Gov. Lujan Grisham Plans Border Visit And Criticizes Trump, Commissioner Seeks More Oil Royalties

Jan 9, 2019

New Mexico Governor Plans Border Visit, Criticizes Trump -Associated Press

Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she will visit her state's southern border with Mexico amid a standoff between Donald Trump and Congress over the president's promises for a border wall.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Lujan Grisham described Trump's idea for a wall as outdated and ineffectual and called on the president to end the federal government shutdown. The governor announced plans to visit the state's southern border on Friday for the first time since her inauguration on Jan. 1.

Lujan Grisham previously has indicated she will reconsider the state's deployment of National Guard troops to the border by Republican predecessor Susana Martinez. The state sent about 180 troops.

Lujan Grisham says the shutdown is needlessly harming Native American communities and expressed concern for immigrant children.

Lawsuit Claims Mormon Church Failed To Keep Child Safe From Abuse - By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

Another member of the Navajo Nation is suing the Mormon church, alleging he was abused in a now-defunct program that sent children into foster care.

Unlike similar lawsuits, the complaint filed Tuesday in tribal court doesn't seek policy changes from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It seeks unspecified monetary damages for decades of emotional harm.

David Jordan is representing the man identified as LB in court documents.

Jordan says LB was sexually abused three times by a church bishop who lived near his foster family in Utah in the 1980s. Jordan says LB reported the abuse but his foster family accused him of lying.

The church's media representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment but have said the church works to prevent abuse.

New Mexico Commissioner Seeks Higher Cap On Oil Royalties -Associated Press

New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard says she is working on a bill with state lawmakers to allow higher royalty rates for oil and natural gas production on state trust land.

Garcia Richard said Tuesday that she wants New Mexico to raise its royalty cap to 25 percent on future leases to match Texas. The commissioner currently can charge up to 20 percent on oil and gas production in some areas.

The State Land Office oversees energy leases across some 14,000 square miles of state trust land and additional underground resources to help fund schools, universities and hospitals.

A 2017 bill to raise the royalty cap and levy charges on vented or flared gas never made it to a full state House or Senate vote.

Proposal Calls For Revamping Key New Mexico Water Commission - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are expected to consider legislation that would change the way appointments are made to a powerful commission charged with protecting, conserving and developing water resources across the arid state.

Efforts to overhaul the Interstate Stream Commission are not new, but the latest attempt comes as a new governor takes office amid a persistent drought and a high-stakes battle with Texas over management of the Rio Grande.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe says the idea is to remove politics from the process and raise the bar for a more diverse and experienced commission.

The governor currently appoints the commissioners. Under the legislation, the governor and the Legislature would each have four appointments, with no more than two of them being from the same political party.

Longtime New Mexico Lawmaker To Oversee Probation, Parole -Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has appointed a longtime state lawmaker to lead the Corrections Department's probation and parole division.

The governor announced Tuesday that Sen. Cisco McSorley, an Albuquerque Democrat, will oversee the state's costly probation and parole system that has come under review by lawmakers who are considering reforms.

The governor's office says New Mexico's probation and parole director will be responsible for overseeing services for men and women recently released from the state's corrections system, including substance abuse, counseling and housing assistance programs.

McSorley, an attorney, was first elected to the state Legislature in 1984, when he won a seat in the House of Representatives. The governor says McSorley submitted his resignation Tuesday to the Senate, where he served on the judiciary committee.

Lawmakers Propose Plastic Bag, Straw Ban For Albuquerque - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A recent proposal would severely limit the use of plastic bags, straws and foam containers in Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Albuquerque Democratic City Councilors Isaac Benton, Cynthia Borrego, Pat Davis and Diane Gibson on Monday introduced the Albuquerque Clean and Green Retail Ordinance, a bill that would prohibit retailers from providing customers single-use plastic bags or foam containers for their purchases.

It also would prevent businesses from distributing single-use straws unless they are paper or biodegradable, though it requires businesses that give out such straws to also have plastic versions available upon request "to provide accessibility options for persons with disabilities and medical requirements."

The bill has not yet gone up for a vote. The proposal would require a study in fiscal year 2022 to determine the impact of the legislation.

Republican Herrell To Run Against Torres Small In 2020 -Associated Press

A Republican who lost a closely watched U.S. House race in southern New Mexico says she will seek the seat again in 2020.

Yvette Herrell announced in an email Tuesday she will challenge U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in 2020 and asked supporters for early donations.

