Bill Seeks $50M For Renewable Energy, US Moves Ahead With Oil Leases Near Sacred Park

Jan 31, 2019

New Mexico Considers Greater Investments In Solar, WindAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers would channel a small portion of state investments specifically toward renewable energy projects under newly proposed legislation.

A House panel on energy policy took up discussion Thursday of a bill from Democratic state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton to channel 1 percent of a $5 billion trust fund toward investments in solar and wind energy

The bill seeks to invest about $50 million from the state's Severance Tax Permanent Fund in the renewable energy sector. No immediate action was taken on the bill.

Democratic lawmakers have introduced a raft of bills to encourage renewable energy development and trim state government's dependence on income from oil and natural gas.

Also Thursday, a House panel advanced a bill to reduce income taxes for people who invest in home energy-efficiency upgrades.

Sheriff Who Shot Billy The Kid Focus Of New Mexico FestivalAssociated Press

Pat Garrett, an Old West sheriff who is remembered for killing outlaw Billy the Kid, is scheduled to be the focus of a new festival in southern New Mexico.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the first Pat Garrett Western Heritage Festival is slated for Friday and Saturday in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Organizers say they plan to unveil a new photograph of Garrett.

In addition, organizers say several of Garrett's descendants will be attending the event.

The festival comes as Las Cruces city officials are considering changing the name of Motel Boulevard to Pat Garrett Boulevard.

Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid in 1881 after the outlaw escaped from the Lincoln County jail in New Mexico.

Garrett was later killed following a dispute over a ranch.

Autopsy Reveals Robbery Suspect Was Shot At Least 40 TimesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An autopsy reveals an armed robbery suspect was shot at least 40 times by members of the U.S. Marshals Service outside an Albuquerque motel.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that court records say 32-year-old Wes Allen had a gun on June 7 as he drove his car toward an officer before the task force opened fire.

Records say U.S. marshals had been looking for Allen in connection with several armed robberies in the Farmington area.

The medical investigator determined Allen was high on methamphetamine when he died.

The Journal says spokespeople for the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office have not answered questions about the incident.

Special Prosecutor Michael Cox of the district attorney's office says the Allen shooting has not been assigned to an attorney and probably won't be "for a couple of months, maybe longer."

New Mexico Recruits Top Prison Official From FloridaAssociated Press

The former corrections secretary for the state of Florida has been appointed to lead New Mexico's prison and parole system.

Julie Jones was designated secretary of corrections on Thursday by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

In Florida, Jones led a corrections department with more than 90,000 inmates and an annual $2.5 billion budget.

She arrives at a New Mexico corrections system with rising rates of recidivism and a prison population of about 7,300 inmates that swelled over the past decade.

About half of the state's inmates are held at private facilities. The Corrections Department has struggled to hire and retain officers and avoid the expense and dangers of overtime work.

Lujan Grisham and Jones say an emphasis will be placed on rehabilitation, including an evaluation of solitary confinement practices.

Guard Helicopter Helps Border Patrol Seize Pot, Make ArrestsAssociated Press

Authorities say an Arkansas National Guard helicopter deployed to the New Mexico desert to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border helped federal agents seize large sacks of marijuana and arrest four camouflage-clad men hiding in brush at night.

National Guard and Customs and Border Patrol officials said Thursday that the LUH-72 Lakota helicopter's crew used its night-vision equipment to first guide Border Patrol agents on ATVs to the hiding suspects and then located the nearly 136 pounds of marijuana in burlap sacks stashed nearby.

A Border Patrol agent had initially spotted the men walking along a road.

The incident occurred Tuesday night near Playas, New Mexico, which is about 120 miles west of El Paso, Texas, and about 39 miles north of the border.

US Moves Ahead With Oil Leases Near Sacred Park - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

U.S. land managers will move forward in March with the sale of oil and gas leases that include land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites sacred to Native American tribes.

The sale comes as Democratic members of Congress, tribal leaders and environmentalists have criticized the federal Bureau of Land Management for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases despite the recent government shutdown.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall tells The Associated Press that he's concerned about the latest attempt to lease potentially culturally significant land in New Mexico without a more comprehensive plan in place.

