New Mexico Preps For Medicaid Payment Increases, Estancia Reopens Private Prison To Hold Migrants

May 16, 2019

Officials Reopen New Mexico Private Prison To Hold Migrants – Associated Press

Officials have decided to reopen a private prison in New Mexico to hold local inmates as well as immigrants being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Torrance County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to open the detention center in the rural town of Estancia under an agreement with the federal agency.

The contract stipulates for ICE to pay the county nearly $2 million per month during the first year of prison use, allowing up to 714 immigrants to be housed.

The price will increase in subsequent years. Only adult men will be held in the facility.

Officials say the agreement will provide the county with 240 jobs.

Officials say the county will also sign agreement with private prison operator CoreCivic for it to run the facility and hire staff.

Parties To Welfare-Eligibility Lawsuit Signal Common GoalsAssociated Press

Plaintiffs to a lawsuit that faults the state with improperly denying certain welfare benefits to needy residents say they will take a more cooperative approach to proposed reforms with the fledgling Democratic administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Attorney Maria Griego of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty said Thursday her advocacy group plans to work directly with state officials overseeing welfare eligibility to address shortcomings.

The Center on Law and Poverty has provided new indications that the state continued last year to deny food and medical assistance to eligible applicants by insisting they fill out unnecessary paperwork, at a federal court hearing Thursday.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase says he will strive to ensure benefits are awarded in an accurate and timely fashion to eligible residents.

Court Says New Mexico Regulators Must Reconsider Utility Case - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court wants utility regulators to reconsider a 2016 order that cleared the way for the state's largest electric provider to increase rates.

In a ruling Thursday, the court found that regulators violated Public Service Co. of New Mexico's due process rights by denying the utility the ability to recoup future costs related to decommissioning the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona.

The court made the determination even though it said most of the Public Regulation Commission's order was reasonable and lawful.

As part of that original order, regulators found that the utility acted imprudently in deciding to repurchase part of the nuclear plant and renew leases for its power. As a result, the commission had limited the amount of spending on Palo Verde that PNM could recoup from customers through rates.

Competition Heats Up In New Mexico Congressional PrimaryAssociated Press

Santa Fe-based attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez is launching her campaign for the Democratic nomination to an open congressional seat in 2020.

Leger Fernandez announced Thursday that she was kicking off her campaign in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where she graduated from high school.

A new campaign website describes Leger Fernandez as a mother of three and cancer survivor, who has worked on behalf of tribal communities as an attorney and serves on the board of a nonprofit affordable housing group.

The Democratic primary is likely to be decisive in the heavily Democratic 3rd Congressional District. At least six contenders are vying for the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of Nambé as he runs for Senate.

Leger Fernandez is the daughter of former state Sen. Ray Leger.

Pope Francis Appoints Malta-Born Priest As Las Cruces BishopLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Pope Francis has appointed a Malta-born priest as the new head of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the Vatican announced this week Francis named Peter Baldacchino as Las Cruces bishop.

Baldacchino replaces Bishop Oscar Cantú who was reassigned as the coadjutor bishop of San Jose, California in September 2018.

Baldacchino was formerly the auxiliary bishop of Miami.

After ordination to the priesthood, he served for three years as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

His installation as the third Bishop of Las Cruces will take place on July 23.

The Las Cruces Diocese serves all of southern New Mexico.

Funeral Service For Navajo Code Talker Scheduled In ChinleAssociated Press

The funeral service for a Navajo Code Talker will be held this week in Chinle.

Fleming Begaye Sr. died May 10. He was 97.

Begaye was among hundreds of Navajos who served in the Marine Corps, using a code based on their native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II.

His funeral is scheduled Friday morning at the Potter's House Christian Center in Chinle.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez has ordered flags flown at half-staff across the reservation that day.

Begaye served as a Code Talker from 1943 to 1945, fighting in the battles of Tarawa and Tinian. He spent a year in a naval hospital after being wounded.

Begaye later ran a general store in Chinle called "Begaye's Corner."

He and his late wife had three children.

Some TSA Employees Are Being Sent To The US-Mexico BorderAssociated Press

The Trump administration is starting to send hundreds of Transportation Security Administration employees to the U.S.-Mexico border to help handle the flow of migrants.

The TSA said Wednesday it's supporting a Homeland Security Department effort, and the shift will affect less than 1% of its 60,000 employees.

The agency says it's minimizing the impact on travel, but an airline labor group is objecting.

The Association of Flight Attendants says diverting federal air marshals and other TSA workers to the border hurts airport security. The union says, "Aviation security should not be undermined for any reason."

An agency official says about 100 TSA employees are already in the process of shifting to the border.

TSA says it is soliciting volunteers from its entire workforce, which includes about 45,000 airport screeners.

3 People Found Dead Amid Gas Fumes In New Mexico Mobile Home – Associated Press

Authorities say a man and his two children have been found dead inside a mobile home in the Santa Cruz area of northern Santa Fe County.

County Sheriff's officials say deputies went to the home around 6 p.m. Tuesday after a report of a heavy smell of gas fumes.

They say two bodies were found in the kitchen and the other body was discovered in a bathtub.

A Sheriff's Office search warrant affidavit identified the three dead as 39-year-old Dominic Mansanarez, 19-year-old Isa Mansanarez and 9-year-old Ventura Mansanarez.

Authorities say it's unclear what caused the mobile home to fill with gas.

They say Dominic Mansanarez's mother discovered the bodies on the floor of the home after becoming concerned when no one answered the door Tuesday.

