State Seeks Federal Reimbursement For Immigrant Care, Hiring Delays Force Preserve To Limit Hours

May 15, 2019

New Mexico Seeks Federal Reimbursement For Immigrant Care - Associated Press

Local spending on humanitarian relief to asylum seekers in New Mexico would be reimbursed by the federal government under a proposal from the state's delegation to Washington, D.C.

Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and New Mexico colleagues on Tuesday sent a letter to leaders of Senate and House appropriations committees including Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama requesting reimbursements to local and state governments, along with non-governmental groups.

The request links federal government policies to a humanitarian crisis along the border and notes that more than 4,000 asylum seekers have been released in Las Cruces since April 12 as they apply for asylum.

It seeks unspecified reimbursements through a multibillion-dollar disaster aid bill.

US Bills Calls for DOJ Review Of Indian Country Probes - Associated Press

Federal lawmakers are re-introducing legislation that calls for the Justice Department to review how law enforcement agencies respond to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

The legislation is named Savanna's Act for 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, whose body was found in a North Dakota river in 2017.

It was reintroduced Tuesday in the U.S. House. It also seeks to expand tribes' access to missing persons databases.

The bill was unanimously approved in the U.S. Senate last year but died in the House.

Reps. Deb Haaland, of New Mexico, Norma Torres, of California, and Dan Newhouse, of Washington state re-introduced the legislation Tuesday as lead sponsors in the House. Torres and Haaland are Democrats, and Newhouse is a Republican.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, introduced the legislation in the Senate earlier this year.

New Mexico Launches New Login System For Job Seekers - Associated Press

New Mexico labor officials are requiring people to set up new accounts to access online services for job searches and unemployment benefits.

The new login system is launching Wednesday and will allow people to access both the workforce connection system and the unemployment claims system.

The Department of Workforce Solution says it has been working to simplify the login process so people don't have to remember multiple usernames and passwords for the two systems.

Officials say visitors to the site www.jobs.state.nm.us will be prompted to create a new single account to gain access to the online systems.

Users will need a valid email address that will be used for account management and security purposes.

Mill Levy For Troubled Mora Public Schools Fails - Las Vegas Optic, Associated Press

A capital improvements mill levy for a troubled northern New Mexico school district has failed.

The Las Vegas Optic reports a mill levy for Mora Public Schools was defeated last week by nearly two-thirds of those who returned their ballots from a mail-in special election.

The defeat follows a string of bad news surrounding the school district.

Last year, the Mora Schools Board of Education voted to fire Superintendent Ella Arellano after no school earned higher than a C grade from the state.

Former Superintendent Charles Trujillo also pleaded guilty to a felony charge for falsifying credentials.

In November, the Las Vegas Optic reported Interim Superintendent Carla Westbrook-Spaniel once was arrested for public intoxication and accused of leaving two preschool-age children alone while she went to a nightclub.

Intel To Add 300 Jobs At New Mexico Manufacturing Plant - Associated Press

Chipmaker Intel plans to add 300 jobs at its manufacturing plant in New Mexico in 2019.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department said Tuesday in a statement that Intel now employs 1,200 people at its plant in Rio Rancho, an Albuquerque suburb.

According to the announcement, Intel is growing beyond its traditional PC and server businesses into products to process, analyze, store and transfer data.

Officials said the new jobs are expected to be both local hires and relocations.

Santa Clara, California-based Intel is New Mexico's largest manufacturing company. The Rio Rancho facility opened in 1980.

Hiring Delays Force New Mexico Preserve To Limit Hours - Associated Press

A shortage of seasonal workers is forcing Valles Caldera National Preserve to delay the start of its summer hours.

Preserve officials said Tuesday that a backlog in government background clearances has pushed back the arrival of the seasonal staff needed to operate the extended hours.

Until the workers arrive, Valles Caldera will remain under the winter hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Officials also say access to the backcountry is limited since spring runoff washed out a culvert on the main road through the center of the northern New Mexico preserve, making it impassable by vehicle.

Preserve Superintendent Jorge Silva-Bañuelos says Valles Caldera has received emergency funding from the National Park Service to repair the road.

Migrant Surge Prompts New Mexico City To Declare Emergency - Deming Headlight, Associated Press

Another New Mexico community has declared an emergency in response to the increasing number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Deming City Council voted Monday to make the declaration after City Administrator Aaron Sera noted that federal authorities dropped off migrants in Deming last weekend.

The Deming Headlight reports that at last count, 170 Central American migrants have been released in the community.

Shelters in Las Cruces also have been overwhelmed and are running low on food. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office recently paid to bus several dozen migrants to Colorado, and officials say more bus trips north are possible.

In April, Otero County declared an emergency over concerns that Border Patrol checkpoints in southern New Mexico were forced to close since agents were reassigned to help with the migrant surge.

