KUNM

New Commissioners To Review Racino Applications, Test Data Dropped From Teacher Evaluations

May 3, 2019

New Commissioners To Review Racino StudyAssociated Press

New Mexico's new panel of horse racing regulators will be taking some time to review all five pending applications for the state's sixth and final license for a track and casino.

The chairwoman of the racing commission, Beverly Bourguet, said during Friday's special meeting that commissioners also will be reviewing a contested feasibility study that looked at the economics behind the proposals.

The study is the focus of a legal dispute that has stalled a final decision on which, if any, of the applicants should be awarded the lucrative license.

Attorneys for some of the companies have argued that the study was flawed.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also has asked for more research on the matter.

Bourguet says the commission needs to catch up and will plan to discuss the matter again at its regular meeting later this month.

 

6 Harassment Complaints Filed At New Mexico State CapitolAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Six harassment complaints have already been reported this year under the New Mexico Legislature's revised anti-harassment policy.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Legislative Council Service says none of the complaints, including three instances involving lawmakers, have triggered full-blown investigations and several were resolved internally by those involved.

The Legislative Council Service declines to disclose specific details or the identities of involved parties for complaints in which a review found no evidence to warrant formal charges of wrongdoing.

Both formal complaints and more informal reports can trigger an investigation under the revised policy, which was adopted by top-ranking lawmakers in January 2018 after a slew of sexual misconduct claims in New Mexico and around the nation.

So far, only one complaint under the revised anti-harassment policy has led to an investigation.

Test Data Dropped From New Mexico Teacher EvaluationsAssociated Press

New Mexico education officials say results from student test scores will not be included in teacher evaluations this year.

Public Education Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea made the announcement Thursday in a memo to superintendents and charter school leaders and said evaluations will be based on classroom observation, planning and surveys.

The change comes as a development team works to craft permanent changes to the state's teacher evaluation system.

Teacher unions, who strongly back Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last year, have been pressing officials to drop student test scores from evaluations.

Perea wrote that teachers who still use test scores to move up a licensure level can still do so by June 1.

Charles Goodmacher of the NEA-New Mexico called the changes a "step in the right direction."

State Police Say Santa Fe Establishments Sold Alcohol To MinorsAssociated Press

The New Mexico State Police says that about one in 10 liquor establishments checked during a late April investigation in Santa Fe sold alcohol to minors.

The State Police says its Special Investigations Unit checked 134 establishments and found that 14 sold alcohol to minors, with the investigation resulting in dozens of citations, including 29 for sales to minors.

The State Police noted in a statement that graduation season is starting and said licensees should be extra vigilant in checking IDs and refusing sales to minors.

New Mexico Botches 91,780 Vehicle Registration Reminders - Associated Press

Motor vehicle officials say an extra zero was mistakenly added to the cost of vehicle registration fees on postcard reminders sent to more than 90,000 New Mexico residents.

The Motor Vehicle Division on Thursday attributed the inflated numbers to a computer error and said no one would be charged the improper amount listed on the vehicle registration renewal notices. The state mailed out 91,780 erroneous cards.

Division Director Alicia Ortiz is apologizing for the confusion and says the error is being corrected before the next round of notices. She offered assurances that any possible overpayments would be refunded.

Accurate registration fees are listed on the Motor Vehicle Division website.

New Mexico Authorities Charge Ex-Sheriff With Embezzlement - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

State authorities have charged a former New Mexico sheriff with embezzlement amid accusations that he spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on guns and other equipment for his own personal use.

Court documents filed by New Mexico State Police yesterday show that Heath White, of Torrance County, is facing felony charges that include embezzlement over $20-thousand dollars, receiving stolen property, and misusing public money.

White's term as sheriff ended in December. The Albuquerque Journal reports that he was then elected as a Torrance County magistrate judge.

An investigation into White began earlier this year after authorities said items purchased by the sheriff's department during his tenure could not be found.

