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KUNM News Update

Governor Signs A $6.3 Million Budget, Cold Front Expected This Weekend

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Governor Signs $6.3 Billion Budget- Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez has signed a $6.3 billion general fund-spending bill for the coming fiscal year that boosts funding for law enforcement and public education.

Martinez said Wednesday that she is grateful that State Police officers will get raises and disappointed in the level of funding for business incentives.

Spending on teacher salaries across the state will increase by $63 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

As she prepares to leave office, Martinez says she will leave state government with strong cash reserves of more than $600 million as a buffer against any economic downturn.

New Mexico government income is surging in connection with a sustained rebound in oil prices and major investments by oil and gas exploration in the southeast of the state.

Lawmakers rallied around reforms that also aim to better address addiction and health issues among prison inmates as they are released.

Lab Offers Pricing Preference To New Mexico Businesses- Associated Press & Albuquerque Journal

A national research and development laboratory announced a 5 percent pricing preference for qualified New Mexico small businesses.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Sandia National Laboratories' Supply Chain Integration Department Senior Manager Delfinia Salazar says the preference could apply to about $100 million in competitive subcontract awards during the first year of the program.

The program would apply to subcontracts for research and development, customized equipment, professional services, commercial items and information technology.

Sandia will apply the 5 percent preference while evaluating subcontract awards worth $150,000 to $5 million. When a qualified New Mexico small business submits a bid, the labs will add 5 percent to the bids of other businesses that don't qualify as New Mexico small businesses.

Forecasters: New Mexico Marks Another Warm Month- Associated Press

New Mexico has wrapped up another warm winter month.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque say the temperature was 3.5 degrees above normal for February, making it the 18th warmest on record for New Mexico.

As for precipitation, the data shows the state was 0.06 inches above normal.

Despite dismal snowpack levels so far this winter and a dry start to March, the forecast calls for a low-pressure system to move into the Southwest with abundant moisture late this week.

A back-door cold front is expected to slide into eastern New Mexico and through the Rio Grande Valley, and forecasters say chances for rain and snow could increase Sunday and Monday.

Deputies: 2 Men Killed While Changing Tire Near Algodones- Associated Press

Authorities say two men were killed on an interstate in New Mexico after they were hit by a car while changing a flat tire.

The Sandoval County Sheriff's Office says a man pulled over to the shoulder on southbound I-25 near Algodones on Tuesday evening.

Deputies say another driver stopped to assist the man with changing the tire. Another vehicle struck the men and the car, killing the two at the scene.

Authorities have not released the men's names as deputies were working to notify family members of the deaths.

Authorities closed the interstate for most of the night.

Santa Fe Mayor-Elect Wants City To Adapt- Associated Press

Entrepreneur and Santa Fe Mayor-elect Alan Webber says local government is at an important transition point as the nation's oldest state capital city adapts to the pressures of being an international destination.

Webber spoke Wednesday about what comes next after winning his first election to public office in a five-way race against a local school board member and three men on the city council.

He says Santa Fe is simultaneously a small and intimate community and a world-class destination and that city government must transform itself to honor the past and plan for the future.

Webber will be the first to lead Santa Fe under a new strong-mayor system, with a nearly quadrupled salary of $110,000. He is the founder of Fast Company Magazine and was supported by business interests, unions and prominent New Mexico politicians including a district court judge and the Democratic mayor of Albuquerque.

Governor: Border Move Not 'Not Well Thought Out'- Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is questioning a decision by the state's top elected land manager to block federal authorities from accessing state trust land along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn contends the federal government never received permission and has not paid the state for easements or rights of way to use the property.

Dunn has reached out to federal officials in hopes of reaching an agreement but has yet to hear back. He cordoned off the property Tuesday.

Martinez said she was surprised to hear about the dust up, saying more conversations should have been held with the federal government given that border security is a top priority.

The two-term Republican governor said the move to keep border patrol officers out of the area was "not well thought out."

Entrepreneur Alan Webber Wins Santa Fe Mayoral RaceAssociated Press

Publishing entrepreneur Alan Webber has been elected mayor of New Mexico's capital city.

Santa Fe City Clerk Yolanda Vigil announced Tuesday that Webber won a majority of ballots after four elimination rounds in the city's first election by ranked choice voting.

Webber, the founder of Fast Company Magazine, prevailed against a local school board member and three members of city council.

Santa Fe voters ranked party candidates from first to last on the ballot, in order of preference.

When no candidate won a majority in the first round, the last-place finisher was eliminated and voters' second choices were applied to the remaining candidates. The process was repeated until Webber won a 66 percent majority in the final round.

Outgoing Mayor Javier Gonzales did not seek re-election.

More Patients Enroll In New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program – Associated Press

The number of people licensed to use medical cannabis in New Mexico has grown substantially since the state began the program a decade ago.

The latest figures from the state Health Department show a total of 48,821 patients were enrolled at the end of February. Almost half of them list post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition.

Patients must meet at least one of 21 conditions for a medical cannabis card. The other most common qualifying conditions include severe chronic pain and cancer.

State health officials have been careful over the years to expand the list of conditions. Still pending is a petition to allow medical cannabis to be used as a tool in the fight against opioid abuse and the associated withdrawal symptoms.

