Archdiocese Sets Deadline For Abuse Claims, Changes Likely For Dark Money In State Elections

Mar 11, 2019

Deadline Set For Abuse Claims Against New Mexico ArchdioceseAssociated Press

A deadline has been set for victims of clergy sexual abuse to submit a proof of claim in the ongoing bankruptcy case filed by New Mexico's largest Catholic diocese.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Thuma approved the June 17 deadline in an order announced late Friday. He also spelled out a comprehensive claims process, which includes the Archdiocese of Santa Fe publishing notices in dozens of newspapers and other publications.

The claims will be sealed and remain confidential unless the claimant indicates otherwise.

The archdiocese dropped a bombshell in November, announcing it would seek bankruptcy protection after spending more than $50 million over the years to settle hundreds of lawsuits alleging child sex abuse by clergy members.

Archbishop John Wester said he's hopeful mediation can begin following the claim deadline.

New Mexico Senate Passes Outdoor Recreation BillAssociated Press

New Mexico would create a special division focused on outdoor recreation within the state economic development department under a measure pending in the Legislature.

The New Mexico Senate unanimously approved the bill Monday, as lawmakers prepare to wrap up the session at the end of the week. The measure would need House approval before noon Saturday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says New Mexico has some of the greatest outdoor opportunities in the West and the proposed office could attract new businesses and residents who make access to the outdoors a key factor in choosing where they live.

Lujan Grisham said it could also build new opportunities for disadvantaged youth to experience the outdoors and help communities apply for funding opportunities to further develop the state's outdoor recreation infrastructure.

New Mexico Poised To Create New Early Childhood AgencyAssociated Press

New Mexico is poised to create a new cabinet-level agency focused on early child education and care.

State lawmakers over the weekend approved legislation that would establish the new agency, sending the measure to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her signature. She has advocated in favor of the legislation.

The agency would oversee prekindergarten programs, child-care assistance and home-visiting programs, bringing services currently provided by four different departments under one roof.

State and federal spending on early childhood programs has more than doubled to $313 million over the past several years, and supporters of the measure say the new agency would be better positioned to target those funds in hopes of changing the state's child wellbeing outcomes.

Under the legislation, the new agency would be fully functional by July 2020.

State Officials Say More Work Needed To Clean Up Jet Fuel SpillAssociated Press

After excavating thousands of tons of soil and treating millions of gallons of water, New Mexico regulators say the U.S. Air Force still has work to do to clean up contamination at a military base bordering the state's largest city.

The state environment department has released a draft of this year's strategic plan for addressing the jet fuel contamination at Kirtland Air Force Base.

The fuel leak — believed to have been seeping into the ground for decades — was first detected in 1999. The greatest concern was potential contamination of drinking water wells in Albuquerque neighborhoods that border the base.

Environment Secretary James Kenney says 2018 data indicates groundwater extraction and treatment is having an effect on the plume.

Under the proposed plan, that work would continue along with more modeling and monitoring.

Proposed Budget Includes $3.1M For State Police Body CamerasSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico State Police officials are preparing for the possibility of equipping all officers with body cameras as lawmakers consider a budget proposal that would fund a $3.1 million purchase for the devices.

The department has 650 officers and already records highway encounters and other incidences with dashboard cameras on vehicles.

But Capt. Ted Collins tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that only a few dozen body cameras have been provided to officers in the Albuquerque district.

If state police obtain the cameras under the proposed budget, the department will join Albuquerque Police in requiring officers to use them.

Advocates for the cameras say they increase transparency and improve officer safety.

The 2019 legislative session's last day is Saturday.

Changes Likely For Dark-Money In New Mexico ElectionsAssociated Press

The sources of independent expenditures to influence elections in New Mexico must be made public under a bill headed to the governor.

The Senate gave final approval Sunday to the bill from Democratic Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe that requires the reporting of independent political expenditures to state election regulators that exceed $3,000 in a statewide election. The reporting threshold for non-statewide elections is $1,000.

The bill seeks to provide the public with information on the origin of so-called dark money that is spent on elections without direct coordination with candidates and campaigns. New Mexico midterm elections in 2018 were replete with independent advertising and social media campaigns aimed at influencing voters.

The legislation would require identification of people making independent expenditures and the purpose of the spending.

Armed Security Guards To Begin Patrolling Rio Rancho SchoolsKOB-TV, Associated Press

Rio Rancho schools will have armed guards on their campuses starting this week.

KOB-TV reports that retired law enforcement officers and ex-military members will be volunteering as security guards for Rio Rancho Public Schools beginning Monday.

District officials say the additional security comes after six months of careful consideration.

The guards will be heavily present at high schools but other schools will be covered.

