Gun Control Group Seeks Sheriffs' Emails, Contractor Completes Los Alamos Soil Cleanup

Mar 27, 2019

Focus Of Gun-Law Fight Shifts To New Mexico Sheriffs' EmailsAssociated Press

A nonprofit that pushes for gun-control laws nationwide says it has sent letters to numerous New Mexico sheriffs, asking them to provide records related to their opposition to state gun-control legislation.

The Brady Center, a Washington-based organization, says it requested emails from the sheriffs Wednesday under the state records act, with specific demands for potential communication among sheriffs and gun-lobby representatives.

More than two dozen sheriffs have declared they will not enforce gun-control laws approved by the Legislature this year. Those reforms include mandatory requirements for background checks on private firearms sales. Rural sheriffs who oppose the law argue it's unenforceable and threatens to violate their constituents' constitutional rights.

Brady attorney Jonathan Lowy says a reason his group is seeking the sheriffs' emails is to learn "what possible basis" they have for declaring they won't enforce the laws.

New Mexico Adopts Election-Day Voter Registration Associated Press

New Mexico will extend voter registration through Election Day beginning in 2020 under a new law that does away with a 28-day registration blackout before elections.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday signed legislation designed to increase participation in statewide elections though same-day registration and voting.

Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia already offer same-day registration and have generally seen increased participation as a result.

Voters in New Mexico cannot switch parties on the same day that they vote under the reforms.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has pushed for the changes as a way to make voting more accessible and convenient.

Republican legislators opposed the bill and voiced concerns about safeguards for voter rolls and the future consequences of spur-of-the-moment voting.

Tribes Ask US Managers To Defer Oil And Gas Lease SaleAssociated Press

Tribal leaders are calling on U.S. land managers to put off an upcoming oil and gas lease sale that includes more than two dozen parcels in northwestern New Mexico.

It's the latest in an ongoing battle over energy development in a region that's home to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other culturally significant sites scattered beyond the park's boundaries.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors is asking the Bureau of Land Management to defer Thursday's sale until the agency meets obligations under federal environmental and historic preservation laws.

Federal officials repeatedly have denied drilling leases within a 10-mile radius of the park, but tribal officials want formal protections to be included in a plan being drafted by the agency that would govern development throughout the San Juan Basin.

US Will Reassign 750 Border InspectorsAssociated Press

U.S. authorities are reassigning 750 border inspectors to care for growing numbers of Central American families arriving at the Mexican border.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday in El Paso, Texas, that the temporary assignments will lengthen wait times at border crossings, hurting international trade and creating delays as the busy Easter holiday nears. He says the move is necessary to address what he calls an "operational crisis."

Border arrests sharply increased in February and March is shaping up to be even busier. McAleenan says the agency is on pace for more than 100,000 arrests and denials of entry on the Mexican border this month. More than 55,000 will have arrived as families, including 40,000 children.

McAleenan says he doesn't know how long the officers at ports of entry will be reassigned.

Authorities Find Witness Expected To Testify In Murder Trial KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Authorities say they have located a witness who is scheduled to testify in the trial of a man accused of fatally shooting an Albuquerque police officer.

KRQE-TV reports 21-year-old Savannah Garcia was arrested in Valencia County on drug charges Tuesday before an arrest warrant was issued for her.

Authorities say Garcia witnessed the shooting of Officer Daniel Webster during a traffic stop in October 2015.

Davon Lymon was charged in Webster's death. His trial is expected to begin this week.

Authorities say Garcia was riding on the back of the motorcycle Lymon was driving the night of the shooting.

A judge previously issued an arrest warrant for her in 2017 after she failed to show up for a court hearing.

New Mexico Congresswoman Says Military Projects At Risk - Associated Press

A New Mexico congresswoman whose district borders Mexico says local military projects are at risk of being defunded to pay for border projects based on President Trump's declaration of an emergency.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small on Tuesday explained her vote in support of a futile attempt to override Trump's border-emergency declaration.

She says project listed by the Defense Department as being at risk of defunding include training facilities at Holloman Air Force Base and an information systems facility slated for White Sands Missile Range.

The House and Senate previously approved a resolution annulling the national emergency that Trump declared at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump vetoed the measure almost immediately. A House override attempt fell 38 votes shy of the required two-thirds margin.

Contaminated Soil Cleaned Up At Los Alamos' Omega Site - Associated Press

A contractor has finished cleaning up contaminated soil at a former research reactor site at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Environmental officials with the U.S. Energy Department confirmed Tuesday that the work was done by Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos.

Officials believe the polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, contamination was caused by electrical transformers that served the reactor site. The chemicals were discovered during sampling of a former storm drain adjacent to the transformers.

Workers removed 300 cubic yards of contaminated soil and graded the site. The soil was put into large sacks and will be hauled off to a disposal site in Utah.

Several reactors were located at the Omega site. The first was built in 1943 at the start of the Manhattan Project. The last one operated until 1992.

Colorado River Drought Plan Gets First Congressional Hearing - Associated Press

A plan that outlines how seven states will deal with declining flows in a major river in the U.S. West is getting its first hearing in Congress.

The drought contingency plan aims to keep two Colorado River reservoirs from crashing.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming recently agreed to push for federal legislation to implement the plan.

Their goal is to have a bill approved by April 22 so that Mexico's water contributions also kick in next year, though nothing's been introduced yet.

The head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is among those testifying before a U.S. Senate subcommittee Wednesday on the drought plan.

The Colorado River serves 40 million and about 7,812 square miles of farmland in the West.

Republican Mick Rich Weighs 2nd Senate Campaign - Associated Press

Republican construction contractor Mick Rich says he is contemplating another run for U.S. Senate in 2020 after his defeat last year to Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich in a three-way race.

Potential candidates began jockeying for position Tuesday to succeed Sen. Tom Udall after he announced he will not seek a third term.

Rich asserted Tuesday in a statement that liberal politicians control the entire New Mexico delegation to Capitol Hill and that voters want a candidate who can unite Republicans, Libertarians and conservative Democrats.

Rich received 31 percent of the vote in last year's Senate race. Heinrich earned 54 percent. Former presidential candidate and Gov. Gary Johnson ran under the Libertarian banner and secured 15 percent of ballots.

Among Democrats, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan says he is consulting his family and supporters about the opportunity to run for Senate.

Albuquerque Police Releases Use-Of-Force Report - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A study shows fewer than 2 percent of all arrests made by Albuquerque police during a two-year period involved the use of force.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that the police department has released its annual use-of-force report for 2016 and 2017.

The report shows Albuquerque officers were dispatched to about 450,000 calls for service in 2016 and 480,330 in 2017. Use-of-force cases represented fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of those calls.

The report is compiled by the police department's compliance bureau and the force division of internal affairs. It's mandatory under a 2014 settlement agreement signed by the Department of Justice and the city in the wake of an investigation that found Albuquerque police had a pattern of using excessive force.

Push Renewed To Elevate White Sands To National Park Status- By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The push to elevate a vast expanse of shifting white sand dunes in New Mexico to national park status is being renewed.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small are reintroducing the legislation, saying turning White Sands National Monument into a national park could draw more visitors and infuse more money into the region's economy.

The legislation also comes as New Mexico formalizes its efforts to join other western states in tapping opportunities for more outdoor recreation.

White Sands was established as a monument in 1933 by President Herbert Hoover to preserve the dunes and additional features of scenic, scientific and educational interest.

Supporters say the monument contains a more diverse set of archaeological and scientific resources than were first known, including recently discovered Ice Age fossilized footprints and sloth tracks.