Compromise Reached On Minimum Wage Increase, State Senate Upholds Dormant Ban On Abortion

Mar 15, 2019

Compromise Reached On Minimum Wage Increase - Associated Press

House and Senate lawmakers have reached a compromise that would raise New Mexico's minimum hourly wage gradually from $7.50 to $12 at the start of 2023.

A conference committee of three lawmakers from each chamber brokered the agreement Thursday to break a legislative stalemate.

The compromise proposal moves to the House and Senate for votes.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned on efforts to reach a $12 minimum wage, and House Democrats led by Rep. Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque also sought additional automatic future increases to offset inflation.

The compromise agreement would not tie future increases to an inflation index. The minimum hourly wage would rise to $9 in 2020, $10.50 in 2021, and $11.50 in 2022 before settling at $12 in 2023.

Tipped worker minimum salaries would gradually rise to $3 an hour, and a student minimum wage of $8.50 would take effect in 2020 without adjustments.

New Mexico State Senate Upholds Dormant Ban On Abortion - Associated Press

The New Mexico state Senate has voted to uphold the state's dormant criminal ban on abortion.

The Democrat-led Senate voted 24-18 Thursday in opposition to eliminating the state prohibition on abortion. Advocates for abortion rights sought to remove the ban in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns a 1973 decision that made the procedure legal nationwide.

New Mexico is one of nine states that retain abortion bans that are not enforced because of the Supreme Court decision.

Abortion-rights advocates seized on Democratic gains in midterm elections to push to overturn the ban in a heavily Hispanic state with strong currents of Roman Catholicism. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supported the failed bill.

Unchained Democrats Tackle Climate Change, Shun Marijuana - By Morgan Lee And Russell Contreras Associated Press

Legislators are hammering out agreements to increase annual spending on public school education by a half-billion dollars after consummating New Mexico's version of a "Green New Deal" that aims for carbon-free electricity production within a generation.

The consequences of sweeping Democratic midterm election victories in New Mexico were coming into focus in the final full day of the state's annual legislative session on Friday.

Two successive annual budget surpluses in excess of $1 billion are allowing the Legislature to plot a major economic stimulus package and respond to a judge's order to boost resources to public education.

As Democrats push through the state's first minimum wage increase in a decade, their own ideological divides have sidelined efforts to legalize recreational marijuana and remove a dormant criminal ban on abortion.

New Gun Control Bill Advances To Governor In New Mexico - Associated Press

The Legislature has passed a gun control bill aimed at ensuring that people under protective orders for domestic violence relinquish their firearms.

A 38-31 vote of the House on Thursday sent the measure to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for likely approval.

Federal law already prohibits gun possession and purchases for people subject to a protective order in some instances and bans ownership for convicted abusers.

The bill passed by legislators was designed to create clear procedures for people to give up their weapons or have them taken away.

Repeated revisions to the bill by lawmakers added a required "credible threat" finding by a court before a gun must be surrendered.

A similar initiative was vetoed in 2017 by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

New Mexico Legislature Backs Same-Day Voter Registration - Associated Press

A bill that would allow same-day voter registration in New Mexico has been passed by the Legislature and is on its way to the governor.

The House and Senate on Thursday endorsed a final version of the bill that also expands automated registration services to new state agencies.

Democratic New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver advocated for the changes as a way to increase voter participation and clean up voter registration rolls.

Under current state law, voter registration closes 28 days before Election Day. Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia offer same-day registration.

Critics of the same-day registration fear it will eliminate safeguards against mistakes and fraud. Proponents say it works in other states and allows registration when public interest in elections is strongest.

New Mexico Creates Early Childhood Education Agency - Associated Press

New Mexico will create a new state agency to oversee early childhood education programs under a bill signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The first-term Democratic governor signed the bill Thursday as she attempts to make good on campaign pledges to pursue universal access to preschool and respond to evidence that early schooling has a lifelong impact.

The legislation from Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque and Rep. Linda Trujillo of Santa Fe would put a new Cabinet secretary in charge of everything from home-visit care for infants to early preschool.

Padilla says the Early Childhood Education and Care Department in the long run should reduce poverty and crime as better-educated children mature.

The Legislature has balked at dedicating more money to early education from a multibillion-dollar state trust.

New Mexico Accuses Texas Oil Firm Of Air Quality Violations - Associated Press

New Mexico regulators are going after a Texas-based oil and gas company over alleged air quality violations.

The environment department issued the notice of violation to Hilcorp Energy on Thursday, saying the company has violated state and federal laws by improperly controlling emissions from one of its wells in the San Juan Basin.

The state contends any natural gas released during drilling must be captured and not wasted.

Hilcorp did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The company has numerous wells in the northwest corner of the state and was already at odds with state officials over a request to increase well densities in the area.

The state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are requiring Hilcorp to submit more data on its facilities in New Mexico to determine compliance.

