Bill Opens Door For Recreational Marijuana, Governor Picks 2 For Supreme Court

Jan 25, 2019

Bill Seeks Recreational, Taxable Marijuana For New MexicoAssociated Press

Democratic legislators have introduced a bill to regulate and tax recreational marijuana sales for people 21 and older across New Mexico.

Filed on Thursday, the bill would allow counties and cities to opt out of the market. It would establish a 9 percent surtax on commercial cannabis sales.

The lengthy proposal from House Democrats also seeks to ensure adequate supplies to the state's existing medical marijuana program by eliminating the gross receipts tax on those sales.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she could support authorization of recreational marijuana if concerns are first addressed about preventing child access and solving issues of intoxication while driving and workplace safety issues.

The bill is sponsored by Reps. Javier Martinez, Antonio Maestas, Daymon Ely, Deborah Armstrong and Angelica Rubio.

Migrant With Flesh-Eating Bacteria Detained At US BorderAssociated Press

U.S. Border Patrol agents say a man among hundreds of migrants detained in New Mexico in recent days has been diagnosed as having been infected with flesh-eating bacteria.

The man was transported to a hospital after telling an agent that he had a growing rash on his leg.

Officials said in a statement Friday the unidentified migrant will require extensive treatment.

Flesh-eating bacteria is a rare condition called necrotizing fasciitis that spreads quickly and can be fatal.

The bacteria usually gets into the body through a minor cut or scrape and can cause a serious infection that can destroy muscle, skin and other tissue.

Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the infected area.

It's rare for the infection to spread to other people.

The man's home country was not disclosed.

Legislature Rejects Cap On Charter SchoolsAssociated Press

Advocates for charter school education are breathing a sigh of relief after lawmakers rejected a statewide cap on student enrollment at autonomous public schools in New Mexico.

The proposal to limit charter school enrollment to 27,000 students was removed Friday from a broader initiative to increase spending for vulnerable students at public schools across the state. The majority of new state spending on public education over the past decade has gone toward charter schools that currently serve about 8 percent of the student population.

The bill from Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque devotes about $315 million in annual spending to at-risk students, extensions of annual class time and a boost in minimum teacher salaries. It won unanimous approval from a Senate committee on education.

Stewart says the bill is a major component of efforts to address a lawsuit and court order directing the state to devote more resources to public education, especially for students from minority and low-income families. New Mexico public schools rely mostly on state funding.

New Mexico Governor Picks 2 For State Supreme CourtAssociated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has named two district judges to fill a pair of vacancies on the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The governor on Friday announced Shannon Bacon and David K. Thompson as her choices for the high court. They will replace recently retired Justices Charles Daniels and Petra Maes.

Bacon has served in the state's busiest judicial district since 2010. She's the presiding judge over the Albuquerque-based district's civil division and is an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Thompson has served as a judge in Santa Fe since 2014. He previously worked for more than a decade in the state attorney general's office.

Bacon and Thomson were chosen from a list of finalists provided by a nominating commission that had interviewed more than a dozen candidates.

2 Killed In Head-On Semitrailer Collision On I-40Associated Press

Authorities say two people died in a head-on collision involving two semitrailers on I-40 west of Albuquerque.

Investigators say another person remains in a hospital in critical condition following the crash Thursday afternoon.

Officials with the Bernalillo County Fire Department say a man and a woman were dead when they arrived at the scene. Another man was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital.

It is unclear what caused the incident.

Group Says Santa Fe Median Home Prices Hit Record LevelsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The median home price in New Mexico's capital city hit a record level last year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Santa Fe Association of Realtors numbers show the median home price in the city of Santa Fe in 2018 was $370,000.

The group says that figure, based on sales over the year, surpassed the pre-recession peak of $360,000 in 2007.

The number of home sales in Santa Fe also has increased in the past few years, rising from 842 in 2016 to 1,079 in 2018.

The resurgent housing market comes as the Santa Fe area struggles with a shortage of affordable homes and lack of inventory overall.

Home sales across Santa Fe County saw an even higher median price of $420,000 in 2018 for single-family detached homes.

Senator Wants Bandelier Designated National ParkAssociated Press

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich wants the federal government to turn Bandelier National Monument into a full-fledged national park.

New Mexico's junior senator told state lawmakers Friday that he plans to introduce legislation this year what would provide national park status to the wilderness area and archaeological preserve near Los Alamos.