A Torrance County magistrate court manager tells the Albuquerque Journal that White has been suspended from the Bench.

Accusations, Mistrust Roil New Mexico Pension Fund - Associated Press

New Mexico's state treasurer is renewing accusations that past pay raises were not properly approved for the executive director at a state public pension fund.

In a public letter, Democratic State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg on Thursday described recent staff pay raises at the Public Employees Retirement Association as illegal and renewed calls for an investigation by the attorney general.

Eichenberg sits on the board of the pension fund for state and local government workers and alleges that executive director Wayne Probst violated his fiduciary duty by accepting raises without approval of the full board. Probst says staff at the retirement association have been compensated in accordance with the law.

The office of Attorney General Hector Balderas said Thursday that the allegations are being reviewed thoroughly and are of concern.

Border Patrol: More Migrants Cross Illegally Into New Mexico - Associated Press

U.S. Border Patrol agents say more large groups of migrants are in custody after crossing into southern New Mexico.

Agents say they encountered 243 migrants around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday near the remote border crossing of Antelope Wells. The group was made up mostly of Central Americans.

On Thursday morning, another group of 209 people were stopped in the same area. Like the others, this group also included Central American families and unaccompanied juveniles.

Border Patrol agents have been overwhelmed by the ongoing surge of migrants who are illegally crossing into the U.S. in an attempt to claim asylum. They say the families and children are being exploited by smuggling operations.

US Senators Push Nutrition Legislation For Native Youth - Associated Press

Federal legislation has been re-introduced to allow tribal governments to administer child nutrition programs in their communities.

The legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto, of Nevada, Tom Udall, of New Mexico, and Tina Smith, of Minnesota, was announced Thursday. All of the Senators are Democrats.

They say tribes are better positioned than federal agencies to know local youths' nutrition needs.

Many tribes historically have been forced to contend with limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

The lawmakers say that has placed Native American children at risk of facing hunger, diabetes and obesity.

Under the proposed legislation, tribes would administer several programs, including those that provide children with school lunch and breakfast.

2 Santa Fe Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Burglarized - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Police say burglars hit two medical cannabis dispensaries in Santa Fe in what appears to be a string of burglaries targeting dispensaries.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports New MexiCann Natural Medicine and Kure were struck early Wednesday.

Kure employee Judi Kubiak says surveillance video shows four people smashing Kure's front door and rummaging around inside before leaving. Kubiak says no items were stolen because valuables were locked in a safe.

A police report says New MexiCann Natural Medicine suffered property damage and larceny of between $2,500 and $20,000.

No arrests have been made.

Virtual Field Trip To Highlight Smokey Bear Campaign - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Public broadcasting stations that serve New Mexico and parts of West Texas are teaming up with the U.S. Forest Service to create a virtual field trip that will highlight Smokey Bear, the cub that became the face of wildfire prevention.

Officials say the virtual field trip will consist of a live webcast from Capitan, New Mexico — the birthplace of Smokey Bear.

The webcast will take place November 7th from the area where Smokey Bear was found as an injured cub and later returned to be buried.

As part of the interactive program, students and others can send in questions about Smokey Bear, the evolution of firefighting, and other fire topics. Teachers will be able to download lesson plans and other information for their students ahead of the webcast.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan will be celebrating Smokey Bear Days on Friday and Saturday.

New Mexico Students Recharge Rio Grande With Native Fish - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

With the Rio Grande flowing bank to bank, dozens of children are releasing native fish they spent months raising into the river as part of an ongoing conservation program aimed at linking classrooms with the outdoors.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has teamed up with schools in New Mexico, Texas, California and states on the East Coast to bring more awareness to river systems and the fish that inhabit them.

In New Mexico, the Rio Grande has lost two of its native species in recent decades and the endangered silvery minnow will have an uphill battle this spring after a year in which tens of thousands of them were rescued from stretches of the river that went dry.

Officials say the work done to help the minnow also will benefit the fish reared by the students.

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