Bill Would Remove Cap On Film Incentives, State Recruits Top Prison Official From Florida

Feb 1, 2019

Bill Calls For Lifting Cap On New Mexico's Film IncentivesAssociated Press

Incentives aimed at attracting more filmmakers to New Mexico would get a boost under legislation supported by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

She was flanked by Democratic lawmakers and representatives of the film industry as she unveiled the legislation during a news conference Friday at the state capitol.

The measure would eliminate the cap on rebate payouts for the industry and make other changes.

Lujan Grisham contends that lifting the cap could result in more productions coming to the state.

Her Republican predecessor, Susana Martinez, had signed legislation in 2011 imposing a $50 million annual limit as a way to provide budget certainty and protect state finances while New Mexico struggled through the economic downturn.

Lujan Grisham said the cap had shackled the industry and it's time for it to go.

Rep. Torres Small Prefers 'Carefully Placed' Border BarriersAssociated Press

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-New Mexico, says she is in favor of "carefully placed" border barriers "based on a detailed plan."

Torres Small, who represents New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District, which shares about 180 miles of its southern border with Mexico, said Thursday that physical borders make sense when they are strategically placed.

Torres Small will chair the Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Accountability for the Committee on Homeland Security, and will sit on the House Armed Services Committee.

New Mexico's other first-term congresswoman, Democratic Rep. Debra Haaland, who represents the 1st Congressional District, has been selected as vice chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and will sit on the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

New Mexico Bill Making Media Delete 'Irrelevant' Info PulledAssociated Press

A New Mexico lawmaker who faced questions about spending public funds has pulled a bill that would have forced media to delete "irrelevant" material from their archives.

State Rep. Andrea Romero said Friday she was withdrawing a measure she's called the "Right to Be Forgotten Act," aimed at protecting a person's online reputation. Under the proposal, news organizations would have been required to take down information a person deemed "inaccurate, irrelevant, inadequate or excessive," or face steep fines.

Before being elected, Romero headed an agency of New Mexico municipalities created to promote Los Alamos National Laboratory. She faced criticism for asking to be reimbursed for Washington Nationals tickets, expensive alcohol and fancy restaurant outings.

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government executive director Melanie Majors said the bill would have led to censorship.

New Mexico Minimum-Wage Bill Ignites Debate In New MexicoAssociated Press

The Legislature is deliberating a proposal to raise New Mexico's hourly minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 by July of 2021.

A House panel on economic development on Friday gathered public testimony about the proposal from Democratic Rep. Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque.

Labor Secretary Bill McCamley says the bill aligns with the Democratic governor's recommendation to raise the minimum wage to $12 and link future increase to inflation.

Restaurateurs object to provisions of Garcia's bill that eliminate exceptions to the minimum wage for tipped workers. Garcia says the restaurant servers currently are exposed to exploitation.

A competing proposal from Senate corporations committee chairman Clemente Sanchez of Grants would raise the minimum wage to $10 and leave current rules for tip workers intact. It has not yet been debated.

ICE Doesn't Hold Partners Accountable For Bad CareAssociated Press

A government report has found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn't always properly hold accountable contractors who care for detained immigrants.

The report by the Office of the Inspector General dated Tuesday found ICE doesn't use resources it has to hold contractors accountable when they fail to meet standards, like imposing financial penalties.

ICE paid over $3 billion over the last three years to contractors in about half of the facilities it uses to detain immigrants.

There have been reports of poor medical care and dangerous conditions at ICE facilities for years. At the Adelanto Processing Center in California, another OIG inspection found many detainees had nooses hanging in their cells.

ICE said it's making changes, like including plans in all contracts to ensure contractors meet standards.

New Mexico Sportsmen Worried About $500K Budget Transfer Associated Press

New Mexico sportsmen are concerned about a proposal that calls for propping up state parks with money from a fund meant for wildlife conservation projects.

Under budget proposals being considered by state lawmakers, $500,000 would be transferred from the game protection fund to the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department for use at state parks.

