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KUNM News Update

NM Second Worst In Child Poverty, Legislature Overhauls Sexual Harassment Policy

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Report: New Mexico's Second Worst State For Child Well-BeingThe Associated Press

A new report says quality of life is low for children in New Mexico.

The 2017 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book found more children are living in poverty, are without health insurance and living in single-parent household than a year ago.

The report from the New Mexico Voices for Children ranked New Mexico as the second worst state in child well-being.

According to the report, 29 percent of New Mexico children live in poverty.

However, the report showed that there was slight improvement in the number of children in early childhood education and graduation rates. The teen births and the number of teens and adolescents abusing drugs and alcohol have decreased.

The group unveiled the report's findings Tuesday just as the Legislature convened for its 30-day session.

New Mexico Governor Urges Cooperation On Crime – The Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is sounding an optimistic note about rebounding state finances and urging lawmakers to approve tougher criminal penalties at the outset of a new legislative session.

Martinez delivered her final State of the State speech to the Legislature on Tuesday. She said the state's budget surplus has climbed to an estimated $330 million.

She called on Lawmakers to reform the state's gross receipts taxes on sales and business services and make funding for business incentives permanent.

She repeated calls to reinstate the death penalty. The proposal has been rejected repeatedly by the legislature.

New Mexico Nuclear Waste Repository Closed For MaintenanceThe Associated Press

The nation's only underground nuclear waste repository is undergoing its first maintenance outage since it resumed operations a year ago.

Before then, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant had been shut down for three years because radiation contaminated part of the facility.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that maintenance crews will be updating power supplies, relocating fiber-optic cables and replacing other parts in the underground mine.

The work is expecting to last until Jan. 26. Waste shipments will be on hold until the following week.

The facility disposes of waste from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.

Budget Rebound Gives Governor, Lawmakers More Options - By Morgan Lee And Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Criminal justice initiatives and state spending increases for public education, law enforcement, Medicaid and economic development are at the top of the agenda as the New Mexico Legislature convenes for a 30-day session.

The session begins at noon on Tuesday with the State of the State address by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

State tax income is on the rise as lawmakers begin crafting a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Pay increases are under consideration for teachers and state workers — with an added emphasis pay for the judiciary, law enforcement and corrections officers.

New Mexico government income for the coming fiscal year is expected to surpass annual spending obligations by nearly $200 million. The governor wants to raise an additional $99 million through tax and health care reforms.

Icy Weather Prompts Fatal Crashes In Northern New MexicoKOB-TV, KRQE-TV

New Mexico State Police reported two fatalities Monday night as a result of icy roads in northern New Mexico.

KOB-TV reports police shut down part of Interstate 25 south of Las Vegas after icy conditions caused multiple crashes. At least two people were reported dead near Romeroville.

KRQE-TV reports southbound lanes near that town remain closed but the rest of I-25 is open.

KOB reported State Police also Tweeted about another fatal crash on US 550 near mile marker 113 northbound but no details were available.

New Mexico State Senate Fills Leadership SlotAssociated Press

New Mexico state Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque has been chosen as Democratic Senate majority whip.

Stewart was named to the post Monday. Democratic state Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque was ousted last month as majority whip and ended his campaign for lieutenant governor amid allegations that he harassed women at a previous job a decade ago. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Stewart joined the Senate in 2015 after serving for 20 years in the state House of Representatives.

State Analysts Review Factors Fueling Albuquerque Crime RateAssociated Press

Analysts for the Legislative Finance Committee say they are undertaking a review of the Bernalillo County criminal justice system.

The jurisdiction includes Albuquerque, where crime has been on the rise since 2010.

Analysts told lawmakers Monday that they expect to complete a report this spring on factors contributing to Albuquerque's rising crime rate.

They are reviewing what — if any — effect a lagging economy, drug abuse and gang activity have had, as well as whether reforms in the last several years have played a part in driving up crime rates. They noted that there is no evidence yet to suggest that is the case.

They say so far they have found that people with multiple arrests committed the vast majority of crimes from 2010 to 2016.

ACLU Sues Over Albuquerque Panhandling OrdinanceAssociated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has filed a lawsuit over an Albuquerque panhandling ordinance that went into effect last month.

The ordinance passed by the Albuquerque City Council prohibits panhandlers from soliciting motorists at medians and sidewalks. It also makes it illegal for motorists to physically interact with them.

City Councilor Trudy Jones sponsored the measure. She says the intent of it is to make streets safer.

The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit last week on behalf of five Albuquerque residents, including a woman who is homeless and another who regularly donates to panhandlers. The ACLU says the ordinance criminalizes poverty, and violates the free speech rights.

