Lawmakers Say Utility Regulators Undermine Law, State Supreme Court Weighs Medical Damages Case

Nov 7, 2019

Legislators Say Utility Regulators Undermine LawAssociated Press

Legislators are mounting a vigorous defense of their authority to determine financial arrangements to close a major coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico and to guide new energy investments toward cleaner alternatives.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces on Thursday suggested the Legislature revisit this year's landmark energy law to ensure it takes precedent over decisions by elected utility regulators.

Utility regulators at the state's Public Regulation Commission are weighing whether the law trumps the agency's own ongoing evaluation about shutting down the San Juan Generating Station. Advocates for utility customers say utility shareholders should bear more shutdown costs and that the Legislature overstepped its constitutional authority.

At a legislative hearing, Democratic House speaker Brian Egolf said the Public Regulation Commission has overstepped its authority by not implementing the Energy Transition Act and is delaying financial aid to communities that will be affected by the plant closure.

Legislators Revisit Landmark Energy Law For New Mexico - Associated Press

A landmark energy law designed to wean a sun-drenched state off coal-fired electricity and boost renewable power has not gone as planned for legislators who brokered a deal between utility owners and environmentalists.

A panel of lawmakers is scheduled Thursday to hear a progress report on the Energy Transition Act, amid legal skirmishes over who should foot the bill for divesting from coal -- utility company investors or customers.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed landmark legislation in March that sets ambitious new renewable energy goals.

The law also is supposed to ease the economic pains of closing the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. But advocates for utility customers say it provides an unjust financial windfall to the Public Service Co. of New Mexico.

New Mexico Lawyer To Challenge Trump In New Hampshire Roswell Daily Record, Associated Press

The Roswell Daily Record reports Roswell, attorney Rick Kraft has filed the paperwork needed to appear on the ballot as a Republican candidate in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

According to the New Hampshire Secretary of State's website, Kraft filed his declaration of candidacy on Tuesday.

The 61-year-old Kraft says he decided to run after he and his wife visited the New Hampshire State House in Concord, New Hampshire, and learned how easy it is to get on the ballot. He called the move "a bucket list-type thing."

Kraft says he does not plan on entering any other state primaries or caucuses.

New Mexico Supreme Court Hears Medical Damages DebateAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Attorneys in New Mexico have argued in front of state Supreme Court justices over the legality of a state law limiting medical malpractice damages.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that the argument was on whether the state Legislature exceeded its constitutional authority by imposing a $600,000 cap on compensatory damages and not medical costs.

Some opposing the cap outlined in the Medical Malpractice Act say it interferes with a plaintiff's right to a jury verdict. They argue additional damages would be a deterrent to misconduct.

Advocates say the cap cannot be stripped from the larger act and it ensures physicians can find malpractice insurance and harmed patients can continue care.

Officials say the case could shape the legal landscape for physicians accused of misconduct.

The court did not issue a decision in the case Wednesday.

Court To Rehear Law On Adoptions Of Native American Children - By Kevin McGill Associated Press

A federal appeals court says it will take a second look at an emotionally fraught lawsuit governing the adoption of Native American children.

In August, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The law gives preference to Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings involving American Indian children. It was a defeat for non-Indian adoptive families in multiple states.

On Thursday, the New Orleans-based court said a majority of its active judges have voted to re-hear the case. It means Native American tribes and the federal government will again have to defend the law, which they say is critical to protect and preserve Native American culture and families.

A hearing date has not been set.

Wife Of Española City Councilman Is Convicted Of Voter FraudAssociated Press

The wife of Española City Councilor Robert Seeds has been found guilty of tampering in the 2016 election in which her husband won a District 4 seat by two votes.

A Rio Arriba County jury on Thursday convicted Laura Seeds on five counts of felony voter fraud.

She was found guilty of two counts of making false statements relative to the municipal election code, one count of conspiracy to violate the election code and two counts of unlawful possession of another's absentee ballot.

Laura Seeds was accused of forging signatures on absentee ballots to get her husband elected.

Prosecutors say she is facing more than 7 ½ years in prison at her Dec. 9 sentencing.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Laura Seeds wasn't taken into custody after the verdict was read.

Former Police Officer Pleads No Contest To Battery ChargeAssociated Press

A former Albuquerque police officer accused of pushing a handcuffed suspect's head into the wall of a cell has pleaded no contest to a battery charge.

John Hill entered the plea Thursday in connection with a Feb. 17 incident involving a man accused of causing a disturbance at a church.

The incident prompted a Police Department investigation that led to Hill being fired.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Hill will be placed on unsupervised probation for six months and be eligible to eventually have the conviction dismissed.

Hill must also pay $50 in victim restitution and perform 40 hours of community service.

Boeing Says Pin Problem Caused Parachute Issue In Capsule Test - By Marcia Dunn AP Aerospace Writer

Boeing says a problem with a pin caused its Starliner capsule to land with two instead of three parachutes earlier this week.

The crew capsule underwent a safety test flight Monday, soaring nearly a mile into the New Mexico sky. Only two main parachutes deployed.

Boeing's vice president for commercial crew, John Mulholland, said Thursday that the rigging was not connected properly because the pin wasn't secured in place.

