Attorney General Wants Meeting With Faith Leaders, Deadline Extended To Fill Empty Legislative Seat

Dec 31, 2019

New Mexico AG Seeks Meeting With Faith Leaders Over ViolenceAssociated Press

New Mexico's top prosecutor says he wants to meet with religious leaders from around the state to discuss hate-motivated violence.

Attorney General Hector Balderas made the request in a letter sent Tuesday in the wake of a deadly church shooting in Texas and a bloody attack on a Hanukkah celebration in New York.

The attorney general's office has drafted anti-domestic terrorism and hate crime legislation for consideration during the upcoming session.

Balderas says he wants to ensure New Mexico's faith communities have a voice in the process and are heard on what he described as critical issues. 

Governor Done With Leadership On Wildlife Panel - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has decided not to reappoint one of her own picks to a panel that oversees hunting, fishing and wildlife management across the state.

The Democratic governor had appointed Joanna Prukop to the Game Commission in May. After a long career in wildlife and natural resources management, Prukop became the first woman to chair the commission. Her term expires Jan. 1, but the governor's office said she would not be reappointed, citing policy disagreements.

Hunting, angling and wildlife advocates voiced concerns about the move, saying the panel had done a good job in recent months with Prukop at the helm.

Fees To Increase At New Mexico's Newest National ParkKFOX-TV, Associated Press

Officials at White Sands National Park say entrance fees will be increasing with the start of the new year.

KFOX-TV reports starting on Wednesday, fees will increase by $5 to $25 per vehicle, $15 per person and $20 per motorcycle. The increase isn't related to the change in designation from a national monument to a national park, but because of plans by the National Park Service to increase fees nationwide.

Officials say the fee hike will mean more revenue that can be used for infrastructure and maintenance at the New Mexico park. They say the improvements will enhance the visitor experience.

Of the new revenue raised at White Sands, officials say 80 percent will remain there.

City Seeks Ways To Ease Workload On Police, DetectivesKOB-TV, Associated Press

New Mexico authorities have confirmed reports of 80 homicides in Albuquerque after a body was discovered Monday, breaking the city's own record earlier this month.

KOB-TV reports that Albuquerque city officials have announced they are working on strategies to decrease the workload on police officers and homicide detectives.

Albuquerque Police Department commanders have cited the need for a second homicide unit, saying detectives should be balancing three to five investigations but they are handling nearly double that amount.

Authorities say there is also a push for more officers to supplement the increasing workload, including from the upcoming cadet graduating class.

New Device In New Mexico Turns Back Clock On Astronomy - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A new astronomy instrument perched in the hills of northern New Mexico is a throwback to the late 16th century, just before the advent of telescopes.

The assembly of steel rings at St. John's College is a unique replica of a device that shattered notions of heavenly spheres. It's something of a time portal for students of science history in an age of constellation-charting phone apps.

Retired teacher Bill Donahue says the device is a remake of long-lost originals devised by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in the late 16th century that challenged concepts of planetary motion and forces.

City Parks Director Being Investigated For Sexual HarassmentThe Astorian, Associated Press

The director of the Astoria Parks and Recreation Department in Oregon, who previously worked in Roswell, is under investigation by the city for sexual harassment.

Documents provided to The Astorian show that a woman who works with Tim Williams told the city in November that his behavior was inappropriate and upsetting. The woman said he hugged her in a sexually suggestive manner and tried to discuss his pornography problem and fetishes with her.

Williams started his job in Astoria in January. He grew up in southeast Idaho and worked for several parks departments, most recently in Roswell. Williams could not be reached for comment. 

US Agency Formalizes Border Medical Plan After Migrants Die - By Colleen Long, Associated Press

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is formally codifying a medical plan formed in the wake of a massive surge of migrant families to the U.S.-Mexico border and deaths in its custody.

The goal was to increase medical care and efficiency. The plan comes after a public outcry over the medical care of migrants in border custody, and the deaths of children.

The plan includes a sustainable plan for triage, plus screenings for respiratory systems as well as vaccine requirements for staff and more supplies on hand. 

Commission Extends Deadline To Fill Empty Legislative Seat - Associated Press

The deadline for anyone interested in filling a vacant seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives has been extended. 

