Headlines: NM Lawmakers Consider Drones, NM Gambling Compact

Feb 24, 2015

Credit Craig Wilkinson via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico Joins Other States In Grappling With Drones - The Associated Press

Lawmakers in New Mexico are trying to grapple with new drone technology and how much freedom law enforcement agencies should have in using them.

And even New Mexico sheriffs' offices don't know how to respond.

A New Mexico legislative panel is expected soon to debate a measure that would limit the use of drones by law enforcement agencies without a warrant.

New Mexico Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jack LeVick says sheriffs are mixed over the proposal and understand the privacy concerns.

Colorado and Washington legislatures also are considering proposals that would ban the use of police drones from gathering evidence without a warrant.

A bill to restrict law enforcement use of drones died in a Wyoming Senate committee earlier this month, after complaints by police organizations.

New Mexico Senate OKs Forced Mental-Illness Treatment BillThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has passed a proposal that would require some New Mexico residents with severe mental illness to receive court-ordered outpatient treatment.

Senators approved Tuesday by a 30-11 vote a measure strongly supported by mental health advocates.

The bill would allow judges in some counties to order patients to take medication and undergo treatment if they are deemed a danger to themselves and their community. Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen says it's "like a modified version" of the New York's Kendra's law.

That measure was named after Kendra Webdale, a 32-year-old woman who was pushed in front of an oncoming subway train in 1999 by a man battling untreated schizophrenia.

Papen, who is sponsoring the bill, says the state measure is tailored to the New Mexico.

NM House Of Representatives To Consider $6.2B Budget BillThe Associated Press

The New Mexico House of Representatives is expected to consider a $6.2 billion general fund budget bill that includes pay hikes for new teachers and state police officers.

A House committee last week approved the bill which will be the basis of all future discussions and votes in the House and the Senate.

Adopting a budget is a must-do assignment for lawmakers before the session adjourns March 21.

The House is expected to debate the proposed budget Tuesday afternoon.

The amount of spending in the bill is nearly the same as that outlined by Gov. Susana Martinez and the Legislative Finance Committee earlier this year.

While most department budgets remain largely flat, the bill under consideration boosts spending for education, the state's child welfare agency, and tourism.

Feds Face Lawsuit Over Rio Grande Levee ProjectThe Associated Press

An environmental group that has been pushing the federal government to let the Rio Grande flow freely is taking aim at a levee project along the river.

WildEarth Guardians on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The group claims the construction of dozens of miles of levees from the San Acacia Dam south to Elephant Butte Reservoir would have a negative effect on the Rio Grande silvery minnow and other endangered species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment on the litigation.

The Army Corps of Engineers has already started construction on six miles of the project. The environmental group wants the agency to use non-structural means to address flood concerns on the project's remaining 37 miles.

New Mexico Gets Nearly $16M In Tribal Gambling RevenuesThe Associated Press

American Indian tribes that operate casinos in New Mexico shared with the state nearly $16 million in gambling revenues during the last quarter.

The New Mexico Gaming Control Board released the 2014 fourth quarter numbers Tuesday. Sandia Pueblo reported the most net winnings during the period with more than $36 million.

In all, tribes reported about $176 million for the quarter. That's about $5 million less than the same period in 2013.

Officials say tribes paid New Mexico more than $66 million in 2014 under revenue-sharing agreements that call for the state to ensure gaming exclusivity for the tribes in exchange for a percentage of net winnings.

Net winnings represent the amount wagered on gaming machines, less the prizes won on those machines and regulatory fees.

Clock Ticking On Proposed New Mexico Gambling CompactThe Associated Press

Lawmakers are set to consider a revamped gambling compact negotiated by Gov. Susana Martinez's office and a handful of American Indian tribes.

The Legislature's compact committee is meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the latest version, which would allow casinos to be open around the clock and have more flexibility to offer complimentary food and lodging.

The Legislature is under more pressure to act this session because the current compact for the tribes expires later this year.

Gov. Susana Martinez said in a letter to lawmakers that the proposed gambling agreement is the result of three years of negotiations with the Navajo Nation, the Mescalero and Jicarilla Apache and the pueblos of Jemez and Acoma.

Aside from legislative approval, the proposal would have to clear the U.S. Interior Department.

New Mexico Tribes Get Federal Funds For Housing Help - The Associated Press

Twenty-one of New Mexico's American Indian tribes will share more than $17 million in grants to boost affordable housing programs.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the funding Monday. Nationwide, more than $651 million is available to tribes in 34 states.

The grant funds primarily benefit low-income families living on Indian reservations or in other American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The amount of each grant is based on a formula that considers local needs and the number of housing units.

Zuni Pueblo is among the big recipients this year, with more than $3.8 million.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe in southern New Mexico will receive more than $2.5 million and Laguna Pueblo will get about $1.5 million.

