89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

WED: NM lawmaker to propose limits on assault-style weapons, + More

Democratic New Mexico state Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe.
Morgan Lee
Democratic New Mexico state Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe.

NM lawmaker to propose limits on assault-style weapons - Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News

Less than a month after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called on lawmakers to consider restrictions on assault-style weapons in the upcoming legislative session, Democratic Rep. Andrea Romero is answering the call.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Romero says she plans to introduce legislation similar to a federal proposal from U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich that aims to limit how lethal the weapons are. The GOSAFE ACT would require that the weapons have permanently fixed magazines. It would also limit rifles to 10 rounds and some heavy-format pistols to 15.

While Romero’s proposal last year to prohibit magazines that hold more than 10 bullets failed, she says she’s drafting this year’s push with the help of law enforcement and legal counsel.

She says she knows the bill will be controversial, but that it’s important to have “hard conversations” about what’s needed to protect people.

A spokesperson for the governor told the New Mexican that her office is reviewing Romero’s proposal, adding that they look forward to working with lawmakers to “put forth a robust suite of common sense gun laws in the upcoming session.”

PRC authorizes lower rate increase than PNM sought, siding with hearing examinersKUNM News, Albuquerque Journal

The Public Regulation Commission has authorized Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, to set new rates, but also adopted a finding that PNM’s decision to invest in a power plant was “imprudent.”

A release from the PRC said this decision will prevent customers from paying the tens of millions of dollars in costs related to PNM investments in the Four Corners Power Plant and the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station.

It also directed PNM to return $38.4 million in ratepayer funds it collected last year for Palo Verde leasehold payments. The Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter applauded the decision.

PNM had sought a rate increase to collect on what it said was over $63 million in projected revenue deficiency. The Albuquerque Journal reported hearing examiners in early December found PNM’s decision to continue investing in the Four Corners Power Plant in 2013 lacked good judgment. They said it was based on flawed computer modeling and did not reasonably consider alternative resources.

The examiners said PNM customers should not have to pay for PNM’s “lack of sound business judgments.” They decided on a partial disallowance of the utility’s past investments in the plant.

PNM argued against that disallowance saying the company proved it acted prudently and the plant was a viable utility resource.

USDA Deputy Sec. Torres Small tours NM with the state’s congressional representatives - By Nash Jones, KUNM News 

U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small is in New Mexico this week touting the Biden administration’s infrastructure and clean energy investments as well as its efforts to make use of the work happening at nation’s universities and research facilities.

Wednesday, Torres Small kicked off her trip to her home state by visiting Sandia Pueblo with U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury. They visited a tribal fire station that’s tapped USDA funds for emergency response equipment, according to a press release.

Thursday she’ll tour New Mexico State University with Rep. Gabe Vasquez. They’ll focus on NMSU’s science and agricultural research efforts related to the USDA’s mission to further research, education and economics.

Torres Small will wrap up her visit Friday with Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez in Mora County. They’ll tour a business that received the agency’s Rural Energy for America Program grant to access renewable energy systems.

New Mexico regulators revoke the licenses of 2 marijuana grow operations and levies $2M in fines - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico marijuana regulators on Tuesday revoked the licenses of two growing operations in a rural county for numerous violations and have levied a $1 million fine against each business.

One of the businesses — Native American Agricultural Development Co. — is connected to a Navajo businessman whose cannabis farming operations in northwestern New Mexico were raided by federal authorities in 2020. The Navajo Department of Justice also sued Dineh Benally, leading to a court order halting those operations.

A group of Chinese immigrant workers sued Benally and his associates — and claimed they were lured to northern New Mexico and forced to work long hours illegally trimming marijuana on the Navajo Nation, where growing the plant is illegal.

In the notice made public Tuesday by New Mexico's Cannabis Control Division, Native American Agricultural Development was accused of exceeding the state's plant count limits, of not tracking and tracing its inventory, and for creating unsafe conditions.

An email message seeking comment on the allegations was not immediately returned by Benally. David Jordan, an attorney who represented him in the earlier case, did not return a phone message Tuesday.

