Albuquerque Plan Would Charge For Emergency Costs, Group Says NRA Helped Sheriffs Oppose Gun Laws

May 20, 2019

Gun-Control Group Says New Mexico Sheriffs' Emails Show NRA HelpAssociated Press

A nonprofit that pushes for gun control laws nationwide says emails obtained through public records requests show New Mexico sheriffs received extensive help from the National Rifle Association in their stance against state gun-control legislation.

Brady, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, included excerpts from the emails in a report Monday, saying NRA representatives penned op-ed drafts for the sheriffs and used the New Mexico Sheriffs Association to advance its agenda.

Brady requested the emails from sheriffs under the state Inspection of Public Records Act after more than two dozen of them declared they would not enforce gun-control laws approved by the Legislature this year.

Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, the president of the sheriffs association, says a lobbyist for the NRA assisted his association with legislative testimony, but did not direct it to take specific actions.

New Mexico Governor OKs Pay Raises For Cabinet SecretariesAssociated Press

New Mexico's governor is bumping up the salaries of all her administration heads.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved a 17% salary increase for all Cabinet secretaries.

The raises, which took effect earlier this month, bring the secretaries' annual pay from $128,000 to $150,000.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki says the raises will help the state compete with the private sector in getting the best candidates.

Some Republican state lawmakers say the wage increases don't send the right message to rank-and-file employees who earn less.

But other GOP legislators acknowledged that school superintendents, county managers and other municipal workers make in excess of $150,000.

New Mexico Negotiates Job-Training Grant With Hemp CompanyAssociated Press

State economic development officials are pledging $2.6 million in grants to help with infrastructure and job training costs for a new hemp production and research venture at greenhouses in Las Cruces.

New Mexico's Economic Development Department announced Monday that Rich Global Hemp has been given tentative approval for a $1.2 million infrastructure grant and $1.4 million in job-training subsidies.

In a news release, Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes says the infrastructure-related grant is expected to help add 180 local jobs.

The hemp venture is led by Joshua Rich. The state says that Rich has been a partner in hemp and cannabis growing businesses in California, Nevada and Oregon and previously worked a liaison between physicians and medical marijuana patients.

Hemp was legalized by the federal government last year.

Unser Jr. Arrested For Operating Vehicle While IntoxicatedIndianapolis Star, Associated Press

Retired two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Al Unser Jr. has been arrested in central Indiana and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The Indianapolis Star reports from police records that the 57-year-old Unser was stopped early Monday in Avon, just west of Indianapolis. He was jailed about 3:20 a.m. in Hendricks County.

Unser is a consultant with the Harding Steinbrenner Racing team, which tweeted Monday that it supports Unser "in any way that he needs" and that "alcoholism is a disease and a continuing battle for those struggling with it."

Unser's attorney declined to comment Monday.

Unser competed 19 times in the Indianapolis 500, winning the race in 1994 and 1992. He also won two CART points titles and two IROC championships.

He was arrested in New Mexico in 2011 on drunken and reckless driving charges. In 2007, he pleaded no contest to a driving under the influence charge stemming from a January 2007 crash on a Nevada freeway.

Tribes, Environmentalists Battle Copper Mine In Arizona - By Anita Snow Associated Press

Native American tribes and environmental groups are fighting to stop a Canadian firm from opening a copper mine in southeastern Arizona, arguing it could desecrate sacred, ancestral lands and pollute the air and water.

Opponents of the Rosemont Mine say they worry the project will dry up wells and waterways while ravaging habitat for endangered jaguar and other species. They have asked a federal judge in Tucson for an emergency order to prevent the project from proceeding while the merits of their lawsuits against the mining company are decided.

Preliminary work is set to start this summer.

Supporters say the project will immediately create 500 jobs and pour $16 billion into the local economy over 20 years.

The fight comes amid a larger battle across the West over using public lands for mining.