This would mark the fifth year for the transfer, but sportsmen argue that following through with the proposal could end up compromising about $14 million in federal matching funds.

Jesse Deubel with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation says federal rules require the funding — which comes from hunting and fishing licensing fees and taxes — to be under the control of the state game department.

Legislative analysts say they're still studying the issue.

New Mexico AG Raises Embezzlement Allegations Against FirmAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's top prosecutor says his office has discovered "credible evidence" that a nonprofit firm allegedly embezzled money after being put in charge of funds as part of a guardianship case.

Attorney General Hector Balderas outlined the accusations in a letter sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The letter was obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.

No arrests have been made, but investigators executed a search warrant Thursday at Guardian Angels Representative-Payee Services of Albuquerque. The business did not return a phone message left Friday.

According to Balderas, his agents uncovered that the nonprofit and its owner/operator embezzled about $50,000 from New Mexicans whose cases were transferred to the firm by the U.S. Marshals Service in the wake of the Ayudando Guardians criminal case.

Ayudando Guardians officials are awaiting trial on charges of siphoning $4 million in client funds.

New Mexico Seeks Student Assessments That Reflect CultureAssociated Press

The state's newly appointed education secretary says the next version of statewide tests for student academic performance should reflect the unique cultures of a heavily Hispanic and Native American state.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo told reporters Friday that a clear picture should emerge in August of the new statewide assessments for students and that the exams need to be culturally relevant.

In one of her first actions as governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham did away with student assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers that she pilloried as high-pressure and counterproductive. Students will take an abbreviated assessment this spring as new exams are developed.

Trujillo says assessments that include unfamiliar terms may not fully reflect a child's knowledge.

New Mexico Recruits Top Prison Official From Florida - Associated 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.

New Mexico Judge Turns Down Developer's Water Request - Associated Press

A New Mexico judge has rejected a developer's request to access more than 100 million gallons of groundwater annually for a planned community east of Albuquerque.

In what has been a decades-long fight, State District Judge Shannon Bacon ruled this week that the proposal would impair existing water rights and was contrary to the conservation of water.

Bernalillo County was among the groups that opposed the application, which was initially filed in 2009 by Aquifer Science.

The company has been working on behalf of the Campbell Ranch development to secure the water rights. It's not clear what the ruling will mean for the future of the project.

County officials are planning to update residents in the East Mountains on water issues during a Feb. 23 public meeting.

New Mexico Congressman Seeks Broad Voter Access - Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has urged the New Mexico state Legislature to move forward with efforts to increase access to voting and provide new options for medical insurance in the state.

Lujan addressed a joint session of the state House and Senate on Thursday.

The sixth term congressman for northern New Mexico expressed support for the adoption of same-day voter registration and automatic registration during transactions at state Motor Vehicle Division offices.

He also wants New Mexico to create an accessible buy-in option for Medicaid coverage for people who make too much money to qualify or receive other federal health care subsidies.

The election of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to succeed a Republican has opened the door to reform proposals on climate change, gun control and decriminalizing drugs that were off limits for eight years.

Democrats in the U.S. House recently elected Lujan to the No. 4 leadership post as assistant Democratic leader.

New Mexico Considers Greater Investments In Solar, Wind - Associated 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.

Bureau Of Reclamation To Discuss Drought Plan Going Forward - Associated Press

All seven Western states that rely on Colorado River water now have agreed to a plan to keep key reservoirs from plummeting.

Arizona lawmakers approved the plan late Thursday, becoming the last state to meet a deadline set by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The bureau's commissioner, Brenda Burman, plans to discuss the status of the plans Friday with reporters.

New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming spent years crafting plans that recognize a shrinking supply of river water. The river supports about 40 million people and millions of acres of farmland in the U.S. and Mexico but can't keep up with demand.

Under drought contingency plans, states voluntarily will give up water to prop up Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Mexico also has agreed to cuts.

Guard Helicopter Helps Border Patrol Seize Pot, Make Arrests - Associated 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.

Autopsy Reveals Robbery Suspect Was Shot At Least 40 Times - Albuquerque 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."