Prosecutor Seeks Changes To Pretrial Detention, Republicans Say State Should Re-Deploy Border Troops

May 21, 2019

DA Wants Changes To New Mexico's Pretrial Detention SystemAssociated Press

The top prosecutor in New Mexico's busiest court district is calling for another constitutional amendment that would further change how judges decide who remains jailed before trial.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said Tuesday that the current system under a 2016 voter-approved amendment has been successful in ensuring fewer petty and low-level criminals are jailed. But it needs fixing to better safeguard against violent defendants being released from jail before trial.

The current system requires prosecutors to present evidence showing defendants are a danger in order for them to remain held.

Torrez says he would like to see a system in which judges presume defendants charged with a limited range of crimes should remain jailed — unless defendants make a successful case for their release.

Legislators approve constitutional amendments before they go before voters.

Governor Seeks Federal Reimbursement For Services To MigrantsAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is traveling to Washington, D.C., to press for more federal resources to cope with an influx of asylum seekers at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said the governor was departing Tuesday for a scheduled face-to-face meeting this week with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

Stelnicki said the governor will advocate for federal reimbursements to local communities as they provide humanitarian relief to migrant families.

Lujan Grisham also wants to discuss the U.S. Border Patrol's withdrawal from interior checkpoints in southern New Mexico that has riled local residents.

The first-year Democratic governor also is seeking an introductory meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding his oversight of nuclear waste storage facilities and federal weapons laboratories in New Mexico.

The governor's trip includes partisan fundraising activities.

New Mexico County Says No To Migrant RelocationAssociated Press

A New Mexico county has approved a resolution opposing the relocation of migrants within its boundaries as federal authorities grapple with the influx of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Sierra County Commission approved the resolution during a meeting Tuesday, saying there's a crisis in southern New Mexico and that the thousands of migrants already released in Las Cruces, Deming and Lordsburg have strained local resources in those areas.

The resolution asks President Donald Trump to close the U.S.-Mexico border to immigration.

County officials say their position shouldn't be viewed as political or racist. They described their community as impoverished with virtually no resources and said the resolution is about good governance.

They warned that if federal authorities release migrants in Sierra County, there are no buses, rail stops or commercial flights to transport them to sponsors elsewhere.

New Mexico Offers Grants For Immigrant AidAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the state is creating a grant program to reimburse local government agencies that provide humanitarian aid to migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.

The first-year Democratic governor announced the grant application process in a letter to Republican lawmakers who have criticized her response to an influx of migrants.

Lujan Grisham says it's her role to arrange support for aid groups while she seeks assistance from the federal government.

Municipalities including Las Cruces and Deming say they are struggling to keep up with the needs of immigrants seeking temporary shelter and necessities. The U.S. Border Patrol is dropping off hundreds of asylum seekers daily in southern New Mexico.

Tom Hanks Meets With Governor Who Boosted Film IncentivesAssociated Press

Actor Tom Hanks met with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as the state seeks out more business from the film industry.

A newly published copy of the governor's weekly schedule on Tuesday showed a "meet and greet" May 9 with the star of "Forrest Gump," ''Apollo 13" and other blockbusters. Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Sackett says the Democratic governor and former congresswoman "just met and kind of chatted about New Mexico" during the encounter in Albuquerque.

Hanks has popped up in Albuquerque during the filming of the science fiction survivor tale "BIOS" and posted twitter photos of lost gloves in the desert.

Lujan Grisham signed legislation this year that more than doubles annual tax-credit payouts to in-state film productions to $110 million.

Majority Of PNM Shareholders Nix Call For Coal Ash ReportAssociated Press

A group of shareholders vowed Tuesday to continue efforts aimed at getting the state's largest electric provider to release more details about the tons of waste generated by its coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

A resolution that would have required Public Service Co. of New Mexico to prepare a report on coal ash at the San Juan Generating Station failed to win the support of a majority of shareholders during their annual meeting.

However, the initiative did garner enough support to allow PNM Shareholders for a Responsible Future to refile it next year.