New Mexico Senate Confirms Martinez Appointment Of DamronThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has confirmed Gov. Susana Martinez's appointment of Barbara Damron as secretary of the state Higher Education Department.

The Senate took the action unanimously on Monday.

Martinez in December announced Damron's appointment as one of several cabinet changes.

When appointed to replace Jose Garcia as higher education secretary, Damron was an associate professor at the University of New Mexico's College of Nursing.

She also directed the Office of Community Partnerships & Cancer Health Disparities and the Hispanic and Native American Community Outreach program at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center.

NM Bill Aims To Create Fund To Eradicate Bullying In Schools - The Associated Press

A committee of New Mexico lawmakers has approved an anti-bullying bill spurred by the 2013 suicide of a teenager who was bullied at school.

The bill calls for the creation of a five-member board to oversee grant applications to eradicate bullying in New Mexico schools and colleges. It garnered bi-partisan support Monday in the Senate Rules Committee with a unanimous vote.

The legislation, called the Carlos Vigil Memorial Act, would create a fund to be administered by the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque says bullying is an issue that "warrants a state response."

A Twitter post by 17-year-old Carlos Vigil of Los Lunas about enduring bullying garnered widespread media attention in 2013 after he committed suicide.

Santa Fe High, Capital High Students Protest Over Tests - The Associated Press

Some students at Santa Fe High School and Capital High are protesting over state-required testing.

At Capital, some students briefly tore down a gate to leave campus Monday.

About 40 Santa Fe High students reportedly walked out of class and gathered for a indoors "town hall" style meeting with the principal.

The students are upset about the standardized tests known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

The all-computerized exam is designed to test students' knowledge of the newly adopted Common Core Standards, which encourage critical thinking and essay writing.

The tests are expected to take up to nine hours over several days next month.

Some students say the tests are too hard and the pilot PARCC testing periods are taking time away from classroom instruction.

Navajo Nation Man Pleads Guilty To Involuntary Manslaughter - The Associated Press

A 44-year-old Navajo Nation man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the killing of another man identified in court documents as one of his brothers.

The U.S. District Attorney's Office said Berland Thomas pleaded guilty Friday after admitting he assaulted the victim by striking, beating and wounding him at a residence in McKinley County on June 6.

Thomas was initially charged with murder in the case.

Court documents identified the victim as "John Does" but also stated the victim was a brother of Thomas.

Hearing Set On Southern New Mexico Dairy Cleanup Proposal - The Associated Press

A plan to clean up contaminated groundwater resulting from dairy operations in southern New Mexico will be considered at a public hearing next month.

Officials with the state Environment Department say the hearing will be in the community of Anthony on March 25. It's expected to continue the following day.

The department says shallow groundwater beneath and beyond the boundaries of dairies along the Interstate 10 corridor between Anthony and Mesquite is contaminated with nitrate-nitrogen, chloride and dissolved solids.

Officials say the contamination is primarily the result of past dairy wastewater discharges to lagoons and crops.

The cleanup plan proposed by a consortium of 11 dairies calls for putting in liners, among other things.

The hearing will cover sampling at monitoring wells and the effects on domestic wells.

Albuquerque Police Identify Man Fatally Stabbed - The Associated Press

Albuquerque police have identified the victim of a fatal stabbing over the weekend.

Police on Monday identified the man fatally wounded Saturday in the area near Central and Wyoming as 43-year-old Durward Skeet.

According to police, responding officers found Skeet on the street and trying to push away a woman.

He died at a hospital. The woman was arrested.

Police said she and the victim had gotten into an argument at a friend's house over how he addressed women.

Police: 2 Dead Bodies Found Inside Home In Belen; Both Male - The Associated Press and KOB-TV

Authorities say two people have been found dead inside a home in Belen.

Belen police say someone discovered the bodies of two males and called police around 12:30 p.m. Monday.

The home is located near 1st and Vivian.

The names and ages of the two dead weren't immediately released.

Belen Police Chief Dan Robb tells KOB-TV that it's too early in the investigation to rule out murder-suicide or a double homicide.

Police are in the process of obtaining search warrants before the investigation can proceed.

Fugitive From Dallas Fatally Shot After New Mexico Standoff - The Associated Press

Authorities have released the name of a fugitive from Texas who was fatally shot after a barricade situation in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico State Police announced Monday that 41-year-old Jason Moncrief Carter was pronounced dead at the scene Saturday morning.

The U.S. Marshals Service says Carter had an outstanding warrant out of Texas for sexual contact with a minor.

He was located Friday at a RV park on State Road 37 outside of Ruidoso and barricaded himself inside his RV.

Authorities say Carter was armed and despite hours of negotiations, he told law enforcement officers that he wouldn't surrender.

Around 7 a.m. Saturday, police say Carter threatened officers with a firearm and shots were exchanged.