Mulholland says the company is double-checking the parachute rigging on the capsule due to rocket into orbit next month. Only a dummy and some cargo will be on that test flight to the International Space Station.

NASA is counting on Boeing and SpaceX to start taking astronauts to the space station from Cape Canaveral, Florida, sometime next year.

New Mexico Picks First Early Childhood Education Secretary Associated Press

New Mexico is tapping an official with the District of Columbia to lead the state's new Early Childhood Education Department in an effort to improve early childhood wellbeing and preparedness for school.

Elizabeth Groginsky is leaving her job in Washington, D.C., as an assistant superintendent of early learning to become New Mexico's first early education Cabinet secretary. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the appointment Wednesday.

The new department will oversee home-visiting programs, prekindergarten schooling and child-care assistance, bringing services currently provided by four different departments under one roof.

Lawmakers who created the new agency worry that children are falling behind in their development before even reaching elementary school, with lifelong consequences.

New Mexico Voters Approve $14M For 24/7 Homeless Shelter Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico mayor has prioritized a new centralized homeless shelter to replace an existing facility after residents voted to approve the project.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Albuquerque voters approved $14 million Tuesday for the project as part of a $128.5 million general obligation bond package.

General obligation bonds are secured by cities able to repay its debt obligation through taxes or revenue.

Bernalillo County officials say the new 300-bed facility is intended to provide temporary shelter to men, women and families and provide resources and services guiding them to permanent housing.

City officials say about 5,600 Albuquerque households experienced homelessness in 2018.

Some homeless service providers oppose the plan advocating instead for multiple smaller, scattered shelters.

A location has not yet been determined.

New Mexico's Last Dry Counties Vote To Allow Alcohol SalesAssociated Press

Two of New Mexico's last dry counties have voted to allow the sale of alcohol.

Unofficial results show residents in Roosevelt and Curry counties approved measures to allow the sale, service and consumption of alcohol in its unincorporated areas. Only residents in Roosevelt's Portales and Curry's Clovis — two of the region's largest cities — could legally buy alcohol until Tuesday's vote.

Results show 53.5% of Roosevelt residents voted to approve the alcohol measure while Curry voters approved that county's proposal by 63%.

Supporters of the measures said the counties were missing out on sponsorships from alcohol companies.

UNM Senior Administrator Dr. Paul Roth To Retire Next Year Associated Press

The longest serving senior administrator at the University of New Mexico says he's planning to retire next year.

Dr. Paul Roth announced Wednesday that he's stepping down as dean of the UNM medical school, chancellor of the UNM Health Sciences Center and chief executive officer of the UNM Health System once his replacement is in place.

Roth had been a fixture at UNM for more than four decades.

He came to UNM in 1976 for a family practice residency program and became a professor of emergency medicine in 1993.

For the last 26 years, Roth has been the dean of the medical school and he's been chancellor of health sciences for 14 years.

After his retirement, Roth plans to work part time in the School of Medicine directly with students.

2 Dead, 14 Injured During Traditional Ceremony In New MexicoKOAT-TV, Associated Press

Navajo authorities have confirmed two people died and 14 others were injured during a traditional religious ceremony.

KOAT-TV reports Christina Tsosie with the Navajo Police Department says the 14 injured people were treated for smoke inhalation.

Tsosie says the ceremony lasts throughout the night and involves an open fire pit burning inside a hogan, a traditional Navajo structure typically built out of logs and earth.

Tsosie says Alamo first responders performed CPR on the two people, but attempts were unsuccessful. Their causes of death have not been determined.

Police say the ceremony began Saturday in a hogan on the Alamo Navajo Reservation in Socorro County.

Police say a woman reported finding an unresponsive man and woman Sunday on the floor inside the hogan.

New Mexico Spruce Begins Journey To Be 2019 Christmas TreeAssociated Press

A 60-foot blue spruce was cut down Wednesday during a ceremony in a forested canyon in northern New Mexico, starting a 2½ -week journey that will take it to the U.S. Capitol to be this year's Christmas tree.

A sawyer used a chain saw to sever the trunk, which one of two cranes then jerked several feet up in the air. Then both cranes swung the tree over to a flatbed trailer at the Carson National Forest site.

The tree will tour New Mexico before leaving on a trip scheduled to conclude Nov. 24 at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.

According to the project website, stops are scheduled in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.

Each year a national forest is selected to share a tree with the nation.

5 Lobos Reach Double Figures In Win Over E New Mexico - Associated Press

Led by 16 points from Makuach Maluach, five New Mexico players reached double figures and the Lobos put on a 92-71 show against DII foe Eastern New Mexico in a season opener Wednesday.

Carlton Bragg and Zane Martin each added 13 points and six rebounds for New Mexico. Corey Manigault also had 13 points along with three blocks.

Darius Sawyer scored 11 for the Greyhounds and Ibn Zaid had 10.

The game was relatively close through the first 10 minutes as New Mexico led just 20-16 and had only extended that to 45-34 by halftime.

But the Lobos opened the second half with a 16-4 run that gave them control of the game.

Although New Mexico put up plenty of points and had 22 assists, including 11 from JaQuan Lyle, the Lobos also had 21 turnovers, with Martin getting six with no assists.

Eastern was even worse on the turnover end with 22 against just 12 assists.