New Mexico Mayor's Plan Would Charge For Emergency CostsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico mayor has proposed billing some drivers who are involved in car accidents resulting in hazardous material cleanup or victim extractions.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Saturday that Mayor Tim Keller's budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes a new "cost recovery" measure for Albuquerque Fire Rescue.

The proposed update of the fire code ordinance would allow the city to bill the responsible party's insurance company. Those without insurance could be billed directly.

Fees would range from $400 for hazard mitigation and cleanup to $1,305 for the use of special tools and equipment to remove victims from vehicles.

Officials say the department could also bill $400 per hour for additional time at accident scenes.

Critics say the proposal amounts to a charge for municipal services already funded by taxes.

Authorities Investigate Shooting Involving Farmington Police - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office and New Mexico State Police are investigating an officer-involved shooting in Farmington that sent a suspect to the hospital.

Farmington police tell KRQE-TV that the incident occurred Saturday near Kirtland when a suspect fled from sheriff's deputies after driving erratically.

After continuing toward Farmington, police say the suspect hit several vehicles near Highway 64 before coming to a stop.

Authorities say the suspect pulled out a knife before advancing toward a police officer, who opened fire.

The suspect was taken to an Albuquerque hospital.

Report Finds 2 New Mexico Counties Among Top Oil Producers - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Federal numbers say two New Mexico counties remain among the top oil-producing counties in the U.S.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that Lea County was the No. 2 oil-producing county in January behind North Dakota's McKenzie County.

According to the numbers, Lea County produced 14.6 million barrels of oil in January while McKenzie County produced 17.3 million barrels.

Meanwhile, New Mexico's Eddy County was listed as the No. 6 top oil-producing county. It produced 10 million barrels during the same month.

The 18 major oil companies that comprise the Permian Strategic Partnership said the Permian Basin is an oil-producing superpower, becoming one of the most strategically important oil-producing regions in the world.

New Mexico Little League Park Plagued By Hypodermic Needles - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico little league park is fighting a battle against discarded syringes with attached hypodermic needles amid the region's ongoing opioid epidemic.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Atrisco Park, home of the Atrisco Valley Little League, in Albuquerque is racing to clean up syringes littering fields and the ground.

Atrisco Valley Little League president Hector Aguilar says earlier this month an 11-year-old girl was practicing base sliding when a hypodermic needle pierced her foot. He says the girl was taken to a hospital and tested.

Aguilar says he and other coaches and volunteers who walk the six baseball fields before practices or games often find 20 to 30 syringes a day.

New Mexico's drug overdose rate of 24.8 per 100,000 still remains above the national average.

New Mexico Wildfire Forces Evacuation Of State Park

Dozens of firefighters from multiple agencies are battling a grass and brush fire that forced the evacuation of a state park, one home and other structures in southeastern New Mexico.

The State Forestry Division says the fire burning Saturday along the Pecos River about 14 miles southeast of Roswell in Chaves County apparently was started by lightning Thursday evening and by Saturday had burned 1.2 square miles on private land but no structures.

Dozens of campers were ordered to evacuate Bottomless State Park Friday.

More than 70 personnel from multiple local fire departments and state and federal agencies were working to contain the fire and were aided by a plane dropping retardant.

Dexter Fire Chief Justin Powell said firefighters were hampered by shifting winds.  The State Forestry Division Sunday evening said that the fire was 60% contained.

No Longer In The Dark: Navajo Nation Homes Get Electricity - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

A project to connect homes on the country's largest American Indian reservation to the electric grid is wrapping up.

Utility crews from across the U.S. have volunteered their time from March through May to hook up about 300 Navajo Nation homes.

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority typically connects from 400 to 450 homes per year. At that rate, it would take the utility about 35 more years to get electricity to the 60,000 of the reservation's 180,000 residents who don't have it.

The vast reservation lies on land in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Walter Haas of the tribal utility says hooking up a single home can cost up to $40,000.

The latest project called LightUpNavajo relied on donations and volunteer utility crews to lower the cost.