Governor: Special Session Coming Soon, State Legislature Awaits Vetoes On New Taxes

Mar 18, 2017

New Mexico Governor: Special Session Coming SoonAssociated Press

The office of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says a special Legislative session could be called as early as Monday or Tuesday.

The office said late Friday the Republican governor is considering ordering lawmakers back to the Capitol to tackle the state's budget just hours after the regular session ends Saturday.

Martinez chief of staff Keith Gardner said the Republican governor primarily is focused on fiscal matters as New Mexico faces a budget crunch due to declining revenues from oil and gas.

Martinez and the Democratic-led Legislature are locked in a showdown over the state's budget.

The New Mexico Legislature approved on Friday a $6.1 billion budget plan and companion tax increase for the coming fiscal. However, Martinez has warned that she would not sign any tax increases.

New Mexico Legislature Awaits Vetoes Verdict On New TaxesAssociated Press

A political showdown over proposed new taxes loomed as New Mexico lawmakers sprinted toward the finish of a 60-day legislative session with an agreement in hand to hold spending at most state agency steady and slightly boost education after two bruising rounds of cuts to public schools.

As the session concludes Saturday, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is vowing to veto key portions of the Legislature's $350 million bill to raise new money amid a steady downturn of traditional sources of revenue linked to energy prices, a struggling local economy and outward migration from the state.

Budget vetoes could bring lawmakers back to the capital at the governor's orders to rewrite a $6.1 billion spending plan — or for an attempt to override her vetoes.

New Mexico Adopts Rules For Sexual Assault KitsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has approved guidelines to ensure DNA evidence kits from sexual assaults are processed quickly and don't languish in storage.

A House vote Friday sent the measure to the Gov. Susana Martinez for consideration. Local law enforcement must send sexual assault test kits for processing within 30 days under the legislation.

New Mexico law enforcement agencies have been grappling with a backlog of thousands of untested evidence kits.

State Auditor Tim Keller's office spent the past year querying law enforcement agencies about their policies for handling the kits and found a lack of resources, training and unhelpful attitudes about the credibility of victims.

New Mexico Lawmakers OK Watered-Down Payday Loan Reform BillAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers have passed a proposal capping the amount of interest and fees charged by the payday loan industry in one of the nation's poorest states.

The House voted earlier Saturday to set new limits on small loans, including a 175 percent cap on interest rates in New Mexico.

The Senate vote late Friday came after an emotional debate by conflicted senators who live in poor districts and who wanted rates capped at 36 percent.

Sen. Clemente Sanchez, a Grants Democrat and the bill's sponsor, said the debate over payday loans wasn't over, but his proposal was a start.

However, Sen. Craig Brandt, a Rio Rancho Republican, said limiting payday loans interest rates was "limiting freedom."

The amended bill heads back to the House for final approval.

New Mexico Lawmakers Reject Gun Restrictions In CapitolAssociated Press

New Mexico won't change its free-wheeling firearms rules in the state Capitol after all.

The House of Representatives on Friday rejected a proposal to prohibit people from openly carrying weapons inside the headquarters of the state Legislature by a 31-34 vote.

New Mexico currently allows both open carry and concealed weapons in the state capitol, including on the floors of the Senate and House.

The failed bill responded to complaints of intimidation as visitor carry long guns into committee debates. Proponents of greater restricts include both Republican and Democrats.

Opponents said it was unclear that restrictions would make the Capitol any safer while changing the open-door character of the building.

House Sends Solitary Confinement Reform Bill To GovernorAssociated Press

A measure aimed at curbing the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons across New Mexico is headed to the governor's desk.

The House voted Friday to send the final version of the bill to Gov. Susana Martinez after advocates for years have pushed similar legislation.

Under the proposal, pregnant women and juveniles are banned from being placed in solitary confinement.

The bill also limits the use of solitary confinement on inmates suffering from mental illness. Those prisoners won't be placed in isolation unless the inmate poses an imminent threat.

Supporters say isolating such prisoners is expensive, a factor lawmakers weighed as the state grapples with a budget shortfall.

Others say having such inmates in the general population could lead to more altercations among inmates.

Compromise Outlined On New Mexico Ethics CommissionAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature is moving closer to endorsing the creation of an independent ethics commission through a constitutional amendment.

A joint House-Senate conference committee on Friday adopted guidelines for appointments to the seven-member ethics board.

Appointments would largely be left to legislative leaders from both parties, with one seat appointed by the governor. If the full House and Senate must agree to the provisions, the initiative will go to a statewide vote in November 2018.

Transparency guidelines about complaints and when they are made public will be written into law after the ballot initiative.

Vintage US Nuclear Test Films Declassified And PublicizedAssociated Press

From the deserts of southern New Mexico and Nevada to islands in the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. government conducted dozens of nuclear weapons tests from the 1940s until the early 1960s.

Some of the blasts sent incredible mushroom clouds into the sky and massive fireballs across the landscape.

A team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has now published more than five dozen vintage films salvaged from high-security vaults across the U.S. where they sat idle for decades.

Lab physicist Greg Spriggs says the films were in danger of decomposing and being lost to history.

Spriggs and his team have located about 6,500 films.

Only a fraction have been analyzed and declassified.

Spriggs says scientists are learning new information about the detonations as they review the original films.

Albuquerque To Pay $8.5M To Settle Lawsuit Over Fatal CrashAssociated Press

The city of Albuquerque has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the parents of a young woman killed in a car crash involving an off-duty police officer.

As part of the settlement, the city also agreed Friday to implement new measures in police training and oversight.

Authorities say 21-year-old Lindsay Browder died and her 19-year-old sister was seriously injured in an early-morning crash in February 2013.

Albuquerque Police Sgt. Adam Casaus was accused of speeding and running a red light in causing the crash.

He was criminally charged with vehicular homicide resulting in death and great bodily injury by vehicle.

Casuus was found guilty of careless driving in September 2014 and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

His law enforcement certification also was revoked.