Report Finds LANL Has $3B Annual Impact, Chaco Legislation Clears US House Committee

Jul 18, 2019

Report Finds US Nuclear Lab Gives New Mexico Economy $3B BoostAssociated Press

Los Alamos National Laboratory supports more than 24,000 direct and indirect jobs and infuses more than $3 billion a year into New Mexico's economy through federal funding and spending by employees and vendors.

The lab on Thursday released the findings of an economic impact report prepared by the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Lab Director Thom Mason says the report underlines Los Alamos' role as a major employer that has created good paying high-tech jobs. He also says the lab's need for goods and services from local businesses results in a ripple effect for the economy.

The analysis looked at payroll, procurement and spending data for the last three federal fiscal years.

The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos is one of the nation's premier nuclear labs.

US Lawmakers Propose Ban On Export Of Tribes' Sacred Items - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

A group of U.S. lawmakers made another push Thursday to ban collectors and vendors from exporting Native American ceremonial items to foreign markets, including Paris, where there has been uproar over auction houses listing tribal pieces for sale over the years.

The lawmakers introduced legislation that would increase penalties within the United States for trafficking objects that tribes hold sacred by increasing prison time from five years to 10 years for violating the law more than once.

At the same time, the bill would establish a framework for collectors to return protected items to tribes and avoid facing penalties.

The change was proposed by a group that includes New Mexico Democrats Sen. Martin Heinrich, U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Deb Haaland.

In 2016, Heinrich blamed federal legal loopholes for stifling efforts to retrieve a ceremonial shield from a Paris auction house that year.

Senate Seat Passes To Granddaughter Of Navajo Code Talker Associated Press

The granddaughter of deceased World War II Navajo code talker and state legislator John Pinto will serve out his term in the state Senate through 2020.

Navajo Nation member and teacher Shannon Pinto was appointed Thursday by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to represent a district that extends from the Four Corners to Gallup.

John Pinto died in May at the age of 94 after serving over four decades in the Legislature. He voted this year in favor of a successful bill to expand background checks on gun sales and was a supporter of abortion rights.

In a news release Pinto said she will fight for common sense gun violence prevention measures and be "a champion for efforts that support women and their personal health care decisions."

US Lawmakers Propose Ban On Export Of Tribes' Sacred ItemsAssociated Press

New Mexico Democrats are making a renewed push in Congress to ban collectors and vendors from exporting Native American ceremonial items.

Sen Martin Heinrich, U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Deb Haaland, and others intend to reintroduce legislation Thursday that also would increase penalties for trafficking objects that tribes hold sacred.

The legislation follows a similar proposal from Heinrich in 2016.

It aimed to address what senators described as a loophole in federal law that officials say hampered efforts to have a Paris auction house return a ceremonial shield to Acoma Pueblo.

Lawmakers say U.S. law prohibits the trafficking of certain items domestically but does not explicitly ban dealers from exporting them.

New Mexico State Income From Gambling Declines Over TimeAssociated Press

An analysis of tribal casino revenues and taxes from racetrack gambling in New Mexico suggests the local industry may be static or contracting.

A written brief from the state's legislative watchdog agency shows a 10% decline from 2012-2018 in annual revenues that are shared by tribal casinos with the state. State tax income from gambling at racetrack casinos declined by 3% for the period.

Officials at the state Gaming Control Board declined immediate comment Thursday on the statistics.

More recently, three tribal casinos have initiated or announced sportsbooks for wagering on sporting events after the U.S. Supreme Court last year lifted the ban that restricted sports betting outside of Nevada.

New Mexico has 24 tribal casinos that share revenues with the state under a compact renegotiated in 2015.

Richard Branson Inspired By Apollo, His Own Space Shot Soon - By Marcia Dunn AP Aerospace Writer

Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson says his spaceship has just a few more test flights before he jumps on board for the first tourist trip.

Branson celebrated his 69th birthday at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Thursday during 50th anniversary celebrations for humanity's first moon landing. He was joined by 100 other aspiring astronauts who have put down deposits to launch into space with Virgin Galactic. Like Branson, many in the crowd were inspired to fly into space by what he called "the most audacious journey of all time."

Branson says three or four test flights will be conducted from New Mexico, beginning this fall, before engineers allow him to fly.

2 Guards Taken To Hospital After Attack In New Mexico PrisonLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Officials say two guards were taken to a hospital after they were attacked by inmates at a New Mexico prison.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces was placed on lockdown Tuesday evening.

The state Corrections Department's constituent services liaison, Ricardo Montoya, says multiple inmates were involved in the attack on the guards.

New Mexico State Police is investigating the attack.

Man Who Drove School Bus While Intoxicated Gets Prison TermAssociated Press

A 49-year-old New Mexican man who drove a school bus carrying 25 students while under the influence of alcohol has been sentenced to 1½ years in federal prison.

