NM Considers Limiting Access To Police Lapel Video, ABQ To Participate In Facebook Business Program

Nov 9, 2017

New Mexico Considers Limiting Access To Police Lapel VideoThe Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are drafting legislation that would restrict public access to video recordings from police lapel cameras of people with mental illnesses.

Rep. Gail Chasey of Albuquerque said Thursday that the public availability of video recordings taken by police can discourage people from calling emergency services or interfere with the work of mental health crisis teams as frightened patients hold back information.

She supports changes to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act to prevent the release of audio, video and photographic recordings of people with a mental illness without consent.

Rep. Jim Dines of Albuquerque cautions that broadly written legislation might interfere with public oversight of police. He invoked the fatal 2014 shooting by Albuquerque police officers of homeless man James Boyd that triggered public protests.

Albuquerque To Participate In Facebook Business ProgramThe Associated Press

Officials in New Mexico's largest city are excited about a new program announced by social media giant Facebook to help small businesses grow.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said Thursday he's hopeful the initiative will allow residents to gain more technical skills that will help them thrive in a digital world.

He's also hopeful the Community Boost program will lead to better job opportunities.

Officials say Albuquerque will be one of the first cities to participate in the program next year. Training on coding, building websites and using the social media site to bolster business will be offered in a total of 30 U.S. cities.

Facebook says more than 70 million small businesses use its service. Only 6 million of them advertise.

New Mexico Weighs Options For Campaign Finance OverhaulAssociated Press

Officials with the Secretary of State's Office say they need more money to meet a legislative mandate to update New Mexico's campaign finance reporting system to provide more transparency and public access.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told a panel of lawmakers Wednesday that the technology experts in her office are overburdened and don't have the resources to create a new system for reporting and tracking political contributions.

She acknowledged that the current system is outdated and cumbersome.

Toulouse Oliver says her office would need nearly $1 million for an off-the-shelf program that could be customized to meet the state's needs.

She said her office is also considering partnering with a nonprofit group, MapLight, to create a state-of-the-art system that could serve as a model for other states. That would cost around $2.3 million.

Environmentalists Target Methane Emissions In New MexicoThe Associated Press

Environmentalists say methane emissions from oil and natural gas production in New Mexico are higher than what state and federal regulators have measured.

The Environmental Defense Fund released a report Thursday that aims to quantify the amount of methane intentionally released through venting or flaring processes as well as gas lost through unintentional leaks.

The report says New Mexico's producers are emitting 570,000 tons of methane annually, amounting to $27 million in lost tax revenues and royalties that could otherwise be used for government programs and services.

Last week, state regulators testified before a legislative panel that emissions have decreased over the past year thanks to advancing technology.

Industry officials pointed to the reductions and argued that regulations called for by environmentalists and Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall would result in job and revenue losses.

10 Commandments Monument To Be Moved To Church PropertyFarmington Daily-Times, Associated Press

A group that erected a monument honoring the Ten Commandments six years ago on city-owned property in a northwestern New Mexico city will move the monument to a church property.

The Daily Times of Farmington reports that the group's founder says the monument will be moved this week to the First Baptist Church of Bloomfield's property.

The city and the organization has to remove the monument from city property after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving whether it could be displayed on public property in Bloomfield.

The monument will be displayed by the church's recreation center.

New Mexico Political Corruption Trial Details Private TalkAssociated Press

The former top-ranked lawmaker in the New Mexico House of Representatives says he was confronted in his state Capitol office in 2014 by a senator for interfering with the sale of a state-owned building.

Court testimony on Wednesday by former House Speaker Ken Martinez provided a glimpse of backroom dealings in the Legislature as then-Sen. Phil Griego helped usher the sale of a state-owned building through approvals. Griego is accused of using his position as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of the building in downtown Santa Fe.

Martinez testified that Griego asked him, "Why did you screw up my deal?" Martinez says he did not initially understand the question about delays at a state buildings commission.

Griego says he broke no laws.

New Mexico Land Managers To Address Overgrown BrushAssociated Press

Federal land managers in southern New Mexico say creosote is getting out of hand in some areas.

The Bureau of Land Management is working with a local soil and water conservation district and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to treat about 11,000 acres of the desert shrub.

The work will begin Monday on federal, state and private lands within Sierra, Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Luna and Otero counties.

Officials say creosote densities have surpassed historic, naturally occurring levels.

Herbicide pellets will be used to control the creosote so native grasses, forbs and other vegetation have a chance to grow.

Officials say when the pellets dissolve with favorable precipitation, they are absorbed into the ground and into the root system of the targeted plants.

El Paso Electric To Build Solar Farm For New Mexico Air BaseAssociated Press

The U.S. Air Force is teaming up with El Paso Electric to build a new solar farm that will serve Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico.

Officials announced the start of construction Wednesday, saying the 5-megawatt plant will be the utility's first renewable energy project built to serve a military installation.

The new facility will be made up of almost 56,000 thin-film modules and will generate enough electricity to power more than 1,700 homes annually.

