NMSU Dean Named Education Secretary, Bills and Governor Test Appetite For Gun Control

Jan 24, 2019

New Mexico Governor Names Education Leadership Team Associated Press

An expert in professional development for teachers from Las Cruces has been named as New Mexico's secretary of public education as the state grapples with a court order to increase school resources for struggling children from minority and low-income families.

The appointment of New Mexico State University dean and research director Karen Trujillo as Cabinet secretary was announced Thursday. Newly inaugurated Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is installing a leadership team at the Public Education Department that includes specialists in Native American education and out-of-state expertise.

Newly appointed Deputy secretaries including Kara Bobroff. She is the leader of an Albuquerque-based support group for schools in Native American communities.

University of California Professor Pedro Noguera will serve as a special adviser to the secretary.

Holtec Defends Plans For Nuclear Waste Storage Facility - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A New Jersey-based company is defending plans to build a multibillion-dollar facility in the New Mexico desert to store spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors around the United States.

An attorney representing Holtec International says the project would provide an option for dealing with waste that has been building up at nuclear power plants as the federal government has not met its obligations to establish a permanent repository.

Jay Silberg told members of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel on Thursday the proposed facility would provide a more secure temporary home for the spent fuel.

Silberg says Holtec is seeking a license to store up to 8,680 metric tons of waste. He says the facility could eventually hold 100,000 metric tons.

Opponents are concerned about the safety of transporting the waste and potential environmental effects.

Man Arrested After Allegedly Raping Fellow Hospital PatientAssociated Press

Authorities have arrested a man who they say raped a fellow patient at an Albuquerque hospital.

Albuquerque police arrested 22-year-old Anthony Casiquito on Tuesday after they say he raped a woman Monday night while she slept at Lovelace Westside Hospital.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Casiquito who could comment on the allegations.

Casiquito is charged with criminal sexual penetration, tampering with evidence and false imprisonment.

He was still at the county jail Wednesday night.

A Lovelace spokeswoman did not answer questions about the incident, but did write in an email that "patient safety is a top priority and we are working closely with the authorities."

Navajo Nation Police Report 1 Dead In Shooting Involving OfficersAssociated Press

Navajo Nation authorities say one person is dead following a shooting involving police officers but that no officers were injured.

The tribal police department said Thursday that the incident occurred in Naschitti, a community located along U.S. 491 between Gallup and Shiprock in northwestern New Mexico.

A statement issued by the police department says details on the incident aren't immediately available for release but says the incident "was localized and there was no immediate threat to the public."

According to the department, the incident is being investigated by the Navajo Division of Public Safety and the FBI.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher referred a reporter to the statement already issued by tribal police.

Naschitti is 132 miles northwest of Albuquerque.

Semi-Truck Crash Leaves 2 Dead And Closes Part Of I-40KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Authorities in Albuquerque say Interstate 40 is closed in both directions near Route 66 Casino due to a fatal crash involving a semi-truck.

KRQE-TV reports the Bernalillo County Fire Department says two people were killed in the crash Thursday afternoon and another was airlifted to UNM Hospital.

The names of the victims haven't been released yet and police didn't immediately say how the crash occurred.

They say debris from the semi-truck is spread across the freeway and will likely take hours to clean up.

Motorists who are heading west are being advised to use Highway 6 as an alternate route.

Trump, GOP Embrace Amid Political Fallout From Shutdown - By Zeke Miller, Associated Press

As President Donald Trump's approval rating falls, the Republican Party is grasping him ever tighter.

Gathering in New Mexico, the Republican National Committee's governing body will take the unusual step Friday of voting to declare the party's "undivided support" for Trump and his "effective presidency."

Amid concerns about the political fallout from the government shutdown and what might be ahead in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the RNC move is an attempt to block another Republican from mounting a primary challenge that, even if unsuccessful, could damage Trump going into the general election.

It cements a merger between the RNC and Trump, a onetime Democrat who now asserts full control over virtually every aspect of the GOP.

Government Shutdown Delays, Disrupts Environmental StudiesAssociated Press

The monthlong partial shutdown of the federal government is disrupting environmental research projects nationwide.

Scientists with universities, nonprofits and private companies are feeling the pinch. They can't collaborate with federal partners, gain access to federal lands and laboratories, or secure federal funding.

Researchers could miss court-ordered deadlines for reports involving endangered species. Warm-weather field studies that must be planned months in advance could be delayed or canceled.

At risk are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's aerial surveys of endangered Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, which usually happen in late January and early February.

One nonprofit organization studies elephant seals and other species on the Farallon Islands off the California coast. They're having trouble getting supplies and may have to abandon the wildlife refuge for the first time since 1968.

Family Court Judge In Albuquerque Accused Of DWI After CrashAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Authorities in Albuquerque say a family court judge has been was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after being involved in a car accident.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Deborah Walker was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center early Thursday and has since been released. It's unclear if she has a lawyer.

A criminal complaint says the 65-year-old Walker was in a crash about 8 p.m. Wednesday and a breath test showed she was above the presumed level of intoxication.

The Journal says a police officer stated Walker smelled like alcohol, had slurred speech and performed poorly on three field sobriety tests before being taken into custody.

Walker has been a judge in the 2nd Judicial District since 1993. She has appointed and elected as a family court judge in 1997.