The other business to have its license revoked was Bliss Farm, also located in rural Torrance County within miles of Benally's operation. State officials said the two businesses, east of Albuquerque, are not connected in any way.

The state ordered both to immediately stop all commercial cannabis activity.

"The illicit activity conducted at both of these farms undermines the good work that many cannabis businesses are doing across the state," Clay Bailey, acting superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, said in a statement. "The excessive amount of illegal cannabis plants and other serious violations demonstrates a blatant disregard for public health and safety, and for the law."

State regulators cited Bliss Farm for 17 violations. Regulators said evidence of a recent harvest without records entered into the state's track and trace system led the division to conclude that plants were transferred or sold illicitly.

Adam Oakey, an Albuquerque attorney representing the group of investors that own the operation, told The Associated Press in an interview that the company had hoped the state would have first worked with it to address some of the issues before revoking the license.

"We did our best to get into compliance but we fell below the bar," he said, adding that he's afraid the state's action might discourage others in the industry from coming to New Mexico.

The company already has invested tens of millions of dollars into the operation and will likely have to go to court to reopen the farm, Oakey said.

As for Native American Agricultural Development, regulators said there were about 20,000 mature plants on site — four times more than the number allowed under its license. Inspectors also found another 20,000 immature plants.

The other violations included improper security measures, no chain of custody procedures, and ill-maintained grounds with trash and pests throughout. Compliance officers also saw evidence of a recent harvest but no plants had been entered into the state's track-and-trace system.

The violations were first reported last fall by Searchlight New Mexico, an independent news organization. At the time, Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch told the nonprofit group that the tribe and the Shiprock area still deserved justice for the harm done previously by the grow operation that had been set up in northwestern New Mexico years earlier.

Federal prosecutors will not comment, but the New Mexico Attorney General's Office confirmed Tuesday that in general it "continues to investigate, with our federal partners, potential criminal activity within the New Mexico cannabis industry."

Minimum wage in Las Cruces raised above state rate - Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico 

A raise to the minimum wage in Las Cruces city limits went into effect Jan. 1 requiring employers to pay $12.36 minimum hourly wage and $4.95 per hour wage for tipped workers.

The new wage is a 3 percent increase from the 2022 rate of $12 per-hour.

New Mexico’s second-largest city has a higher minimum wage than most of the state, after Las Cruces enacted its own local ordinance in 2014 that ties minimum wage increases to higher inflation rates measured by the national Consumer Price Index.

The U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the change in prices paid for different goods and services over time in the Consumer Price Index.

Preliminary data from November showed that people in cities were paying 3.1% more than 2022 for food and other goods, although full seasonally-adjusted data won’t be available until February.

Las Cruces’ changes to its minimum wage ordinance followed local laws passed by the City of Santa Fe, and tied wage increases to inflation measures in 2002. A measure was adopted by the Santa Fe County government in early 2014. There’s no announcement yet about any increase to Santa Fe’s wages, which would be announced in February for any changes on March 1.

Santa Fe raised its minimum wage to $14.03 per-hour in 2023.

Albuquerque’s wage rates remain unchanged from 2023, at $12 hourly for most employees and $7.20 per-hour for tipped workers, according to the 2024 wage notice to businesses.

New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage of $12 per-hour went into effect in January 2023, the final raise across four years to the state’s minimum wage, after a change to the law in 2019. Under state minimum wage laws, tipped workers are paid $3 per-hour.

The state’s minimum wage law excludes most people under the age of 18, and most agricultural and domestic workers. Other exceptions to state minimum wage laws include religious employment, workers at day or away camps and direct family employees, among others.

A bill to increase statewide minimum wages did not make it out of committees in last year’s legislative session. House Bill 28 would have gradually raised the statewide minimum wage $15.50 by 2026 and would have tied future wages to inflation increases in the Consumer Price Index.

It’s unclear if any lawmakers plan to bring that proposal back this year. The New Mexico legislature begins a 30-day session on Jan. 16.