States To Begin Surveys For Lesser-Prairie ChickenAssociated Press

Wildlife managers in several states will begin surveys later this month to track the population of a grouse that has been the focus of an ongoing legal battle over whether it warrants federal protection.

Officials say aerial surveys for the lesser-prairie chicken in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas will start March 16 and run through mid-May.

The lesser-prairie chicken was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. That decision was vacated two years later as a result of a lawsuit and a subsequent court ruling. Environmentalists then petitioned to have the bird's status reviewed.

As part of a range-wide voluntary conservation plan, economic incentives are offered to landowners and companies that set aside land to reduce impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

Group Seeks To Register 15K New Mexico High School VotersAssociated Press

A liberal-leaning group is seeking to register to vote thousands of eligible New Mexico high school students for the midterm elections later this year.

Everybody Votes said this week it plans to register around 15,000 high school seniors from the state's nearly 300 high schools.

New Mexico law allows 17-year-old residents to register to vote as long as they turn 18 by November 6 — the day of the general election this year.

Everybody Votes co-founder Dave Mulryan says there is an increased interest in registering young voters in the wake of the school shooting in Florida.

The Feb. 14 killings of 17 people in Parkland, Florida, have ignited a wave of student activism focused on pushing new gun control measures nationwide.

Amid Appeal, State Wants Man Who Killed 5 As A Teen Detained - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

A New Mexico prosecutor has filed a motion to keep a man who killed five family members when he was a teenager detained until an appeals court decides whether to overturn his sentence.

The filing comes as Nehemiah Griego's 21st birthday on March 20 approaches. That is when he's scheduled to be released under a 2016 judge's order that found he had been receptive to treatment and could be sentenced as a juvenile, though that decision is under appeal.

Griego was 15 in January 2013 when authorities say he fatally shot his parents, and three younger siblings.

The motion Monday cites alleged "generalized" threats that prosecutors say Griego made while at a treatment facility.

A state police spokeswoman said Tuesday that agents had closed an investigation after finding no direct, criminal threats.

New Mexico Land Boss Questions Access Along Us-Mexico Border - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico's top land manager says the federal government has overstepped its authority and is trespassing on state trust land along the U.S.-Mexico border without compensating the state.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn on Tuesday posted signs aimed at blocking border patrol operations along the one-mile stretch of state land. He says if his office can't reach an agreement over an easement with the federal government, he will install a fence to block access to the property.

Dunn first outlined his concerns in a letter sent last month to federal officials. He says it's an issue of state sovereignty.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is evaluating Dunn's concerns. The agency said in a statement that part of the strategy for securing the border includes developing and leveraging partnerships with state and local stakeholders.

New Mexico Catholic Bishops Defend AdvocateAssociated Press

New Mexico's three Catholic bishops say the head of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops didn't accuse anyone of racism and only pointed out flaws in the state's educational system.

The three leaders wrote in an open letter Tuesday that Allen Sanchez, executive director of the group, has a deep love "for the Gospel" and is an advocate for the state's poor.

The letter comes after 33 GOP state lawmakers sent Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester a letter Monday and asked him if he agreed with remarks about racism made by Sanchez.

Sanchez told The Associated Press last month that "an element of racism" helped kill a proposal to expand early childhood education in the state.

The bishop says lawmakers' focus should be on combatting child poverty in New Mexico.

New Mexico Governor To Sign School Security Measure Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is throwing her support behind a measure that would set aside up to $10 million over four years for bolstering security at schools around New Mexico.

The governor's office announced Tuesday that Martinez would sign the legislation. She's facing a deadline Wednesday to act on bills passed during the recent 30-day session.

The money would go to projects such as perimeter fencing, intercom systems and restricting campus access.

The two-term Republican governor said in a statement that officials need to continue doing all they can to ensure students and school staff are safe in the wake of recent tragedies and threats. She also acknowledged that funding is just one piece of the puzzle.

School districts and charter schools will be able to apply for the funds starting this year.

New Mexico Governor Says She'll Sign Teacher Pay Raise BillAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she will sign a bill increasing the minimum salaries for teachers statewide.

Martinez's proclamation comes the same year lawmakers approved an average raise of 2.5 percent for teachers.

Though school districts have their own union contracts and pay scales, state law sets three different minimum salaries for teachers based on experience and education.

Legislative aides analyzed Public Education Department data on salaries for more than 19,000 teachers and found the new minimum salaries will be higher than the average for each level.

Wednesday is the last day for Martinez to sign legislation passed during the 30-day session that ended last month.

Any bill Martinez does not sign by this week's deadline automatically will be vetoed.

Farmington Police Officers Fatally Shoots Knife-Wielding ManAssociated Press

New Mexico authorities say a police officer fatally shot a knife-wielding Colorado man when he charged officers in a Farmington motel room following a standoff.

Farmington Police Department spokeswoman Georgette Allen says the 25-year-old man was shot after he fell from the ceiling early Tuesday morning when officers began removing ceiling title after entering the room, hearing noises and trying to get him to surrender.

The man's identity was not released. He was sought in Ignacio, Colorado, on a warrant for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

No officers were injured.

Allen says the man's mother exited the motel room about 1½ hours after the standoff began Monday night but that the man didn't respond to police attempts to make contact.

The New Mexico State Police will investigate the shooting.