Tuesday News Roundup: NM Governor To Seek Money For Water Emergencies

Nov 26, 2013

NM Governor To Seek Money For Water Emergencies - Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez will ask the Legislature to create an emergency fund to help communities with critical drinking water supply problems.

The governor proposed Monday that lawmakers allocate $200,000 to allow the administration to immediately respond when local governments face emergencies and potentially are running out of water.

Martinez also wants to be able to replenish the fund automatically in $200,000 installments by issuing an executive order.

That's similar to what happens currently for disaster assistance, such as when the state responds to wildfires. The governor declares an emergency, which makes $750,000 available for disaster relief.

Martinez also will ask the Legislature to provide $250,000 next year to provide technical assistance grants to local governments for water system repairs.

The Legislature convenes in January for a 30-day session.

NM State Police To Join I-40 'Thanksgiving' Patrol - Associated Press

New Mexico State Police are set to join other state and federal agencies in an aggressive patrol of Interstate 40 during the Thanksgiving weekend.

The department says state troopers will participate in increased patrols along the Interstate 40 corridor over two 12-hour periods on Nov. 27 and Dec. 1. Officials say those are the busiest travel days during the Thanksgiving period.

Seven other state police or highway patrol agencies will join the patrols.

Officials say 370 miles of New Mexico's stretch of the Interstate 40 corridor will be covered with an officer every 20 miles.

NAU Seeks Navajos For Uranium Cleanup Training - Associated Press

Northern Arizona University is using federal grant money to address two of the most widespread problems on the Navajo Nation — unemployment and uranium contamination.

The $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will allow the school's Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals to train up to 40 people over three years to safely handle radioactive materials. They'll also receive job training on the reservation where the unemployment rates hovers around 50 percent.

About 4 million tons of uranium ore were mined from the reservation from 1944 to 1986 for weapons during the Cold War-era. Families still live among the contamination.

The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals is recruiting Navajos to apply for the training by Jan. 31.

Gov. Martinez's Hold On Capital Projects Disputed - Associated Press

Attorney General Gary King says Gov. Susana Martinez can't unilaterally withhold money for legislatively approved capital improvements as her administration has done.

However, Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford said Monday the administration disagrees with the attorney general and will continue requiring local governments, school districts and others to have a current audit before state money is released for a project.

The administration implemented the policy in May with an executive order and later suspended more than $13 million for 122 capital projects.

King issued a non-binding legal opinion to legislators on Friday that concluded the executive order is invalid because the Legislature didn't authorize the restrictions on capital project financing.

King's office said the governor was attempting to make law in violation of the constitutional separation of powers.

Governor Appoints Workers' Compensation Director - Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed a state government lawyer from Albuquerque to run a regulatory agency overseeing New Mexico's workers' compensation program.

Darin Childers will become director of the Workers' Compensation Administration starting next week. He has served as the agency's general counsel since 2011, and previously worked in a private law practice in Albuquerque.

Childers will replace Ned Fuller, who had been director since 2011 but has been named litigation bureau chief in the state's Risk Management Division.

Childers earned a bachelor's degree in history and a law degree from Brigham Young University.

The agency has administrative law judges to resolve disputed claims for medical expenses and back wages for workers injured or disabled on the job. State law requires employers to have workers' compensation insurance coverage.