M+W Energy, Inc. will build the plant. The project is expected to employ close to 100 workers.

Once the plant is online next year, El Paso Electric will have 115 megawatts of utility-scale solar resources in its portfolio.

El Paso Electric serves about 417,000 customers in West Texas and southern New Mexico.

Woman Gets 2 Years In Prison For Defrauding Arizona ProgramAssociated Press

A New Mexico woman was sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution for her health care fraud conviction involving false billings to Arizona's Medicaid program.

Rosita Toledo, 48, of Kirtland worked as a claims processor for Farmington-based CW Transport, which provides non-emergency medical transportation to Medicaid recipients in Arizona.

She was sentenced in Albuquerque on Monday.

As part of her guilty plea in late March, Toledo acknowledged that she submitted more than 18,000 fraudulent claims for reimbursement between July 2011 and July 2013.

Prosecutors say Corey Werito, the operator of the company, was previously sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution for his conviction for defrauding the Arizona's program through the scheme.

Sandia Labs Looks To Boost Recruitment Of EmployeesAssociated Press

The head of Sandia National Laboratories says the research facility has recently made changes aimed at bolstering recruitment and diversifying the workforce.

Lab director Stephen Younger told members of a state legislative committee on Wednesday that Sandia has dropped its grade point average requirement for non-intern positions.

Younger says the change adopted in August is part of an effort to look at the whole person, rather than just transcripts or what kind of degree a person might have.

He says the change opens up the field to prospective workers who might have struggled early in college but went on to earn degrees. He says the lab is looking for people with grit and determination and it plans to work more closely with New Mexico's colleges and universities.

Sandia is among the state's largest employers with about 12,000 workers.

Virgin Galactic Planning For 'Big Move' In 2018Associated Press

A top official with Virgin Galactic says the company is planning to move more of its operations to New Mexico next year as it prepares for commercial flights from Spaceport America.

The company's vice president for business development and government affairs, Richard DalBello, provided an update to a panel of New Mexico lawmakers during a meeting Wednesday.

DalBello said another unpowered test flight of its space tourism spacecraft is planned soon over the Southern California desert. Once the initial powered test flights are done there, more tests will be done in New Mexico in 2018.

Lawmakers acknowledged that some critics consider the project a boondoggle since it has been years since commercial flights were first promised.

DalBello said Virgin Galactic has already spent $20 million in the state and is committed to making the flights a reality.

House Speaker: Session To Focus On Public Safety, BudgetAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf says his Democratic colleagues hope to consider legislation during the upcoming session that will help cities hire more police officers.

Another consideration for the 30-day session will be legislation that will make it easier for the state's courts to keep certain defendants locked up while they await trial.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Egolf made the comments while addressing a group of business leaders Wednesday in Albuquerque.

Egolf expects the session to focus on public safety, the budget and tax policy.

He said Democrats also will push for a scaled-back plan to put an extra $50 million into early-childhood education programs. Unlike previous plans that called for tapping New Mexico's land grant permanent fund, the new plan will involve severance tax funds.

Hopis Select New Chairman In Thursday ElectionAssociated Press

Hopis are voting Thursday to elect a new chairman as the tribe heads into an uncertain economic future.

They'll choose between tribal lawmaker David Norton Talayumptewa and political newcomer Tim Nuvangyaoma.

Talayumptewa says his experience in the federal government and in education give him the ability to better connect with people.

Nuvangyaoma has positioned himself as the candidate closest to the community.

The tribe is facing a significant loss in revenue with the expected closure of coal mine in 2019 that feeds a power plant near Page. The royalties make up about 85 percent of the Hopi budget.

Turnout generally is low. About 1,775 Hopis voted in the 2013 general election.

Tribal lawmaker Lamar Keevama and Clark Tenakhongva are seeking the vice chairman's post.

Another Las Vegas Elected Official Is Facing A Recall PetitionLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

The Las Vegas Optics reports a recall effort has begun in an attempt to oust Las Vegas City Councilor Barbara Perea-Casey.

Resident Lorenzo Flores says interference with city workers, speaking publicly about topics discussed in executive sessions and rising city debt are the main reasons for the recall.

It's the fourth recall attempt within the past five years involving Las Vegas elected officials.

A 2013 recall effort against then-mayor Alfonso Ortiz Jr. and two within the past 10 months against current mayor Tonita Gurulé-Girón failed due to a lack of signatures.

Perea-Casey blames her recall effort on a perception she was involved in other recall pushes.

New Mexico Telemundo Station To Show Tribes On Weather MapsAssociated Press

A Telemundo affiliate in Albuquerque has announced it will include the boundaries of American Indian tribes and pueblos on its weather maps.

KASA-TV General Manager Marina LaVoie said last week the decision to include the Native American nations in weather maps was an easy one and encourage other stations to follow.

The station says the maps of American Indian tribes and pueblos will be shown when forecasters zoom in to discuss the weather in a particular location.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye says he was pleased KASA-TV will include the Navajo Nation in weather maps.