Governor Sees No Security Crisis During Border Visit, Xochitl Torres Small Requests No Paycheck

Jan 11, 2019

Governor Says No Sign Of Security Crisis At Border With Mexico Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she saw no immediate evidence Friday at the U.S. border with Mexico of the security crisis described by President Donald Trump, as she pressed U.S. officials there for more information about conditions inside a short-term detention facility for immigrants.

Lujan Grisham visited the border community of Sunland Park and the Santa Teresa port of entry on a fact-finding mission before making further decisions about the ongoing deployment of New Mexico National Guard troops to reinforce border security.

She was briefed by the National Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but she asked for more extensive information, according to governor's office spokesman Tripp Stelnicki.

The governor repeatedly has expressed skepticism about Trump's portrayal of immigration and border security situations amid the standoff over federal funding for a border wall.

That's a sharp shift in outlook from the preceding governor of New Mexico, Republican Susana Martinez, who deployed nearly 200 troops to the border in April and this week defended Trump's call for a border wall as part of a deal to end the partial government shutdown.

New Mexico Governor Schedules Border Visit - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is scheduled to visit the state's southern border with Mexico to meet with National Guard members.

The newly inaugurated Democrat planned to travel to the Santa Teresa port of entry Friday to talk with New Mexico National guard troops.

About 180 troops were deployed to the border by Lujan Grisham's Republican predecessor, Susana Martinez, in April. That was before concerns about migrant caravans prompted a new federal deployment of more than 5,000 troops.

Lujan Grisham has expressed skepticism about President Trump's portrayal of immigration and border security situations.

Governor's Office spokesman Tripp Stelnicki says that Lujan Grisham wanted to visit the border in person before making further decisions about National Guard deployments.

US Rep. Torres Small Asks For Pay Withheld Amid ShutdownAssociated Press

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico is asking for her pay to be withheld until the federal government shutdown ends.

The Democratic freshmen congresswoman posted on Twitter a letter she wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives Office of Payroll and Benefits on Thursday that formally asks for her paycheck to be withheld until the stalemate between President Donald Trump and Congress finishes.

Torres Small also noted that Friday was the first payday federal employees missed because of the shutdown.

Torres Small won a close race in a Republican-leaning southern New Mexico district in November. She's the only member of Congress from New Mexico to publicly announce she wants her pay withheld amid the shutdown.

New Mexico Students To Take Transition Test In The SpringAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico schools will begin their shift away from the current statewide standardized testing system with a transition test that will be administered in just a few months.

School superintendents and charter school leaders received more details about the change in a memo sent this week by state officials.

Questions had been swirling since Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on her third day in office announced the administration was doing away with student assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the transition test will be a shorter assessment and will have a different design. However, the tests will use the current computer platform.

State officials say they are still working on a system that will completely replace PARCC.

Panel Picks Finalists For New Mexico Supreme Court VacanciesAssociated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has several candidates to choose from as she looks to fill two vacancies on the New Mexico Supreme Court.

A nominating commission interviewed more than a dozen candidates and heard public comments Thursday before whittling the list down to seven.

They include state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Linda Vanzi and district judges C. Shannon Bacon, James Waylon Counts, Timothy Glenn Ellington and David K. Thomson. Also on the list are William Daniel Slease, chief disciplinary counsel for the high court, and Santa Fe attorney Jane Bloom Yohalem.

It's up to Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who took office on Jan. 1, to appoint replacements for recently retired Justices Charles Daniels and Petra Maes. The appointed justices will stand for election in 2020 to serve out the remainder of terms that end in 2026.

Court Censures Judge, Accepts Resignation Of AnotherLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court says it has upheld a public censure against Doña Ana County Magistrate Court Judge Samantha Madrid, and has accepted the permanent resignation of Anthony Municipal Court Judge Nellie Soriano in lieu of further disciplinary proceedings.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the court on Thursday made the announcement after the state Judicial Standards Commission requested the actions.

Soriano faced 18 counts alleging violations of standards, many involving abuse of power.

Soriano "expressly denies" the allegations made against her but agrees to resign her position and to never run for office in New Mexico again.

Madrid was accused of violating standards on five occasions in November and December in 2017.

Censures are a public discipline, but do not carry and additional punishment.

Government Shutdown Won't Delay Nevada Plutonium Hearing - By Scott Sonner, Associated Press

A federal court hearing will go forward as scheduled in Reno next week on the state’s attempt to block the U.S. Energy Department's plans to ship plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada.

That's despite claims by the department's lawyers they need more time to prepare due to the partial government shutdown.

U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du cited "the urgency of the matter" in denying the agency's request to postpone the hearing scheduled Thursday.

Nevada filed suit Nov. 30 accusing the department of failing to properly study the environmental threats posed by moving about a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium to the nation's former nuclear proving grounds north of Las Vegas.

The government is under a court order to move the material out of a refining complex in South Carolina by 2020.

Under DOE's current plans, the material will be "temporarily staged" at the Nevada National Security Site and the government's Pantex Plant in Texas, two facilities that already handle and process plutonium, before eventually being sent to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico "or another facility" by 2027.