Proposed merger of New Mexico, Connecticut energy companies scuttled; deal valued at more than $4.3B - Associated Press

Officials with New Mexico's largest electric utility said Tuesday that a proposed multibillion-dollar merger with a U.S. subsidiary of global energy giant Iberdrola has been scuttled.

Under the proposal, Connecticut-based Avangrid would have acquired PNM Resources and its two utilities — Public Service Co. of New Mexico and Texas New Mexico Power.

The all-cash transaction was valued at more than $4.3 billion and would have opened the door for Iberdrola and Avangrid in a state where more wind and solar power could be generated and exported to larger markets.

"We are greatly disappointed with Avangrid's decision to terminate the merger agreement and its proposed benefits to our customers and communities," PNM president and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn said in a statement.

PNM officials previously said the proposed multimillion-dollar merger with Avangrid would have helped create jobs, serve utility customers and boost energy efficiency projects in New Mexico.

They said being backed by Avangrid and Iberdrola would provide the New Mexico utility greater purchasing power and help move it closer to its carbon-free goals.

The multimillion merger plan was originally crafted in 2020.

Last January, PNM Resources filed a notice of appeal with the New Mexico Supreme Court after regulators rejected the proposed merger. The court heard oral arguments last fall but has yet to issue a ruling.

Officials with Avangrid, which owns New York State Electric & Gas and other utilities in the Northeast, said Tuesday that there is no clear timing on the resolution of the court battle in New Mexico nor any subsequent regulatory actions.

The Public Regulation Commission had said it was concerned about Avangrid's reliability and customer service track record in other states where it operates.

The elected commissioners also pointed to the company initially withholding information during the lengthy proceeding, a move that resulted in a $10,000 penalty.

Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy and a critic of the proposed merger, said Tuesday that Avangrid and Iberdrola's customer service record and attitude toward regulatory oversight caused New Mexico regulators to reject the proposal.

"Their continuing failure to properly serve their customers is proof positive that the PRC made the right call," she said, adding that New Mexico escaped a multinational corporate takeover of what she described as an essential piece of infrastructure for the rural state.

Legislators will propose a bill creating a local solar fund - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

Lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would create a renewable energy initiative for solar projects around the state.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the bill would create a $110 million Local Solar Access Fund. It would focus on projects for certain public buildings and infrastructure.

That would include municipal, county and tribal governments, as well as school districts, conservation districts, and higher education institutions.

The money would be appropriated from the state’s general fund, of which nearly one-third is made up of oil and gas.

Representative Reena Szczepanski and Senator Harold Pope plan to sponsor the bill in the upcoming session. Last year Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham faced some criticism for vetoing climate-related bills.

Pope said the dollars can help communities looking to shift to solar because they often don’t have the resources to pursue it.

Lujan Grisham has not made her priorities known yet about the upcoming legislative session, which begins on January 16th.

Trump's vows to deport millions are undercut by his White House record and one family's story - By Adriana Gomez Licon, Associated Press

Noelia Sanchez was born in the rolling farmlands of southwest Missouri, where her Mexican parents worked as seasonal farmworkers in the 1950s.

When she was 1, Noelia and her mother, Aurora, who had no work documents, were rounded up with dozens of other immigrants in a Texas town near the border. The U.S.-born child and her mother were forced to go to Mexico along with hundreds of thousands of other people.

Their deportations were part of a U.S. government effort that was known in official papers and the media as "Operation Wetback." The term "wetback," which was used to describe Mexicans who swam or waded across the Rio Grande, is considered a racial slur.

Donald Trump has lauded the Eisenhower-era raids without using their name since he first ran for president and is now promising voters he would begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history, exceeding the 1950s. He has escalated his verbal attacks on immigrants as he seeks a second term, telling supporters twice in recent weeks that immigrants were "poisoning the blood of our country."

People affected by "Operation Wetback" and historians on immigration argue Trump is using fragments of history and rhetoric for political reasons while discounting his own administration's failures to carry out mass deportations, even as it separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border and enacted sweeping restrictions on asylum.