The extra security comes a month after a 16-year-old boy fired a gun inside a Rio Rancho high school. No one was injured.

Other measures the district has taken include more cameras, improved fencing and electronic doors.

Governor May Block Right-To-Work Ordinances In New MexicoAssociated Press

A bill is headed to the governor that would prohibit local governments from enacting right-to-work ordinances that prevent employees from being required to join a union or pay union fees.

The Senate on Sunday voted 23-19 to approve the bill from Democratic Reps. Daymon Ely of Corrales and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe. Republicans and three Democrats opposed it.

Ordinances have been approved by several counties in New Mexico that prevent employees from being required to join a union or pay union fees. The proposed legislation asserts the state's exclusive jurisdiction. Union leaders contend the local ordinances create confusion and are undermining the labor groups.

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.

Fire Burning In Bosque Near Belen About 50 Percent Contained - Associated Press

Authorities say a fire burning in the bosque near Belen should be fully contained by the middle of this week.

The fire was nearly 50 percent containment Sunday as 55 firefighters continued to mop up hot spots and strengthen containment lines.

The blaze that began Thursday has destroyed at least three homes and charred almost 140 acres.

It began on private land in Los Chavez on the west side of the Rio Grande.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The agencies fighting the fire include the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Forestry and Valencia County.

Recreational Marijuana Bill Advances In New Mexico - Associated Press

A proposal to legalize the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana through state-run stores in New Mexico is advancing in the state Legislature.

A Senate panel on Saturday endorsed the House-approved bill that would allow possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for recreational use by people 21 and over, while applying taxes of up to 17 percent on sales.

Bill supporters include advocacy groups for criminal justice reform including defense attorneys and the ACLU. Businesses associations and medical marijuana businesses are worried about state involvement in sales and a potential plunge in marijuana prices.

Bipartisan sponsors say their bill establishes a tightly regulated marijuana market that guards against childhood use, helps identify impaired drivers and allows employers to maintain zero-tolerance policies and drug testing of employees.

Legislature Seeks More State Financing For Local Businesses - Associated Press

The Legislature has passed a bill that would provide $50 million to the state's Small Business Investment Corporation to provide loans to small enterprises not served by traditional banks.

The 39-19 House vote on Friday sends the bill to the governor for consideration. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has expressed support concerning new state financing and investment in local businesses.

The initiative would double capitalization of the Small Business Investment Corporation using money from a multibillion-dollar state trust known as the Severance Tax Permanent fund.

Profits from the lender's small loans would returned to the roughly $5 billion Severance Tax Permanent Fund. That fund originates from taxes on oil and mineral extraction and provides about $200 million a year to the state general fund.

Court Rejects Challenge To Rule On Contribution Disclosures - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has turned away Republican legislators' lawsuit challenging Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver's move to require more disclosure of contributors to so-called dark money organizations that spend on political campaigns.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that all five justices concurred Friday in denial of the petition by state Sens. Mark Moores of Albuquerque and Bill Sharer of Farmington, and state Reps. Jim Strickler of Farmington and David Gallegos of Eunice.

The lawmakers contended that Toulouse Oliver's implementation of a disclosure rule was an attempted "end-run around New Mexico's Constitution."

The new rule requires such groups to report the names and addresses of those contributing above certain thresholds.

Legislation to require disclosures was vetoed by former Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.

New Mexico City Changing Its Route 66 Streetlights To LED - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

A western New Mexico city is upgrading its streetlights to LED lights, including those on the historic Route 66 highway.

The Gallup Independent reports the city of Gallup, New Mexico is planning on changing all of the streetlights owned by the city from high-pressure sodium bulbs to LED lights.

City officials say the new lights will save Gallup around $10 million over 20 years and reduce energy use by 65 percent.

Currently, portions of Route 66 in the city are lit with a mixture of old streetlights and LED lights.

The move follows similar changes along Route 66 to make this historic road more energy efficient. In recent years, the Mother Road has seen a growing number of electric car charging stations along the 2,500-mile path.

Ex-new Mexico Lawmakers Now Lobbyists Raising Eyebrows - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Some former New Mexico lawmakers and public officials are lobbying the Legislature even though they've been out of office less than a few months.

And there is no state law to prevent it.

The Albuquerque Journal reports former Rep. Debbie Rodella, a Democrat who represented Española until she lost her seat last year, is among a few people who were public servants last session and lobbyists this year. She's a lobbyist for an association of community bankers.

Keith Gardner, chief of staff under then-Gov. Susana Martinez, is also registered as a lobbyist. He's lobbying for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Select Energy Services, a Texas-based company.

Some legislators have tried repeatedly to pass lobby reform bills — with proposals to impose a one- or two-year "cooling off" period.