New Mexico Governor Calls For Greater Educational Spending - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico's newly inaugurated Democratic governor is proposing a half-billion dollar increase in annual state spending on public education after years of austere budgeting by her Republican predecessor.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday released a budget proposal that calls for a 13 percent increase in general fund spending to $7.1 billion for the fiscal year starting on July 1.

The proposal includes a 6 percent pay increase for teachers and educational staff and higher minimum teacher salaries. The plan also seeks $110 million in new school spending directed at students from low-income and minority families.

The governor is seeking funding for 100 new positions in child protective services.

A booming oil sector in the southeast of the state has provided a windfall in income for state government.

Former New Mexico Gov. Martinez Defends Trump's Border Wall - Associated Press

Former New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is defending President Donald Trump's call for a border wall and says "it's disgusting" not to call the situation on the U.S. Mexico-border a crisis.

The Republican who was the nation's first Latina governor told Fox News on Thursday that Democrats are "beholden to the far left" and should just come to the table and agree to Trump's plan.

Martinez left office on Jan. 1 after two consecutive terms, during which she rarely appeared on cable news outlets as governor. During the 2016 presidential campaign, she denounced Trump for referring to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" but warmed up to him before she left office.

Democratic Party of New Mexico chair Marg Elliston says Martinez was an out of touch governor and now is just carrying water for Trump and "his wasteful wall."

New Mexico Utility To Keep Lights On For Federal Workers - Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric utility says it will not disconnect the power of federal employees who are behind on their bills.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico made the announcement Thursday as the partial government shutdown continued.

The vice president of PNM customer service operations, Becky Teague, says the utility believes it's important to help federal employees during what she called an uncertain time.

Employees who are behind on their electricity bills just need to provide PNM with a copy of their furlough letter. Those who aren't behind but still need assistance are urged to call the utility to find out what help might be available.

Federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy and the Interior Department employ many workers in New Mexico.

New Mexico Eases Unemployment Benefits Rule Due To Shutdown - Associated Press

The federal government's partial shutdown has prompted New Mexico to waive the unemployment insurance rule's requirement that applicants search for work.

The Department of Workforce Solutions says an emergency provision issued Wednesday by Secretary-designate Bill McCamley waives the requirement for furloughed federal employees for up to 180 days.

The department says federal employees affected by the shutdown who are on furlough or are required to continue work without pay are eligible to file for unemployment.

However, the department says employees who receive unemployment benefits and also later receive a retroactive payment from their employer for the same time period will need to repay the benefits received.

According to the department, over 450 employees from the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Interior and Health and Human Services have applied for benefits.

DWI Traffic Deaths Down In New Mexico For 2018 - Associated Press

Less than 30 percent of the deaths on New Mexico's roadways in 2018 involved alcohol-related crashes, marking a significant decline from the previous two years.

Preliminary data compiled by the state Transportation Department and the University of New Mexico shows 108 people died on the state's roads last year in crashes that involved alcohol.

That's down from the 147 deaths recorded in 2017 and down from the 171 alcohol-related fatalities reported in 2016.

Overall, New Mexico recorded 385 deaths on its roadways in 2018, up slightly from the previous year. Nearly two-thirds of the crashes happened in rural areas, and more than 20 percent of the deaths involved pedestrians.

The data also shows the number of people who died and were not wearing seat belts increased to 140 in 2018.

New Mexico Land Boss Bans Killing Contests On Trust Land - Associated Press

New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard says she won't allow coyote killing contests on millions of acres of trust land managed by her agency.

Garcia Richard, who took office at the beginning of the year, signed an executive order Thursday to ban such animal killing contests on state trust land. The Democrat was joined at a news conference in Santa Fe by animal rights and wildlife advocates who consider the practice barbaric and ineffective.

Ranchers and outfitters from across the state have argued over the years that the contests are a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten livestock.

Legislative efforts to end the contests have come up short in recent years, but Albuquerque city councilors in 2018 passed a resolution condemning the contests and supporting legislation for a statewide ban.

Albuquerque Acupuncturist Accused Of Sex Assault On A Client  - Associated Press

Authorities say an acupuncturist in Albuquerque has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman who one of his clients last year.

Albuquerque police say 69-year-old Megumi Hirayama is facing a charge of criminal sexual penetration.

It was unclear Thursday if Hirayama has a lawyer yet.

Police say an investigation began last August after a report was filed by the alleged victim.

DNA evidence was sent to the department's crime lab and police say it tested positive for a male DNA profile matching Hirayama's known profile.

Police say detectives are looking for any other possible victims.

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum's Director To Step Down - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum's director is stepping down.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the board of trustees of the Santa Fe museum announced this week that Robert Kret will be leaving at the end of January.

Kret said in a statement he wanted to turn his attention to pursuing professional opportunities that would bring he and his wife closer to family.

Kret took over the directorship of the O'Keeffe Museum in 2009 from George King. Under Kret's leadership, the museum organized three international traveling exhibits, saw growth in its endowment and established an acquisitions fund to grow the collection, which now houses more than 3,000 works.

A major figure in the American Modernist movement, O'Keeffe became inspired by the state after her first visit in 1929. She eventually made northern New Mexico her permanent home in 1949.