New Governor Lays Out Plans For Education And Energy, New Mexico State Police Chief Retires

Jan 1, 2019

Governor Seeks Change For New Mexico EducationAssociated Press

Newly inaugurated New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging greater state spending on education, higher pay for low-income workers and a shift toward renewable energy production in her first public speech as governor.

In her inaugural address on Tuesday, the Democratic governor urged New Mexico residents to reimagine the state's future and tap into multibillion-dollar state savings to expand early childhood education.

The top concerns outlined by Lujan Grisham include global warming. That marks a sharp departure from departing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Lujan Grisham says she wants New Mexico to provide a "national example of what a clean-energy revolution looks like."

She also has announced a goal to double film and television production within the state.

New Administration Brings New ExpectationsAssociated Press

Political supporters attended the inauguration of incoming Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham with expectations for change in the state's approach to public education, gun safety, cannabis regulation and more.

Spectators filed into the inauguration at Santa Fe's downtown convention center to the sound of mariachis and northern New Mexico folk music. Teen country music singer Chevel Shepherd, a recent winner on NBC's "The Voice," belted out "God Bless America."

Deann Garcia of Santa Fe arrived early with her husband and two children to catch a glimpse of a governor she hopes will help broadly legalize marijuana to ensure full access for medical patients. The 30-year-old child care worker also wanted to see increases in teacher pay.

Lorna Samraj, a campaign volunteer for the new governor, said she wants to see action on efforts to combat gun violence.

Democrat Lujan Grisham To Take Reins As New Mexico Governor - Associated Press

The reins of New Mexico state government are passing from one Latina governor to another as Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham prepares for her inauguration at noon on New Year's Day.

Lujan Grisham planned to take the oath of office in the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday at the state Capitol before attending a public inauguration ceremony inside a convention center in downtown Santa Fe amid forecasts for a winter snowstorm. Ballroom parties were scheduled afterward.

Lujan Grisham succeeds termed-out Republican Gov. Susana Martinez amid a wave of Democratic election victories to statewide offices.

Lujan Grisham campaigned on promises to reform public education, provide universal access to preschool and modernize an oil-dependent state economy.

Cabinet appointments are pending at agencies overseeing public education, prisons, environmental regulation and child protective services.

Trump Blames Democrats, Not His Team, For Border DeathsAssociated Press

President Donald Trump claims that two Guatemalan children who died in U.S. custody were already ill, yet both young migrants passed initial health screenings by border officials.

As Democrats criticized Trump for also tweeting Saturday that Democratic immigration policies were responsible for the deaths, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited medical officials and Border Patrol agents at the Arizona and Texas southern borders. The visit came amid promises of additional wellness screenings for migrant children.

In Guatemala, the mother of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, who died Christmas Eve, told The Associated Press that her son was healthy when he left with his father on their journey hoping to migrate to the U.S.

New Mexico State Police Chief Retires - Associated Press

The chief of the New Mexico State Police Department has retired after five years on the job and a total of 26 years with the agency.

The department announced late Monday that Chief Pete Kassetas retired.

Kassetas began working for the state police in 1992 in Grants. He worked as a patrolman, in criminal investigations and as an officer and supervisor.

Kassetas was appointed chief in August 2013.

The former chief says he is proud to have served New Mexicans and to have added two new Harley Davidson motorcycles to the department's motor unit.

Department spokesman Lt. Mark Soriano said he didn't know when a replacement or an interim chief will be named.

New Mexico Awaits More Appointments From Governor-Elect - Associated Press

Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has yet to make her final round of cabinet appointments as she prepares to take over New Mexico's top executive post on Tuesday.

Still pending are decisions about key agencies that oversee public education, public safety, child welfare and the environment.

The Democrat announced Monday that John Bingaman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, will be her chief of staff. He's the managing principal at the Santa Fe-based investment firm of Iron Creek Partners. He previously worked with the Quadrangle Group, an investment firm in New York.

A Harvard graduate, Bingaman will oversee development of policy and legislation for the new administration.

Teresa Casados was appointed as Lujan Grisham's chief operating officer. She is currently the director of senior services at Santa Fe County.

Commission Adopts Master Plan For Rio Grande Trail - Associated Press

A master plan that charts out the next steps for developing a 500-mile trail along the Rio Grande from one end of New Mexico to the other has been adopted.

State officials announced Monday that the Rio Grande Trail Commission signed off on the plan.

Aside from identifying partnerships to make the trail a reality, the document summarizes existing and proposed trail alignments.

The plan has been in the works for the past two years and is the result of community meetings and comments from state agencies, municipalities that stand to benefit from increased visitation and outdoor advocacy groups.

With its diverse scenery, supporters say the Rio Grande Trail has the potential to make the list of the country's more famous long-distance routes, such as the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

Police Confirm Bodies Are Those Of Missing New Mexico Teens - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico authorities have confirmed that two bodies found in Sandoval County are those of two teenagers who had been reported missing in mid-December.

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Keith Elder announced Monday that 15-year-old Collin Romero and 14-year-old Ahmed Lateef were found buried in a remote area west of Rio Rancho.

The two were reported missing Dec. 17 after one of their mothers reported a video on social media showed them bloodied and beaten.

Investigators with the Albuquerque Police Department had said they believed the teens were involved in a drug deal that may have gone bad.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Sandoval County deputies found clothing that contained evidence of a violent crime and began to investigate along with State Police. That led to the bodies.

The cause of death remains under investigation.

New Mexico Approves Permit Change For Nuclear Repository  - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico environmental regulators have approved a permit change that could ultimately allow for more waste to be placed at the U.S. government's only underground nuclear waste repository.

The state Environment Department approved the change Dec. 21. It had been requested months ago by the U.S. Energy Department and the contractor that operates the southern New Mexico facility.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the approval came just days before Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office. Watchdog groups have accused the administration of rushing a decision and they plan to appeal.

The permit modification changes the way the volume of waste is calculated. Specifically, it excludes the empty space inside waste packaging containers.

Critics also are concerned that this could be a first step in expanding the repository's mission to hold other kinds of waste.

New Mexico Reports Spike In Flu-like Illnesses - Associated Press

The latest figures from New Mexico health officials show the death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy while in U.S. custody followed a spike in overall flu numbers in the state.

That spike was especially prevalent in the southern region, where the child had been detained with his father earlier this month and where he was later hospitalized.

A weekly report from the New Mexico Health Department shows that from Dec. 16 to Dec. 22, people with flu-like illnesses made up 4.5 percent of reported patient visits statewide.

The figure represented a nearly 2-point increase from the week before.

According to the most recent weekly report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Mexico was among several states to see high activity during the period.