Survey Indicates Shortage Of Medical Marijuana - Associated Press

A survey of licensed medical marijuana producers in New Mexico indicates that a majority cannot meet customer demand.

The survey was commissioned by the Department of Health and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday. It found that 55% of producers say they are unable to keep pace with patient demand for marijuana and related products.

Nearly all of the state's 34 medical cannabis producers say they have plans to expand operations. The number of patients enrolled in New Mexico's medical cannabis program increased by 39 percent during the year ending in March. Active patients now number over 72,000.

Regulators surveyed producers as the state reconsiders limits on how many plants each provider may grow at once and other provisions for ensuring adequate supplies to patients.

New Mexico Forest Project Sparks Ire Of Environmentalists - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Environmentalists say the U.S. government must go back to the drawing board or risk violating federal laws if it moves ahead with a plan to restore portions of a national forest in southern New Mexico.

The proposed project would cover more than 218 square miles in the Sacramento Mountains over the next decade or two. A combination of prescribed fire, thinning and herbicides would be used to create healthier stands of trees and reduce the wildfire threat.

Environmental groups sent a letter to forest officials Monday, asking that a revised study be done. They have concerns about the effects on Mexican spotted owls and other wildlife.

Officials said in a draft environmental review released earlier this year that the work would have benefits over the long term.

New Mexico Prepares For Medicaid Payment IncreasesAssociated Press

New Mexico has published a detailed plan to increase rates for Medicaid payments to physicians and other health care providers for evaluating and consulting with patients as it collects public comments.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday announced the proposed increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates aimed at helping the state better recruit and retain essential medical professionals, especially in rural areas.

The proposed rate changes would increase annual state and federal spending by $60 million, starting on July 1.

Most new spending is directed at reimbursements for face-to-face medical consultations that don't involve physical procedures. Human Services Secretary and physician David Scrase says those reimbursements would rise by about 30 percent.

The proposal also affects mental health services, consultations on substance-abuse, home-based care for the elderly, dental services and more.

Mayor Seeks Play Space For Migrant ChildrenAssociated Press

Donations are pouring into a relief fund for asylum seekers in New Mexico that would create a toy- and book-filled play area for migrant children at a temporary shelter in Albuquerque.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber announced Tuesday in an email that more than $10,000 in donations has been received and called the local community tremendously responsive and philanthropic.

He is leading efforts to raise money for a play area at a dormitory within state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The state has offered the 60-bed dormitory as a temporary refuge for asylum seeking families from Central America. Migrants have yet to stay there amid preparations and prior reservations.

Webber has declined suggestions that Santa Fe shelter asylum seekers, saying it has few transportation options as migrants depart to reach relatives and other long-term sponsors across the U.S.

The Albuquerque City Council last week approved $250,000 in spending to help migrants passing through that city.

As federal authorities release asylum seekers into communities along the border with Mexico, flights and buses are being used move the migrants to less-crowded areas.

McCullough's New Book On Pioneers' History Draws CriticismAssociated Press

David McCullough's new book is facing criticism for its depiction of white settlement and Native Americans in the late 18th century. Critics, including some reviewers and historians, say "The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West" romanticizes white expansion and downplays the atrocities and pain inflicted on Native Americans.

Brett Chapman, an attorney and descendant of White Eagle, a Ponca chief, condemned the book as relying on old stereotypes about American Indians.

Simon & Schuster spokeswoman Julia Prosser said both the publisher and McCullough were declining comment.

A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, McCullough is known for biographies of Presidents Harry Truman and John Adams, among other works.

Court Orders Panel To Reconsider Status Of Fired EmployeesAssociated Press

The New Mexico State Personnel Board has been ordered to reconsider if the 19 employees fired when Attorney General Hector Balderas entered office are entitled to state job protections.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the former employees are covered by the state Personnel Act unless certain exemptions apply.

The former employees include lawyers, special agents and paralegals. They argue they are entitled to protections, such as termination only for cause, that insulate them from political considerations.

Employees like legislative staffers and policymaking officials are usually exempt from those protections.

Balderas says he disagrees with the ruling and will appeal it.

Santa Fe-Based Prosecutor Seeks Congressional Seat Associated Press

Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna has registered with federal election regulators to seek the Democratic nomination to Congress in New Mexico's 3rd District.

Serna spokesman James Hallinan said Tuesday that the prosecutor is planning a formal announcement by the end of May on whether to run for Congress in 2020. Serna was elected to a four-year term as district attorney in 2016 for the state's First Judicial District.

An open race for the northern congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján has attracted at least six registered contenders that include former CIA operative Valerie Plame, state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Santa Fe-based attorney Teresa Leger. Luján is running for Senate after Sen. Tom Udall announced he will not seek a third term in 2020.