Bill To Rename Columbus Day Advances, State Joins Climate Change Alliance

Jan 29, 2019

New Mexico Governor Joins Alliance Against Climate ChangeAssociated Press

The Democratic governor of New Mexico is committing the state to aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and endorsing goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Tuesday that sets in motion new efforts to encourage renewable energy development, improve energy efficiency for buildings, improve air quality and possibly set new vehicle emission standards.

She said the state will pursue a 45 percent reduction in the emission of heat-trapping gases by 2030. The goal is benchmarked to 2005 emission levels.

President Trump has pulled the U.S. out of an international agreement that seeks to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Lujan Grisham is joining an alliance of state governors seeking to combat climate change.

New Mexico Bill To Rename Columbus Day Clears Hurdle- Associated Press

A New Mexico proposal that would trade the Columbus Day holiday for a tribute to Native Americans instead has cleared another hurdle.

Yesterday, the New Mexico House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee unanimously passed a measure to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Sandia Pueblo tribal member and Democratic state Rep. Derrick Lente sponsored the bill that renames the state holiday celebrated on the second Monday in October.

He says the tribute to explorer Christopher Columbus should be dropped in a state with 23 designated Native American communities.

But Republican Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell says she was concerned the attempt to rename Columbus Day was linked to the effort to remove Confederate Monuments.

At least five states have done away with Columbus Day celebration in deference to Native Americans, though the federal Columbus holiday remains in place.

Officials Say Vandals Hit New Mexico School With Vegetable Oil- Hobbs News-Sun & Associated Press

A New Mexico high school was forced to delay classes after authorities say vandals slipped onto campus and poured vegetable oil throughout the hallways.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the slick attack at Eunice High School in Eunice, New Mexico, reportedly occurred late Sunday and forced custodial staff to race Monday morning to clean up the mess.

Principal Tracy Davis says surveillance cameras captured six people wearing black clothing with hoodies and gloves pouring the vegetable oil on floors. Davis says the greasy attackers gained entrance through an unlocked classroom window.

Officials alerted parents and students via social media that classes were delayed until staff removed the oil.

No arrests have been made.

Eunice is about 327 miles southeast of Albuquerque.

New Mexico 'Open Primaries' Bill Passed House Committee- Associated Press

A New Mexico proposal that would allow independent voters to participate in the state's primary elections has passed its first test.

The New Mexico House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to move along a bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Natalie Figueroa that would let "decline-to-state" voters cast ballots in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.

The committee's two Republicans opposed the measure.

Proponents of the bill say open primaries would allow more voters to participate in primaries.

But Republican Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell says the open primary proposal would be "an absolute nightmare" for county clerks offices.

About 22 percent of registered voters decline party affiliations in New Mexico. State law requires voters to register with a party 28 days before participating in a primary election.

New Mexico Bill Would Prohibit Right-To-Work OrdinancesAssociated Press

Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico are supporting a measure that would prohibit local governments from enacting right-to-work ordinances, arguing that the state should have exclusive jurisdiction over the issue.

After an hours-long hearing today, a House panel voted 6-3 along party lines to advance the legislation.

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. The ruling involved an Illinois state worker who argued that everything unions do, including bargaining with the state, is political and employees shouldn't be forced to pay for it.

In New Mexico, several counties have approved ordinances that prevent employees from being required to join a union or pay union fees.

Union leaders contend the ordinances create confusion and are undermining the labor groups.

Fox Bites Homeowner In New Mexico, Tests Positive For RabiesAssociated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health says a fox that bit a Las Vegas homeowner has tested positive for rabies.

State Game and Fish authorities responded to a call last Saturday from the homeowner who believed the fox was starving when she attempted to feed it.

The homeowner offered the fox a bowl of dog food when it bit her on the wrist and hand.

A Game and Fish conservation officer was able to locate the fox and noticed it was exhibiting abnormal behaviors consistent with rabies.

The officer first attempted to capture the fox but after it became aggressive, he euthanized it.

Game and Fish submitted the fox for testing to the state's Scientific Laboratory Division and results came back positive for rabies on Monday.