Mystery Shrouds New Mexico Jailer's Civil Rights-Era MurderAssociated Press

The murder of a Hispanic jailer in New Mexico in 1968 — a year of unrest in the United States — has long divided residents, scholars and civil rights advocates.

Assailants abducted Eulogio Salazar in front of his home in the rural community of Tierra Amarilla and left his body in a ravine.

The murder came as Salazar was preparing to testify against Hispanic-rights activist Reies López Tijerina and his followers. The group was accused of leading an armed raid of the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse six months earlier.

Tijerina denied having any role in Salazar's killing up until his own death in 2015.

Some scholars say Salazar may have been a casualty of overzealous law enforcement working to dismantle the influence of Mexican-American civil rights groups.

The 50-year-old case remains unsolved after two investigations.

Western New Mexico University Hires New Athletic DirectorAssociated Press

Western New Mexico University has a new athletic director.

The school announced Monday that it has hired Scott Noble to run the Mustangs athletic program. His job at the school's Silver City campus begins Feb. 2.

For the last several years, Noble has been the athletic director at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he re-introduced the women's basketball program after a 30-year hiatus.

He has a master's degree in physical education and sport administration from Eastern Illinois University.

Western New Mexico University competes as a NCAA Division II school.

New Mexico Legislature Overhauls Sexual Harassment PolicyBy Morgan Lee, Associated Press

The New Mexico Legislature overhauled its policies against sexual misconduct and harassment Monday, setting new standards for what constitutes harassment and adding outside oversight for investigations of lawmakers.

The policy changes, approved by a panel of leading lawmakers on the eve of a new Legislative session, are designed to make the Capitol work environment safer amid a nationwide debate over sexual misconduct.

The new policies were in response to dozens of public comments at a previous public meeting and by email asking for greater independence in investigations. One change now requires that outside legal counsel participate as lawmakers investigate harassment complaints against their colleagues.

The state Senate and House continue to have the final word on the disciplining of any lawmaker accused of harassment, if probable cause of a violation is found.

The harassment policy now spells out in greater detail what behavior constitutes sexual harassment. Complaint procedures differ for complaints against state employees, lawmakers or others who work or visit in the Capitol — such as registered lobbyists.

New Mexico Second Worst For Child PovertySanta Fe New Mexican

Nearly a third of New Mexico children live in poverty, placing the state second from the bottom nationwide in that ranking.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the annual Kids Count Data Book from New Mexico Voices for Children presents a mixed picture for children and teens, with some improvements and many drawbacks. It says 29 percent of New Mexico children live in poverty compared to the national average of 20 percent.

Drug and alcohol abuse is down among teens and adolescents and the number of teens giving birth declined. The report also show improving graduation rates and more enrollment in early childhood programs.

But it also found more children lack health insurance and there are more teens and children being raised by single parents than last year.

The report release is timed with the beginning of the legislative session on Tuesday. It recommends lawmakers allot more money for early childhood education programs and invest more funds in preK and K-3 summer learning programs.

The site WalletHub recently ranked New Mexico the worst place in the nation to raise a family.

Navajo Prep Students Win $10K For Gold King Mine Spill StudyFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Students at Navajo Preparatory School researching the lasting impacts of the 2015 Gold King Mine spill have won $10,000 for their work.

The Farmington Daily Times reports seven sophomores and juniors in a gifted-and-talented program at the school entered the Lexus Eco Challenge with a project that involved testing green onion roots for iron and zinc after they had been submerged into the Animas River. The work won them $8,000 in scholarships, and $2,000 for school equipment.

They now are competing in a second phase of the competition.

More than two years ago, the EPA accidently released 3 million gallons of mustard-colored water from southwestern Colorado's Gold King Mine into the Animas River. The spill tainted water in three states, as well as the Navajo Nation.

Lower Score For Santa Fe Prep School Fixed After Data ErrorSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A Santa Fe district-chartered school has had its state grade for 2016-17 raised from a "B'' to an "A'' after a data error led to a miscalculation.

The New Mexico Public Education Department made the change for the Academy for Technology and the Classics.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the college-preparatory school that serves nearly 400 students in grades 7-12 now has logged its fifth straight "A'' since the state implemented the school grading system in 2012-13.

Santa Fe Public Schools reportedly failed to submit some information to the state regarding ATC students' participation in the rigorous Advanced Placement classes as well as scores on end-of-year AP tests.

That data improved ATC's score in a category measuring its success at preparing students for college and careers following graduation.