Disputed Oil, Gas Lease Sale Brings In $15M, Recall Effort Targets 3 Aztec Officials Amid Gun Debate

Mar 30, 2019

Disputed Oil, Gas Lease Sale Brings In $15M– Associated Press

An oil and gas lease sale that drew criticism from tribal leaders and environmentalists has netted more than $15 million in revenue.

The Bureau of Land Management says nearly half of the money from Thursday's sale of parcels in New Mexico and Oklahoma will go to the two states and the rest to the U.S. Treasury.

The parcels up for bid covered more than 13,800 acres (56 square kilometers). The highest bid was for land in southeast New Mexico, where a boom has resulted in record production during the past year.

In northwestern New Mexico, tribal leaders had asked that the sale be put off until federal managers update a resource management plan for the San Juan Basin. They say the agency needs to consider the cultural significance of sites in the area before allowing more leasing.

Recall Effort Targets 3 Aztec Officials Amid Gun Debate – Associated Press

An effort is underway in Aztec to recall three city commissioners who did not support a resolution protesting new state gun-control measures approved by the Legislature.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that Aztec resident Diane Hathcock has volunteered to circulate petitions to recall Commissioners Rosalyn Fry and Mark Lewis and Mayor Victor Snover. The three voted against a resolution that would have banned local authorities from enforcing gun laws they believe violate constituents' constitutional right to bear arms.

The vote at the recent commission meeting led to an unruly debate that ended with police intervening.

If enough signatures are gathered for the petitions, they would be sent to a district court judge for approval. The judge must find the mayor and commissioners violated their oath of office, or acted in malfeasance or misfeasance to approve the petition.

New Mexico Raises Cap On Annual Rebates For Film Industry – Associated Press

New Mexico politicians are banking on more film and television producers bringing their business to the state now that annual tax rebate payouts are doubling.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham visited Albuquerque Studios on Friday to sign the film incentive legislation.

The state is increasing the annual rebate cap from $50 million to $110 million. Other major provisions include one-time spending of up to $225 million to address a backlog of unpaid incentives. The backlog is projected to hit $382 million by the end of the year.

Incentives also will be sweeter for productions centered in rural New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, says producers should know the state wants their creativity and their business. She also mentioned the ripple effect, in which restaurants, hotels and other service industries can benefit.

Marijuana Embraced As Salve In Opioid Crisis – Associated Press

An advisory board of physicians has revived its calls for New Mexico to expand medical marijuana access to people struggling with opioid addiction.

The state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted 4-0 on Friday to recommend the addition of opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for access to medical marijuana.

The board's recommendation will weigh in a decision by newly appointed Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned for office last year in support of extending medical marijuana access to patients contending with adverse effects of opioid use.

New Mexico has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the Western United States, with opioids including heroin listed as a leading cause.

The advisory board separately endorsed medical cannabis treatment for other addiction-related medical diagnosis that could include alcohol, stimulants, hallucinogens and a variety of prescription drugs.

New Mexico AG Hector Balderas Says He Won't Seek Senate Seat – Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says he has decided not to run for the state's open U.S. Senate seat in 2020, leaving open the chance for more jockeying among some of the state's top Democratic politicians.

Balderas made the announcement Thursday on a New Mexico radio station, citing personal and professional reasons.

Balderas says he loves being New Mexico's top prosecutor. He also said he serves as a legal guardian for his 20-year-old daughter and wants to continue advocating for the special needs community.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced Monday he would not seek a third term.

Another Democrat, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, has said he's consulting with family and supporters about getting into the race. He holds the No. 4 leadership post in the House, and commands a federal campaign account with $380,000.

Religious Orders Targeted In New Mexico Clergy Abuse Case – Associated Press

Religious orders once associated with a now-shuttered Catholic boarding school for Native Americans are being accused of failing to protect students from sexual abuse by clergy and faculty.

The lawsuit naming an Ohio-based order of Franciscan Friars and the Pennsylvania-based Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament was filed this week in a New Mexico court by a law firm that has represented dozens of abuse survivors over the years.

The accusations stem from the 1980s while the unnamed plaintiff was a student at St. Catherine's Indian School in Santa Fe.

The religious orders did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The case comes as the Catholic church wrestles with a sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has spanned the globe. New Mexico's largest diocese is among the religious organizations seeking bankruptcy protection as a result.