Duane Aaron Skeet of Chichiltah was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Albuquerque on his March guilty plea to felony child abuse.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico said Skeet endangered the lives and health of 25 Navajo Nation children on Sept. 24, 2018 by consuming alcohol before arriving for work as a Bureau of Indian Education employee at a school on the tribe's reservation.

The office said the students ages 5-12 weren't injured despite being thrown back and forth inside the bus as it swerved, nearly went off the road and almost flipped while making a sharp turn.

New Mexico Regulators Weigh Nuclear Power Investments- Associated Press

It will be up to New Mexico regulators how to address concerns surrounding decisions by the state's largest electric utility to reinvest in a nuclear power plant in neighboring Arizona.

The Public Regulation Commission heard oral arguments Wednesday from PNM, environmental groups and others. It's unclear how soon the commission could make a decision on how to proceed.

The case was sent back to regulators after the New Mexico Supreme Court in May upheld an earlier finding by the commission that PNM's investments in the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station were imprudent as no financial analysis was done.

The commission had found that the utility acted imprudently in repurchasing part of the Palo Verde and renewing leases for power from the plant. As a result, the commission decided to limit the amount of spending on Palo Verde that PNM could recoup from customers through rates.

Lawsuit Faults Boys Club In 1970s Sexual Abuse- Associated Press

Attorneys have announced a second lawsuit against a local affiliate of the Boys and Girls Club of America that alleges it overlooked sexual abuse of a minor in the 1970s and 80s at the hands of a now-deceased local director.

Attorneys Brad Hall and Levi Monagle on Wednesday announced the lawsuit on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff who claims the Boys Club of Santa Fe failed to adequately supervise club director Louis Montaño as he sexually abused the minor.

Montaño directed the club for nearly 30 years and separately served as mayor of Santa Fe.

An attorney for the Santa Fe Boys and Girls Club could not be reached. The successor organization to the Boys Club of Santa Fe has denied similar accusations by another anonymous victim filed in April.

State Revamps Administration Of Magistrate, District Courts- Associated Press

New Mexico is consolidating administration of most magistrate and district courts across the state.

The state Administrative Office of the Courts said the reorganization means the office no longer will manage the dozens of magistrate courts statewide and that those courts' hiring and staffing decisions instead will be overseen locally by judicial districts that already administer district courts.

Officials say the transition allows sharing of employees and jury pools and was completed with the new fiscal year's July 1st  start.

It applies statewide except Bernalillo County. The Metropolitan Court and District Court systems for the Albuquerque area will continue to be administered separately.

The Administrative Office of the Courts will continue to conduct oversight and support functions for magistrate courts, such as audits and building leases.

British Manufacturer Buys Nambe LLC For $12M – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A Santa Fe-based company known for its polished aluminum alloy kitchenware and home décor has been acquired by a British manufacturer and worldwide distributor.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Portmeirion Group's purchase of Nambé LLC for $12 million from the Hillenbrand family closed Tuesday.

Portmeirion CEO Lawrence Bryan says he has always enjoyed Nambe's design ethic, describing it as contemporary and chic.

The sale included the Nambé headquarters building in Santa Fe, all rights and intellectual property and a distribution center in nearby Española.

Nambé brings in $18 million in annual revenue, with its products available at Nambe stores in New Mexico and Arizona and other retailers in the U.S. such as Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

Bryan says he expects to open Nambé shops in other states.

Nuclear Weapons Waste Shipped From Idaho To New Mexico – Associated Press

Radioactive waste shipped to Idaho from a Midwestern nuclear weapons facility during the Cold War has been compacted and sent out of state for permanent disposal.

A U.S. Department of Energy contractor on Wednesday said nearly 26,000 cubic yards of waste contaminated with plutonium-238 has been sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

The waste was produced at a Department of Energy facility in Miamisburg, Ohio, and sent to the Energy Department's 890-square-mile site west of the city of Idaho Falls that includes the Idaho National Laboratory.

Workers in Idaho placed the waste in barrels that were compacted into the size of hockey pucks.

The Energy Department has been cleaning up the Idaho site following legal battles that led to a settlement agreement with state officials in the 1990s.

Chaco Legislation Clears US House Committee – Associated Press

Federal legislation aimed at limiting oil and gas development near a national park in New Mexico held sacred by Native Americans has been endorsed by a key congressional committee.

Yesterday, the House natural resources panel on Wednesday approved the Democrat-sponsored bill. A similar measure is pending in the Senate.

Tribes and environmentalists have been advocating for more protections beyond the boundaries of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, saying the region is full of culturally significant sites.

The legislation would permanently ban drilling on federal land within 10 miles of the park.

Most of the land surrounding the park belongs to the Navajo Nation or individual Navajo allotment owners. While top Navajo officials support cultural preservation, they have stopped short of asking for a drilling ban because development in the region nets substantial revenue.