"Families were divided by misapplied immigration policies and discriminatory immigration policies specifically geared toward indigenous people, Mexican Americans, Latinos," said Joaquin Sanchez, Noelia's son, who is now an immigration attorney in Chicago. "These are the types of policies that my family has witnessed for generations."

"Operation Wetback" coincided with a guest worker program that provided legal status to hundreds of thousands of largely Mexican farm workers. Noelia Sanchez, who was born in Missouri, and her mother were able to get their papers in about a year and return to settle in Chicago.

The administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched a military-style campaign in the summer of 1954 seeking to remove Mexican immigrants who were in the country illegally. The operation was named after the term "wetback," which was used to describe Mexicans who swam or waded across the Rio Grande, and it followed several other deportation efforts of the 1940s and 1950s.

Scholars have challenged the 1 million arrests reported under that summer operation, saying that they had included figures from previous years and that the number for that entire year was actually much smaller at about 250,000.

The government relied on scare tactics to prompt people to self-deport so that they could have another chance to return to the U.S.

Experts have highlighted it was no coincidence the deportation drive happened as farmers were looking for guest workers under the Bracero program that began in the 1940s, aimed at allowing Mexican farmworkers to enter the country and work in the U.S. legally. The program excluded women and children, driving some families to enter the country illegally to remain together.

Adam Goodman, a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote in his book "The Deportation Machine" that organizations such as the ACLU contacted immigration authorities in Chicago and ultimately advised immigrants who were in the country illegally to return to Mexico. Those groups sent a press release with a brochure to all newspapers in Illinois to give the deportation campaign more publicity.

"It was a terror campaign that was designed to scare people from the country," said UCLA history professor Kelly Lytle Hernández. "It was really a PR campaign designed to terrorize communities into self-deporting."

Hernandez said the administration would round up a sizable number of people, broadcast it and announce they were traveling to other towns. "There is no way the United States had that force to affect that number of deportations."

Trump often labels immigration as dangerous in his speeches, suggesting people crossing the border are criminals who are trying to invade the U.S. and bring diseases.

Speaking in Ankeny, Iowa, in September, he said, "Following the Eisenhower model, we will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history."

He invoked the same operation in 2015 when he was first running for president.

But his administration did not deport millions during his four-year presidency as he promised before and after becoming president. Just as in the 1950s, the U.S. government was limited in how many deportations it could carry out at one time.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the Trump administration deported about one-third as many immigrants in the country illegally from the interior during its first four fiscal years as the administration of President Barack Obama during the same time frame.

Enforcement sweeps take months of planning, and arresting an immigrant can often require days of surveillance. Officers don't usually carry search warrants, and advocates warn immigrants not to open their doors. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement often struggled to find adequate detention space during the Trump administration, and people can fight their deportation cases for months or years.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for information on why his administration did not come close to deporting millions and how a second term would conduct such a large-scale effort.

The Trump administration was more hostile to immigration than any administration in decades. Trump prevented people from applying for asylum at the southwest border, separated children from their families, and built a border wall in environmentally sensitive areas.

Advocates and extremism experts have noted his language echoes writings from Hitler about the "purity" of Aryan blood, which Nazi Germany used to justify murdering millions of Jews during World War II.

Well into his term in 2019, Trump announced on Twitter that he would deport millions the day before he was launching his reelection bid.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, hit Trump for his immigration record in the last GOP debate.

"He did say in 2016 he'd have the largest deportation program in history. He deported less than Barack Obama did when Barack Obama was president," he said. "Some of these policies he ran on in '16, I was cheering him on then, but he didn't deliver it."

Both DeSantis and Trump have touted the Eisenhower program as a model. Several candidates in the field have talked about using deadly force at the border or sending the U.S. military into Mexico.

Joaquin Sanchez's grandmother, now 92, still lives in Chicago, in a home she owns a few blocks away from a proposed temporary shelter for newly arriving migrants.

"Grandma laughs at her own experience because she was able to come back and look at her now, and look at her kids," he said. "She's had an incredible trajectory."