AG Balderas Says He Will Not Run For Senate, Governor Signs Off On Ethics Commission

Mar 28, 2019

New Mexico AG Hector Balderas Says He Won't Seek Senate SeatAssociated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says he has decided not to run for the state's open U.S. Senate seat in 2020, leaving open the chance for more jockeying among some of the state's top Democratic politicians.

Balderas made the announcement Thursday on a New Mexico radio station, citing personal and professional reasons.

Balderas says he loves being New Mexico's top prosecutor. He also said he serves as a legal guardian for his 20-year-old daughter and wants to continue advocating for the special needs community.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced Monday he would not seek a third term.

Another Democrat, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, has said he's consulting with family and supporters about getting into the race. He holds the No. 4 leadership post in the House, and commands a federal campaign account with $380,000.

City Commission Meeting Cut Short After Gun Resolution FailsAssociated Press, Farmington Daily Times

A city commission meeting in northwest New Mexico was cut short after some attendees became unruly when officials rejected a resolution that would have barred the use of city resources to enforce certain gun laws.

The Farmington Daily Times reports the Aztec City Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday against a resolution declaring Aztec a preservation city for the Second Amendment.

Police ushered commissioners into a side room and asked people to leave after some attendees began hurling insults and demanding a recall election.

Several New Mexico counties and cities have recently made similar declarations in response to gun control measures.

A new law requires mandatory background checks on nearly all firearms sales. A bill that would keep people under protective orders for domestic violence from possessing firearms awaits the governor's signature.

New Mexico Forges Ahead With Independent Ethics Commission – Associated Press

New Mexico is moving forward with the creation of an independent ethics commission to investigate complaints about the conduct of public officials, political candidates, lobbyists and government contractors.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday signed legislation to create the commission that underwent dozens of revisions and substitutions as it passed the Legislature earlier this month.

Voters approved the commission concept by statewide ballot last year, leaving lawmakers to assign investigative powers and decide the extent of public access to proceedings.

The commission must go through a district court judge to subpoena documents or witness testimony.

Six commissioners will be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, and a seventh is appointed by those commissioners. Complaints are made public 30 days after a probable-cause finding.

Good Samaritan Killed At Scene Of 5-Car Pileup In New MexicoAssociated Press

Authorities say a 16-year-old girl is accused of careless driving and driving under the influence following a five-car pileup in which a woman who stopped to help was killed.

The New Mexico State Police says the teenager was driving a car that crashed and blocked a westbound lane of U.S. 70 near Las Cruces on Wednesday evening, leading to the pileup with four other vehicles.

The State Police says 51-year-old Lorenza Nunez stopped at the initial crash scene to help and to warn oncoming traffic.

Nunez died at the scene of injuries suffered when an SUV, a car and a pickup pulling a horse trailer struck the stopped vehicles.

The State Police says the dark road and no lighting contributed to the crash.

The 16-year-old girl's identity wasn't released.

Defense Attorneys Claim Shooting Of Officer Was Self-DefenseAssociated Press

Attorneys for a man accused of killing an Albuquerque police officer say he acted in self-defense after believing his life was in danger.

The trial began Wednesday of 38-year-old Davon Lymon, who is charged with first-degree murder in the October 2015 shooting of Officer Daniel Webster.

Defense attorney Tom Clark told jurors that Lymon thought he heard Webster say that six more officers were on the way to put him "in the ground."

Jurors were shown body camera footage of the encounter that recorded Webster telling Lymon that officers were coming to "put you on the ground."

Prosecutor Kenneth Stalter argued that Webster was killed for doing his job.

He said Webster had his gun drawn as he approached Lymon, but it was holstered when he tried to handcuff him.

Tribal College Scholarship Program Could Lose Its Funding KNAU-FM, Associated Press

A federal grant program that provides college scholarships to Native American students reportedly could lose funding.

Flagstaff radio station KNAU reports the Trump administration has proposed defunding the grant program.

The program survived last year's proposed cuts, but it's on the table again this year.

The administration's fiscal year 2020 budget would slash nearly $40 million from tribal scholarship and education programs administered by the Bureau of Indian Education.

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says the budget proposal supports tribal self-determination and improves education services in Indian Country.

But Navajo officials say the federal Higher Education Grant is crucial for thousands of students to attend and graduate from college.

KNAU reports that just over 4 percent of Navajo tribal members have a bachelor's degree.

New Mexico Adopts Election-day Voter Registration - Associated Press

New Mexico will extend voter registration through Election Day beginning in 2020 under a new law that does away with a 28-day registration blackout before elections.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday signed legislation designed to increase participation in statewide elections though same-day registration and voting.

Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia already offer same-day registration and have generally seen increased participation as a result.

Voters in New Mexico cannot switch parties on the same day that they vote under the reforms.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has pushed for the changes as a way to make voting more accessible and convenient.