Bandelier National Monument is named after 19th century anthropologist Adolph Bandelier and perhaps best known for its ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

Heinrich and Sen. Tom Udall have been prominent figures in Democratic resistance to Trump's effort to shrink national monuments and unravel environmental protections.

Heinrich says he also wants to revive efforts to grant national park status to White Sands National Monument.

New Mexico Considers Voter Registration ChangesAssociated Press

A bill that would automatically register eligible voters at New Mexico motor vehicle offices unless they decline has cleared its first hurdle in the Legislature.

A House panel voted Friday to advance the bill over the objections of Republican legislators.

Current law allows eligible residents an automated option for registering to vote as they apply for driver's licenses or state identity cards. The new bill from state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque would register eligible voters or update their existing registration unless they explicitly opt out.

Democratic New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver supports the change and says it could expand voter registration rolls statewide by as much as 30 percent, or nearly 400,000 voters.

Hobbs, Facing Staffing Shortage Amid Oil Boom, OKs Pay StudyHobbs News-Sun

A southeastern New Mexico city in the heart of the state's oil boom will launch a study focusing on police and firefighters pay.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the city commission in Hobbs, New Mexico, voted this week to approve a $59,000 compensation study for city employees. The vote comes months after a veteran police officer told city leaders that officers are leaving the Hobbs Police Department in "a mass exodus" due to insufficient pay.

Officials have acknowledged lucrative oil jobs are creating staffing shortages in the police and fire departments.

Hobbs Human Resources Director Nicholas Goulet says the city hasn't had a major overhaul or review of its compensation system in more than 12 years.

The compensation study by Evergreen Services of Tallahassee, Florida, will take about 3 1/2 months.

New Mexico Supreme Court Rules In Privacy Rights Case - Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has provided new legal guidance on when police are justified to enter a private residence without a warrant.

In a ruling Thursday, the court found that authorities did not violate a Farmington man's constitutional right to privacy by entering an unlocked apartment without a warrant to check on the residents inside.

At issue was whether an officer's decision to enter the apartment was reasonable under the emergency assistance doctrine, which allows warrantless entry to aid injured occupants or to protect them from harm.

The officer heard an infant's cries and another child hollering after a neighbor reported hearing a loud thumping noise. Inside, the officer found two intoxicated people passed out on the floor with an infant and two other young children in the room.

New Mexico Governor Names Education Leadership Team - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

An expert in professional development for teachers was named Thursday as New Mexico's secretary of public education, as the state grapples with a court order to increase school resources for struggling children from minority and low-income families.

New Mexico State University dean and research director Karen Trujillo of Las Cruces was named to the Cabinet-level position as the new administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham embarks on an overhaul of student testing and teacher evaluations.

As part of its push, the administration is pressuring lawmakers for a $500 million increase in annual spending on public schools.

The governor, who took office Jan. 1, introduced Trujillo alongside a newly appointed leadership team for the Department of Public Education that includes a specialist in Native American education.

Family Court Judge In Albuquerque Accused Of DWI After Crash - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Authorities in Albuquerque say a family court judge has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after being involved in a car accident.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Deborah Walker was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center early Thursday and has since been released. It's unclear if she has a lawyer.

A criminal complaint says the 65-year-old Walker was in a crash about 8 p.m. Wednesday and a breath test showed she was above the presumed level of intoxication.

The Journal says a police officer stated Walker smelled like alcohol, had slurred speech and performed poorly on three field sobriety tests before being taken into custody.

Walker has been a judge in the 2nd Judicial District since 1993. She was appointed and elected as a family court judge in 1997.

New Mexico Bills, Governor Test Appetite For Gun Control - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico's Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, and its allied governor pushed Thursday to increase oversight of firearms sales and place new limitations on gun possession and ownership as deliberations began on a slate of gun-safety bills.

Lawmakers reserved the largest room in the Statehouse, the House chamber, to accommodate crowds for deliberations on a long list of bills to expand federal background checks on gun sales, deny firearms to perpetrators of domestic abuse and allow courts to temporarily seize guns from people who are considered dangerous.

Under a 60-day annual legislative session that ends in March, New Mexico could be the first state to enact major gun control reforms since 2018 elections altered the political landscape in Statehouses.

Discussion was delayed on one bill that would penalize adults for unlocked guns that fall into the hands minors, with felony provisions for incidents that lead to injury or death.

Since taking office Jan. 1, Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has urged lawmakers to send her legislation to strengthen background checks, ban guns for people with assault convictions and address responsibility for children's access to guns.