The shareholders say the San Juan Generating Station produced more than 1 million tons of coal ash in 2017. It's used to backfill the mine that feeds the plant, but they have concerns about future liabilities, citing contamination in other states.

The investor-owned utility argued that a separate report on coal ash is unnecessary since it discusses the waste in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

U.S. coal plants generate about 100 million tons of ash annually. An Associated Press analysis of data released by utilities last year showed widespread evidence of groundwater contamination around coal plants nationwide.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico plans to shutter San Juan in 2022 and recoup the decommissioning costs from customers through rates.

Coal Ash Contamination On Agenda Of PNM Shareholders Associated Press

A group of shareholders wants the state's largest electric provider to prepare a report on how the investor-owned utility plans to deal with waste generated by its coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

The shareholders say the San Juan Generating Station produced more than 1 million tons of coal ash in 2017. It's used to backfill the mine that feeds the plant, but they have concerns about future liabilities , citing contamination in other states.

U.S. coal plants generate about 100 million tons of ash annually. An Associated Press analysis of data released by utilities last year showed widespread evidence of groundwater contamination around coal plants nationwide.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico plans to shutter San Juan in 2022 and recoup the decommissioning costs from customers through rates.

More New Mexico Cities Join Lawsuit Against Tax AgencyAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

More than a dozen New Mexico cities and counties have joined a lawsuit claiming the state tax agency has failed to accurately collect and distribute tax revenue.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the lawsuit initially filed by four cities in late 2018 requests for a judge to order the state Taxation and Revenue Department to compensate cities and counties for improper reductions to their revenue.

The suit claims the state automatically granted refunds to businesses that claim they overpaid and gave little explanation to the cities and counties that rely on that revenue.

Department spokesman Charlie Moore says the agency can't comment on pending litigation.

He says the agency has created a liaison position to work with cities and counties and to answer questions about distributions.

States Sue Over Rule Allowing Clinicians To Refuse AbortionsAssociated Press

Nearly two dozen states and municipalities, including New Mexico, are suing the federal government to stop a new rule letting health care clinicians object to providing abortions and other services that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court asks a judge to block a rule by the Department of Health and Human Services that is scheduled to take effect in July.

The department has said the rule requires hospitals, universities, clinics and other entities that receive federal funding to certify compliance with some 25 federal laws protecting conscience and religious rights.

Most laws pertain to medical procedures such as abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide.

The suit is being brought by Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; the District of Columbia; Hawaii; Chicago, Cook County and the state of Illinois; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nevada; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York City and state; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Vermont; Virginia; and Wisconsin.

Republicans Say New Mexico Should Re-Deploy Border Troops - Associated Press

A dozen Republican state legislators want Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to reverse course and deploy more National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.

GOP House lawmakers including minority leader James Townsend of Artesia provided a letter Monday to the governor's office that urges Lujan Grisham to deploy more state National Guard troops to border communities.

Lujan Grisham has challenged President Trump's description of a security crisis on the border and withdrawn all but a dozen National Guard troops who continue to address humanitarian needs in a remote corridor for border-crossing immigration.

The Republican lawmakers are citing emergency declarations by Otero County over reduced staffing at Border Patrol checkpoints and the city of Deming's complaints about the strain of sheltering asylum seekers who are released by federal immigration authorities.

Gun-Control Group: New Mexico Sheriffs' Emails Show NRA Help - Associated Press

A nonprofit that pushes for gun control laws nationwide says emails obtained through public records requests show New Mexico sheriffs received extensive help from the National Rifle Association in their stance against state gun-control legislation.

Brady, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, included excerpts from the emails in a report Monday, saying NRA representatives penned op-ed drafts for the sheriffs and used the New Mexico Sheriffs Association to advance its agenda.

Brady requested the emails from sheriffs under the state records act after more than two dozen of them declared they would not enforce gun-control laws approved by the Legislature this year.

Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, the president of the sheriffs association, says a lobbyist for the NRA assisted his association with legislative testimony, but did not direct it to take specific actions.

