UNM Seeks Credit Hour Price Increase, Governor Signs Criminal Justice Reform Bills

Apr 3, 2019

University Of New Mexico Proposes Upping Credit Hour PriceAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

University of New Mexico officials have proposed charging $10 more per credit hour for students who have declared a major in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a subcommittee of the university board unanimously approved Tuesday a recommended budget that includes adding a differential tuition.

The change would increase students' tuition by about $300 per year. Officials expect to generate about $1.7 million per year.

The college includes a broad field of studies, including chemistry, anthropology, English, American studies, economics and others.

Interim Provost Richard Wood says about 40 percent of the undergraduate student body have a major within that college.

University regents are scheduled to vote on the university's budget next week.

Teacher Salaries, School Funding Get Boosts In New MexicoAssociated Press

Legislation that responds to a lawsuit by raising public school salaries and increasing annual spending on public education by nearly a half-billion dollars has been signed New Mexico's Democratic governor.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed bills Wednesday to provide greater resources to low-income students and extend learning time. Other provisions would raise minimum salaries for teachers at three stages in their careers and allow many elementary schools to add five weeks to the calendar year.

The initiatives from the Legislature, which  is led by Democrats, will weigh in a judge's pending decision on whether to intervene in decisions about state funding for education. New Mexico is one of several states where parents have turned to the courts to address frustrations over state budget priorities and the quality of education.

Critics Of New Mexico Gun Law Renew Call For ReferendumAssociated Press

Critics are reviving their challenge of a new gun control measure by filing a revamped petition with New Mexico's top election regulator that seeks a statewide referendum.

The secretary of state's office had rejected a previous attempt, saying the law to expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales was designed to improve public safety and therefore is exempt from petition referendums.

House Republican leader James Townsend of Artesia disputes that, saying only the courts have the authority to make such a determination.

He submitted an amended proposed petition Tuesday. The agency has 10 days to respond.

Townsend and others contend the law signed last month by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham infringes on the 2nd Amendment.

The petition process has lengthy requirements that include the collection of about 70,000 signatures from 25 counties.

Federal Workers Processed Drilling Permits During ShutdownCaspar Star-Tribune, Associated Press

Documents show that about one-fourth of the federal oil and gas drilling permits approved during the 35-day government shutdown was for sites in Wyoming.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported Tuesday the Bureau of Land Management processed 267 applications for permits to drill in six states during the shutdown that started in late December.

Bureau employees processed 100 applications in New Mexico — the largest number for a state during the shutdown. Wyoming had the second most.

The bureau had brought some employees back to work in western field offices to process permit applications during the shutdown.

Interior Department spokeswoman Molly Block says the drilling permit process was not truncated during the shutdown.

She says all appropriate laws regarding public comment and environmental review were followed with each application.

6 States And District Of Columbia Sue Over School LunchesAssociated Press

Six states and the District of Columbia have sued the Department of Agriculture, accusing the federal agency of weakening nutritional standards in school meals.

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

The lawsuit asks the court to overturn changes in standards regarding sodium and whole grains.

New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont joined the District of Columbia as plaintiffs, saying the changes were arbitrary and capricious.

The Justice Department did not immediately comment.

The lawsuit comes after the Trump administration scaled back contested school lunch standards implemented under the Obama administration, including one requiring that only whole grains be served.

The USDA school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches in public schools and other institutions. Last year, it served an estimated 30 million children.

Sex-Abuse Trial Of Fugitive Priest Tests Federal ReachAssociated Press

A Roman Catholic priest is being tried on federal charges that he sexually abused a New Mexico boy in the early 1990s at an Air Force base and veterans' cemetery before fleeing the U.S.

The trial of 81-year-old priest Arthur Perrault resumes Wednesday before a jury and federal judge at a courtroom in Santa Fe.

Perrault was arrested in the Moroccan city of Tangier in 2017. He taught there at an English language school after disappearing from the U.S. in the early 1990s.

Perrault's case marks an unusual federal criminal prosecution of a former priest in the state where dozens of clergy abuse victims have won more than $50 million in settlements from the Santa Fe Archdiocese. The archdiocese is seeking bankruptcy protection as a result.

Feds Won't Pursue Death Penalty Against Compound SuspectsAssociated Press

Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against four adults who had lived at a New Mexico compound where authorities found the remains of a boy reported missing in Georgia.

The two men and two women are charged with kidnapping the boy who authorities say suffered from seizures that went untreated.

They had faced the potential of the death penalty if convicted in the boy's kidnapping since authorities say it resulted in his death. But prosecutors said in a filing ahead of a scheduled hearing Wednesday that they would not seek capital punishment.

The boy's father, who also was arrested at the compound, was not charged in his son's abduction. Statutes generally do not allow federal authorities to charge parents with kidnapping their own children.

All five suspects also are facing terrorism-related charges.

They have pleaded not guilty.

Albuquerque Police Officer Hurt In Collision At IntersectionAssociated Press

The Albuquerque Police Department says an officer suffered non-life threatening injuries when his patrol vehicle collided with another vehicle at an intersection Tuesday night.

