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KUNM News Update

Medical Pot Rises In SF County, Prosecutors Seek 10-Year Sentence For Former NM Senator

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Santa Fe County Sees Rise In Medical Marijuana CardholdersThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health says the number of medical marijuana cardholders in Santa Fe County has jumped to nearly 43 percent from January 2017 to January 2018.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Saturday that Santa Fe County has the second-highest number of medical marijuana cardholders with about 1 in 10 of state's nearly 48,000 cardholders living in the northern central county.

The growing popularity of medical marijuana is reflected in the number of dispensaries in the county.

There are seven dispensaries in the county, including two that opened in December

An eighth dispensary is set to open in a few days, and a ninth one is scheduled to open within a month.

Two more are expected to open in the near future.

Prosecutors Seek 10-Year Sentence For Former State SenatorThe Associated Press

Prosecutors are recommending that a former New Mexico state senator convicted of fraud, bribery and felony ethical violations be sentenced to 10 years in prison and pay fines.

The recommendations for Phil Griego's punishment were outlined in court documents filed today by the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.

Prosecutors say the recommendations are aimed at deterring similar misconduct by elected officials and at adequately punishing Griego for betraying the public's trust.

Griego will be sentenced Friday in Santa Fe.

Prosecutors accused Griego of using his elected position as a real estate broker to guide the sale of a state-owned building through various approvals without properly disclosing his financial interest.

New Mexico Senate Seeks Income Tax Credit For Rooftop SolarThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has approved a tax credit that would offset costs of solar energy systems for households, small businesses and farms.

The Senate voted 37-3 on Monday for a bill that offsets income taxes to reward investments in small-scale rooftop solar investments.

The proposal now moves the House. Outgoing GOP Gov. Susana Martinez has indicated she is unlikely to support stand-alone tax measures.

Bill sponsor and Democratic state Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque says the bill reinstates tax credits that expired in 2016 and cap annual credits at $5 million. The new credit would gradually decline from 10 percent of costs to 6 percent over a 15-year period.

Republican Sen. Sander Rue of Albuquerque voted in favor but indicated the bill is unlikely to become law this year.

Navajo Nation Updates Criminal Code To Include CyberbullyingThe Associated Press

The Navajo Nation president has signed legislation to add cyberbullying to the tribe's criminal code.

Lawmakers recently passed the bill to criminalize electronic activity that aids in stalking or harassment, or that contributes to a death. Navajo President Russell Begaye signed it Sunday.

Officials say the measure is meant to help reduce the rates of violence and suicide on the vast reservation. A staff assistant for the president's office, Yvonne Kee-Billison, says the tribe's laws hadn't addressed potential criminal activity online.

Officials say the criminal code now covers electronic communication that originates or is received in the Navajo Nation.

Judge Awards Bone Cement VictimsThe Associated Press

A judge awarded a New Mexico woman $2.3 million for the pain, suffering, loss and disability she still experiences a decade after a minimally invasive spine surgery.

The Albuquerque Journal reports U.S. Bankruptcy Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz of Albuquerque awarded Patricia Rue her amount and three other former patients another $10 million in damages, after finding that Quorum Health Resources of Tennessee breached its duty to prevent harm to bone cement spinal treatment patients at Gerald Champion Regional Hospital from 2007 to 2008.

The damage assessment against Quorum, which supplied top executives for the hospital, is the first time in the protracted litigation that a judge has determined the amount of harm suffered by individual plaintiffs.

Quorum, through its attorney, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Amended New Mexico State Budget Seeks More For ProsecutorsAssociated Press

Senate lawmakers in New Mexico are proposing greater spending on prosecutors in Albuquerque, as well as judges and prison guards.

The Senate finance committee on Saturday recommended amendments to a House-approved general fund spending plan for the coming fiscal year. Rebounding energy prices and oil production are giving lawmakers leeway to boost spending.

The amended $6.3 billion budget proposal increases general fund spending by $259 million for the year starting July 1.

The district attorney's office overseeing Albuquerque would receive a 16.5 percent operating budget increase, amid acute concerns about urban crime. A 2 percent base pay increase is proposed for all state employees.

State police, prison guards and parole officers would get a 6.5 percent pay increase. The plan directs $45 million to prevent the collapse a giant cavern underneath Carlsbad.

Las Cruces Diocese Sued In Alleged Hobbs Sexual Abuse CaseHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces is facing a lawsuit by the alleged sexual abuse victim of former southeastern New Mexico pastor who is facing criminal charges.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports a 10-page lawsuit filed last week against the diocese and St. Helena Parish in Hobbs, New Mexico, says the diocese facilitated sexual battery and assisted Rev. Ricardo Bauza in evading authorities.

According to a 15-page criminal complaint filed in November, Bauza got into a shower with an adult male, and washed the victim's body with a loofah in the church rectory.

Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall says Bauza has not been arrested on the warrant, which remains outstanding.

Fr. Enrique Lopez is chancellor of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

He says the diocese couldn't comment on pending litigation.

Albuquerque Police Department Limits Role In US Task ForcesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The Albuquerque Police Department says it is no longer assigning officers to U.S. Marshal task forces and has removed a detective from one such task force because of differences in policies on reviewing use of force.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the changes occurred after a 2016 shooting during which a police detective fired his weapon during a shootout with a suspect.

A Civilian Police Oversight Agency official says a review found that the detective didn't violate the department's use of force policy.