New Mexico Prepares For Medicaid Payment Increases - Associated Press

New Mexico has published a detailed plan to increase rates for Medicaid payments to physicians and other health care providers for evaluating and consulting with patients as it collects public comments.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday announced the proposed increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates aimed at helping the state better recruit and retain essential medical professionals, especially in rural areas.

The proposed rate changes would increase annual state and federal spending by $60 million, starting on July 1.

Most new spending is directed at reimbursements for face-to-face medical consultations that don't involve physical procedures. Human Services Secretary and physician David Scrase says those reimbursements would rise by about 30 percent.

The proposal also affects mental health services, consultations on substance-abuse, home-based care for the elderly, dental services and more.

Facebook Buys Land In New Mexico But Mum On Purpose - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Facebook has more than doubled its New Mexico footprint with the purchase of more than 400 acres near its new data center.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the social media giant confirmed this week that it purchased the land in March, adding to the 300 acres in Los Lunas, New Mexico, it already owns. But the Menlo Park, California-based Facebook declined to say what it plans to do with the property adjacent to its data center.

The recent purchase was disclosed last week in a joint letter from two state cabinet secretaries to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

New Mexico does not publicly disclose property sale prices.

Facebook is constructing a six-building, $1 billion data center on the 300-acre parcel it purchased in 2016.

Court Orders Panel To Reconsider Status Of Fired Employees - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico State Personnel Board has been ordered to reconsider if the 19 employees fired when Attorney General Hector Balderas entered office are entitled to state job protections.

The Albuquerque Journal reports` the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the former employees are covered by the state Personnel Act unless certain exemptions apply.

The former employees include lawyers, special agents and paralegals. They argue they are entitled to protections, such as termination only for cause, that insulate them from political considerations.

Employees like legislative staffers and policymaking officials are usually exempt from those protections.

Balderas says he disagrees with the ruling and will appeal it.

Call Center Unit Closure In New Mexico May Hit 189 Employees - Las Cruces Sun-news, Associated Press

Nearly 200 employees in southern New Mexico face layoffs with the planned closure of a unit in a Las Cruces call support center.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Concentrix notified the city this week that up to 189 employees could lose their jobs in July with the closure.

Concentrix spokeswoman Brooke Beiting says the closure comes amid a "change in our client's business requirements."

The company said in a letter to Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima it would work to find other jobs for the affected employees.

Concentrix, division of the Fremont, California-based SYNNEX Corporation, provides call support for other companies. It has about 275 call centers worldwide.

Mayor Seeks Play Space For Migrant Children - Associated Press

Donations are pouring into a relief fund for asylum seekers in New Mexico that would create a toy- and book-filled play area for migrant children at a temporary shelter in Albuquerque.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber announced Tuesday in an email that more than $10,000 in donations has been received and called the local community tremendously responsive and philanthropic.

He is leading efforts to raise money for a play area at a dormitory within state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The state has offered the 60-bed dormitory as a temporary refuge for asylum seeking families from Central America. Migrants have yet to stay there amid preparations and prior reservations.

Webber has declined suggestions that Santa Fe shelter asylum seekers, saying it has few transportation options as migrants depart to reach relatives and other long-term sponsors across the U.S.

The Albuquerque City Council last week approved $250,000 in spending to help migrants passing through that city.

As federal authorities release asylum seekers into communities along the border with Mexico, flights and buses are being used move the migrants to less-crowded areas.

No Bond Before Trial For Suspect In Killing Of UNM Pitcher  Associated Press

A man accused of fatally shooting a University of New Mexico baseball player outside an Albuquerque bar earlier this month will be held without bond pending trial.

A judge made that decision Wednesday during a court hearing.

Authorities say 23-year-old Darian Bashir is charged with an open count of murder in the death of Jackson Weller.

Witnesses told Albuquerque police that Weller was shot after he got into a fight at a bar on May 4 and the shooter fled the scene in a car.

Bashir was arrested last Saturday.

Weller was a 23-year-old right-handed pitcher from Keller, Texas who wasn't on the Lobos' active roster due to an injury.

He had transferred to UNM from Gateway Community College in Phoenix.

Weller's funeral was held Monday in Colleyville, Texas.

New Mexico Candidate Warns Against War - Associated Press

Congressional candidate and former CIA operative Valerie Plame says a war with Iran would be devastating for all involved and is warning of warmongering tendencies within the Trump administration.

In a broadcast interview with SiriusXM's The Press Pool with Julie Mason on Wednesday, Plame urged the Trump administration to use diplomatic tools to ease strained relations with Iran.

Tensions are sweeping the Persian Gulf region over unspecified threats that the Trump administration says are linked to Iran.

In a wide-ranging conversation about national security, Plame says the U.S. lost leverage in its relationship with Iran when the Trump administration withdrew a year ago from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. Plame says U.S. national security adviser John Bolton "never saw a war that he didn't want to jump in."

Plame, who lives in Santa Fe, became a national figure after her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush's administration in an effort to discredit her then-husband, diplomat Joe Wilson. She is seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020 for an open congressional race in northern New Mexico.

Santa Fe-Based Prosecutor Seeks Congressional Seat - Associated Press

Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna has registered with federal election regulators to seek the Democratic nomination to Congress in New Mexico's 3rd District.

Serna spokesman James Hallinan said Tuesday that the prosecutor is planning a formal announcement by the end of May on whether to run for Congress in 2020. Serna was elected to a four-year term as district attorney in 2016 for the state's First Judicial District.

An open race for the northern congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján has attracted at least six registered contenders that include former CIA operative Valerie Plame, state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Santa Fe-based attorney Teresa Leger. Luján is running for Senate after Sen. Tom Udall announced he will not seek a third term in 2020.