New Mexico Governor OKs Pay Raises For Cabinet Secretaries - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's governor is bumping up the salaries of all her administration heads.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved a 17% salary increase for all Cabinet secretaries.

The raises, which took effect earlier this month, bring the secretaries' annual pay from $128,000 to $150,000.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki says the raises will help the state compete with the private sector in getting the best candidates.

Some Republican state lawmakers say the wage increases don't send the right message to rank-and-file employees who earn less.

But other GOP legislators acknowledged that school superintendents, county managers and other municipal workers make in excess of $150,000.

New Mexico Negotiates Job-Training Grant With Hemp Company - Associated Press

State economic development officials are pledging $2.6 million in grants to help with infrastructure and job training costs for a new hemp production and research venture at greenhouses in Las Cruces.

New Mexico's Economic Development Department announced Monday that Rich Global Hemp has been given tentative approval for a $1.2 million infrastructure grant and $1.4 million in job-training subsidies.

In a news release, Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes says the infrastructure-related grant is expected to help add 180 local jobs.

The hemp venture is led by Joshua Rich. The state says that Rich has been a partner in hemp and cannabis growing businesses in California, Nevada and Oregon and previously worked as a liaison between physicians and medical marijuana patients.

Hemp was legalized by the federal government last year.

New Mexico Mayor's Plan Would Charge For Emergency Costs - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico mayor has proposed billing some drivers who are involved in car accidents resulting in hazardous material cleanup or victim extractions.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Saturday that Mayor Tim Keller's budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes a new "cost recovery" measure for Albuquerque Fire Rescue.

The proposed update of the fire code ordinance would allow the city to bill the responsible party's insurance company. Those without insurance could be billed directly.

Fees would range from $400 for hazard mitigation and cleanup to $1,305 for the use of special tools and equipment to remove victims from vehicles.

Officials say the department could also bill $400 per hour for additional time at accident scenes.

Critics say the proposal amounts to a charge for municipal services already funded by taxes.

New Mexico State Police Investigate Carlsbad Police Shooting - Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say they have been asked to investigate a fatal shooting involving Carlsbad police.

They say Carlsbad police officers conducted a welfare check on a woman Sunday.

When they arrived at the residence, they say 47-year-old Lori Markham of Carlsbad armed herself with a semi-automatic pistol.

Officers retreated for their safety and waited for a SWAT team to arrive.

Police tried to negotiate with Markham as she walked in and out of the residence armed with the pistol.

At some point during negotiations, Markham allegedly pointed the pistol at the police officers and they opened fire.

Markham was shot and taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Hoover Dam Ceremony Marks Colorado River Drought Plan - Associated Press

Federal, state and tribal water managers are marking completion of a long-negotiated plan for 40 million people and vast irrigated farms to share crucial Colorado River water despite ongoing drought in the arid U.S. Southwest.

Interior Department official Tim Petty, Bureau of Reclamation chief Brenda Burman and representatives from seven states met Monday at Hoover Dam to commemorate an agreement spurred by nearly 20 years of drought and shrinking reservoirs.

President Donald Trump signed the so-called "drought contingency plan" last month.

New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico are affected.

The agreement aims to keep the key Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs from getting so low they can't produce hydropower or deliver water for cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Unser Jr. Speeding Before Arrest In Indiana - Indianapolis Star, Associated Press

Retired two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. has been arrested in central Indiana and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The Indianapolis Star reports from police records that the 57-year-old Unser was stopped early Monday in Avon, just west of Indianapolis. He was jailed about 3:20 a.m. in Hendricks County.

The Associated Press was unable Monday to reach Unser for comment.

Unser competed 19 times in the Indianapolis 500, winning the race in 1994 and 1992. He also won two CART points titles and two IROC championships.

He was arrested in New Mexico in 2011 on drunken and reckless driving charges. In 2007, he pleaded no contest to a driving under the influence charge stemming from a January 2007 crash on a Nevada freeway.