Lawmakers And Governor Push For New Gun Laws Associated Press

New Mexico's Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, and its allied governor pushed Thursday to increase oversight of firearms sales and place new limitations on gun possession and ownership as deliberations began on a slate of gun-safety bills.

Lawmakers reserved the largest room in the Statehouse, the House chamber, to accommodate crowds for deliberations on a long list of bills to expand federal background checks on gun sales, deny firearms to perpetrators of domestic abuse and allow courts to temporarily seize guns from people who are considered dangerous.

Under a 60-day annual legislative session that ends in March, New Mexico could be the first state to enact major gun control reforms since 2018 elections altered the political landscape in Statehouses.

Discussion was delayed on one bill that would penalize adults for unlocked guns that fall into the hands minors, with felony provisions for incidents that lead to injury or death.

Since taking office Jan. 1, Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has urged lawmakers to send her legislation to strengthen background checks, ban guns for people with assault convictions and address responsibility for children's access to guns.

New Mexico Bills, Governor Test Appetite For Gun Control - Associated Press

New Mexico's Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, and its allied governor are pushing to increase oversight of firearms sales and place new limitations on gun possession and ownership, as a slate of gun-safety bills comes up for discussion in the Statehouse.

An initial committee hearing was scheduled Thursday on a long list of bills to expand federal background checks on gun sales, deny firearms to perpetrators of domestic abuse and allow courts to temporarily seize guns from people who are considered dangerous. Another bill would penalize adults for unlocked guns that fall into the hands a minor, leading to injury or death.

Since taking office Jan. 1, Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has urged lawmakers to send her legislation that expands federal background checks to all gun sales.

Key Panel OKs New Mexico Teacher Salary Bill - Associated Press

A key committee has approved a proposal that would incrementally increase minimum salaries for New Mexico teachers and principals.

The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mimi Stewart passed the House Education Committee on Wednesday with bipartisan support amid a push to give New Mexico educators pay hikes.

Under the plan, the starting salary for Level 1 teachers would go from $36,000 a year to $40,000 in 2020. The salary eventually would jump to $45,000 by 2022.

The proposal also calls for Level 2 teacher pay jumps from $44,000 a year to $55,000 by 2022.

Level 3 teacher pay would go from $54,000 to $65,000 by 2022.

Republican Sen. Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho says the bill makes educator salaries more competitive with other nearby states.

New Mexico Legislature Weighs Tax Reforms - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

State legislators on Wednesday pushed forward with tax reform efforts aimed at reducing state government's dependence on a volatile oil and natural gas sector and providing steady funding for road maintenance, public schools and teacher pay increases.

The legislation seeks to increase annual state revenues by about $100 million at the same time it would shrink reliance on a pillar of the state tax code — the gross receipts tax on sales and business services. It also would increase some state personal income tax rates and the per-gallon tax on gasoline.

Rep. Jim Trujillo, the bill's Democratic sponsor and chairman of the lead House taxation committee, said tax code changes are necessary to cover proposed new educational spending.

Proposal Would End Daylight-Savings Time In New Mexico - Associated Press

A state lawmaker wants New Mexico to join neighboring Arizona in refusing to recognize Daylight-Savings Time.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales would exempt New Mexico from a federal law requiring the observance of annual time change aimed at preserving energy and giving residents more sunlight.

The Ranchos De Taos Democrat wants New Mexico to stick to Mountain Standard Time all year beginning in 2020.

The proposal is scheduled to go before the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee on Friday.

Ken Starr Urges Trust In System For Probing Presidents - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who spearheaded the 1990s investigation into President Bill Clinton, urged public trust in the checks and balances established for holding presidential administrations accountable, saying Wednesday that the system remains widely underappreciated.

Starr's comments came ahead of a public lecture he delivered at the University of New Mexico School of Law. In his talk, he detailed more than a century of investigations involving the executive branch that have included the Watergate scandal, Starr's own four-year Whitewater probe and special counsel Robert Mueller's look now into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia.

The lecture was titled "Investigating the President, Now and Then," with Starr — who remains a controversial figure — saying every investigation in the country's history has been politicized, and suggesting that the divided views of Mueller's probe are nothing new.

2 Fort Bliss Soldiers Killed, 7 Hurt After  Training Crash - Associated Press

Authorities say two soldiers from an Army base in Texas have died and seven other military members remain hospitalized after two military training vehicles crashed in southern New Mexico.

El Paso TV station KTSM reports the soldiers were part of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss that's headquartered in El Paso.

The crash reportedly occurred Tuesday night on U.S. Route 54 close to Otero County Prison, about 30 miles from El Paso, and involved two Stryker vehicles.

Fort Bliss officials say the crash is under investigation.

The names of the two soldiers who died are being withheld until their families can be notified.

Authorities Find Suspected Stash House For Human Trafficking - Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Authorities from the United States and Mexico are investigating after a 17-year-old from Guatemala and his father say they were held against their will in a house in Mexico as part of a human trafficking operation.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Tuesday that the teen, after being apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents near Mount Cristo Rey in Sunland Park, told agents he was able to escape the house and run north across the international border.

Border Patrol says the teen's father later was apprehended by agents near where his son had been encountered.

The father and son were reunited at the Santa Teresa Border Patrol Station.

Border Patrol says an investigation uncovered the location of the stash house where the two males say they were held and extorted for money in Colonia Rancho Anapra south of Sunland Park.