Republican legislators opposed the bill and voiced concerns about safeguards for voter rolls and the future consequences of spur-of-the-moment voting.

New Mexico Blocks Right- To-Work Ordinances - Associated Press

New Mexico is prohibiting local governments from enacting right-to-work ordinances that prevent employees from being required to join a union or pay union fees.

Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday signed legislation that asserts the state's exclusive jurisdiction over union security agreements.

Ordinances have been approved by several counties in New Mexico that prevent employees from being required to join a union or pay related fees. Union leaders contend the local ordinances created confusion and undermined the labor groups.

Republican legislators and several Senate Democrats opposed the legislation from Reps. Daymon Ely of Corrales and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that government workers can't be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining.

New Mexico Launches Interactive Map Of Methane Emissions - Associated Press

New Mexico regulators have launched an online interactive map based on methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.

Environment Secretary James Kenney says the map will help in understanding the effects of oil and gas development on air quality. He also says it will show which producers are going above and beyond to reduce emissions and which are falling behind.

The map depicts thousands of oil and gas facilities regulated by Environment Department's Air Quality Bureau.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about one-third of methane emissions can be linked to oil and gas while other sources include livestock, landfills, wastewater treatment plants and natural wetlands.

The oil and gas industry says technological advancements are helping to curb emissions, even while production in the Permian and San Juan basins reach record levels.

Political Committee For Latinos Backs New Mexico Congressman - Associated Press

A political committee dedicated to electing progressive Latino candidates wants to help Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat.

Lujan is contemplating a run to succeed Sen. Tom Udall, and the Latino Victory Fund has launched a website touting the congressman's family history and legislative achievements while seeking donations to the cause.

Udall's announcement Monday that he will not seek a third Senate term has several potential candidates studying their chances of winning the seat in 2020.

Fund President Melissa Mark-Viveritto calls Lujan a prolific fundraiser and the "mastermind" behind Democrats taking control of Congress in midterm elections.

Recent contributors to the fund include the Democratic National Committee, billionaire liberal activist George Soros, labor unions and the League of Conservation Voters.

Tribes Ask US Managers To Defer Oil And Gas Lease Sale - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Tribal leaders are calling on U.S. land managers to put off an upcoming oil and gas lease sale that includes more than two dozen parcels in northwestern New Mexico.

It's the latest in an ongoing battle over energy development in a region that's home to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other culturally significant sites scattered beyond the park's boundaries.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors is asking the Bureau of Land Management to defer Thursday's sale until the agency meets obligations under federal environmental and historic preservation laws.

Federal officials repeatedly have denied drilling leases within a 10-mile radius of the park, but tribal officials want formal protections to be included in a plan being drafted by the agency that would govern development throughout the San Juan Basin.

US Will Reassign 750 Border Inspectors - Associated Press

U.S. authorities are reassigning 750 border inspectors to care for growing numbers of Central American families arriving at the Mexican border.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday in El Paso, Texas, that the temporary assignments will lengthen wait times at border crossings, hurting international trade and creating delays as the busy Easter holiday nears. He says the move is necessary to address what he calls an "operational crisis."

Border arrests sharply increased in February and March is shaping up to be even busier. McAleenan says the agency is on pace for more than 100,000 arrests and denials of entry on the Mexican border this month. More than 55,000 will have arrived as families, including 40,000 children.

McAleenan says he doesn't know how long the officers at ports of entry will be reassigned.

Focus Of Gun-law Fight Shifts To New Mexico Sheriffs' Emails - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

A nonprofit that pushes for gun-control laws nationwide says it has sent letters to numerous New Mexico sheriffs, asking them to provide records related to their opposition to state gun-control legislation.

Brady, a Washington-based organization, says it requested emails from the sheriffs Wednesday under the state records act, with specific demands for potential communication among sheriffs and gun-lobby representatives.

More than two dozen sheriffs have declared they will not enforce gun-control laws approved by the Legislature this year. Those reforms include mandatory requirements for background checks on private firearms sales. Rural sheriffs who oppose the law argue it's unenforceable and threatens to violate their constituents' constitutional rights.

Brady attorney Jonathan Lowy says a reason his group is seeking the sheriffs' emails is to learn "what possible basis" they have for declaring they won't enforce the laws.

Irrigation District Opposes Draft Drought Bill - Associated Press

A California irrigation district that has the largest entitlement to Colorado River water says it doesn't support proposed federal legislation to implement a multi-state drought plan.

The Imperial Irrigation District says language in a packet that several Western states recently sent to Congress would waive environmental laws.

New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming recently agreed to push for federal legislation to implement drought contingency plans. Under the plans, the states would give up water to keep two reservoirs from dropping drastically.

The Imperial Irrigation District said it won't commit to the plan unless it secures $200 million in federal funding to help restore a massive briny lake southeast of Los Angeles.

Testimony submitted to a congressional panel Wednesday says the plans comply with environmental laws and regulations.