Congresswoman-Elect From New Mexico Backs Pelosi For Speaker – Associated Press
Congresswoman-elect Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico has backed Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi after publicly wavering until the crucial caucus vote.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Torres Small joined New Mexico's congressional delegation in supporting Pelosi in Wednesday's closed-door vote.
The full House will vote on the speaker in January, when Pelosi is expected to win with the backing of the Democratic majority.
During her campaign and as recently as Tuesday, Torres Small said she had not made up her mind whether to support Pelosi.
Democrats chose northern New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan for their No. 4 leadership position.
Pelosi was the first woman to serve as speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, when Democrats last held the House majority.
Capacity At US Nuclear Waste Dump A Challenge – Associated Press
The lack of space at the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository is among several challenges cited by scientists who are looking at the viability of disposing of tons of surplus plutonium at the desert location.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on Friday released a preliminary report on the U.S. government's plan, which calls for diluting 34 tons of weapons-grade defense plutonium and shipping it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico.The purpose of the work would be to satisfy a nonproliferation agreement with Russia.
Russia also would have to approve of the dilution the materials as a previous plan called for turning it into fuel that could be used for commercial nuclear reactors. Congress requested the review by the National Academies. A final report is expected next summer.
Truck Slams Into Stopped Vehicles – Associated Press
Authorities say two New Mexico women were killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into their SUV and four other vehicles stopped as workers ran power lines across the roadway.
The New Mexico State Police said 60-year-old Maria Marin and 44-year-old Josefina Valles, both from Hobbs, were killed Thursday when their Cadillac Escalade was among the vehicles rear-ended on U.S. 62/180 east of Carlsbad.
The trucker and four other people were transported to hospitals for treatment of various injuries.
According to the State Police, driver inattention is believed to have contributed to the crash. Alcohol apparently wasn't involved. The State Police said the truck driver was a 28-year-old man from Oklahoma whose name would be withheld pending the outcome of the investigation.
DC Clerk Stalls Marriage Over 'Foreign' New Mexico ID Card – Associated Press
A District of Columbia clerk refused to accept a New Mexico man's state driver's license for a marriage license because she and her supervisor believed New Mexico was a foreign country.
Gavin Clarkson told the Las Cruces Sun-News it happened Nov. 20 at the District of Columbia Courts Marriage Bureau as he tried to apply for a marriage license. Clarkson says the clerk told him he needed an international passport to get the marriage license.
The clerk finally concluded New Mexico was a state after Clarkson objected three times and granted the license to Clarkson and his fiancée.
The D.C. courts system acknowledged the staff error to the Sun-News. New Mexico was admitted into the U.S. as a state in 1912.
New Mexico Approves Rules For Industrial Hemp Cultivation – Associated Press
The New Mexico State University Board of Regents has approved a rule crafted by state agriculture officials to govern the industrial cultivation of hemp. The effort stems from legislation that passed in 2017 and eventually became law following a veto fight.
NMSU President John Floros tells The Associated Press that hemp has the potential to revitalize farms across the state and he expects the industry to grow quickly given its profitability.
The rule approved Thursday calls for growers to be licensed and it establishes fees as well as testing and inspection requirements.
There's also a push in Congress by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to make hemp a legal agricultural commodity, removing it from the federal list of controlled substances.
Floros said that would provide more assurances for farmers in New Mexico and elsewhere.
Former Tax Secretary Pleads Not Guilty To Corruption Charges – Associated Press
New Mexico's former state tax chief has pleaded not guilty to seven corruption counts, including a charge that she embezzled money from a former client.
Former New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla entered the plea Thursday. A state district judge in Santa Fe then set her trial to begin in May.
Padilla is accused of embezzling more than $25,000 from one of her accounting clients, Harold's Grading and Trucking near Bernalillo.
Padilla faces a felony embezzlement count as well as a charge of performing an official act for private gain (interfering in an audit of that client), which also is a felony. The remaining five counts are misdemeanors. They allege Padilla violated state ethics rules.
Padilla could face up to 16 years in prison and as much as $20,000 in fines if convicted of all seven charges.
This story corrects a previous version to say Demesia Padilla is New Mexico's former state tax chief.
El Nino Teases As Southwestern US Remains In Drought – Associated Press
National climate experts have been watching and waiting but El Nino has only been teasing, leaving the American Southwest to hang on longer until the weather pattern develops and brings more moisture to the drought-stricken region.
Experts with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center and the National Weather Service on Thursday said the epicenter of the nation's drought has been centered for months now over the region where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet.
The latest federal drought map shows some improvements along the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico but dryness has expanded in southern California and parts of Nevada.
Senior hydrologist Royce Fontenot says the exceptionally dry conditions have affected water supplies throughout the region. He says many reservoirs throughout the intermountain west are below where they should be for this time of year.