News Update Tuesday June 18th

Jun 18, 2013

Gonzales Confirmed As Federal Judge - The Associated Press

The Senate has confirmed New Mexico U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales to be the state's next federal judge.

Senators voted unanimously in favor of Gonzales Monday evening, and the state's two senators immediately recommended that President Barack Obama appoint one of his assistants, Damon Martinez, to replace him.

Martinez has served as an assistant U.S. attorney since 2001 and currently supervises the Organized Crime and Gang Section in Albuquerque.

Gonzales says he is "humbled by the opportunity to continue to serve the public in a judicial capacity."

He says he will stay on as U.S. attorney for a brief period to ensure a smooth transition before taking his judicial oath.

Gonzales was appointed to replace retiring U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of Santa Fe. But the seat will be moved to Las Cruces because of high caseloads in southern New Mexico.

Las Cruces Mayor Seeks LA Mayor's Help On Debt - The Las Cruces Sun-News (AP)

The mayor of Las Cruces is seeking help from Los Angeles' mayor and Albuquerque's former mayor to erase outstanding debt from his re-election campaign two years ago.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Mayor Ken Miyagishima is working to convince Los Angeles mayor Anthony Villaraigosa and former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez to participate in an upcoming fundraiser.

Miyagishima says Villaraigosa is working on his schedule and Chavez may join too.

Villaraigosa is Los Angeles' mayor until July 1.

Miyagishima is the mayor of southern New Mexico's largest city. He says his campaign still is around $25,000 in debt.

Miyagishima says he thinks he can pay off the debt by the end of the year.

3 State Biologists Get Rescue Awards - The Associated Press

Three state biologists are being honored for their work rescuing threatened and endangered species.

Department of Game and Fish herpetologist Charlie Painter, fisheries manager Kirk Patten and recently retired Gila Trout Recovery Coordinator David Propst received the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Recovery Champions awards for their work rescuing threatened and endangered species.

Patten and Propst were part of a team that responded to last year's Whitewater-Baldy wildfire, the worst in New Mexico history. The team rushed to Gila Wilderness streams threatened by post-fire mud and ash flows and evacuated more than 600 Gila trout and other fish using backpacks, mules and a helicopter

Painter was part of a team that worked to save the Chiricahua leopard frog, projected to go extinct in New Mexico in a decade.

Health Insurance Increases Loom For State Workers - The Associated Press

More than 30,000 state and local government workers face a 15 percent increase for their health care insurance starting next month, but it could be only the beginning of higher costs as New Mexico's self-insurance program digs out of a financial hole.

There have been no premium increases for workers for the past five years when government budgets were squeezed. Yet, the fund covering health benefits was projected to be almost $70 million in the red in the upcoming budget year if the state did nothing to the insurance program to deal with rising health care costs.

To help stop the financial bleeding, premiums are going up and health plans were revamped, including raising deductibles.

Risk Management Director A. J. Forte says another round of premium increases is needed.