Holtec Defends Plans For Nuclear Waste Storage Facility - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A New Jersey-based company is defending plans to build a multibillion-dollar facility in the New Mexico desert to store spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors around the United States.

An attorney representing Holtec International says the project would provide an option for dealing with waste that has been building up at nuclear power plants as the federal government has not met its obligations to establish a permanent repository.

Jay Silberg told members of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel on Thursday the proposed facility would provide a more secure temporary home for the spent fuel.

Silberg says Holtec is seeking a license to store up to 8,680 metric tons of waste. He says the facility could eventually hold 100,000 metric tons.

Opponents are concerned about the safety of transporting the waste and potential environmental effects.

Man Is Arrested In Doña Ana County For Alleged Bomb Threats - Associated Press

Doña Ana County authorities say a man has been arrested for allegedly making bomb threats.

County sheriff's officials say 37-year-old Samuel Gilpin was wanted on a federal warrant accusing him with malicious threat to injure by fire or explosives.

It was unclear Thursday if Gilpin had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

Sheriff's officials say Gilpin was named as a suspect in an investigation of bomb threats made against the county's Government Center in 2017 and recently against the Third Judicial District Court building in Las Cruces.

Gilpin allegedly made the threats to the government center because he was upset over receiving a notification in the mail letting him know he could only vote in one state and needed to choose where he preferred to be a voter.

Man Arrested After Allegedly Raping Fellow Hospital Patient - Associated Press

Authorities have arrested a man who they say raped a fellow patient at an Albuquerque hospital.

Albuquerque police arrested 22-year-old Anthony Casiquito on Tuesday after they say he raped a woman Monday night while she slept at Lovelace Westside Hospital.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Casiquito who could comment on the allegations.

Casiquito is charged with criminal sexual penetration, tampering with evidence and false imprisonment.

He was still at the county jail Wednesday night.

A Lovelace spokeswoman did not answer questions about the incident, but did write in an email that "patient safety is a top priority and we are working closely with the authorities."

Roosevelt County Sheriff: Cash Missing From Evidence Room - The Eastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

Roosevelt County Sheriff Malin Parker is asking New Mexico State Police for help in investigating missing cash from its evidence room.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports Parker announced this week an audit found the cash missing after an employee notified him.

Officials say around $8,200 has vanished.

Parker says he contacted state police "and requested a full investigation."

2 Fort Bliss Soldiers Killed In Training Crash Identified - Associated Press

Authorities have released the names of two soldiers from Texas' Fort Bliss who died when two military training vehicles crashed in southern New Mexico.

Officials at the Army base in El Paso say 24-year-old Cpl. Cole Trevor Wixom and 21-year-old Pfc. Jamie R. Riley were fatally injured in Tuesday night's collision between two Stryker vehicles at New Mexico's McGregor Range.

They say seven other soldiers still are being treated for their injuries and the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Fort Bliss officials say Wixom was from Bloomingdale, Michigan, and served as an infantryman.

They say Riley served as a cavalry scout and was from Fair Haven, New Jersey.

Wixom joined the Army in August 2016 and Riley enlisted in January 2018.

Navajo Nation Police: 1 Dead In Shooting Involving Officers - Associated Press

Navajo Nation authorities say one person is dead following a shooting involving police officers but that no officers were injured.

The tribal police department said Thursday that the incident occurred in Naschitti, a community located along U.S. 491 between Gallup and Shiprock in northwestern New Mexico.

A statement issued by the police department says details on the incident aren't immediately available for release but says the incident "was localized and there was no immediate threat to the public."

According to the department, the incident is being investigated by the Navajo Division of Public Safety and the FBI.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher referred a reporter to the statement already issued by tribal police.

Naschitti is 132 miles northwest of Albuquerque.

FBI: Inmate Who Escaped From Hospital Caught In Chimayo - Associated Press

Authorities say an inmate who escaped from an Española-area hospital has been apprehended at a home in the Rio Arriba County community of Chimayo.

The FBI says FBI agents assisted by sheriff's deputies arrested 27-year-old Ricky Martinez without incident Wednesday.

An FBI statement says Martinez escaped Dec. 25 and was wanted on federal charges of assault with intent to commit murder and other crimes stemming from a September 2017 incident on Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, on Sept. 2, 2017.

An arrest warrant was issued for Martinez after a federal grand jury indicted him on Jan. 10.