

One of southern New Mexico's most popular tourist destinations wants to raise the price of admission.

Officials at Carlsbad Caverns National Park are proposing to raise general admission fees from $10 to $12 per person starting in October. Those 15 and younger will still be admitted for free.

Park officials said Thursday that revenues from admission fees are used to pay for deferred maintenance projects not covered by the park's base budget.

Some of these projects have included the $10 million redesign and renovation of the visitor center and $5 million for replacing steel in the hoist way of the park's secondary elevator.

There are also plans for a $5 million modernization of the primary elevators that take visitors into the caverns. That work should be done in May 2018.

Health Insurers Expect Rates To Increase 6-20%, Not The Proposed 80%- The Associated Press

New Mexico's superintendent of insurance says health insurance rates in New Mexico are excepted to increases between 6 and 20 percent.

Superintendent John Franchini said Thursday the increase is lower than proposed increases hitting 80%. 

About 55,000 New Mexico residents sign up each year for federally subsidized insurance through the state exchange, known as beWellnm.

Franchini says the largest initial rate proposal was calculated under the assumption that subsidies would disappear for out-of-pocket expenses as well as income-based tax credits that help people buy coverage.

Immigrant Advocates Convene In New Mexico Amid UncertaintyAssociated Press

Around 200 student immigrant activists from around the country are coming to Albuquerque to strategize on how to respond to President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

The advocates are scheduled to meet at the University of New Mexico from Thursday to Sunday for a series of trainings and workshops aimed at protesting stepped-up immigration enforcement by the Trump Administration.

Some advocates also are worried the administration may end a program designed to give temporary status to immigrant students who were brought illegally to the United States as children.

Since Trump took office, federal immigration authorities have stepped up immigration enforcement. Some Republicans have asked him to end Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

TV Series 'The Brave' To Film First Season In New MexicoAssociated Press

A new television series that will follow an undercover special operations squad will begin filming in New Mexico this month.

Officials with the state film office say work on the first season of "The Brave" is scheduled to start at the end of July and will run through the beginning of December.

Production will take place in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. About 600 New Mexico crew members will be hired along with 180 resident actors and stunt players, and about 4,000 background talent.

Produced by Universal Television and Keshet Studios, the series will follow Captain Adam Dalton, played by Mike Vogel, and his squad of highly trained undercover specialists as they carry out missions.

The series also will star Anne Heche, Natacha Karam, Hadi Tabbal, Noah Mills and Demetrius Grosse.

Congressional Election In New Mexico Set To Be Diverse Race - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

The primary race for an open congressional seat in central New Mexico is set to become one of the most diverse in the country.

A Native American woman, an openly gay white male, a Hispanic former U.S. Attorney, a Sandia National Laboratories physicist and a conservative immigration lawyer are among the candidates seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Debra Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, is hoping to become the nation's first Native American congresswoman. Pat Davis, an Albuquerque city councilor, is vying to be the state's first openly gay member of Congress. Both are Democrats.

Meanwhile, Republicans so far have two candidates, including lawyer Michael Hendricks. He grew up in Aguascalientes, Mexico where his parents worked as missionaries.

Republicans have not held the seat since 2009.

New Mexico Lawmakers Question Utility's Exit From CoalAssociated Press

State lawmakers from coal industry-dependent regions of northwestern New Mexico urged utility regulators to consider the local economic consequences of utility plans to shut down two coal-fired power plants and related mining operations.

Investor-owned utility Public Service Company of New Mexico has proposed phasing out the use of coal-fired electricity by retiring the San Juan generating station near Farmington in 2022 and abandoning the Four Corners power plant in Fruitland by 2031.

Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup on Wednesday questioned whether it makes sense for the utility to walk away from investments in the San Juan plant. She says consideration should be given to attracting energy-intensive industries to share the San Juan site.

Lawmakers met with utility executives and officials from the state Public Regulation Commission.

Attorneys: Keep Protections For Sex Assault Victims In Place - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Attorneys general from Pennsylvania, New Mexico and more than a dozen other states are urging U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to keep in place protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.

The attorneys sent a letter to DeVos on Wednesday, voicing their concerns about reports that suggest her office is preparing to rollback Obama-era guidance for stepped-up investigations of sexual assault at universities and colleges across the country.

DeVos said last week that the current system isn't working. She says allegations cannot be swept under the rug and that due process is needed.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says student safety needs to be put first. Several schools in his state are being investigated for their response to sexual assault.

In New Mexico, a 2016 federal investigation found that state's flagship school had failed in its handling of such cases.

