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NM House Passes Pre-K Funding Proposal, No Libertarians Running For Governor

New Mexico Preschool Funding Proposal Clears House – The Associated Press

New Mexico House lawmakers have approved a proposal to increase funding for early childhood education in New Mexico by distributing more money from a multi-billion dollar state sovereign wealth fund.

The House voted 36-33 on Tuesday in favor of the constitutional amendment to increase annual distributions from the Land Grant Permanent Fund by one percent. It now heads to the Senate for consideration. Last year, a similar measure stalled in the Senate.

Supporters say a substantial increase in state spending is needed to improve and expand preschool education. Approval by the Legislature would set up a statewide vote in November.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration is seeking more general fund spending for early childhood education but opposes greater investment withdrawals. Constitutional amendments do not require the governor's signature.

Governor Highlights Law-Enforcement Budget NeedsThe Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is describing a House-approved budget as soft on crime in a push to increase salaries for state police, corrections officers, prosecutors and public defenders.

The Senate Finance Committee on Monday was preparing amendments to a $6.3 billion state general fund spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

Democratic Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith of Deming says legislative leaders understand the need to increase law enforcement and judiciary salaries. Corrections officers, state police and district attorneys would receive a 6.5 percent pay bump under the House-approved budget.

The bill falls short of the GOP governor's recommended spending on Albuquerque-area prosecutors amid acute concerns about urban crime. Smith says budget priorities from House lawmakers who are running for re-election take precedent over the outgoing governor.

Man Gets Prison For 2016 Albuquerque Crash That Killed Girl – The Associated Press, The Albuquerque Journal

A man has been sentenced to six years in prison for an Albuquerque freeway crash in 2016 that killed a 10-year-old girl.

Prosecutors say Xavier Nelson got the maximum sentence for vehicular homicide caused by reckless driving.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a judge also ruled Tuesday that the crime was a serious violent offense, meaning Nelson must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.

Nelson allegedly was driving more than 100 mph when his car slammed into a family's vehicle on Interstate 25 in November 2016. Carmen Esmeralda Rivera Nevarez died in the crash.

Nelson argued he was going no more than 85 mph and the other vehicle veered into his lane.

Prosecutors say crash data showed Nelson's car was going 107 mph and he never applied the brakes.

Dona Ana County Undersheriff Is Fired After Investigation - The Associated Press

Dona Ana County Undersheriff Ken Roberts has been fired after an investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

Sheriff Enrique "Kiki" Vigil announced Tuesday that an internal affairs investigation was conducted by an independent investigations firm and the findings recently returned were substantiated in one of the complaints against Roberts. Vigil didn't disclose details of the findings.

Last month, Roberts was suspended without pay for 10 days and temporarily relieved of all supervisory duties.

Roberts was named undersheriff in August 2016.

He was previously an investigator in the public corruption and white collar crimes division.

Two Key Lawmakers To Albuquerque: No New Money For Police KOB-TV, Associated Press

Two key New Mexico Democratic lawmakers are pouring cold water on Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller's plea for state help to hire 400 officers.

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports Sen. John Arthur Smith and Rep. Patty Lundstrom say the new mayor shouldn't expect any new appropriations to fulfill a campaign promise to increase police staffing.

Both, who chair important appropriation committees, say Albuquerque has its own tax base and can fund the new officers if that's what its city council wants.

During the mayoral campaign last year, Keller promised to hire 400 new officers to help fight rising crime in New Mexico's largest city. He vowed to convince state lawmakers to help the city out.

Albuquerque needs roughly $17 million to hire 400 officers.

U.S. House Blocks Resolution To Condemn Arizona Rep For TweetThe Associated Press

The Republican-led House has blocked a resolution condemning an Arizona Republican congressman who sought to arrest immigrants in the U.S. illegally at the State of the Union address.

The vote was 231-187 to kill the resolution.

In a tweet, conservative Rep. Paul Gosar called for the Capitol Police and Justice Department to check the identification of people attending President Donald Trump's speech and arrest "any illegal aliens."

Gosar's request was ignored. Several Democrats' guests were immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico says Gosar abused his power and attempted to interfere with U.S. Capitol Police's efforts to provide a secure environment.

Grisham, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, sought to condemn Gosar for remarks that "intimidated" guests and "discredited" the House.