New Mexico Considers Lighter Punishment For Drug PossessionAssociated Press

Democratic state lawmakers in New Mexico are proposing to reduce drug possession offenses from felony to misdemeanor classification in an effort to decrease incarceration costs and more effectively treat addiction.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque and Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe would reclassify as a misdemeanor the possession of drugs including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and various psychedelics when there is no intent to distribute or traffic.

The initiative follows the example of reforms in states such as Oklahoma, Connecticut, Alaska and California.

Candelaria says felony penalties for possession of trace amounts of illegal drugs are dividing families and preventing access to gainful employment and public housing.

New Mexico Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur says prosecutors would retain discretion over the severity of charges.

ENMU Regents Confirm Intent To Rebuild President's ResidenceEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

The Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents has confirmed its intent to build a new president's residence.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports the Portales institution previously released a survey to the public seeking input on how the university should move forward after the discovery of asbestos and mold in the president's residence.

Regent Terry Othick says more than 70 percent of the approximately 650 respondents to the survey felt the home should be remodeled or rebuilt.

The board pledges to find alternative funding sources that will not impact student tuition and fees, university reserves or other planned projects.

Othick says no timeline is set for the project. He hopes to have it addressed over the next few years, but it will depend on when and how much funding the university receives.

New Mexico Proposal Calls For Hike In Oil And Gas RoyaltiesAssociated Press

Royalty rates for the most productive oil and natural gas wells on state trust land would increase under a measure introduced in the New Mexico Legislature.

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard and other supporters say additional revenues from the industry will help fund public education reforms.

Under the legislation, the royalty cap would be increased to a high of 25 percent on future leases. The State Land Office currently can charge up to 20 percent.

The measure introduced Tuesday also calls for royalties to be paid on vented and flared gas.

Industry experts say the proposal could push more development to federal lands.

The oil boom in southeastern New Mexico hasn't slowed down, and a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests parts of the Permian Basin hold even more potential.

Sect Member Gets Suspended Prison Term In Child Abuse CaseGallup Independent, Associated Press

A New Mexico judge sentenced a member of a paramilitary religious to a suspended three-year prison term in a child sex abuse case.

The Gallup Independent reports that Amos River, also known as Joshua Wentzell, was sentenced Friday in Los Lunas by state District Judge James Sanchez after pleading no contest to conspiring to tamper with evidence.

River acknowledged trying to hide children during an investigation by Cibola County law enforcement, failure to report the births of one or more of his six children, and conspiring with his wife in failing to report the births.

Authorities raided the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps' secluded Fence Lake compound in 2017 following a lengthy investigation.

Sect co-leaders James and Deborah Green have been sentenced to prison terms in the case.

Push To Save New Mexico Soccer, Skiing Comes Amid Anxiety - Associated Press

Key Democratic lawmakers are getting behind an effort to force the University of New Mexico to reinstate the men's soccer team.

A proposal sponsored by House Speaker Brian Egolf and House Appropriations and Finance Committee chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom would set aside $2 million for the school to reinstate the men's and women's skiing teams, beach volleyball and men's soccer programs.

The University of New Mexico Board of Regents voted last year to cut the programs to get spending under control within its troubled athletics department. But the decision drew wide condemnation.

University of New Mexico spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair told the Albuquerque Journal the school didn't ask for the bill and is examining it.

But the men's soccer team says the school asked team members to meet with lawmakers this week.

New Mexico State Auditor Issues Counterfeit Money Warning - Artesia Daily Press, Associated Press

The New Mexico state auditor has issued a warning about counterfeit money found in the southern part of the state.

The Artesia Daily Press reports the Office of the State Auditor last week issued a risk advisory alerting the public, business owners, and governmental agencies about counterfeit money in circulation.

Officials say counterfeit money has been spotted in communities in southern New Mexico, particularly Alamogordo.

Authorities say the fake money is printed on low-quality paper and appears to have Chinese lettering.

Alamogordo police say the bills have been presented at various retailers, including dollar stores, nail salons, restaurants, and gas stations.


Revenue From Oil Boom Could Be Used For New Mexico Roads - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's governor and a key committee of the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, want to use a large portion of the state's budget surplus to improve highway infrastructure.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the annual infrastructure bill would ultimately include $300 million to $400 million from the surplus to repair roads and make improvements in areas that are overwhelmed.

