Longtime Lawmaker Larry Larrañaga Dies, Drones Flying Illegally At Balloon Fiesta

Oct 10, 2018

Long-Serving New Mexico Lawmaker Larry Larrañaga Has DiedAssociated Press

Recently retired New Mexico state Rep. Larry Larrañaga, who guided the budget process and once led the state's transportation agency, has died.

Daughter Pamela Thies on Wednesday confirmed the former lawmaker's death in Albuquerque at age 80 from a degenerative brain disorder.

Born and raised on a ranch in central New Mexico, Larrañaga earned a civil engineering degree at the University of New Mexico, served in the U.S. Army and worked for the state highway department before overseeing the agency as a Cabinet secretary.

A Republican, Larrañaga served in the House of Representatives for 24 years and recently led the creation of a rainy-day fund to protect state finances from recession and downturns in the oil sector.

He is survived by his daughter, wife Camellia, son Alan and five grandchildren.

450 Drones Detected Flying Illegally Near Balloon FiestaKRQE-TV, Associated Press

Hundreds of Balloon Fiesta attendees have been caught flying their drones in restricted areas at Albuquerque's hot air balloon festival.

KRQE-TV reported Tuesday that about 450 drones have operated in no-fly areas in the past few days.

Balloon Fiesta hired Phoenix-based Aerial Armor this year to monitor the sky for drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it's illegal to fly a drone within 4 miles of Fiesta Park.

Aerial Armor's operation manager Brandon Lugo says their DJI Aeroscope System is able to detect drones within 11 miles.

Police and the FBI have not said if any drone pilots have gotten into trouble for flying to close to Fiesta.

Flying a drone illegally can carry fines and up to five years behind bars.

New Mexico Tribal Casino To Launch Sports BettingAssociated Press

A tribal casino in New Mexico says it will be the first in the state to offer sports betting following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year that cleared the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting.

The sportsbook at Santa Ana Star Casino is scheduled to open next Tuesday. The program will be managed by Nevada-based operator USBookmaking.

Casino CEO John Cirrincione said the interest in sports betting has increased exponentially in recent years.

He expects the net profit margin to be slim since the house has a very small advantage and the operation is labor intensive. He says the intent is to add another amenity for patrons.

Existing tribal gaming compacts don't specifically address sports betting. Such wagering falls under another category, meaning casinos can move ahead without regulatory changes.

2 Teen Girls Faces Charges Stemming From New Mexico ShootingAssociated Press

Authorities say two teenage girls have been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old man in northern New Mexico.

New Mexico State Police announced the arrests Wednesday of a 17-year-old and 16-year-old on charges of tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Four others already were arrested in the shooting Thursday night along a heavily travelled route between Santa Fe and Taos.

The teenage girls were arrested late Tuesday, with authorities saying that the younger of the two acknowledged driving a vehicle from which another suspect is accused of opening fire.

State Police say Cameron Martinez, of Española, was killed, and three others in a car with him were injured. Authorities say the shooters mistakenly targeted their vehicle.

Los Alamos Lab Marks Milestone With Shipment Of Waste - Associated Press

Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory say they have completed the first shipment of waste from a key area at the lab to the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository since the dump resumed operations in early 2017.

An official with the U.S. Energy Department's Office of Environmental Management called the shipment a significant milestone for the cleanup effort at the northern New Mexico lab.

The waste was shipped from a location known as Area G. It holds radioactive and other hazardous waste generated by weapons production during World War II's Manhattan Project and the Cold War that followed.

It was an inappropriately packed shipment from Los Alamos that prompted a nearly three-year closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in 2014. A costly recovery ensued along with major policy changes.

Libertarian Says Trump, Democrats Need A Swing-Vote Senator - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Gary Johnson's decades-old quest to shrink government and let free enterprise and pot-smoking liberty reign comes with a new twist in November elections.

The former governor of New Mexico and two-time presidential candidate under the Libertarian ticket wants to occupy a potentially powerful swing seat in the U.S. Senate, as Republicans and Democrats jockey for the majority in November elections.

Democrats are being forced to defend what had seemed like a secure seat for incumbent, first-term Sen. Martin Heinrich, fending off Johnson's allure among local voters as an uncompromising fiscal conservative with a quirky brand of free-market, pro-cannabis policies.

GOP's Pearce Rents Equipment To Oil Companies - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce owns two companies that actively lease oilfield equipment to undisclosed customers even as he campaigns to regulate a booming petroleum sector and expand an oil-dependent economy.