The Bernalillo County Commission is meeting Jan. 7 to appoint a replacement for Democratic Rep. William Pratt, who died last week. The deadline for applications now is Jan. 6. 

Pratt served in a northeastern Albuquerque district where registered Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats. 

Applicants to replace him must live within the district's boundaries and be at least 21 years old. At least two Republicans and two Democrats have indicated they'll run for the seat in 2020. 

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek Accountability On Tax Incentives - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico legislators want greater accountability regarding state grants and tax incentives for businesses that are designed to create jobs.

The push comes as the state ramps up financial support to a variety of industries. Proposed legislation by Democratic Rep. Bill Tallman of Albuquerque would require businesses that receive public support to provide the state with details about the number of related new full-time jobs, annual wages for those jobs and spending on local infrastructure.

The proposal holds implications for hundreds of businesses that receive more than $100 million in incentives each year.

Pocket Of Severe Drought Lingers Over Southwest USAssociated Press

Drought has yet to give up its hold over parts of the southwestern United States despite a series of storms that have brought rain and snow to the region in recent weeks.

The latest federal map shows a pocket of moderate and severe drought centered over the Four Corners region, where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet.

Despite the continued dry conditions, forecasters say things are better than they were last year at this time when exceptional and extreme drought, the worst categories, had set in. They say average moisture levels resulting from snowfall are above normal across New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

Lawsuit: Eddy County Detective Used Excessive Force - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

A southeastern New Mexico man says Eddy County Sheriff's detectives illegally searched his home and used a stun gun on him seconds after making contact. 

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports a lawsuit filed by Brandon Chandler says the detectives used excessive force. According to court records, detectives came to Chandler's home after a woman called authorities to report she was being held captive. The woman later told authorities she had taken drugs and wasn't being held. 

The lawsuit says authorities violated Chandler's constitutional rights.

The Eddy County Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the pending litigation.

New Mexico Church Sues US Over Religious Discrimination - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico branch of a church that uses hallucinogenic tea is suing the federal government for failing to process immigration documents for one of its religious leaders. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports O Centro Espirita Beneficente União do Vegetal filed a lawsuit last week over claims of religious discrimination. 

The lawsuit comes after a Brazilian man who has led the church's Florida congregation since 2013 applied for visas that would allow him and his family to continue living in the United States while their immigration cases are pending.

Gila River Diversion Project Misses Out On Extra FundingAssociated Press

The U.S. Interior Department has decided not to extend a deadline involving a proposal to divert part the Gila River to aid rural communities, a move that cuts off access to more than $50 million in construction funds. 

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, and environmentalists praised the federal government's decision, saying the river that flows through southwestern New Mexico and into Arizona will be protected.

Timothy Petty, Interior's assistant secretary for water and science, says the "slow pace of progress" reflected a lack of urgency and priority for delivering water to rural communities.

New 'Breaking Bad' Store To Cater To Fans Of The AMC Series - KOB-TV, Associated Press

A store will be opening in Albuquerque that will cater to fans of the AMC-TV hit series "Breaking Bad." 

A co-owner of The Breaking Bad Store ABQ says local artists have been commissioned to create unique items inspired by the long-running series and its cast of characters. The shop will also carry items inspired by the show that aren't readily available in the U.S. 

Co-owner Edward Candelaria tells Albuquerque station KOB-TV that the store's grand opening will be Jan. 4. 

"Breaking Bad" followed a high school chemistry teacher turned meth lord. The series ran from 2008 to 2013.

Benny Martinez, Latino Civil Rights Leader, Dies At 85Associated Press

Benny Martinez, a Mexican American civil rights leader who helped organize the historic Latino gala with President John F. Kennedy, has died.

His daughter Loretta Martinez Williams, says Martinez died Sunday of natural causes. He was 85.

Born in Goliad, Texas, Martinez served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He returned to Houston and organized boycotts against businesses that refused to hire Mexican Americans.

Martinez joined the League of United Latin American Citizens and helped organize a gala for Kennedy the night before the president's assassination. Historians say the meeting was the first time a sitting president met with a Latino civil rights group.