New Mexico Compound Suspects Face New Conspiracy Charges -By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

Federal authorities say five former residents of a New Mexico compound have been indicted on charges of conspiring on a plan to attack U.S. law enforcement officers and employees.

The charges in a superseding indictment Wednesday accuse the two men in the group — Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Lucas Morton — of constructing a firing range at the Taos County compound to train others for attacks that never occurred.

Attorneys say the five former residents will plead not guilty to the charges.

The men and three women living at the site were arrested following an August raid that led to the discovery of 11 hungry children living in filth.

Authorities had been searching for Wahhaj's son, who authorities say had medical issues before he was kidnapped from his mother in Georgia and taken by the group to New Mexico. He later died at the compound.

Cattle Kills Prompt Removal Of Mexican Gray WolvesAssociated Press

Wildlife managers have removed two Mexican gray wolves from the wild and are looking for a third as they try to address conflicts with ranchers in southwestern New Mexico.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the two wolves were recently captured in an area of the Gila National Forest where ranchers reported a dozen instances of livestock deaths in four months.

Agency spokesman Mark Davis says wildlife managers caught two young females suspected of being the culprits. Tests are being done to determine if they have the right animals.

Environmentalists have asked that the animals be released and that the removal order for the third wolf be cancelled. They contend more should be done to mitigate the conflicts, saying the carcasses of cows that have died from other causes need to be removed to discourage scavenging.

Recovered de Kooning Painting Back In The SpotlightAssociated Press

More than 30 years after it was stolen from an Arizona museum, a Willem de Kooning painting worth millions of dollars is going on display where it all began.

The University of Arizona Museum of Art is giving a glimpse of "Woman-Ochre" Sunday as part of a fundraiser before the piece undergoes restoration work.

A New Mexico antiques dealer bought the oil painting in 2017 and realized it was the same piece taken in the heist.

Curator Olivia Miller says the FBI, which still has the case open, officially released the painting back to the museum in November.

Police say a couple swiped the painting the day after Thanksgiving in 1985.

It is one in an iconic series by the Dutch-American abstract expressionist that explores the female figure.

New Mexico Governor Presses For Preschool FundsAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging members of the Legislature's powerful Senate Finance Committee to increase funding for early childhood education as a new agency is created to oversee preschool and infant services.

Lujan Grisham appeared before the committee Friday with her granddaughter in her lap to urge greater withdrawals from a multi-billion dollar state education trust to fund preschool. She said without greater funding, the state is making a "Sophie's choice" to educate some children and not others.

Democratic Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith warned that other states such as Alaska and North Dakota have failed to safeguard trusts derived from fossil fuels.

She says her push to provide universal access to preschool will require annual spending of $285 million. It is unusual in New Mexico for a governor to lobby a committee directly.

US Attorney In New Mexico Turns Focus To Human TraffickingAssociated Press

The top federal prosecutor in New Mexico says his office is making a concentrated effort to investigate and prosecute organizations involved in human trafficking.

U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson tells the Albuquerque Journal that authorities are looking at smugglers and those who are taking advantage of asylum seekers.

He said New Mexico is a transit point for people entering the country illegally or through the asylum process. That includes large groups of Central Americans and others being taken into custody at remote spots such as Antelope Wells or areas near Deming.

The El Paso sector — which includes New Mexico — saw thousands of asylum seekers just in February. Shelters in the area have run out of space, leaving hundreds of the migrants to be bused to Las Cruces and Albuquerque.

NMSU Considers Contracting Auxiliary Services PortfolioAssociated Press

A document posted to New Mexico State University's procurement website shows a transfer of $40 million in university revenue to private sector development is under consideration.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported on Thursday that the document, called a "Referral for Information," seeks market data for potentially outsourcing all of the university's auxiliary services beginning in 2020.

The auxiliary services include main campus maintenance and custodial services, housing, dining services, the university golf course and more.

The document says the university is not currently seeking bids or committing to contracting all the services, but presents a timeline for proceeding with procurement and negotiating the contract.

NMSU is assessing whether at least one contractor might "develop, operate, maintain, and improve its portfolio of physical and operational assets beginning on July 1, 2020."

NMSU's administration declined interview requests for this story.

Guatemalan Faces Up To Life In Prison For Holding MigrantsAssociated Press

Prosecutors say a 24-year-old Guatemalan man faces up to life in prison after being convicted for holding migrants in the country illegally at a home in New Mexico.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says federal court jurors in Las Cruces convicted Maximo Gonzalez-Sebastian on Wednesday of one count of conspiracy to take a hostage and three counts of hostage-taking.

The office says Gonzalez-Sebastian rented a home to house and detain Mexican nationals in the United States illegally and that he told at least one of them that he would not release them until he received payments from family members or others.

The office says Gonzalez-Sebastian telephoned one Mexican national's relative and demanded payment by wire transfer to a bank account he controlled.

Two co-defendants previously pleaded guilty and also await sentencing.