Protests Hit Ten Commandments Marker, MLK Day In New MexicoHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Activists advocating for religious freedom are targeting a Ten Commandments monument in a southeastern New Mexico public building and a city's sponsorship of a Martin Luther King, Jr. event.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation says the Ten Commandments monument and the King event violate the separation of church and state.

Hobbs resident and foundation member Jeremy Wood asked the Hobbs City Commission at a recent meeting to remove the Ten Commandments monument at Hobbs City Hall.

Foundation lawyer Christopher Line also sent a complaint to the City of Hobbs regarding its sponsorship of a Martin Luther King, Jr. event because it involved a performance by a gospel group.

Hobbs City attorney Mike Stone says the city will evaluate the complaints.

Libertarians Shy Away From Governor's Race – The Associated Press

The Libertarian Party has no candidate for governor of New Mexico as a primary-election deadline passes, complicating efforts to maintain major party status in November elections.

Libertarian Party activist and candidate for state Attorney General A. Blair Dunn said Tuesday that the party still has options open to protect its major-party status in fall elections.

The Secretary of State's Office says the party must win 5 percent of the vote in a gubernatorial or presidential election to maintain major party status. Agency spokesman Joey Keefe says a Libertarian candidate for governor still can file as a write-in contender.

Libertarian candidates have ready access to the primary and general election ballot in New Mexico thanks to a strong showing in 2016 by failed presidential candidate Gary Johnson that provided major party status.

Libertarians have registered to run for U.S. Senate, two congressional seats, secretary of state and state land commissioner.

Proposal To Change Regent Selection Stalls In New Mexico Associated Press

New Mexico state lawmakers won't move forward with a proposal to overhaul the selection process for regents who oversee the state's public universities and flagship medical center.

The proposed constitutional amendment failed to advance Monday on a 5-4 committee vote, with little time left to revive debate before lawmakers adjourn on Feb. 15.

The initiative from Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces and Republican Sen. Mark Moores of Albuquerque sought to broaden initial searches for qualified and energetic candidates to oversee the state's major public universities.

It would have created bipartisan nomination committees to provide a list of qualified candidates for the governor to choose from when nominating regents.

New Mexico's public university system has been wrestling with declining overall enrollment and the erosion of in-state student scholarships.

Man Shot In Head In Apparent Road Rage Incident The Associated Press, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A Los Alamos man is recovering from surgery after being shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office says no arrest had been made as of Monday.

A police report says the victim, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, was driving behind a Jeep when the vehicle braked several times. The victim slowed down.

The report says the driver of the Jeep then pulled over at an intersection, waited for the victim and got back on the highway behind the victim's vehicle.

The victim says the driver pulled up next to his vehicle and he heard two loud pops.

Authorities say a CAT scan showed a bullet between the victim's scalp and skull.

Lawmakers Call For Plan On Movement-Disorders CenterSanta Fe New Mexican, The Associated Press

The New Mexico Legislature approved a measure last week that calls on the University of New Mexico to devise a plan for a center for patients with movement disorders.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that many people with Parkinson's and other such ailments seek treatment out of state because so the state has so many mobility disorder patients and so few doctors.

The measure was pushed by the New Mexico Parkinson's Coalition as part of a long-term effort to help with the Parkinson's treatment shortage in the state.

An estimated 10,000 people in New Mexico live with Parkinson's disease.

The total number of those diagnosed with movement disorders in New Mexico is 250,000.

New Mexico Tribe Fails On Bid To Buy Louisiana CasinoGallup Independent, Associated Press

A New Mexico tribe's bid to buy a Louisiana casino has failed.

The Gallup Independent reports Laguna Pueblo didn't obtain approval from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board by a deadline. That prompted the owner of the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lake Charles in Westlake, Louisiana, to cancel plans to sell to the Laguna Development Corp.'s Kicks Entertainment unit.

In August 2016, the Laguna Development Corp. announced it had signed a purchase agreement to acquire the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lake Charles for $134.5 million. But the purchase had to be completed within 12 months.

Laguna Development pulled its application from the Gaming Control Board in November 2017.

Laguna Development President and CEO Jerry Smith said in a statement he was disappointed a deal couldn't be reached.

New Mexico House Approves Medicaid Buy-In StudyAssociated Press

New Mexico would study opportunities to allow almost anyone to buy Medicaid health care coverage under a measure approved by the state House of Representatives.

House lawmakers voted 42-22 on Monday to move forward with initial studies toward opening up access to Medicaid services for a fee to more people. A Senate vote was still needed to initiate the year-long study by the Legislature and state insurance regulators.