The announcement comes a day after Herrell said she wouldn't challenge results from the 2018 race where Torres Small edged her out. Herrell claimed "voting irregularities" but has refused to give details.

Torres Small became only the second Democrat to win the traditionally Republican-leaning district in New Mexico along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Torres Small raised almost $4.4 million to flip a congressional district previously held by GOP former Rep. Steve Pearce. Filings show Herrell only took in $1.5 million.

National Lab Contractor Gets $2.4M For Cleanup Work -Associated Press

The U.S. Energy Department says a contractor responsible for guiding cleanup work at one of the nation's premier national laboratories has earned more than $2.4 million for its work.

The agency on Tuesday made public the scorecard for Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos for five months of work done at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The company, known as N3B, fell just shy of the maximum fee award for the period.

The work included restarting a pumping and injection project aimed at controlling a plume of chromium contamination that is located in two canyons at the northern New Mexico lab.

The company also prepared a mobile loading system that will help with the lab's shipment of waste to the federal government's underground repository in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico Suspends Increase In Gas-Well Density -Associated Press

New Mexico oilfield regulators have suspended an order that relaxed restrictions on natural gas well locations in a major production basin over the objections of a Texas-based company.

The New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission on Tuesday suspended a prior order pending the rehearing of an application by Texas-based Hilcorp Energy to double well densities in the northwest corner of the state. Oversight of wells shifted Jan. 1 to the Democratic administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and elected Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard.

Newly appointed Oil Conservation Commission Chairman Gabriel Wade says a rehearing is needed to ensure a full review by state regulators and adequate opportunities for public comment.

Hilcorp is defending its application and challenging Wade's qualifications to preside over a commission that makes precedent-setting decisions about rules for oil, gas and geothermal development.

Navajo Nation Works To Establish Medical Examiner's Office -Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is establishing its first medical examiner's office.

In a statement, President Russell Begaye's office said Tuesday that he had approved a plan of operation for the Department of Medical Examiners, which will fall under the oversight of the Navajo Nation's Division of Public Safety.

The new department will be responsible for investigating deaths, determining their causes, and producing records and reports stemming from those investigations. Begaye says the investigations will be conducted with cultural sensitivity.

Before the medical examiners department was approved, Begaye said the Navajo Nation president was responsible for appointing coroners, who were responsible for investigating deaths and recruiting physicians to accompany them in the investigations.

The plan of operation signed into law by Begaye on Saturday must be approved by the Navajo Nation Council's Law and Order Committee.

Judge In New Mexico Compound Case Announces Retirement -Associated Press

A New Mexico judge who faced threats for allowing the release pending trial of suspects charged with child abuse at a ramshackle compound has announced her retirement.

Court officials say Judge Sarah Backus submitted her resignation letter Friday. She intends to retire at the end of next month.

In a statement Tuesday, Backus said she was honored to serve as judge in a district that includes Taos County, and noted her "controversial ruling" in August that cleared the way for the compound suspects' release.

Prosecutors argued the group was training children to use firearms for an anti-government mission — which the defendants' attorneys have disputed.

Backus said her decision last year stemmed from reforms that set high evidence standards to hold suspects without bail.

The suspects were later placed in federal custody on separate charges.

New Mexico School Named After Dolores Huerta Faces Closure - Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A New Mexico charter school named after civil rights leader Dolores Huerta is facing closure over poor performance.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the New Mexico Public Education Commission voted last month not to renew the charter for La Academia Dolores Huerta in Las Cruces. The vote came after a recommendation from the Public Education Department.

State education officials cited declining student achievement, including three consecutive F grades with declining scores under the state's school grading system.

The school's head administrator, Melissa Miranda, suggested in a statement the school would appeal the decision.

The school opened in 2004 as a dual-language charter middle school and took its name after Huerta.

The Dawson, New Mexico-born Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez in 1962.

Historic Taos Inn Is Acquired By Colorado-Based Company -Associated Press

The Historic Taos Inn in New Mexico is changing ownership hands after 29 years.

IMPRINT Hospitality, a Denver-based luxury property management company, announced it will begin a renovation plan for the inn over the next two years.

The sale price wasn't immediately disclosed Tuesday. The inn was listed on the market last year for $7.1 million.

The 44-room hotel, bar and restaurant span two acres and is comprised of several 19th century adobe buildings.

The Taos Inn was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

It opened in 1936 as the Hotel Martin — named after Dr. Thomas Paul "Doc" and Helen Martin, who came to Taos in the 1890s.

The doctor had his practice in what is now the restaurant and couple purchased the surrounding buildings.