Fraud Charges Leveled Against New Mexico Guardianship Firm - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Federal prosecutors are accusing a New Mexico guardianship firm of embezzling millions of dollars from the trust accounts of clients to support what court documents describe as lavish lifestyles.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico on Wednesday announced a 28-count indictment against Ayudando Guardians, Inc. and co-founders Susan Harris and Sharon Moore.

The charges include conspiracy, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

Moore and Harris are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys, and messages seeking comment were not immediately returned.

The company specializes in financial management services for hundreds of individuals with special needs. It receives benefit payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Social Security Administration on behalf of many clients.

With a court order, federal authorities have assumed control of Ayudando's business operations.

New Mexico Coalition Renews Concerns About Crime LegislationAssociated Press

A New Mexico coalition of civil liberties, human rights and faith-based groups is renewing calls for evidence-based criminal justice reforms ahead of an election-year legislative session in 2018.

New Mexico SAFE on Wednesday released a report that compiles evaluations of recent anti-crime legislation.

Steven Robert Allen of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico says the coalition is wary of legislative proposals in the coming year that score political points for election candidates without effectively addressing crime difficulties.

New Mexico SAFE has assigned failing grades to bills that unsuccessfully attempted to reinstate the death penalty and extend mandatory life sentences to additional violent crimes. It gave high marks to several bills vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez that would limit solitary confinement and remove some restrictions on post-conviction employment.

'Breaking Bad' Teacher Sentenced To 4 YearsAssociated Press

A former high school chemistry teacher convicted of cooking methamphetamines in New Mexico like the fictional Walter White character in the AMC-TV show "Breaking Bad" has been sentenced to four years in prison.

New Mexico District Judge Fernando Macias imposed a nine-year sentence but suspended all but four years against John W. Gose.

The 56-year-old Gose recently pleaded guilty to trafficking by manufacturing a controlled substance.

Gose was arrested in October after police discovered glassware, rubber tubing, and chemicals used to cook methamphetamines during a routine traffic stop.

New Mexico State Police later found more chemicals and supplies at his southern New Mexico home.

Authorities say Gose taught high school science in El Paso, Texas, and middle school science in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

New Mexico Police Investigate Shooting In Santa FeAssociated Press

New Mexico authorities say a suspect is dead following a shooting involving officers with the Santa Fe Police Department.

Agents with New Mexico State Police are investigating Wednesday's shooting, which stemmed from a call about a stabbing at an apartment complex.

SWAT officers responded to the scene, but authorities did not immediately provide any details about the events that followed other than to say the suspect was killed and the stabbing victim was in stable condition after being taken to a hospital.

No officers were injured.

State Police agents will be conducting interviews and gathering evidence to determine what led up to the shooting.

The names of the suspect and officers involved were not immediately released.

New Mexico's Cibola County Detention Center To Close

The Cibola County Detention Center is closing.

The Gallup Independent reports employees at the center were informed about the closure on Monday. County Manager Tony Boyd estimated it could take 90-120 days to fully close.

The county will replace the detention center with a transport program, which will utilize the services of other facilities.

Boyd says detention center officials have been contemplating closing for two years. He says the costs associated with running the center are extremely high.

The closure is expected to impact about 45 employees. Boyd says the Western New Mexico Corrections Facility in Grants is willing to absorb any employees who what to work there.

Martinez: 27 DWI Fugitives Caught In Aggressive PushAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has announced that 27 "most wanted" drunken driving fugitives have been captured since the state launched a new initiative two years ago.

Martinez said Wednesday that in addition to the fugitives more than 250 absconders with drunken driving issues have been taken into custody.

The announcement comes after the Martinez administration launched an aggressive drunken driving initiative in December 2015.

All of the 27 drunken driving fugitives once were listed on the state's top 10 list.

Last year, Martinez signed a bill aimed at toughening penalties for drunken driving offenses.

The bill makes it a second-degree felony to be convicted of eight or more DWIs, meaning tougher sentencing guidelines would be imposed.

Apple Founder Steve Jobs Is The Subject Of A New Opera - By Mike Silverman, Associated Press

An opera about the life of Apple founder Steve Jobs is having its world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera on Saturday night.

The music for "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" is by composer Mason Bates, combining traditional orchestration with synthesizer and other electronic effects. Mark Campbell's libretto moves back and forth through Jobs' life from childhood until his death in 2011 from pancreatic cancer.

Baritone Edward Parks sings the title role and mezzo Sasha Cooke is his wife, Laurene. Michael Christie conducts the production, which is directed by Kevin Newbury.

Future performances are planned in San Francisco, Seattle and Indiana University, and a commercial recording will be released next year.