Gov. Says New Mexico Faces A Crisis Soon, Trinity Site Tour To Be Met With Protest

Mar 27, 2017

The Latest: Governor Says New Mexico Is Facing A Crisis SoonThe Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez says New Mexico is facing a crisis and soon will not be able to sign checks or pay contracts and that employee furloughs are possible.

She outlined the state's dire fiscal situation during a luncheon with business leaders, real estate professionals and others Monday in Albuquerque.

The two-term Republican governor criticized the Democrat-controlled Legislature, saying lawmakers chose to craft a budget that relied on raising taxes and fees to the tune of $350 million. She repeated her promise not to sign any of the tax increase measures.

She also vowed to call lawmakers back for a special session and said they would have to address budget problems stemming from the current fiscal year as well as the stalemate over next year's budget.

Biannual Trinity Site Tour To Be Met With ProtestThe Associated Press & The Alamogordo Daily News

New Mexico residents living near the test site of the first atomic bomb plan to hold a demonstration as visitors caravan to the Trinity Site for a tour.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports that the Tularosa Basin Downwinders advocacy group will be protesting Saturday.

On July 16, 1945, scientists from the then-secret city of Los Alamos successfully exploded the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site. The bomb later was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The group says the test altered the gene pools of residents in surrounding communities. Members say descendants have been plagued with cancer and other illnesses.

The group has been lobbying for compensation and apologies from the federal government for years.

The Trinity Site is open to the public only on the first Saturdays in April and October.

'Terrorist' Written Outside Muslim Man's New Mexico BusinessThe Associated Press

Santa Fe police say they cannot arrest the man they suspect of writing the word terrorist in front of a Muslim man's store.

Business owner Mohamed "Ziggy" Rzig says he found the word written in chalk outside the Pyramid Cafe on Sunday.

Santa Fe Police Department Lt. Sean Strahon says the act is not being considered a hate crime and because no physical damages were made, prosecutors cannot press charges.

Rzig says a man to his cafe Saturday upset and called him and his employees terrorists. Since the cafe has no outdoor cameras, Rzig has no evidence to prove that the same man wrote the word.

Strahon says the suspect appears to be mentally ill and added that department has been trying to get him help.

Expected Power Plant Closures Spark Unemployment FearsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

One of three coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners region of the southwest has been partially shut down and the other two could close in the next five years.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the change likely means cleaner air in the region where the borders of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet. But it also means hundreds of lost jobs for plant workers and coal miners, many of them members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico, the state's largest utility company, announced last week that it is considering closing the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington as soon as 2022 and is already planning to shut down half of its coal-fired units.

NMSP Officer Resigns Following Wreck, Aggravated DWI ArrestAssociated Press

A New Mexico State Police officer resigned after being arrested in an alleged off-duty DWI wreck in which Roswell police said his SUV struck two parked vehicles and flipped over March 17.

Paul Flores pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated DWI, careless driving and negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Defense attorney Luke Ragsdale said Friday he couldn't discuss details of the case or why Flores resigned but said his client denies driving under the influence.

Roswell Police Department spokesman Todd Wildermuth said the weapons count accuses Flores of possessing his NMSP-issued weapon in his vehicle while driving under the influence.

An NMSP spokesman, Sgt. Chad Pearce, said Flores had been at the home of another NMSP officer before the wreck and had worked for the department for 14 years.

Law School Program Provides Free Wills To Native AmericansDaily Times, Associated Press

A University of Denver program is helping Native Americans draft wills, helping overcome a cultural aversion to discuss death.

The Daily Times reports that about 20 law students from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law visited the Upper Fruitland Chapter of the Navajo Nation to help tribe members draft wills.

The program was created after the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 changed the way some pieces of land are distributed to heirs. The Office of the Special Trustee in the U.S. Department of the Interior reached out to law schools around the country about developing such a program in 2013. The University of Denver was the only one to respond.

The project has provided services in Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Utah.

New Mexico Sees Increase In Jobless Rate, Highest In Nation - Associated Press

New Mexico's unemployment rate went up in February, ensuring the state would again have the country's highest percentage of unemployed workers.

Statistics released by state and federal officials on Friday show that New Mexico's unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in February, up from 6.7 percent in January.

The national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent.

Only Alaska and Alabama have jobless rates in the six-percent range.

Reports indicate that government jobs declined by 500 positions. State leaders have often said New Mexico depends too heavily on government jobs.

The downturn in the oil and gas industry has also negatively affected the job rate.

Las Cruces Has New City Attorney, Economic Development HeadAssociated Press

Las Cruces has a new city attorney and a new director of the just-created economic development department.

City Manager Stuart Ed announced on Friday that Jennifer Vega-Brown will be the new city attorney while Philip San Filippo will run the economic development department.

Vega-Brown comes from Rio Rancho, where she worked as city attorney and assistant city attorney. She used to be assistant county attorney and public information officer for Bernalillo County. Vega-Brown starts the job on April 10.

San Filippo has already been running the new department on an interim basis and officially starts the job on March 27. He's the prior executive director of Visit Las Cruces and also has experience in the private sector.

Senators Voice Concerns With Health OverhaulAssociated Press

New Mexico's two senators have joined dozens of their colleagues in warning Republican leaders in the House that they will not support the current proposal to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich issued the statement Friday as House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew the legislation after President Donald Trump asked him to halt debate without a vote.

Heinrich and Udall say the bill could have a devastating effect on New Mexico, where the Medicaid population has swelled to more than 40 percent in recent years.

The insurance superintendent's office says tens of thousands of New Mexicans could lose out on coverage if changes are made, and the state's uninsured rate could end up doubling over the next decade.

Las Cruces Mobile Home Fire Leaves Boy Dead Associated Press

Authorities say a 3-year-old boy has been killed in a mobile home fire in Las Cruces.

The child's parents were able to escape the Sunday morning blaze with their 7-month-old daughter without serious injuries.

Firefighters were able to get into the single-wide mobile home where they found the boy unresponsive. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Senators Seek Visitor Logs From White House, Mar-A-LagoAssociated Press

Rhode Island's two U.S. senators are joining several fellow Democrats, including New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, in calling for the visitor logs at the White House and other properties President Donald Trump frequents be released publicly.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed have introduced the "Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act," or Mar-a-Lago Act. It's a not-so-subtle reference to Trump's Florida estate, where he's met with various dignitaries.

Udall and Tom Carper of Delaware and Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois are also co-sponsoring the bill.

The lawmakers say the legislation is in response to the Trump administration's refusal to extend President Barack Obama's policy of releasing visitor logs at the White House, 90-to-120 days after they were created.

It would also apply to other Trump Organization properties.

Water Programs Would Dry Up Under Trump BudgetAlbuquerque Journal

Proposed cuts by President Donald Trump would hit water projects in New Mexico hard because they rely on a federal program that provides loans and grants.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s water and wastewater loan and grant program has provided about $81 million to projects around New Mexico since 2012.

Bill Conner, executive director of the New Mexico Rural Water Association, says plans to slash that program would leave small communities scrambling to find financing for projects.

Under Trump’s budget proposal, rural communities would be encouraged to find private financing or turn to a program in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But EPA is facing a funding cut of 31 percent under Trump’s budget.