THURS: Senate Panel Overhauls Red-Flag Gun Bill In New Mexico + More

Feb 6, 2020

Senate Panel Overhauls Red-Flag Gun Bill In New Mexico - Morgan Lee Associated Press

A red-flag gun bill in New Mexico has been revised to allow only law enforcement officials and not family members to petition for guns to be denied temporarily to people who pose an apparent danger to themselves or others.

Bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces on Wednesday introduced extensive changes in response to concerns raised about due process rights for gun owners and worries that law enforcement officials might be thrust unnecessarily into danger.

Under the rewritten bill, law enforcement officers could petition a state district court to order the temporary surrender of firearms in response to a sworn affidavit that a gun-holder poses imminent danger.

Law enforcement officers who decline red-flag requests must report their decision and can be held liable for not enforcing the law, under the revised proposal.

A Senate panel on judicial affairs endorsed the bill on a 6-5 vote, with unified Republican opposition and an additional no vote from Democratic Sen. Richard Martinez, who represents a largely rural district in northern New Mexico.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor.

New Mexico House Approves Higher State Spending, Teacher Pay - By Morgan Lee And Russell Contreras Associated Press

The state House of Representatives approved a budget plan Wednesday to increase annual state spending by more than a half-billion dollars to expand early childhood education programs, boost teacher salaries and shore up health care for low-income individuals.

The House voted 46-24 along party lines with Democrats in support of the $7.6 billion general fund spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a variety of amendments are likely.

State economists are forecasting an $800 million surplus in state government income for the coming fiscal year that is linked closely to record-setting oil production in the state.

Republicans in the House minority criticized the proposed $530 million, 7.5% increase as irresponsible and unsustainable in the event of an oil-sector downturn.

They outlined their own plan that would increase spending by a more modest 4.3% and called for giving every New Mexico resident a $200 rebate. 

Annual public school spending would increase to $3.45 billion amid a push to extend the school year at many school districts. General fund spending on Medicaid would increase by more than $50 million to nearly $1.1 billion — including new support for mental health care and addiction treatment.

Senate Backs Creation Of Trust Fund For Early Education - Associated Press

The state Senate has endorsed the creation of a trust fund to underwrite early childhood education and services with future investment returns.

The initiative would set aside $320 million to generate revenue for a variety of early childhood programs. The Senate passed the bill Wednesday on 40-0 vote. A companion House bill has yet to reach a vote.

"We're hoping to establish a long-term, stable revenue stream," said Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming, a lead sponsor of the bill. "It's our responsibility to make sure that we grow this fund significantly."

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has openly lobbied for creation of the new trust fund after a proposal stalled last year to increase early childhood spending by tapping more money from the state's multi-billion dollar Land Grant Permanent Fund.

The state is consolidating oversight of early childhood programs under a new agency.

New Mexico Pueblo's Housing For Teachers Poses Hazards - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

Housing units designed for teachers to alleviate a teacher shortage on a Native American pueblo in western New Mexico are posing hazards and are in dire need of repairs. 

The Gallup Independent reports that teacher housing on Zuni Pueblo have poor foundations, lack of erosion control mechanisms, and need updated pipes. 

The Zuni Public School District has a total of 86 homes for teachers in its inventory. These homes include 36 houses built north of Zuni High School in 2002 by an Albuquerque company that installed overhead plumbing with little to no insulation. 

The structures were built without taking into consideration Zuni Pueblo's particular needs and location.

School districts around New Mexico are experiencing a teacher shortage. Housing remains an issue around towns and cities.

Eddy County Sheriff: Scammer Impersonating Deputy - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Authorities say a person posing as a deputy in southeastern New Mexico scammed a resident out of hundreds of dollars.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Eddy County Sheriff's Office is warning residents and urging them to contact authorities if they get suspicious.

According to detectives, a victim reported losing hundreds of dollars to a person posing as an Eddy County Sheriff's Deputy on Jan. 30.

The impostor used the name of a deputy employed by the office while concealing their identity, the deputies said.

The sheriff's office says the victim was told they were wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant and demanded payment of a fine. Fearing arrest, the victim paid the fine in the form of gift cards, the office said.

The Eddy County Sheriff's Office did not release the victim's name and the exact amount of money.

No arrests have been made.

Scammers Steal $447,000 From Bernalillo CountyAssociated Press

County officials in New Mexico have changed some of their internal procedures after acknowledging that Bernalillo County lost about $447,000 as a result of an online scam.

Scammers targeted one of the 1,472 registered vendors listed on the county website's transparency portal, the Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday.

The county expects to maintain transparency by keeping contracts visible, but a list of vendor names has been removed from the site, officials said.

The scammers were able to setup a fraudulent bank account in Texas, submit a payment change for one of the vendors and submit fake documents with the vendors name before the county began submitting payments to scammers, county officials said.

The scam was discovered after the vendor contacted the county “because they weren’t receiving their checks and they wanted to know why,” county spokesman Tom Thorpe said.

The procedural changes require vendors to contact the county directly for changes to their profiles, Thorpe said.

A more stringent transaction verification process has also been instituted, and county employees have received training on identifying fraudulent transactions, emails and other documents, he said.

The Risk Management Department is currently working with the county’s insurance carrier to recoup the loss, Thorpe said.