That includes reconstructing a heavily trafficked oil field route in Eddy County and building a new Interstate 25 interchange near Los Lunas. A third traffic lane on Interstate 25 between Bernalillo and Santa Fe could also be an option.

It would ultimately be up to the state Department of Transportation to decide which projects receive funding.

The department says projects would be selected in large part based on their potential to create economic growth.

Multicultural Education Reforms Advance In New Mexico - Associated Press

Bills designed to improve academic achievement among Native American and Hispanic students and to revitalize local cultural traditions including indigenous languages are advancing at the New Mexico Legislature.

A House panel on Monday endorsed bills that would expand training for teachers of English as a second language and bilingual instruction, while enlisting the help of education cooperatives.

A separate bill would add two administrative posts at the Public Education Department to oversee progress among Hispanic students and better tailor teaching to local cultures.

The bills respond to a state district judge's findings that New Mexico fails to provide an adequate education to students from low-income and minority communities, especially children who speak Spanish or Native American languages at home. A court order gives lawmakers until April to provide solutions.

UNM Seeks Funding To Expand Child Abuse Response Team - Associated Press

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is asking state lawmakers for more funding to expand a program that evaluates children in cases that might involve child abuse.

Officials say the University of New Mexico Hospital's Child Abuse Response Team helps provide a measure of safety for the state's most vulnerable residents.

Leslie Strickler is the team's medical director and is the state's only board-certified child abuse pediatrician. She has the expertise to determine whether a child's injuries may have been caused deliberately or by accident.

According to Strickler, New Mexico has high rates of child abuse and neglect and has a pediatric population at very high risk of maltreatment.

Additional funding for the program is one of the legislative priorities for the Health Sciences Center this year.

Institute Of American Indian Arts Plans For Research Center - Associated Press

An effort by the Institute of American Indian Arts to create a new research center is getting support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The institute says the center will focus on the advancement of contemporary Native American arts and culture by streamlining the care of museum collections and records as well as supporting training through internships and fellowships.

The three-year planning grant is worth $434,000.

IAIA President Robert Martin says the partnership with Mellon is a critical step in expanding the institute's capacity to contribute to the field and build upon its legacy as the birthplace of contemporary Native arts.

The institute also plans to start a scholarly fellowship program to provide financial support for a series of fellows working on projects related to contemporary Native American art.

New Mexico May Allow Mercy For Dogs That Hurt Livestock - Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are reconsidering the state's mandatory death sentence for dogs that injure or kill livestock.

The bill from Democratic Rep. Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces was scheduled for initial consideration Tuesday by a legislative committee.

Owner of livestock or poultry would still be allowed to kill a dog if it remains on their property after attacking livestock.

Dog owners continue to be liable for livestock killed by a canine companion.

Former New Mexico Rep. Henry "Kiki" Saavedra, 81, Dies - Associated Press

New Mexico Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf has announced former state Rep. Henry "Kiki" Saavedra has died.

Egolf said Monday that Saavedra died five years after retiring from the New Mexico House. University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes said the Saavedra died Monday morning. He was 81.

Egolf says Saavedra died of complications from Alzheimer's Disease.

Saavedra served in the New Mexico House of Representatives for 38 years and was the second-longest serving member of the chamber when he decided not to seek re-election in 2014.

He served as chair of the powerful House Appropriations and Finance Committee and had been a key figure in the annual crafting of a balanced budget.

Saavedra was a retired city of Albuquerque employee.

Official Says 'Mystery' Volunteer Cleaned Bathrooms At Monument - KOB-TV, Associated Press

A park official is expressing his gratitude for a "mystery person" who cleaned the bathrooms at Petroglyph National Monument during the federal government shutdown, and kept them stocked with toilet paper.

Dennis Vasquez, the superintendent for the monument in Albuquerque, told KOB-TV on Monday that people who visited the site during the 35-day shutdown appeared to be respectful of it overall.

Elsewhere in the country, including in Joshua Tree National Park in California, reports emerged of federal sites being trashed.

President Donald Trump on Friday agreed to end the shutdown for three weeks. The National Park Service said then that it was preparing to resume regular operations nationwide.

Petroglyph National Monument is a protected site with carved symbols and designs dating back centuries.