Democratic Rep. Deborah Armstrong says several states are studying the potential to provide more affordable coverage to consumers through a Medicaid buy-in program. She says the state's managed care system for Medicaid provides lower-cost care per person than the private marketplace.

Republican Rep. Larry Larrañaga of Albuquerque says he does not see the need for a buy-in program given current insurance options.

Man Convicted Of Killing Girl, 10, In Crash Faces SentencingAssociated Press

A 24-year-old Albuquerque man convicted of killing a 10-year-old girl after police said he crashed into her family car during a race on Interstate 25 is set to be sentenced.

Xavier Nelson is scheduled Tuesday to be sentenced following his December 2017 conviction for homicide by vehicle and reckless driving.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is seeking a six-year prison sentence.

The November 2016 collision sent the vehicles rolling, ejecting 10-year-old Carmen Esmeralda Rivera and killing her instantly. Police say Nelson was traveling 107 mph.

The gruesome crash reignited a push by a New Mexico lawmaker and the state attorney general's office for tougher penalties for those convicted of reckless driving resulting in death.

Tucumcari Municipal Court Judge Arrested On Suspicion Of DWIAssociated Press

Authorities say a Tucumcari Municipal Court judge has been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

New Mexico State Police say 71-year-old Joe Dominguez was taken into custody Sunday.

It's unclear if he has a lawyer yet.

State Police say a patrol officer saw a pickup truck go through a stop sign in Tucumcari and pulled the vehicle over.

The officer says he smelled alcohol when he approached the truck.

He says Dominguez admitted to drinking and failed sobriety tests.

A blood test showed Dominguez's blood alcohol level was at .09 percent, which is over the legal limit for drivers in New Mexico.

State Police say Dominguez identified himself as a Tucumcari Municipal Court judge.

He's been booked into the Quay County Detention Center and is facing a DWI charge.

Trump Administration Open To Moving Public Land Bosses West - By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Bureau of Land Management oversees vast expanses of public lands rich in oil, gas, coal, grassland and wildlife habitat.

But more than 99 percent of it is in 12 Western states, hundreds of miles from Washington.

Some Western politicians are asking why the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management isn't in the West as well. They have a powerful ally in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The Montanan is leading President Donald Trump's charge to roll back environmental protections and encourage energy development on public land.

Zinke has said he wants to move much of the Interior Department's decision-making out of Washington and into the West, including the Bureau of Land Management.

US Marshal For New Mexico Resigns The Associated Press

U.S. Marshal for New Mexico Conrad Candelaria resigned after nearly eight years in the position.

A spokesman for the service confirmed Monday that Candelaria resigned over the weekend.

Candelaria was confirmed by the Senate in 2010 after then-President Barack Obama nominated the New Mexico native and former Albuquerque police officer for the role.

U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade says Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Brent Broshow took over Sunday as the interim senior manager of the New Mexico office

The Marshals Service says Broshow will relocate to New Mexico from Missouri.

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek To Halt Suicides At 'Gorge Bridge' - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are pushing a measure aimed at curbing suicides at one of the state's most famous bridges.

Two northern New Mexico Democrats want the state to divert money to reassign three state police officers to monitor the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos, New Mexico and south of Colorado.

Officials say there have been more than 125 suicides from the bridge in the last two decades.

It is the second highest bridge on the U.S. Highway System and sits 650 feet above the Rio Grande.

In California, officials said Golden Gate Bridge suicides have decreased after the addition of five officers whose jobs are to spot suicidal people.

Gorge Bridge has appeared in a number of movies, including "Natural Born Killers" and "Terminator Salvation."

'Snatchers' To Start Filming 2nd Season In New MexicoAssociated Press

A comedy series about teens battling alien invaders is set to film a second season in New Mexico.

New Mexico Film Office Director Nick Maniatis announced Monday that digital series "Snatchers," which streams on Verizon's go90 media brand, will begin principal photography in early February through mid-March in Albuquerque.

"Snatchers" is a horror comedy series about high school student Sara, played by Mary Nepi, who has sex and wakes up pregnant 24 hours later with an alien baby. She teams up with her ex-best friend Hayley, played by Gabrielle Elyse, to fight the extraterrestrial threat.

The series is produced by Stage 13, a division of Warner Bros. Digital Networks.

Officials say the production will employ 50 New Mexico crew members and around 15 New Mexico principal actors.