A spokesman for Pearce's campaign confirmed this week that the congressman's businesses, Trinity Industries and LFT, provide oilfield equipment rentals after The Associated Press found corporate registration documents that describe the activities.

Pearce reported income in 2017 of between $200,000 and $2 million from Trinity Industries and LFT. Campaign spokesman Kevin Sheridan acknowledged that both companies engage in oilfield equipment rentals, but also include other holdings — some related to building rentals.

While campaigning, Pearce frequently invokes his past business success and expertise running an oilfield services business.

Navajo Official Convicted On Handful Of Forgery Charges - Associated Press

A former official with the Navajo Nation's Dilkon Chapter has been found guilty of forgery.

Daryl Joe, the chapter's vice president, had pleaded not guilty in February to five counts of forgery. He was convicted in a bench trial last month on the Navajo Nation.

Sentencing is scheduled Nov. 17. Joe faces up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Tribal authorities say Joe submitted a handful of forged hotel receipts to the Dilkon Chapter to be reimbursed $640.

The investigation was conducted by the tribal prosecutor's White Collar Crime Unit.

Attorney General Ethel Branch says the unit has demanded integrity from tribal officials. She says public funds should be used to benefit the public.

Utah Man Arrested In New Mexico For Alleged Officer AssaultAssociated Press

The FBI has arrested a Utah man who allegedly assaulted a federal officer in Laguna, New Mexico.

They say 20-year-old Brad Porter Halverson of Morgan was taken into custody Tuesday at a hospital in Albuquerque.

FBI officials say federal officers confronted Halverson after he allegedly shot at a tractor-trailer on Interstate 40 and drove to Laguna Pueblo.

They say Halverson allegedly pointed a rifle at officers and they fired shots at him.

Halverson was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds that were not considered life threatening.

No officers were injured.

Halverson is expected to have an initial appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

It's unclear if he has a lawyer yet for his case.

US States Agree On Plan To Manage Overtaxed Colorado River - Associated Press

Seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River say they have reached tentative agreements on how to manage the waterway amid an unprecedented drought.

The plans announced Tuesday were a milestone for the river, which supports 40 million people and 6,300 square miles (16,300 square kilometers) of farmland in the U.S. and Mexico.

The plans aren't designed to prevent a shortage in the river, which water managers say could occur as soon as 2020. Instead, they're intended to manage and minimize the problems.

Officials say it will likely be next year before the states and the U.S. government approve the plans. Mexico agreed last year to participate in drought planning.

The river is governed by interstate compacts, international treaties and court rulings rather than by a single agency.

Gov. Martinez Looks To Kavanaugh To Uphold US Constitution - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she's pleased Brett Kavanaugh is now a member of the U.S. Supreme Court and will be looking forward to him being a constitutionalist.

The two-term Republican governor told reporters Monday she believes Kavanaugh will be fair and will uphold the Constitution as he and his colleagues hear arguments.

A former district attorney, Martinez said the role of a justice is to rule based on the Constitution and how it's written rather than legislate from the bench.

Tuesday marked Kavanaugh's first day on the Supreme Court bench after being confirmed 50-48 Saturday following a bitter Senate battle. He took his oaths of office in a private ceremony Saturday evening and on Monday evening participated in a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House.

Rio Grande Ruling Challenged As Drought Persists Associated Press

Environmentalists are challenging a court ruling over whether water from the Rio Grande is being used in the most beneficial way as it flows through New Mexico's most populated region. They say the state's top water manager needs to do more to reduce use by farmers in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, but irrigation officials say they're already doing the best they can as years of drought and meager snowpack have strained resources.


Smugglers in recent weeks have been abandoning large groups of Guatemalan and other Central American migrants in the harsh cactus-studded Sonoran Desert near Arizona's boundary with Mexico, alarming Border Patrol officials who say the trend is putting hundreds of children and adults at risk. Collectively, more than 1,400 migrants have been found left by smugglers in the broiling desert — or in one case in a drenching thunderstorm — in remote areas of the Arizona-Mexico border since Aug. 20

Taos To Begin Direct Charter Flights To Texas Cities Associated Press

A new charter flight service will soon link the northern New Mexico tourist destination of Taos with Dallas and Austin.

Officials announced today that Taos Air will begin Dec. 20, in time for what many hope will be a solid ski season across the region.

Taos Ski Valley Inc. is among the stakeholders in the venture, having purchased a 30-passenger plane. The company signed an agreement with Ultimate Jet Charters to operate the service in and out of the Taos Regional Airport.