Secretary Of State Quits 2020 Bid For US Senate, Congress Eyes Protections Near Chaco Culture NHP

Oct 30, 2019

Secretary Of State Quits 2020 Democratic Bid For US Senate By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico's secretary of state says she won't pursue the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, clearing a path for Rep. Ben Ray Luján as the party's candidate in 2020.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Tuesday announced in an email the end of her campaign and endorsed Luján's campaign to succeed retiring two-term Sen. Tom Udall.

Luján is the No. 4 Democrat in House leadership and has served six terms representing northern New Mexico. Two candidates who lost statewide election bids in 2018 are vying for the Republican nomination.

Toulouse Oliver cut a progressive profile in her short-lived Senate campaign. The former county clerk called for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump and rejected campaign cash from corporate PACs. Those positions later became part of Luján's platform.

Congress Eyes Protections Near Historical Park In New Mexico - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The checkerboard of federal land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park would be off limits to oil and gas development under legislation pending before Congress.

The U.S. House is set to vote on the measure Wednesday.

The campaign to curb drilling in one of the nation's oldest basins has spanned at least three presidential administrations. In recent years, concerns expanded beyond environmental impacts to the preservation of cultural landmarks.

Native American leaders and environmentalists have praised the legislation, saying it would protect irreplaceable sites located beyond park boundaries.

The measure calls for withdrawing nearly 500 square miles of federal land holdings. However, it would not apply to parcels belonging to the Navajo Nation or individual tribal members, which make up most of the area within the proposed protection zone.

Standard & Poor's Downgrades UNM's Credit Rating - Associated Press

The University of New Mexico's long-term credit rating has downgraded amid reductions in state funding and enrollment declines.

Standard & Poor's Financial Service recently reduced the university's long-term rating by one level, from "AA" to "AA-." But S&P also revised the school's rating outlook from negative to stable.

The S&P ratings reflect an institution's ability to repay long-term debt. It's also based on financial data for multiple fiscal years, including the fiscal year ending in 2019.

S&P said in a report the university's rating could improve if enrollment grows and debt and financial resources improve further.

Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Teresa Costantinidis says the University of New Mexico still has the highest rating of any higher education institution in the state.

Judge Withdraws From Consideration For District Court Seat Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal judge has removed his name from consideration for a U.S. District Court seat in New Mexico after the state's two Democratic senators withdrew their support.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Magistrate Judge Kevin Sweazea announced the decision in a letter to the White House last week.

Sweazea says U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich withdrew their support despite having submitted his name to President Donald Trump as a potential nominee.

Staff members for both Udall and Heinrich said Sweazea's confirmation would face serious hurdles in the Senate and that they are working to find other qualified candidates.

Sweazea says the two-year process also "adversely affected" his willingness to take on the job, instead he plans to continue as a magistrate judge.

New Mexico Wants Linguistic, Cultural Training For Teachers Associated Press

New Mexico state education officials want public schools to become more attuned to the culture and linguistics of a heavily Hispanic and Native American population, as they outline priorities for the next school year.

Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart on Tuesday told a panel of state lawmakers that his agency hopes to better equip teachers to inspire children from households where an indigenous or foreign language is spoken.

He says that teaching tribal languages in the classroom can help Navajo children communicate with elders. He says textbooks have to be created from scratch to teach some indigenous languages that aren't widely spoken.

Lawmakers recently increased spending on teacher salaries, at-risk students and incentives to extend annual classroom hours by up to 20 percent.

New Mexico Man Sentenced To 25 Years For Family SlayingsAssociated Press

A New Mexico state district judge has sentenced Nicholas Ortiz to 25 years in prison for killing three members of an El Rancho family eight years ago.

State District Judge Francis Mathew sentenced the 24-year-old Monday after he was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Authorities say Ortiz would be required to serve 85% of his sentence after getting credit for time served since his February 2015 arrest.

Authorities say Nicholas Ortiz killed Lloyd Ortiz, Dixie Ortiz and Steven Ortiz in their home in June 2011 with a large pickax.

Nicholas Ortiz, who is not related to the family, was 16-year-old at the time.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett declined to comment.

Authorities say Nicholas Ortiz could appeal but there was no discussion about whether he would.

New Mexico Governor Creates Special Unit To Arrest FugitivesAssociated Press

The governor of New Mexico has created a special law enforcement unit to arrest hundreds of fugitives across the state.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that the Fugitive Apprehension Unit would be responsible for finding people charged with violent crimes who have failed to appear in court.

Authorities say this unit would help reduce the more than 1,600 outstanding bench warrants for people charged with violent crimes.

Authorities say New Mexico has the second-highest violent crime rate in the nation.

Grisham says the unit would be made up of at least seven state police officers and at least seven state corrections department staffers chosen by Public Safety Secretary Mark Shea and State Police Chief Tim Johnson.

Grisham says the unit must make monthly reports to her documenting arrests.

In-Custody Death At Police Substation Under InvestigationAssociated Press

Albuquerque police say an in-custody death is under investigation.

Police say a multi-agency task force is investigating the death of a person who was found unresponsive in a holding cell at a substation Tuesday night.

According to police, the person was arrested after being found in a vehicle with a stolen license plate.

That person and another in the vehicle also were the subjects of arrest warrants.

A police spokesman says the handcuffed person who died had been placed in a holding cell while officers completed paperwork.

United Begins Flights From Denver To HobbsAssociated Press

United Airlines has begun direct flights to Denver from a southeastern New Mexico county airport in the heart of New Mexico's booming oil region.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the inaugural United Express SkyWest Airlines flight to Denver was Sunday, when Hobbs, New Mexico, leaders flew to Denver from the Lea County Regional Airport. The first direct flight from Denver International Airport to Hobbs also was earlier Sunday.

United's nonstop flights to Denver International Airport into the Permian Basin will be operated as United Express service six days per week.

United is also scheduled to continue to operate two daily nonstop flights from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. There will be one flight that runs to and from Houston on Saturdays.

Advocates For Students Revive Lawsuit Against New MexicoAssociated Press

School districts and parents are reviving litigation that accused the state of failing to provide a sound education to vulnerable children from minority communities, non-English speaking households, impoverished families and those with disabilities.

Two groups of plaintiffs filed motions Wednesday to revive a dormant lawsuit more than a year after a district court judge ruled that lawmakers and state education officials failed to ensure an adequate education.

The Democrat-led Legislature and first-year Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have authorized a nearly half-billion dollar increase in annual spending on public education. They raised teacher salaries, channeled money toward at-risk students and extended academic calendars.

Center on Law and Poverty attorney Gail Evans says the money missed the mark and was soaked up by salaries without a long-term plan for transformation.