Officer Simon Drobik says the officer had a green light and the other driver had a red light when the collision occurred and that witnesses saw the other vehicle's driver and a passenger switch seat positions after the collision.

Drobik says police were investigating whether the other driver was under the influence of drugs.

No identities were released.

New Mexico Courts Outdoor Recreation Economy - Associated Press

New Mexico is seeking a bigger share of the nation's outdoor recreation economy with the creation of a special division dedicated to expanding the state's foothold in the lucrative industry.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham traveled to a state park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on Tuesday to sign legislation that creates a state outdoor recreation office.

The initiative takes cues from states including neighboring Colorado that promote outdoor adventure as an engine of economic development and a resource for public health and consciousness about natural wonders.

Democratic state Rep. Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces says New Mexico has added a unique component to subsidize outdoor experiences for children of the working poor from diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise have the time or means to explore nature.

Governor Signs Criminal Justice Legislation – Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed several bills into law that will bring changes to the state's criminal justice system.

The bills signed by the governor Wednesday include a measure that will prohibit corrections and jail officials from placing juveniles, women who are pregnant and inmates suffering from serious mental disabilities in solitary confinement.

Another of the measures will prohibit private employers from asking on initial job applications about people's criminal histories, which state public agencies already cannot do. The bill is often referred to among advocates as the "ban the box" measure.

Under the law, private employers will still be able to discuss prior arrests or convictions later in the hiring process.

Other legislation would allow for people to ask a judge to have certain arrests or convictions removed from their records.


ACLU Pushes For Criminal Record Expungements In New Mexico - Associated Press

Advocates for criminal justice reform are urging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign legislation that would allow for people to have certain arrests or convictions removed from their records.

The American Civil Liberties Union says dozens of people who served time in prison as well as crime victims hand delivered letters to the governor Tuesday.

The move marks a final push to get the bill to become law. The governor has until Friday to sign bills approved by the Legislature in their 60-day session that ended last month.

The record expungement legislation was among a slate of measures aimed at improving ex-convicts' chances at obtaining employment, treatment and other services.

Sponsors argue the bills would make people who are restarting their lives after prison more productive members of society.

New Mexico Scraps Columbus Day For Indigenous Peoples' Day - Associated Press

New Mexico is doing away with Columbus Day in favor of a holiday honoring Native Americans.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday signed legislation that creates Indigenous Peoples' Day on the second Monday in October and strikes Columbus Day from a list of official state holidays.

The initiative from state Rep. Derrick Lente of the Sandia Pueblo tribe in central New Mexico stirred emotional debate at the Legislature.

At least five states stretching from Hawaii to Vermont have done away with Columbus Day celebrations in deference to Native Americans.

The federal holiday honoring Italian explorer Christopher Columbus remains in place.

Tributes to European conquerors in many New Mexico communities are being written out of consideration for the state's 23 American Indian nations and tribes.

New Mexico Outlaws Contests To Kill The Most Coyotes - Associated Press

New Mexico has banned contests to see who can shoot and kill the most coyotes.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill outlawing the contests Tuesday.

Many New Mexico ranchers and outfitters say the contests are a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten livestock, and dozens of killing contests are rumored to take place each year. Opponents say the practice is barbaric and ineffective.

The legislation from Republican Sen. Mark Moores of Albuquerque and Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces provides misdemeanor sanctions for people found organizing a contest. Participation in a killing contest is a petty misdemeanor.

The killing contests were banned across thousands of square miles of state trust land this year by New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard.

State Council Recommends 11 Ways To Cut Drug Overdose Rates - Associated Press

A New Mexico council has made 11 recommendations to cut drug overdose rates in the state.

The New Mexico Overdose Prevention and Pain Management Advisory Council is comprised of state agencies, regulatory bodies and multiple medical professional associations.

The council reviews the status of overdose prevention and pain management standards and education efforts for consumers and professionals in New Mexico and recommends pain management and clinical guidelines.

The health department reported in December that New Mexico's national ranking improved for the third consecutive year — from the second highest drug overdose death rate in the country in 2014 to 17th highest in 2017.

The council's recommendations cover three areas — training, emergency room screenings, and increasing the availability of the medication Naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Mexican American Group MEChA Eyes Name Change Amid Furor - Associated Press

MEChA, a Mexican American student group founded 50 years ago, is considering a name change, highlighting the divisions between older and younger activists.

Student leaders voted Sunday in Los Angeles to drop the reference to "Chicano" and "Aztlan" from the group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan over concerns the words are "homophobic" and "anti-black."

Chicano, which refers to Mexican Americans, gained popularity during the militant Chicano Movement of the 1970s. Aztlan is the mythical home of the Aztec, which some activists say is the present-day American Southwest.

Proponents of the change say it would make the student group more inclusive to transgender and black students.

But former MEChA members say the change is shortsighted and unfairly places homophobia on the term Chicano since homophobia exists among all ethnic groups.