Officials have previously declined oil and gas leases on land within 10 miles of Chaco. Last year, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke halted a lease over cultural concerns after hundreds of people protested.

New Mexico Legislature Sends Spurned Bills To New Governor - Associated Press

The Legislature sent a string of bills to New Mexico's Democratic governor for consideration Wednesday that had been vetoed by her Republican predecessor.

The state House of Representatives gave final approval to bills that would expand cave exploration opportunities, require greater reporting of expenses by lobbyist and limit the ability of police to seize information from personal electronic devices.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has three days to approve or veto the bills. Bills also become law if the governor takes no action.

A House- and Senate-approved bill from Senate majority leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe would require a court order before law enforcement agencies can take electronic information from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The House gave final approval to a bill from Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto of Albuquerque and Democratic Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos that would close a loophole that allowed lobbyists to buy politicians meals and drinks of up to $100 without reporting it to state campaign finance regulators.

Lujan Grisham also will consider a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Soules of Las Cruces aimed at allowing cave exploration underneath private property by waiving liability for land owners under most circumstances.

New Mexico May Open Medicaid To Paying Customers - Associated Press

New Mexico would open its Medicaid program to paying customers in an effort to expand affordable health care options under newly proposed legislation.

The bill to create a Medicaid buy-in option for state residents who don't qualify for subsidized health care was introduced Wednesday by Democratic Rep. Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque.

The proposal would allow state residents to pay a monthly premium to the state in return for medical insurance under the state's Medicaid program that currently serves low-income families and individuals.

The buy-in program would be off limits to people already enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid or who received subsidized care through the state health exchange under provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham backed the Medicaid buy-in concept during her campaign last year.

New Mexico Officials Confront Disclosure Deadline - Associated Press

An annual deadline is arriving for New Mexico legislators and statewide officeholders to file personal financial disclosure statements with the Secretary of State's Office.

State law gives certain state officials until the last day of January that falls on Thursday to list significant sources of income, political lobbying activity, contracts with state agencies and more to avoid undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Cabinet secretaries have 30 days from the time of their appointment to file the same information. Completed forms are posted online by the Secretary of State's Office.

The nonpartisan group New Mexico Ethics Watch has described persistent shortcomings in the state's financial disclosure system for public officials.

New Mexico Regulators Clear Way For Hearings On Power Plant - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

State regulators have cleared the way to begin public hearings on Public Service Co. of New Mexico's plans to abandon a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the utility had asked the Public Regulation Commission to wait until mid-2019 so it could prepare a detailed plan for closing the San Juan Generating Station and replacing the lost electricity with alternative resources.

The commission voted unanimously Wednesday, citing a requirement that it immediately review the issue with public input. It was not immediately clear when the abandonment proceedings would begin.

The utility first announced last summer that it planned to close the plant in 2022, but it did not formally notify the commission until December.

Senate Panel Advances Bill Overhauling Water Commission - Associated Press

A measure that would overhaul the process for making appointments to a powerful commission charged with protecting, conserving and developing water resources across drought-stricken New Mexico has passed its first legislative hurdle.

A Senate panel voted unanimously Wednesday to advance the proposal, which has been in the works for years.

The sponsor, Democratic Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, says it's an effort to limit dramatic swings in water policy by removing the politics from the Interstate Stream Commission.

The panel's members are currently chosen by the governor. Under the proposal, appointments would be split between the governor and the Legislature.

To broaden the makeup of the commission, appointees also would have to meet certain qualifications. The list calls for engineers and representatives from irrigation districts, utilities and research institutions.

Arizona Lawmakers To Debate Drought Plan Ahead Of Deadline - Associated Press

Arizona lawmakers face a Thursday deadline to let the state join a drought plan for the Colorado River or risk blowing up a compromise years in the making for the seven states that draw water from the constrained river.

Arizona is the only state that requires legislative approval to join the agreement, which will require the states to take less water from the river in hopes of keeping major reservoirs from reaching catastrophically low levels.

The House and Senate are scheduled to debate the legislation Thursday.

The Legislature's approval would be the final puzzle piece that avoids potentially more severe cutbacks imposed by the federal government.

The river serves 40 million people in New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.