Push For More Renewable Energy Clears Senate, Lawmakers Spar Over Gun Background Checks

Mar 7, 2019

Push For More Renewable Energy Clears New Mexico Senate - Associated Press

A measure requiring New Mexico utilities to produce carbon-free electricity by 2045 has cleared a major legislative hurdle.

The Senate voted 32-9 late Wednesday, sending the bill to the House for consideration as lawmakers prepare to wrap up the session in less than two weeks.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supports the measure, saying it represents a compromise.

Aside from setting aggressive quotas for renewable energy production, the bill would allow the state's largest electric provider and other owners of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station to recover investments by selling bonds that are later paid off by utility customers.

Some lawmakers reiterated concerns during a lengthy debate that protections are lacking for San Juan County, which has warned of dire economic consequences once the plant and its adjacent mine are closed in 2022.

GOP Apologizes To Gov. Lujan Grisham For Facebook Post - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The Republican Party of New Mexico has apologized to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham after a volunteer posted a vulgar meme on the party's Facebook page.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the party said Wednesday the volunteer's Facebook privileges were revoked permanently and the party issued an apology to the first-term Democrat.

The meme depicted a "Now Leaving" New Mexico roadside sign and an expletive aimed at Lujan Grisham. It was related to a movement by a fringe group seeking to impeach Lujan Grisham over proposed gun-control and tax reform legislation.

The volunteer, Audrey Mendonca-Trujillo, says she didn't realize she had posted the meme on the Republican Party's page.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki says he appreciated an apology from the Republican Party on its official Facebook account.

New Mexico House Seeks Salaries For Legislators - Associated Press

A proposal to provide salaries to state legislators for the first time has been endorsed by the New Mexico House of Representatives.

The 44-24 vote of the House on Wednesday advances the measure to the Senate for consideration. The proposed constitutional amendment from Democratic Reps. Bobby Gonzales of Taos and Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces would do away with the prohibition on legislative compensation and create a commission to set salaries.

Senate approval would send the measure to a statewide vote.

Rubio and other proponents of professionalizing the legislature say the current system has excluded people who can't afford to take time away from paid work.

Lawmakers currently get a daily allowance for expenses, mileage reimbursements and access to retirement benefits in some instances.

Flu Activity In New Mexico Is Higher Than National Average - Associated Press

Health officials say flu activity in New Mexico is higher than the national average.

State Department of Health officials say the rate of hospital admissions among children aged 4 and younger is particularly high.

New Mexico's rate of influenza-related hospital admissions for that age group is three times higher than participating states in the Centers for Disease Control's tracking program.

The overall rate of laboratory-confirmed flu hospitalizations in New Mexico also is nearly double that of other CDC participating states.

Children aged 4 and younger and adults 65 years of age and older are the most vulnerable to both flu and more severe illness or disease.

The flu season typically runs through the end of April, but authorities say there can be sporadic cases into the early summer months.

New Mexico Sees Uptick In Children Without Vaccinations - Associated Press

New Mexico health officials are calling for more parents to vaccinate their children.

The plea issued Wednesday comes as public health offices in the Pacific Northwest deal with an ongoing measles outbreak that has sickened dozens of people so far. Most cases in Washington state have involved young children under age 10 who weren't vaccinated.

New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel says vaccinations are the best protection against measles and other serious diseases.

The state health department says New Mexico has seen a steady increase in the number of children who aren't fully vaccinated. There has been a 60 percent increase in the rate of people exempting from recommended vaccinations in the state since 2012.

As of last year, the department says more than 4,400 school-aged children had an exemption.

New Mexico High School Video Games 'Sport' Set To Expand - Eastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

Some New Mexico high school students may get a chance to compete in a new statewide sport — video games.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports Portales Municipal Schools Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a proposal to form an e-sports team.

The move comes after the New Mexico Activities Association kicked off the inaugural e-sports season last month.

Athletic Director Mark Gallegos said around 40 schools are taking part in the e-sports season.

Portales Municipal Schools data coordinator J.D. Mead says e-sports would offer students who aren't as athletically inclined to develop the same team-building skills as students who participate in traditional sports.

Superintendent Johnnie Cain says the e-sports team could result in some students increasing their academic efforts in order to ensure eligibility.

Vehicle Access Closed At Valles Caldera National Preserve - Los Alamos Monitor, Associated Press

Officials at Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico have started closing all vehicle access along the preserve's main entrance road due to the threat of flooding and poor road conditions.

The Los Alamos Monitor reported Tuesday that the National Park Service says the East Fork Jemez River is threatening to overtop the road and melting snow is impacting road conditions.

Visitors can still access the preserve on-foot through the Coyote Call and Valle Grande trailheads, and through access points at pullouts along New Mexico State Road 4.

Park Service spokeswoman Kimberly DeVall says park rangers will be stationed at the preserve's main entrance to answer questions and give information to the public.

While recreational access is still encouraged, there will be no public restroom facilities and visitors are advised to plan accordingly.

Baby Not Properly Restrained Dies In Car Crash Near ThoreauAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police say a baby who wasn't properly restrained with a seat belt has died in a car crash north of Thoreau.

They say 5-month-old Osiris Castillo was pronounced dead at the scene of Wednesday's crash on State Road 371.

Authorities say the child's mother was driving the vehicle and was airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries.

The name of the 28-year-old woman from Albuquerque wasn't immediately released.

State Police say the woman drove across the center line and clipped one car before colliding nearly head-on with an SUV.

They say speed and driver inattention are believed to be factors in the crash and the woman could be facing felony charges.

GOP Lawmakers Seek Referendum On Gun Background Checks Associated Press

Leading Republican legislators say they will try and overturn a proposed law requiring background checks on nearly all gun sales in New Mexico through a voter referendum.

In a letter to state election regulators, House minority leader James Townsend and minority whip Rod Montoya said Thursday that a formal public challenge is being organized through obscure state procedures that can call a referendum by signature petition.

The background-check bill has been approved by the state House and Senate and is likely to be signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Townsend and Montoya say the bill infringes on the 2nd Amendment. They are joining with like-minded county sheriffs to collect signatures.

The petition process has lengthy requirements that include the collection of about 70,000 signatures from 25 counties.

Democrat Says Repeal Not Possible On Gun LawAssociated Press

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf says Republicans lawmakers are wasting their time with an attempt to call a statewide referendum to overturn gun control legislation that would expand background checks to nearly all firearms.

Egolf responded Thursday to an announcement by top House Republicans that they will seek to overturn the background-check requirements under obscure provisions of the state Constitution by signature petition and then a statewide vote.

Egolf says the referendum procedures do not apply to public safety measures and that the background-check bill is clearly designed to protect the public. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has indicated she will sign the House- and Senate-approved bill to expand background checks to private, person-to-person gun sales with exceptions for transactions between relatives.

Egolf and other supporters of the bill say it is overwhelmingly popular among New Mexico residents, while House Republicans say just the opposite.