However, the oversight agency's executive director, Ed Harness, says police officials couldn't review tactics, supervision and equipment used during the shooting because the task force has difference policies than the police department.

Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says officers still work on task forces with other federal agencies.

Border Agents To Search For Banned Valentine's Day Flowers Associated Press

Federal customs agents say they will step up searches for banned flowers meant for Valentine's Day being smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said this week that agriculture specialists will be stationed at El Paso ports of entry to inspect flowers and plants being brought over the border.

Live plants, seeds and bulbs are also not allowed entry into the United States without special permits and phytosanitary certificates.

The most commonly prohibited flowers and plant foliage are chrysanthemums and choisya. Officials say these items are not allowed to enter the U.S. from Mexico because they are known to harbor harmful pests and disease.

Some floral bouquets and arrangements purchased in Mexico will use flowers and greenery for filler that are prohibited in the U.S.

Navajo Official Commemorate Anniversary Of Treaty Of 1868Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials have signed a proclamation commemorating the Treaty of 1868, which marked the end of the Navajo people's exile at an internment camp in southeast New Mexico and their return to the Four Corners region.

The tribes' officials said Friday that 2018 will by the "Year of the Treaty" to mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the document.

They say it both ended the displacement of thousands of Navajo men, women and children at Bosque Redondo, and established Navajo's intergovernmental relationship with the United States.

In June, the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, plans to display the original Navajo Treaty of 1868.

There also are plans for it to be on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.

Lawmakers Push For Federal Nutrition Bill For Native YouthAssociated Press

A group of Democratic senators and representatives are pushing for federal legislation that would allow for tribes to administer free federal food and nutrition programs to school children.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, both of New Mexico, are among the bill's sponsors. Udall's office said Friday that the lawmakers were reintroducing the Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act, saying it would improve prospects that Native American children would have better access to nutritional foods.

Under the bill, tribes would not be required to go through state agencies to administer the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

New Mexico Lawmakers Rally Around Spaceport Secrecy BillAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are rallying around a bill designed to provide greater confidentiality for aerospace companies working out of a taxpayer-funded space launch facility in southern New Mexico.

A Senate panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a bill that would provide exceptions to state open-records law for information about tenants at Spaceport America.

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government President Greg Williams says the level of secrecy provided by the bill is unwarranted. He says the bill could keep the public from knowing the names of people doing business with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

Managers of the Spaceport America hangar, testing facilities, rocket launch pad and specialized runway say greater confidentiality provisions are needed to compete for new aerospace-industry tenants against competition from a growing list of government-subsidized launch facilities.

New Mexico Father Indicted In Infant Girl's DeathLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Court records show a New Mexico grand jury has indicted a man in the death of his infant daughter.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports a Doña Ana County grand jury indicted Marcus Alton Minnick on Thursday on a count of first-degree child abuse resulting in death.

He is accused in the indictment of violently shaking his seven-week-old daughter, Mattie Minnick, on Jan. 17, and failing to call 911 after unsuccessfully trying to revive the baby.

Minnick's indictment follows one for the child's mother, Caricia Lorena Ceballos, on different charges. She was indicted Feb. 1. on two counts of first-degree child abuse resulting in great bodily harm, each stemming from different incidents.

Both parents are 19.

New Mexico Preschool Proposal Clears HurdleAssociated Press

A New Mexico Senate committee has endorsed a proposal to boost early childhood education programs by tapping into a multibillion-dollar state investment fund.

The Senate is considering a constitutional amendment approved by the House that would increase distributions from a $17 billion sovereign wealth fund to expand preschool, daycare and home visits by social workers with parents of infants and toddlers.

The Senate Education Committee recommended approval Friday with Democrats in support on a 5-3 party-line vote. It moves next to the Senate Finance Committee where it could encounter opposition from fiscally conservative Democrats.

Opponents of the proposal include GOP Gov. Susana Martinez and Libertarian State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, whose agency channels earnings from oil, gas and mineral leases to the Land Grant Permanent Fund. Approval by the Senate would set up a statewide vote in November. The governor's signature is not required.

New Mexico Legislature Backs Pet Food Fee For SterilizationsAssociated Press

Bills to expand dog and cat sterilizations across New Mexico by collecting a new annual fee from pet food manufacturers have cleared the New Mexico House and Senate.

The Senate voted 31-8 Friday in approval of a $100 fee on each registered label of pet food distributed in New Mexico. The fee would be phased in over the next three years, starting at $50. 

Sen. Gay Kernan says the initiative is designed to reduce the number of unwanted pets that are euthanized and save related taxpayer dollars. It was unclear whether Gov. Susana Martinez supports the fee.

The $100 fee would raise an estimated $1.3 million annually. Legislative analysts say the financial impact on pet owners would be negligible.

Ruling Reduces Sentence Of Man Convicted In Killing Of Boy Associated Press

A New Mexico Supreme Court ruling reduces a man's sentences for killing of a young boy in Curry County but a prosecutor says she's satisfied the 38-year-old inmate still must spend decades behind bars.

The state high court's ruling Thursday reduces Noe Torres' sentence to life plus 31½ years to life plus 21½ years, and District Attorney Andrea Reeb told the Eastern New Mexico News that it'll be at least 47 years before Torres could be eligible for parole.

Torres was convicted in the 2005 shooting death of 10-year old Carlos Perez. According to authorities, the boy's older brother was the intended victim.

The court's ruling cited protections against double jeopardy in overturning two of Torres' several convictions. It also erased an habitual offender enhancement of his sentence.